College Essay Alchemy: A Tour of Supplemental Essay Prompts

prepmatters-vd-r04 prepmatters-vd-r04

A review of essay prompts can be a great way to prepare for the writing process. I am supposed to write roughly 650 words but on what?  Of course, you will head straight for the Common Application prompts and prepare to stress out choosing one idea.  But what about reading supplemental prompts and taking a mental walk around other questions colleges are asking students?  A creative prompt may just the spark a fresh perspective or a new insight about yourself.  And, this new idea could go on to inspire your main essay, after you’re well rested and ready to start writing your college essay.

 

Some of Our Favorite 2018 Supplementary College Essay Prompts

 

UVA

250 words

  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • What is your favorite word and why?

Yale

Short Take: 200 characters (approximately 35 words), to each of the following questions:

  • What inspires you?
  • Yale’s residential colleges regularly host intimate conversations with guests representing a wide range of experiences and accomplishments. What person, past or present, would you invite to speak? What question would you ask?
  • You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called?
  • Most first year Yale students live in suites of four to six students. What would you contribute to the dynamic of your suite?

Wake Forest University

List five books you have read that piqued your curiosity.

Stanford University

  • The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning. (100 to 250 words)
  • Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate — and us — know you better. (100 to 250 words)
  • Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100 to 250 words)

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Choose two of the prompts below and respond to each in 200-250 words.

  • Tell us about a peer who has made a difference in your life.
  • What do you hope will change about the place where you live?
  • What is one thing that we don’t know about you that you want for us to know?
  • What about your background, or what perspective, belief, or experience, will help you contribute to the education of your classmates at UNC?

University of Southern California

Please respond to one of the prompts below. (250 word limit)

  • USC believes that one learns best when interacting with people of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Tell us about a time you were exposed to a new idea or when your beliefs were challenged by another point of view.
  • Describe something outside of your intended academic focus about which you are interested in learning.
  • What is something about yourself that is essential to understanding you?

University of Chicago

Choose one of the six extended essay options and upload a one- or two- page response

  • “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 underdiscussed? – Anonymous Suggestion
  • 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: collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/majors – Inspired by Josh Kaufman, Class of 2018
  • 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
  • The late NYTimes 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
  • 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
  • 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. You can find our past prompts here: collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/past-essays