How to Write the University of Chicago Essays 2020-2021

UChicago is a rigorous, top-tier school located in beautiful Hyde Park, Chicago. It’s famed for its research emphasis, neo-gothic architecture, and school of economics. If you’re interested in delving deep into theory, bookishness, and the most hardcore of academic materials, UChicago may be your place. Forbes ranks its Booth Business College #1 in the nation, and US News and World Report ranks UChicago as a whole at #6. In 2020, its acceptance rate was 7.94%, so steel yourself for the essay writing. It’s gotta be your best. 

 

You can complete your UChicago application through the Coalition App, Common App, and UChicago portals. Their essay questions for this season are on their website, as well as listed below. The first question, which boils down to “Why UChicago?,” is required. The second question, a one-to-two page essay, is also required, but applicants can choose from a menagerie of wild and exotic prompts. 

 

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Before You Begin Writing

 

The University of Chicago’s prompts are famous – infamous! – for being quirky, creative, and sometimes downright weird. But don’t fret: this only means that you get to unleash your creativity and geek out about your deepest passions. You know that subject you avoid in casual conversation, because it turns you into a gushing ball of enthusiasm that could talk for hours? UChicago wants to hear about it. Whether it’s the 70s rock scene in Zambia, Edmund Burke’s philosophy of the sublime, or your job at the antique mall, they have happily passed you the mic. 

 

It’s not a free-for-all, however. Keep this checklist of things in mind when writing your UChicago essays: 

 

Unconventional topics often require unconventional styles. 

 

UChicago essays should definitely be viewed as a piece of creative writing, rather than a dry analysis. Without being too informal, feel free to disrupt the familiar rhythms of essay prose. This can mean rich imagery and addressing the reader directly. Sentence fragments. CAPS, even. Throw in jargon from your field, and phrases from another language, as long as you explain them. To the extent that it’s authentic to your voice and your subject matter, you should try to be imaginative, engaging, and colorful. 

 

Communicate who you are as an academic.

 

Make sure you provide admissions with a portrait of how you will perform in an academic environment. You can’t just gush about a topic – you have to prove that you can engage with it at a high intellectual level. Explain research protocol, cite specific books you’ve read, mention your AP classes, or give examples of how you’ve collaborated with others to produce results. UChicago admissions don’t want a student who says “I love physics”; they want a student who says “I love physics so much that I stayed up until 4 am reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan, and I use meatballs to diagram the moons of Jupiter to my friends, and I took Calc III because I plan on studying mechanical engineering with a focus on aerospace materials.” Be detailed about your studies; be explicit in your interests. 

 

Marry yourself to your topic.

 

Dearly beloved, you can’t have a “unique” topic without “u.” Be sure to include the first person; you are the main character here, not whatever subject you’re writing about. UChicago is deciding to admit you – not your botany experiment, not your gymnastics record, not your novel – you. How do these objects illuminate facets of your personality? What can you bring to this topic that no one else can? 

 

And, as always, answer the prompt!

 

Print out the prompt. Circle key words. Hang it over your desk. Read it. Read it again. Mark out places in your essay where you will address each specific element of the question. Do everything to track down all the sneaky requirements hidden in the prompt forest, hit them between the ears, and mount them on the cabin wall that is your essay. 

 

All the UChicago Essay Prompts

 

Prompt 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. 

 

Prompt 2: Extended Essay (Required; Choose one)

Choose one of the seven extended essay options and upload a one- or two-page response. Please include the prompt at the top of the page.

 

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!

Prompt 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.

The pressure’s on to be unique here, since EVERY SINGLE APPLICANT to UChicago will be answering this required question. Here’s what you need to do:

 

Provide a tangible connection to UChicago. 

 

This is composed of specific elements of the university that appeal to you, and UChicago’s website is a great place to delve into these. Be sure to be “particular,” as they stipulate, and give them the “specificity” they’re asking for. Examples include research opportunities at Argonne Labs, the marketing classes in the Business School, or an internship offered through the Creative Writing program. 

 

Don’t write about UChicago’s general attributes, like fame, prestige, or “intellectual rigor.” And please don’t try to be clever and refute the old canard that UChicago is the place “Where Fun Goes to Die.” Applications readers have seen this hundreds, if not thousands of times. And besides, why talk about a tired UChicago stereotype when you can talk about something actually cool? 

 

Describe your intangible connection as well. 

