Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

Holiday turkeys: College application essays we'd rather not write

Holiday turkeys: College application essays we'd rather not write

university seals_1_This just in: Seniors vying for admission to elite colleges should jump through more flaming hoops.

That’s the conclusion of the nation’s elite college admissions officers—at least by the looks of these essay prompts. Have they been designed to intimidate college applicants? Or just to amuse admissions officers?

You tell us. 

The University of Chicago

Winston Churchill believed "a joke is a very serious thing." From Off-Off Campus’s improvisations to the Shady Dealer humor magazine to the renowned Latke-Hamantash debate, we take humor very seriously here at The University of Chicago (and we have since 1959, when our alums helped found the renowned comedy theater The Second City).

Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it.

Dear University of Chicago,
When you explain a joke, you ruin it.

Tufts University

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people,” Virginia Woolf. Respond to Woolf’s quote in the medium of your choice: prose, video (one minute), blog, digital portfolio, slam poetry... For media other than writing, please share a link (video can be submitted via YouTube but we recommend using a privacy setting) that is easily accessible.

Dear Tufts,
Um, what?

Amherst College

Rigorous reasoning is crucial in mathematics, and insight plays an important secondary role these days. In the natural sciences, I would say that the order of these two virtues is reversed. Rigor is, of course, very important. But the most important value is insight—insight into the workings of the world. It may be because there is another guarantor of correctness in the sciences, namely, the empirical evidence from observation and experiments.

Dear Amherst,
We’ve read this six times and we still don’t understand it.
Honestly now, do you?

Princeton University

Using the statement below as a jumping-off point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world.

“Princeton in the Nation’s Service” was the title of a speech given by Woodrow Wilson on the 150th anniversary of the University. It became the unofficial Princeton motto and was expanded for the University’s 250th anniversary to “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations."

Woodrow Wilson, Princeton Class of 1879, served on the faculty and was Princeton’s president from 1902–1910.

Dear Princeton,
We see through your strategy: Applicants who turn this into an essay are rejected for being insufferably pretentious. 

Or...are they accepted for being insufferably pretentious?

The University of Virginia

university seals_2_

In 2006, graduate student Robert Stilling discovered an unpublished poem by Robert Frost while doing research in UVa’s Small Collections Library.

Where will your Stilling moment be in college?

Dear University of Virginia,
Before we answer: What Robert Stilling moments have occurred at the college since Robert Stilling had his moment in grad school back in 2006?

Columbia University

Tell us what you find most appealing about Columbia and why.

Dear Columbia,
This sounds normal. Suspiciously normal. What’s the catch?

If you're chewing your fingernails over your college application essays...

...we're here to help with battle-tested tips and techniques to get you moving.

Got a question we can help with?

Ask the recap >
  • Brian Berquist

    I’m hoping they know these questions are idiotic. I’d be worried if they thought these really were “provocative.”

  • Jillian

    Here’s this one from Johns Hopkins: “Using a piece of wire, a Hopkins car window sticker, an egg carton, and any inexpensive hardware store item, create something that would solve a problem. Tell us about your creation, but don’t worry; we won’t require proof that it works!”

  • Micaynd

    There are many ways and techniques on how are you going to write you essay for you to be able to succeed on it. It would only depend on how are you going to do it with your knowledge and tactics in life.


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