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 by the attributions, some of the questions below were inspired by submissions by your peers.
This Year's Essay Questions
Essay Option 1
Inspired by Benjamin Nuzzo, an admitted student from Eton College, UK
Essay Option 2
Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?
Inspired by an alumna of the Class of 2006
Essay Option 3
Salt, governments, beliefs, and celebrity couples are a few examples of things that can be dissolved. You’ve just been granted the power to dissolve anything: physical, metaphorical, abstract, concrete… you name it. What do you dissolve, and what solvent do you use?
Inspired by Greg Gabrellas, A.B. 2009
Essay Option 4
“Honesty is the best policy, but honesty won’t get your friend free birthday cake at the diner.” - Overheard in the city of Chicago.
Does society require constant honesty? Why is it (or why is it not) problematic to shift the truth in one’s favor, even if the lie is seemingly harmless to others? If we can be “conveniently honest,” what other virtues might we take more lightly?
Inspired by Eleanor Easton, a second-year in the College
Essay Option 5
In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose a question of your own. If your prompt is original and thoughtful then you should have little trouble writing a great essay. 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.
Some classic questions from previous years…