 

How is UChicago a place that aligns with your values, dreams, and goals? How do you vibe with it? For example, if I wanted to write about the Creative Writing internship, I would state explicitly how it draws me in: 

 

“I want to attend a college that values the innovative nature of indie comics publishing as much as I do. So, I’m impressed by UChicago’s commitment to providing internships in comics writing through Bult Publishing and The Artifice magazine. One of my goals as a writer is to gain firsthand experience in comics publishing, specifically small houses, and the Creative Writing program at UChicago hits the mark, resoundingly.”

 

Engage with faculty and students, if possible. 

 

This is a perfect place to talk about specific interactions, like sitting in on an inspiring seminar during a campus visit, hearing a professor speak, or seeing how UChicago has prepared a friend for his career. 

 

However, always be sure to tie these experiences into your own goals and interests! For example, don’t just name-drop a certain Professor Smith. Instead, take the opportunity to find a personal connection to Smith’s research and how great UChicago is for supporting people like her. Your format should be

 

        Program/Individual/Major 🡪 UChicago’s Values 🡪 My values

 

If you want to learn more about a specific professor or their subject, don’t be afraid to politely email them or contact their department. Many love to talk about their work and their interests, or would love to put you in touch with current students. This will better inform you about the school and give you a great edge for this prompt. And, more importantly, you’ll probably get great advice for your higher education journey. Note: the earlier you prepare for this, the better!

 

It’s worth noting that there is no recommended essay length, but sticking to around 500 words should do the trick. It’s long enough to share the reasons you’ll thrive at UChicago, but not too long that the admissions officers will start to get bored.

 

Prompt 2: Extended Essay (Required, Choose one)

 

Choose one of the seven extended essay options and upload a one- or two-page response. Please include the prompt at the top of the page.

 

Option 1: Tongue Twister


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

Like we said, this is bizarre. And it seems like a lot when you read it all at once. So be sure to break it down into some key components.

 

“Pick a tongue twister.” It’s useful, but not essential, to consider tongue twisters that have elements of your biography in them. For example, you might not know any woodchucks, but caring for a beaver as it built a dam at a local forest preserve definitely counts for something. Also note that “translated from another language” offers an interesting opportunity – it’s a good place to discuss your knowledge of a second language or unique cultural experience. 

 

However, note that while personal relevance is an interesting element, what’s ultimately important is the method and analysis below. A tongue-twister you’ve never used, but that allows you to show off your skills, is always better than a tongue-twister you grew up with, but has nothing to do with your studies. 

 

Consider a resolution to its conundrum.” Identify some sort of conundrum within the tongue twister. This can be a world-building issue – like the “To whom does Sally sell the seashells?” above. It can also be a lurking instability or menace within the rhyme. Or it can be an examination of a historic element that’s worked its way into the tongue twister. 

 

“…Using the method of your choice.” For this, you should pick the subject you know best and want to pursue in college. This is absolutely essential. For example, I could use my knowledge of French history to talk about the French tongue-twister “Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse,” a rhyme about the dryness of an archduchess’ socks. By imagining it as a conversation between two maids in the ancien regime, I can show off my impressive knowledge of French court life and how working women were able to sharpen their wits even without an upper-class education. So a good strategy might be to pick your expertise – science, child psychology, business, linguistics – then pick a tongue-twister that you can really bust open. 

 

Find a greater meaning. Tongue-twisters are often trivial, and an essay about them risks falling into triviality as well. You can avoid this hidden trap by finding a “so what?” to your analysis. What lesson can we learn from your approach? Why has this tongue-twister been repeated for decades, or centuries? Have you discovered something unsettling, even disturbing, about a rhyme recited by children? You can include this greater meaning at the beginning, conclusion, or throughout.

Option 2: Dividing by Zero


What can actually be divided by zero?


—Inspired by Mai Vu, Class of 2024

Weird, weird, weird. This prompt is cryptic in its brevity, which offers a huge challenge to you as a writer. UChicago is giving you all the space for creativity. But here’s the trade-off: in return for this freedom, they want to see you discipline yourself, organize your thoughts, and pull this essay off like a choreographed dance. Get your exploratory brainstorming out of the way early-on, and stay focused. Be your reader’s tour guide; don’t get lost yourself. 

 

The obvious option: mathematics. If high-concept math is your thing, and you can explain it compellingly, feel free to discuss the actual question of dividing by zero. It’s a great place to talk about mathematical theories you’ve read, mathematicians you admire, or debates you’ve had in class. But be concrete. Your readers are probably not mathematics experts, so take a page from Carl Sagan: use figurative language, real-world objects, and simple language to illustrate your intimate understanding of the concepts. 

