Old University Of Chicago Essay Prompts For Elementary
The University of Chicago has long been renowned for its provocative essay questions. We think of them as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions. They can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.
Each year we email newly admitted and current College students and ask them for essay topics. We receive several hundred responses, many of which are eloquent, intriguing, or downright wacky.
As you can see from the attributions, the questions below were inspired by submissions from UChicago students and alumni.
To begin working on your UChicago supplement visit, getstarted.uchicago.edu, the Coalition Application, or the Common Application.
2017-18 UChicago Supplement:
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.
Extended Essay Questions:
(Required; Choose one)
Essay Option 1.
“The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” – Joseph Joubert
Sometimes, people talk a lot about popular subjects to assure ‘victory’ in conversation or understanding, and leave behind topics of less popularity, but great personal or intellectual importance. What do you think is important but under-discussed?
Essay Option 2.
Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History... a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here: https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/academics/majors-minors.
-Inspired by Josh Kaufman, Class of 2018
Essay Option 3.
Earth. Fire. Wind. Water. Heart! Captain Planet supposes that the world is made up of these five elements. We’re familiar with the previously-noted set and with actual elements like hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, but select and explain another small group of things (say, under five) that you believe compose our world.
-Inspired by Dani Plung, Class of 2017
Essay Option 4.
The late New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham once said "Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization." Tell us about your “armor.”
-Inspired by Adam Berger, Class of 2020
Essay Option 5.
Fans of the movie Sharknado say that they enjoy it because “it’s so bad, it’s good.” Certain automobile owners prefer classic cars because they “have more character.” And recently, vinyl record sales have skyrocketed because it is perceived that they have a warmer, fuller sound. Discuss something that you love not in spite of but rather due to its quirks or imperfections.
-Inspired by Alex Serbanescu, Class of 2021
Essay Option 6.
In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose your own question or choose one of our past prompts. 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.
Applications for the class of 2023 will open on July 1, 2018. The current application cycle for non-transfer students has closed.
Applicants to UChicago apply into our undergraduate College that includes all of our majors, minors, and programs of study. The application materials below are those required for all first-year and transfer applicants, including international applicants, QuestBridge applicants, home-schooled applicants, and veterans. Full-time students at other universities who would like to take advantage of the UChicago's faculty and course offerings without seeking a UChicago degree should apply through the Student-at-Large Application. With the exception of prospective students-at-large, applicants may apply for entrance in the Autumn Quarter only.
Application For Admission
Applicants should submit their choice of the Coalition Application, or Common Application and must also complete the University of Chicago Supplement. Applicants will also receive a UChicago Account, where they can submit information and view their admissions decision.
Select One of Two Applications
There are several online application platforms accepted by many colleges and universities. Through the online application platform, you submit basic information about your background, academic profile, and extracurricular activities, as well as a brief personal statement, and that information can be easily shared with multiple colleges you decide to apply to.
UChicago accepts the Coalition Application or Common Application. We treat both equally in the admissions process. You'll want to pick a single application platform to use, whichever you feel works best for you.
Questions about technical matters related to using one of the consortium application should be directed, respectively, to the folks at the Common Application or Coalition Application. Questions about our own requirements should be directed to us.
In your list of extracurricular activities, you should include whatever it is that you spend your time doing outside of class. This could be an official club, team, or competition; a hobby you pursue on your own; a part-time job; a family responsibility; or anything else you do with your time outside of class. Colleges ask for this information not because they have any specific expectation or preference for how you spend your time, but to see what's meaningful, worthwhile, or interesting to you. We do not require certificates proving participation in activities. If the space provided on the Coalition or Common Application to list all extracurricular and work experiences is not sufficient, you may share further details in the Additional Information section of the application.
Your personal statement is your chance to present yourself and your ideas in your own words. Through the Common or Coalition Application, your personal statement will be sent to all of the schools you are applying to. As a result, it should not be specific to any one school. Your personal statement should be appropriate for a wide array of audiences and should put your best foot forward. Be sure to proofread and edit your essay, and have someone you trust like a friend, family member, or counselor read it over before submitting it.
The University of Chicago Supplement requires one extended essay of your choice from our list of several prompts and one short essay on why you would like to attend the University of Chicago. The Supplement is available through your UChicago Account the Coalition Application, or Common Application.
