We thought you might.
The Requirements: 2 essays of 1-2 pages each
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Why, Oddball
This is it, the infamous U Chicago supplemental application. These quirky prompts have been a rite of passage for generations of applicants, so before you dive in, just remember: if they could do it, so can you! Your goal in writing your Chicago extended essay should be the same as ever: to reveal something new to admissions. It might even help to have a few ideas in mind before reading through your options. These prompts are so specific and strange that, in the end, the key is just to follow your instincts. What speaks to you right away? What inspires you?
Think of this run-of-the-mill why essay as the overture to your magnum opus (i.e. the Extended Essay). Chicago wants you to cover all the bases – “learning, community, and future” – so as with any why essay, you’d best buckle down and do your homework. The more specific details you can incorporate into your essay, the more sincere and personal it will feel (and be!). Explore both academic and extracurricular opportunities. How will you pursue your interest in oceanography? With a major in biology and a semester in Australia? What research opportunities will you pursue? Will joining the club crew team help you feel more connected to aquatic life despite your midwest location? One thing you won’t find on the school website, though, is that third piece, that “future” thing. Think about where you’d like to be five or ten years from now – your career or the impact you’d like to have or even just a geographic location. How will a U Chicago education help you get there? How will your scholarly and social pursuits help you grow? Show admissions how U Chicago is the bridge between the person you are and the person you hope to be.
– Inspired by Leah Beach, Class of 2026, Lib Gray SB ’12, and Agnes Mazur AB ‘09
Step on no pets. A nut for a jar of tuna. Stella won no wallets. This prompt is for all the creative writers out there. This is as classic a writing exercise as they get: here’s a prompt; give it a story. Maybe you’ve cooked up your very own palindrome that you’d like to share with admissions. If not, feel free to peruse the internet for one that strikes your fancy. Can you connect “step on no pets” to your volunteer experience at the local animal shelter? Does “a nut for a jar of tuna” remind you of bartering with your siblings the night after trick-or-treating? Maybe “Stella won no wallets” makes you think of carnival games and the prizes people take home (or don’t) come closing time. Wherever your mind wanders, follow it and see where it takes you. U Chicago wants to come along for the ride.
–Inspired by Melody Dias, Class of 2025
Don’t get too caught up in the idea of a talking tooth in this prompt; instead, think about what you consider to be sage advice and work from there. Would a wisdom tooth tell you to speak less and listen more? Pay less mind to what other people think? (They’re just projecting anyway.) Or, if you can’t stop thinking of the talking tooth, run with it and get literal. Would the tooth have dental hygiene advice? Would it tell you to stop drinking so much orange soda? Ultimately, there is no wrong way to interpret this question and maneuver your answer…that’s the advice we think a wisdom tooth would give in this case, anyway.
—Inspired by Alexander Hastings, Class of 2023, and Olivia Okun-Dubitsky, Class of 2026
We absolutely love this question because you can take it in so many different directions. What would you introduce to a martian in order to make a case for humankind? Would you show them data based on cold, hard facts? Or perhaps something more abstract, like a work of art or idea? What do you think makes humanity special, unique, worth a martian’s precious time? This question seeks to find out what you covet, what you hold sacred, and what you think shows proof of humanity’s inherent value. If the other prompts are stumping you, come back to this one. You could write an essay about mother-daughter relationships, the art of the alleyoop, or the cinema of Michael Bay in the Transformers series if you wanted to…and they would all work for this prompt! The sky’s the limit—or maybe the Milky Way is?
—Inspired by Isabel Alvarez, Class of 2026
This prompt serves you with a fun, creative way to nerd out about a passion of yours. What you choose to focus on doesn’t have to be something related to your major or long-term goals (it doesn’t even have to be too grounded or realistic); it can just show admissions that you’re multifaceted and think about things creatively.
Maybe you’re a music-lover and want to make an argument for a Nobel Prize category for musicians. What’s your take? And who, in your mind, would be in the running for this prize? Or, perhaps, you’ve seen your aunt pour her blood, sweat, and tears into the community garden and you believe the green thumbs of the world deserve some recognition for what they do for their fellow humans. How many tomatoes do they need to have grown to deserve this award? How many people do they need to have fed? Are those even prerequisites in your mind? So long as you’re having fun while responding to this prompt, you’re doing it right!
-Inspired by Braden Hajer, Class of 2025
This prompt is ripe for humor—just look at the silly examples listed! This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t take your response in a different direction. Maybe you’d like to give a historical figure a piece of technology to do good with or to prevent suffering. Perhaps you just really want to see Albert Einstein ride a hoverboard. Keep in mind that your answer should be about you in the end, even when you’re writing about other people. See how you can finesse your response to reveal more information about your interests, goals, and character through a historical figure and their new piece of technology.
We love all the prompts from the past—there are so many quirky ones! If this year’s questions aren’t inspiring you, don’t be afraid to peruse the archives to find one that stands out to you. If you belong at UChicago, there is no doubt you will find a prompt that sparks a story within you.
We’d also like to note that this is a great opportunity for recycling essays. If you wrote a strong longform essay for another school, see if any of the old prompts work in your favor, or make up your own question custom-built for your essay. Good luck! 😊