 

Treat it like a metaphor. Deconstruct the prompt and ask yourself, “What do we mean by division? And what do we mean by zero?” Can you think of situations in history, literature, drama, or psychology in which divisions between people are caused by zeroes – insignificant, or unknown, factors? For example, an actor might talk about the play Othello, in which the villainous Iago skillfully divides the characters by creating illusive, nonexistent problems. 

 

Consider different viewpoints and angles. In our everyday language, we take it for granted that division by 0 is impossible. But if you’re interested in philosophy, religion, or anthropology, this might be a great prompt to discuss what you know about “nothing/zero” and how different people have understood it. Is there a cultural and religious explanation for why medieval Indian mathematicians asserted that division by zero was possible? How did the ancient Mayans conceive of zero? And wait a second – if Christians believe everything in the universe is infinitely small compared to God, to the point of approaching zero, how was Satan able to create a divisive war throughout Creation? 

 

Suddenly, the question isn’t quite so simple, is it? This is a great prompt with which to discuss how our debates are enriched by listening to alternative perspectives and reconsidering the seemingly “obvious.” Show off your powers of critical thinking, and demonstrate that you can bring out the intellectual big guns. 

 

Remember: don’t lose focus on yourself and your personality. This is a daunting, abstract, almost cosmic question. No matter which approach you take, make sure to communicate your interest in the subject, your willingness to do research, and your unique voice. Remind your reader: “This is a cool person we don’t want to miss out on.” 

Option 3: Quadrivium and Trivium


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

Brainstorm a list, and give yourself time to think. Sleep on this prompt, because some topics might occur to you as you’re out living your life. This Trivium thing seems a bit boilerplate when you sit down to write about it like your typical essay. Math? Check. Reading? Check. But there may soon come a day when you think, Screw it. Everyone on earth should know how to weld a light-up Santa to the hood of their car. And guess which essay is going to grab UChicago’s attention?  

 

Education/anthropology students, this is your time! A society’s values are often reflected in its educational priorities. This is a great prompt for you to identify issues with modern education and offer solutions. Have you read any studies about programs that benefit low-performing students? Have you volunteered with any programs that taught life-changing skills to people? Discuss them here.  

 

Lean into the appeal of the numeric/list format. UChicago has historically liked prompts that focus on lists or number groups. So if this attracts you, go for it. You can defend a group of values that’s different from the Trivium/Quadrivium – such as the five virtues of Confucianism, or a Quintivium or Sextivium of your own invention. Be creative – combine the stoic principles of Marcus Aurelius with the New Rules of Dua Lipa. Just make sure you balance out personal whimsy with intellect, knowledge, and prowess. (I.e. give more space to Marcus Aurelius and Roman virtues than “New Rules.”) 

 

Consider an unconventional narrative style that weaves together a Trivium in practice. In the movie Slumdog Millionaire, we learn about the protagonist, Jamal, through flashbacks. As he’s asked random questions on a quiz show, we get to see the childhood experiences that enabled him to answer them. Can you think of a challenge that allowed you to synthesize three or four key skills? Start at that climactic challenge, and flash back to the preparation that you’ve done. Example: it’s your senior musical, and you’re on the verge of a panic attack onstage. But you use tips from psychology class, a lifetime of singing lessons, and the perseverance you learned from your family to pull through. This allows you to 1) show off your own biography, 2) show yourself overcoming a challenge, and 3) demonstrate you’re multi-dimensional.


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Option 4: Diagram, Map, Chart


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

This is another prompt that you need to break down into its key elements, because it’s a behemoth. Its visual component means that it can make a huge impression if done right, but it also demands a huge amount of work, so you want to make sure you’re expending your time in the right way. Needless to say, if you have artistic, drafting, or programming abilities, this would be a great place to showcase your skills. 

 

“Each of these schematics tells the relationship and stories of their component parts.” The key words here are “relationships” and “stories.” This means that your audience won’t just be looking for correlation, causation, directions, and lines of descent – they’re looking for a narrative and personal element. If you’re dealing with data, make sure to personalize it, either through pictures or through your written description. 