Your UChicago Account
Students may create a UChicago Account before or after beginning the Coalition or Common Application. To create a UChicago Account before you begin working on either application, please visit getstarted.uchicago.edu. If you begin by working on the Coalition or Common Application, you will receive an email with instructions on how to set up your UChicago Account. When you sign in to your UChicago Account, you will be able to submit your UChicago Supplement, complete and update your profile, apply for financial aid, upload supplementary materials, and view your admissions decision.
Application Fee or Automatic Fee Waiver
The University of Chicago does not charge an application fee for students applying for need-based financial aid. For students not applying for need-based financial aid, our application fee is $75 and can be submitted through the Coalition or Common Application.
Please follow the instructions on the Coalition or Common Application for submitting the application fee online.
Check or Money Order
Please include a note with the check or money order with the applicant's full name and address, and mail it to the College Admissions Office by the appropriate application deadline. Checks should be made payable to the University of Chicago.
The Office of College Admissions
Attn. Matt Cowell
1101 E. 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
Secondary School Report and Transcript
Ask your secondary school counselor to complete the Secondary School Report and to submit it along with an official transcript. If you do not have a secondary school counselor, a teacher or school administrator may submit the Secondary School Report and transcript instead.
Secondary School Report
The Secondary School Report provides us with an overview of your high school academic record. All secondary school counselors have the option of submitting letters of recommendation and school forms online via the Coalition Application or Common Application. High school counselors should follow the instructions on the Coalition or Common Applications for submitting these forms. Counselors may print out and submit these forms on paper even if you submit your application online.
High School Transcript
An official transcript detailing your coursework and grades over your entire high school career should be sent from your high school. In reading your application, your transcript will serve as a roadmap of your academic path in high school. We will be looking at your academic record across all four years of high school, primarily to see that you have challenged yourself productively in your course selection and done well in those courses.
Your transcript is considered in the context of your high school. Course offerings and opportunities can look very different from one high school to the next, and we want to see how you took advantage of what was available to you at your high school. You would never be at a disadvantage in the admissions process for not having pursued an opportunity that was not available to you. A School Profile is usually included with your transcript that tells us about the environment at your school, course offerings, curriculum, and educational outcomes. We do not require complete syllabi.
If you have taken courses at a school other than your current high school, such as a previous high school or a local college, please be sure to have those grades sent as well. They may be reported either on your current high school transcript or in a separate transcript from the original institution.
Transcripts written in a language other than English should be accompanied by a certified translation and a grading scale.
Two Teacher Evaluations
We require two recommendations from teachers who have taught you in an academic subject: high school teachers for first-year applicants and college instructors for transfer applicants. Academic subjects, as defined for the purposes of letters of recommendation, include mathematics, social studies, history, science, English or literature, foreign language, and other courses in which you are doing substantial amounts of reading, writing, or class discussion. If you have questions about whether a particular course is a good choice, feel free to contact your regional Admissions Counselor.
Ask for recommendations from teachers who know you well and can speak specifically and positively about your contributions in the classroom, academic interest, and interactions with classmates. This does not necessarily need to be the teacher who gave you the best grades, but instead someone who best knows your academic personality and thinks highly of you. Plan to have a brief conversation with your recommender to give them context on your educational plans, as this can be helpful in writing a more detailed letter.
As teachers are often writing letters of recommendation on their own time and are therefore not getting paid to do it, we also strongly encourage students to write their recommenders a thank you note.
Submitting Letters of Recommendation
All school counselors and teachers have the option of submitting letters of recommendation and school forms online via the Coalition Application or Common Application. They should follow the instructions on the relevant application for submitting these forms. Teachers and counselors may print out and submit these forms on paper even if you submit your application online. Letters of recommendation must come directly from the recommender and should not be sent by the applicant.
If your recommenders are most comfortable writing in a language other than English, they may. Have them submit the original letter accompanied by a translation.
If you feel that we won't be able get a full picture of who you are without a third letter of recommendation from another teacher, an employer, role model, youth leader, or friend, you may submit one additional letter. Submitting a supplemental letter of recommendation is not an expectation, and please be considerate of the significant time commitment writing a good letter of recommendation takes before asking a potential recommender.
