The University of Chicago is famous for supplemental essay questions that can be thought-inducing and, if you are someone who likes to aim for “what they want to hear,” inscrutable.
This year’s batch continues the grand tradition. If you aren’t applying, or even if you are, these questions could be fun to play with — a good parlor game for quarantine. But they might also help open your mind to being more expansive, maybe more personal, more revealing in your essay.
Chicago thinks they encourage truth-telling, or at least truth-showing. The University website has some golden oldie questions, too, from past years. Most are suggested by alumni.
2020-21 UChicago Supplement
Question 1 (Required)
How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago.
Question 2: Extended Essay (Required; Choose one)
Essay Option 1
Who does Sally sell her seashells to? How much wood can a woodchuck really chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Pick a favorite tongue twister (either originally in English or translated from another language) and consider a resolution to its conundrum using the method of your choice. Math, philosophy, linguistics… it’s all up to you (or your woodchuck).
—Inspired by Blessing Nnate, Class of 2024
Essay Option 2
What can actually be divided by zero?
—Inspired by Mai Vu, Class of 2024
Essay Option 3
The seven liberal arts in antiquity consisted of the Quadrivium — astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and music — and the Trivium — rhetoric, grammar, and logic. Describe your own take on the Quadrivium or the Trivium. What do you think is essential for everyone to know?
—Inspired by Peter Wang, Class of 2022
Essay Option 4
Subway maps, evolutionary trees, Lewis diagrams. Each of these schematics tells the relationships and stories of their component parts. Reimagine a map, diagram, or chart. If your work is largely or exclusively visual, please include a cartographer’s key of at least 300 words to help us best understand your creation.
—Inspired by Maximilian Site, Class of 2020
Essay Option 5
“Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” – Eleanor Roosevelt. Misattribute a famous quote and explore the implications of doing so.
—Inspired by Chris Davey, AB’13
Essay Option 6
Engineer George de Mestral got frustrated with burrs stuck to his dog’s fur and applied the same mechanic to create Velcro. Scientist Percy Lebaron Spencer found a melted chocolate bar in his magnetron lab and discovered microwave cooking. Dye-works owner Jean Baptiste Jolly found his tablecloth clean after a kerosene lamp was knocked over on it, consequently shaping the future of dry cleaning. Describe a creative or interesting solution, and then find the problem that it solves.
—Inspired by Steve Berkowitz, AB’19, and Neeharika Venuturupalli, Class of 2024
Essay Option 7
In the spirit of adventurous inquiry (and with the encouragement of one of our current students!) choose one of our past prompts (or create a question of your own). Be original, creative, thought provoking. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun!