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The Ultimate Guide to Acing the University of Chicago Supplemental Essays 2021/22

15 OCT 2021

It’s that time of the year again! Colleges started releasing their admissions prompts for the upcoming admissions cycle. If the University of Chicago is your dream school, look no further than this guide on how to ace those supplements.

How to stand out in your University of Chicago Supplemental Essays for 2021

University of Chicago asks for two essays (1-2 pages each). For the first, you’ll answer the single given prompt. For the second, you choose one prompt from a list of options. Your approach to these essays should differ, so let’s break down how to get the most out of each.


Need help with your Supplemental Essays? Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admission consulting company. Our expert admission strategist can help you narrow down your ideas and word choice to help you craft the perfect essay prompt response. Get your essay reviewed today!

What are the University of Chicago supplemental essay prompts for 21/22?

Prompt 1 (everyone must answer this question)

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.

Prompt 2: Students can choose one prompt to answer from the six prompt options below.

Prompt 2 Essay Options
Questions
1What if the moon were made of cheese? Or Neptune made of soap? Pick a celestial object, reimagine its material composition, and explore the implications. Feel free to explore the realms of physics, philosophy, fantasy…the sky is the limit! —Inspired by Tate Flicker, Class of 2025
2What’s so easy about pie? —Inspired by Arjun Kalia, Class of 2025
3In Homer’s Iliad, Helen had a “face that launched a thousand ships.” A millihelen, then, measures the beauty needed to launch one ship. The Sagan unit is used to denote any large quantity (in place of “billions and billions”). A New York Minute measures the period of time between a traffic light turning green and the cab behind you honking. Invent a new unit of measurement. How is it derived? How is it used? What are its equivalents? —Inspired by Carina Kane, Class of 2024, and Ishaan Goel, Class of 2025
4“There is no such thing as a new idea” - Mark Twain. Are any pieces of art, literature, philosophy, or technology truly original, or just a different combination of old ideas? Pick something, anything (besides yourself), and explain why it is, or is not, original. —Inspired by Haina Lu, Class of 2022
5It’s said that history repeats itself. But what about other disciplines? Choose another field (chemistry, philosophy, etc.) and explain how it repeats itself. Explain how it repeats itself. —Inspired by Ori Brian, AB’19
6In the spirit of adventurous inquiry (and with the encouragement of one of our current students!) choose one of our past prompts (or create a question of your own). 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!

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How to answer Prompt 1

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.

This essay is your first chance to demonstrate why University of Chicago is the perfect school for you. It may be tempting to search for the most impressive faculty and programs to gush about, but this won’t get you far. Sincerity and humility are key! Put in deep thought about the specific aspects of UChicago that appeal to you and how the unique facets of the school fit your interests and wants.

Helpful Tips for Prompt 1

1. Be specific

For example, let’s say you’re interested in UChicago’s premier economics program. You’ve taken the AP courses, completed econ-related extracurriculars, and you want that interest to guide your college experience. Research how the economics program works at UChicago, any professors whose research you might be interested in, and any student organizations that work in econ. Then, imagine how your experience will grow when you have access to those resources.

2. It’s not just about school

UChicago will receive your grades separately, so set aside your GPA for now. You’re not just a student in college. You’re a roommate, study partner, and gym buddy. UChicago has a reputation for attracting hard workers and prides itself on a diverse mix of student cultures. Adding that layer of depth when you’ve only got 250 words is challenging. If you’re unsure whether to describe another detail about your studies or about an extraordinary experience you had, go with the latter.

3. Stay humble

It’s not just how you’ll take advantage of UChicago’s opportunities but how your contributions will benefit others. Listing your accomplishments might sound like an excellent way to show your worth, but remember you’re joining thousands of other hopefuls from many different walks of life. If you were lucky enough to have wonderful experiences, focus on how they changed your sense of self rather than just listing positive outcomes.