 

“Reimagine.” You have to fundamentally transform your diagram or data set in some way. Make us see something that wasn’t there before. There are plenty of real-world examples to draw inspiration from: for example, geophysicists in Mexico have used the present-day locations of caves and cenotes to analyze the impact of the Chicxulub object, the asteroid that most likely caused the dinosaurs’ extinction. Malcolm Gladwell is a great example of a writer who takes sets of data and interprets them in new ways, revealing unseen forces at work. What’s your data? And what’s the asteroid or secret history hidden behind it?

 

“Your creation.” This has to be your brainchild. While you can draw inspiration from existing discoveries or use existing stats, you should try your best to come up with your own final product. 

 

Combine unexpected fields; think big, and think broad! There’s a lot of interesting new ideas to discover if you blend two fields that don’t typically go together. If you’re interested in both programming and literature, you could use statistical methods to compare authors’ word use and diagram it accordingly. Does Milton use the word “green” more than Shakespeare? WHY? 

 

Tie it back to your research values. Remember that UChicago asked this prompt because they want to get a pulse on your research philosophy. It’s worth including an explanation not only of your research, but your mindset in general, and the values you believe lead to productive research. Show yourself as someone who would thrive in an exploratory, research setting.

Option 5: Misattributed Quote


“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

So this one seems pretty simple: they’re asking you to come up with a two-ingredient recipe. The hard part? Picking two ingredients that go together stunningly. 

 

Be wary of formulae. The example UChicago gives would be great for an aspiring historian interested in discussing Eleanor Roosevelt. But don’t think that you have to misattribute a quote to a historical figure only. Food for thought:

 

  • Write about a person you know. For example, a member of your family who had a positive impact on your life. Could a fundamental lesson they taught you be paraphrased by a quote from Charles Dickens or N.K. Jemisin? 

 

  • Discuss a real-life misattribution. There are plenty of famous ones: Marie Antoinette didn’t really say “Let them eat cake,” but the misattribution can tell us a lot about the French gossip magazines of the time. It’s also a fraught moral question: was the libel against Marie Antoinette worth it, because it led to the downfall of the French monarchy? Do the ends justify the means here? What’s the philosophy of misattribution? The psychology? The social implications?

 

  • Combine media. Plenty of songwriters quote other songs, intentionally or (as was ruled in a famous copyright case) “subconsciously.” Is there an example that reveals a lot about an artist or media culture that interests you? 

 

  • Misattribute a quote to a non-person. What if your dog, your houseplant, or your favorite skeleton at a museum could talk? This is a great chance to talk about animal psychology, how plants communicate, or an exhibit that inspired an academic interest. 

 

  • The list goes on! 

 

The key word is “implications.” The misattribution has to reveal something about the quote or the entity to which it’s misattributed. A person writing about Eleanor Roosevelt using the Dirty Harry quote might discuss, for instance, how “Do you feel lucky, punk?” could summarize Roosevelt’s tenacity when lobbying her husband to enact anti-lynching legislation.

 

You can also discuss “implications” in broader terms: for example, should education use punchy (incorrect) quotes to better help kids memorize historical figures? Should fictionalizations like Hamilton stray too far from the historical texts? Do embellishments and hot new phrases mislead the public perception of historical figures? 

 

As always, be sure to bring it back to who you are as a student and thinker. What are your priorities, and what concerns you about your quote/source duo? Involve yourself and your audience in the “implications” section of your essay. 

Option 6: Creative Solutions

 

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

Although this prompt includes examples of technological inventions, what’s really important here is the last sentence. If you put aside the first few sentences, the prompt becomes incredibly vast, and you can use it to write about almost any field you’re interested in. 

 

Did you notice the subtle weirdness? “Describe a… solution, and then find the problem.” Isn’t that… backwards? You can interpret this as a license to get weird with your style and organization. For example, you could take your reader backwards in time, from the final invention to the inciting incident, or even a childhood memory of your inventor. You could alternate between the past in present. You can also find a solution that fixes an unexpected problem: for example, drugs developed for a certain malady sometimes improve conditions for the sufferers of different diseases.

 

Do some digging; find the quirks and paradoxes. Often, some mundane items we find commonplace have interesting, controversial, or even bloody histories behind them. And sometimes problems have paradoxical solutions – like how patients with phobias are instructed to expose themselves increasingly to their phobias. One strategy for creating a compelling essay is to amplify these striking contradictions or lurid histories. 

 

The invention need not be physical. While we love our can openers and phones, there are a lot of inventions that aren’t things – they’re methods, systems, words, theories, names, university departments, religious doctrines, governments, languages, or ways of thinking. You can apply this “problem/solution” dynamic to almost any subject, but what’s important is that it’s thought-provoking, unique, and authentic to you. And you absolutely must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the invention’s development. 