If you are a transfer applicant and feel that you have not had satisfactory contact with professors at your college or university, we recommend that you give one of the forms to a teaching assistant or lab instructor who may have had more experience working with you.
Standardized Test Scores
Standardized testing, while important, is only one piece of a much larger picture. You're so much more than a number, and the application process is about so much more than scores.
The college admissions process is all about finding the right fit, and there's no single piece of your application, including a test score, that could indicate whether or not you would be a good fit for UChicago. We read applications holistically and consider your test scores alongside your grades, course selection, and letters of recommendation to determine whether you're prepared to do good academic work in the College, which most students who apply are.
We require an ACT or SAT score and have no preference between the two tests or between the "old" SAT and the "new" SAT. We will continue to accept scores from the old version of the SAT for the five years scores remain valid. The writing portion of the ACT or the SAT is not required, nor are any SAT Subject Tests. We do not have minimum test score requirements.
We will superscore both the SAT and the ACT, meaning that if you have taken either test more than once, you should submit all your scores, and we will add your highest subsection scores together to give you the highest possible combined score. We will superscore within both the old SAT and the new SAT, but will not be able to superscore between the two versions of the test. We encourage students to take the test more than once, but do not recommend excessive retaking of standardized tests, as we generally do not see significant improvement after the second time taking a test. Test scores are valid for five years (with an exception for veteran applicants); if your scores are more than five years old, you must retake the test.
UChicago will review the applications of students who attend U.S. high schools using either self-reported or official SAT or ACT scores. These students will not be required to submit official score reports unless they are admitted and choose to enroll. You are able to self-report test scores through the Coalition or Common Application. You will not need to superscore your own results or recalculate your scores in any way; send your scores exactly as you receive them.
Students who will graduate from a high school outside the U.S. and transfer applicants will be required to submit an official score report at the time of application. To be considered official, scores must be sent to the University of Chicago directly from the testing agency or reported on a transcript. UChicago’s SAT code is 1832; the ACT code is 1152.
While we would, of course, like to receive your scores before the appropriate deadline, we will accept October ACT and November SAT scores for Early Action and Early Decision I, December SAT and ACT scores for Early Decision II, and January SAT and February ACT scores for Regular Decision.
Outside the U.S.
We understand that access to the SAT and ACT is not available in all countries. While we hope that you will make your best effort to take one of these tests if you can, we will give full consideration to the applications without an ACT or SAT score from students in these countries.
Learn more about test scores on our FAQ page.
Midyear Report (first-year applicants only)
Please have your high school counselor submit a midyear report with grades or a transcript for your first semester or first trimester by February 1 of the year you have applied, or as soon as possible thereafter. We are aware that schools may issue midyear grades at a later time, and students will not be penalized for submitting the report after this date. The Coalition and Common Application provide a Midyear Grade Report form, or you may use your own school’s midyear report. You are also welcome to make updates to your application by logging into your UChicago Account and clicking “Update Your Application.”
English Language Proficiency Test Scores (international applicants only)
Competence in English must be demonstrated in order to qualify for admission. All international applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Pearson Test of English (PTE). Our TOEFL and College Board code is 1832. Reports of other tests are usually not accepted.
The University of Chicago only admits students who have demonstrated a superior level of English language competence: we strongly recommend a score of 100 or higher on the Internet-Based TOEFL or 600 or higher on the Paper-Based TOEFL. Minimum required scores on the IELTS (students must take the Academic test, not the General Training test) are an overall score of 7, with subscores of 7 each. The minimum acceptable score on the PTE is 70.
The only exception to the English proficiency test requirement is for applicants who for two or more years have attended a high school or college where the primary language of instruction is English in a country where English is one of the official languages (England, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, or Pakistan, for example). UChicago does not offer an ESL program for admitted students.
College Official's Report and Transcript (transfer students only)
College Official's Report
Give this form to a dean or academic adviser who has access to your disciplinary and academic records at your current or most recent college or university. If a college or university cannot provide an official report, don’t panic! We will still be able to review your application in its entirety without any penalty. We do not require the Midterm Report from the Common Application.