4. Stay positive

Never criticize other schools. If you want to talk about UChicago’s first-year “Core Experience,” with its focus on interdisciplinary texts, don’t write negatively about how other universities lack those courses! You can build up UChicago’s unique offerings without speaking negatively about other institutions.

How to answer Prompt 2

The University of Chicago is renowned for its provocative essay questions. These questions allow students to tell the school more about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions. Students approach these questions with either absolute seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.

Each year UChicago asks newly admitted and current college students for essay topics. They receive several hundred responses, many of which are eloquent, intriguing, or downright wacky. The questions below were inspired by submissions from UChicago students and alumni.

Choose one of the following prompts and respond in a maximum of two pages.

Essay Option 1

What if the moon were made of cheese? Or Neptune made of soap? Pick a celestial object, reimagine its material composition, and explore the implications. Feel free to explore the realms of physics, philosophy, fantasy…the sky is the limit!

—Inspired by Tate Flicker, Class of 2025

Essay Option 2

What’s so easy about pie?

—Inspired by Arjun Kalia, Class of 2025

Essay Option 3

In Homer’s Iliad, Helen had a “face that launched a thousand ships.” A millihelen, then, measures the beauty needed to launch one ship. The Sagan unit is used to denote any large quantity (in place of “billions and billions”). A New York Minute measures the period of time between a traffic light turning green and the cab behind you honking. Invent a new unit of measurement. How is it derived? How is it used? What are its equivalents?

—Inspired by Carina Kane, Class of 2024, and Ishaan Goel, Class of 2025

Essay Option 4

“There is no such thing as a new idea” - Mark Twain. Are any pieces of art, literature, philosophy, or technology truly original, or just a different combination of old ideas? Pick something, anything (besides yourself), and explain why it is, or is not, original.

—Inspired by Haina Lu, Class of 2022

Essay Option 5

It’s said that history repeats itself. But what about other disciplines? Choose another field (chemistry, philosophy, etc.) and explain how it repeats itself. Explain how it repeats itself.

—Inspired by Ori Brian, AB’19

Essay Option 6

In the spirit of adventurous inquiry (and with the encouragement of one of our current students!) choose one of our past prompts (or create a question of your own). 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!

Helpful Tips for Prompt 2

1. Remember your purpose.

Ultimately, you want your essays to show the admissions officers a facet of your personality that they want to see at UChicago in the fall. While you should write freely, the creativity of prompts means it’s easy to deviate from the prompt. If the prompt asks you to write a letter, tell a story, or argue a point of view, make sure you’re doing that, even as your imagination runs wild.

2. Get someone (or three) to proofread.

There is no quicker essay-killer than a bad typo during the good part. While this advice applies to anything you write, it is especially crucial for this type of essay since you’re likely not sticking to a standard paragraph format. Writing dialogue, keeping tenses in a story, and even staying consistent in your tone and vocabulary isn’t easy. Pick people who know you and your voice. Increase the font size to check for spacing and spelling errors. Break down each paragraph into one-sentence summaries, and check that the flow of the essay moves smoothly.

3. If you choose to write on your own prompt, keep the scope narrow.

The “choose your own prompt” option is always a temptation. Sometimes it’s an excellent choice! But it can be hard to keep the bigger goal in mind when deciding what to write. Your purpose is to display your writing abilities on a specific topic while showing admissions a bit of your personality.

4. Admissions officers are human beings too.

UChicago’s fun prompts highlight a critical aspect of all college admission essays: no formula will guarantee entry or even predict your college experience. The answer to the prompts is not as important as how you express your thoughts. Don’t write what you think UChicago wants to hear. If you’re not confident in your humor, rely on persuasion instead. If you are excited about a contentious topic, write with the same balance and respect you’d use when talking to a human being.

Final Thoughts

The UChicago essays are offbeat and eccentric. Try to have fun with them. The committee wants you to convey a sense of playfulness, hoping these essays will help them better understand your personality.


Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admission consulting company. Our expert admission strategist can help you narrow down your ideas and word choice to help you craft the perfect supplemental essay responses. Get your essay reviewed today!

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