 

The invention need not be positive. UChicago describes beneficial inventions, but you can also talk about inventions and protocols that ended up inflicting evil on the world. For example, you could talk about a policy, law, cultural norm, etc. that “solves” a problem that really doesn’t need solving, or “solves” the problems of some very bad people. If you want to be really deep, you could discuss invented problems that are – paradoxically – solutions of some kind, that serve dark ends or that reinforce harmful ideas. However, be sure to end your essay with a gesture towards solutions, progress, and identifying bad systems of thought so that the world can be improved.  

 

Cite sources! This is a research-based question, so make sure you credit the books, podcasts, movies, and articles you use. Demonstrate your aptitude as a scholar, and show your ability to synthesize a variety of sources. Don’t go overboard, and don’t let the citations drown out your own voice, but this is UChicago. Bring a bibliography to the gunfight. 

 

Ending the essay. If your solution can solve a single problem, that’s fine. But a great way to end the essay, and show that you can think about broad applications as well as specific circumstances, is to gesture towards other potential problems your invention solves/is still solving. Is there a certain attribute that allows it to be applied towards multiple situations? It’s also worthwhile to talk about the mindsets, values, and societal environments that allow us humans to create worthwhile solutions to our problems. If you’re moved, changed, or inspired by the invention you’re researching, discuss this. If there’s a certain philosophy or perspective instrumental in the creation of the invention, and it would benefit our world from being used more widely, discuss this too.

 

Option 7: Grab Bag

 

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!

Again, this prompt is, on the surface, granting you a lot of leeway. UChicago even ends it with an exclamation point! But you should always remember: they expect a disciplined, thorough, rigorous essay. Don’t let your sense of fun and frolic drown out your serious intellectual ideas.

 

Pick a prompt that inspires you to write, and connects with your academic interests. If a prompt jumps out at you, and you’re immediately filled with ideas, it’s probably a good fit. Just take it slowly, jot your thoughts down, and get to work. 

 

Involve your personal connection to that prompt. If you’re not answering any of the 6 prompts UChicago has issued this year, the onus is on you to prove that you and the archival prompt you’ve picked are a match made in heaven. This means having a lot of knowledge and personal investment in your subject matter, and an angle/perspective totally unique to you. 

 

If making your own question, remember this: YOUR QUESTION IS YOUR HOOK. So make sure it’s not a question that could be found on a standard-issue application, like “When did I overcome a challenge?” or “What’s a place that feels like home?” These prompts are everywhere. They won’t get the job done, and they won’t make an unforgettable first impression. But “Why did I lock myself in the basement and watch The Bee Movie for eighteen hours?” That’s a different story. 

 

If you look at past UChicago prompts, they tend to be fond of certain things: numbered lists, fairy tales, common phrases, and items of pop culture that can be re-contextualized. They also like hearing your answers to famous questions, and you might have a unique answer to “Et tu, Brute?” or “Do you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain?” Just remember that the novelty of the question, while the hook of your essay, is not its substance. If your biography and scholarly interests don’t involve pina coladas, or rain, you might just have to pick a different question to answer – as wonderful as that eternal question is. 

 

Final Tips

 

You have to do a lot of thinking for the UChicago essay – but don’t overthink it. There’s a reason why they give you a page limit, and not a word limit: they don’t want you to stress about cutting ten words, and they don’t want you to have to cut yourself off. Fully develop your ideas in a way that seems natural. If a paragraph needs to be a little thicker, or if you need to include a longer quote from your favorite author, don’t sweat it. 

 

You can look up lots of examples of essays online, but try not to get intimidated. It’s the nature of the UChicago essays to encourage everyone to showcase their expertise, so you’ll read a lot of essays and think, “Wow. I’ve never spent a month in Arizona digging up fossils. How can I ever compete?” Instead, try to think of the essays less as a Competition than as a Giant Celebration of everyone’s achievements and interests. It’s cliché but it’s true: everyone has something compelling about them, and the UChicago applications readers wouldn’t be giving out prompts like these if they didn’t believe it. 

 

If you’ve written your UChicago essay and are looking for feedback, we encourage you to create a free CollegeVine account and explore our resources. You’ll have access to free peer review services, through which students can peer review each others’ essays. We also offer free essay guides and other resources. We’re here to help you put your best foot forward, feel prepared, and deal with less stress this applications season.  Feel lucky, punk! 

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