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The Oddball Essay

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There are certain schools, like the University of Chicago, who have always taken special pride in developing craft questions for their applicants to answer. In recent years, more schools are jumping on the bandwagon, luring students to their applications with questions like “What does #YOLO mean to you” (Tufts, 2013). This is both fun and exhausting for applicants who are grateful for an injection of modern, quirky inspiration, but whose creative wells are running dry. We’re right there with you. And again, we’re gonna help.

Take University of Chicago’s 2015 prompt for example:

“Orange is the new black, fifty’s the new thirty, comedy is the new rock ‘n’ roll, ____ is the new ____. What’s in, what’s out, and why is it being replaced?”

Breathe. You know how to do this. Consider the question that is being asked and then dig back into your repertoire of subjects you haven’t yet discussed. Maybe you think strawberry jam is the new guacamole because you’ve recently gotten into canning. Perhaps you believe ultimate Frisbee is the new football. Culling your own interests and passions will help a lot here.

Or take one of this year’s options for the UVA supplement (*students must pick one of four)

“What is your favorite word and why?” (250 words)

Is your favorite word “Triple-Soy-Caramel-Latte” because when you worked at Starbucks last summer, your favorite customer (Loretta, age 90) ordered one every day, sparking your friendship? Maybe your favorite word is “hamburger.” You tell us why.

The trick to these essays is so simple, you’re gonna kick yourself when we say it. Read through the prompts that have been thrown at you and remember that you already have the answers inside your noggin, you just have to identify them. Go outside. Live your life. The ideas will come. You have so many stories to tell and now you get to tell even more of them thanks to the supplemental essays.

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