Request that official college or university transcripts from every post-secondary school you have attended be sent directly to the Office of College Admissions. If you received pass/fail marks for college or university courses instead of grades, please request that your instructors submit written evaluations of your work.
Transcripts written in a language other than English must be be accompanied by a certified translation and a grading scale.
Financial Aid Application
Applicants to the College are not required to submit an application for financial aid to be considered for admission. If you do intend to apply for need-based financial aid, however, you should do so at the same time you apply for admission so that you can factor your financial aid package into your college decision process. Learn more about applying for financial aid.
Once a student is admitted, regardless of that student’s country of origin, the University of Chicago will meet 100% of their demonstrated financial need throughout their four years in the College with a grant-based financial aid package. UChicago financial aid packages do not include a loan expectation.
U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents & Canadian Citizens
The University of Chicago’s consideration of applications for admission is need-blind for citizens of the U.S. and Canada as well as U.S. permanent residents. This means that for these applicants, submitting an application for need-based financial aid will have no bearing on admission to the College. Canadian citizens should follow the directions for applying for international aid.
Domestic Financial Aid Application Materials
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- Prior-prior year's tax returns (including all schedules and W-2 forms)
- UChicago-Specific Financial Aid Worksheet (can substitute College Board's CSS Profile)
Based on the nature of financial aid funds for international students, the admissions process is need-aware for applicants who are not citizens of the U.S. or Canada or U.S. permanent residents. International applications go through the same holistic review process as domestic applicants, and an application for need-based financial aid will be taken into consideration at the end of that process. Learn more about applying for financial aid as an international applicant.
International Financial Aid Application Materials
- International Student Financial Aid Application (ISFAA)
- Supporting documents requested in ISFAA
International transfer applicants are not eligible to apply for need-based financial aid.
Interviews are an optional part of the admissions process. The interview provides an opportunity for you to engage in a casual conversation with either a current fourth-year student or an alumnus/a. Your interviewer will ask questions to learn a little more about you as a student and a member of your community and in turn share information about their experience at the University of Chicago. Please prepare a couple of questions of your own and be ready to talk about yourself (not recite your resume). There are two ways to interview, and both are treated equally in the admissions process.
Register for an interview with a current fourth-year student on campus
Request an interview with a graduate of the University of Chicago near you
Prospective students interested in interviewing should choose the option that's most convenient for them and can complete only one interview of either type.
Sometimes there's an aspect of who you are that simply can't be conveyed through the required application materials. If this is the case, you are welcome to submit supplemental materials. In general, it's best to make sure that any non-required materials you choose to submit to a college are focused in scope and add a new perspective on who you are that's not already there.
You may submit supporting materials for music, theater and dance, or visual arts and film digitally through the "Portfolio" section of your UChicago Account. You may also submit a short creative writing sample or scientific research abstract through your UChicago Account using the "upload" feature. Please keep in mind that more is not always better.
Additional recommendations from school officials (e.g. a coach, club sponsor, or arts teacher) may be submitted through the Coalition or Common Application. Additional recommendations from those who do not have access to the Coalition or Common Applications (your boss, a community leader, someone who knows you well) may be mailed to us at this address:
The Office of College Admissions
1101 E. 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
Materials may be faxed to us at 773.702.0661. We do not recommend sending documents via email.
In order to expedite the assembly of your application and save trees, the Office of College Admissions prefers electronic submission of all documents through the Coalition Application or Common Application. Any additional materials you would like to be added to your application file should be sent to us through the methods outlined below:
- Direct Upload to your UChicago Account: This is the fastest and most efficient method to submit documents to your application.
- Fax to 773.702.0661: This is the preferred fax line for submission of any additional documents that you would like added to your application. If this line is busy due to high volume, you may use our secondary fax line, 773.834.5297.
- Mail documents to:
The Office of College Admissions
1101 E. 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
- We discourage sending documents via email and believe that one of the two methods listed above should be sufficient to ensure that your documents arrive to our office safely and securely.
- If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at any time.
Transcripts, test scores, secondary school reports, and recommendations are considered official only if they come directly from your school, teachers, counselors, or other recommenders. Any of these materials submitted by the applicant are unofficial, and won’t count toward our application requirements.