UChicago's 2019 Essay Prompts Explained



The University of Chicago just released their 2019-2020 supplement essays prompts, and they’re as eccentric and confusing as ever. As admissions are getting more and more competitive each year, many universities have shifted their essay prompts to more unique questions that test students’ creativity and thought process. Schools like Stanford, Dartmouth, and the University of Virginia are all following this trend, but UChicago is renowned for their tradition of asking quirky prompts submitted by current UChicago students themselves.


This is an interesting strategy because it ensures that their admitted students are all very capable of exhibiting a certain degree of intellectual curiosity or creative thinking. For me, UChicago’s unique prompts were part of the reason I was interested in applying last year, because I noticed that I actually enjoyed crafting them. So when this year’s prompts released, I couldn’t wait to take a peek and give my thoughts on how to answer them.


Question 1: Why UChicago?

As with many other schools, UChicago wants to know why you’d love to be a student there, so this question follows the standard format of essays that you might be more used to. They’re looking to distinguish between students who genuinely belong at UChicago and the students who might be more interested in a different university. Because UChicago does not place a word limit on this question, we recommend that you fully flesh out all aspects of the university that attracts you before you start to worry about word count. One way to think about this essay would be to ask yourself what are your interests and how can they be fully explored at UChicago specifically?


Question 2: Choose One Quirky Prompt

This question is where UChicago gets its reputation for having unique prompts, because all the prompts for this question require your own interpretation and there are limitless ways to address it.


Essay 1

Cats have nine lives, Pac-Man has 3 lives, and radioactive isotopes have half-lives. How many lives does something else—conceptual or actual—have, and why?


Essay 2

If there’s a limited amount of matter in the universe, how can Olive Garden (along with other restaurants and their concepts of food infinity) offer truly unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks? Explain this using any method of analysis you wish—physics, biology, economics, history, theology… the options, as you can tell, are endless.


Essay 3

A hot dog might be a sandwich, and cereal might be a soup, but is a ______ a ______?


Essay 4

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” – Jessamyn West


Essay 5

UChicago has international campus centers around the world, but we don’t have any interplanetary, interstellar, or interdimensional campuses… yet! Propose a spot in time or space, in this or any universe, for a new UChicago campus. What types of courses would be taught at this site? What cultural experiences await students who study there?


Essay 6

“Don’t be afraid to pick past prompts! I liked some of the ones from previous years more than those made newly available for my year. Also, don’t worry about the ‘correct’ way to interpret a question. If there exists a correct way to interpret the prompt I chose, it certainly was not my answer.”


As you can tell, the prompts range from deeply philosophical to just completely silly, and the beauty is that UChicago values all types of questions in the same way that they encourage all types of answers. They’re not looking for an essay that follows a certain type of structure or talks about a specific kind of experience, they’re looking for who you are. So if you’ve always had a secret passion for beekeeping or if you’re just dying to venture into space someday, don't hold back on this essay.


The best tip I can give is if you have an interesting story to tell, you should be able to fit it into at least one of the prompts. Don’t fall into the trap of staring at these questions and trying to mold your life experiences around the prompt. Pick an aspect of yourself that you want to convey to UChicago first, and then think about which prompt could connect. Most importantly, have fun with it! UChicago students are known for their offbeat, quirky personalities, so try to write in a way that conveys your voice and passion.


After you’ve drafted an essay, it’s important to have it edited by several people in order to make sure that it’ll appeal to most readers. 7EDU’s expert instructors have helped countless students improve their essays and get into their dream schools, UChicago included! Give us a call at (408) 216-9109 or visit our website at www.7edu.org to schedule a free consultation with us today!

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