How to Write the UChicago Supplemental Essays

Question 1 (Required)

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.

The first essay question UChicago asks students to answer is the common “why this school?” question. A key phrase in the prompt is, “as you know it now.” Admissions officers don’t expect you to know everything about the school. Don’t try to impress them with esoteric knowledge of classes and come off as inauthentic or indulgent. Rather, write about the qualities of the school that genuinely make you want to attend it. With “some specificity” means they don’t just want an overview of their school’s educational philosophy or the type of creative minds you associate with the school. Asking about your wishes is how they give you an opportunity to get specific. This is where you should start: with a wish (or two, or three) and how UChicago will help you attain them. Be creative here! Address the opportunities, academic or otherwise, that meet your wishes!

Question 2: Extended Essay (Required; Choose one)

The goal of the Extended Essay is to present a side of yourself that is unique, memorable, likable, and clever. This essay is sort of like a second personal statement but one in which you want to be authentically YOU. If you are able to show a creative side of yourself or humor, more power to you. You’ll want to devote a lot of time to this essay and make sure it is well crafted. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t write what you think the admissions officers want to hear. Don’t force yourself to write an essay that doesn’t correspond to you. Write an essay that genuinely reflects your personality and interests.

Oftentimes, the essay a student should pick from this bunch immediately jumps out at them—that’s a good sign. Go with your gut, get creative and have fun!

One last bit of advice: pay attention to the key phrases in each prompt and identify the elements you absolutely should include. For example, the first prompt clearly asks you to offer a method based resolution to a tongue twister. So, at risk of stating the obvious, your essay should, without exception, include a tongue twister, a resolution and a method for achieving it. The fifth option should definitely include a famous quote and a misattributed author. That being said, each prompt only has a few requirements and leaves room for the rest of the essay to be extremely creative… so, take us to another galaxy, compose a tongue twisting song, propose a mathematical proof, write a manifesto… the opportunities are endless.

Essay Option 1Who does Sally sell her seashells to? How much wood can a woodchuck really chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Pick a favorite tongue twister (either originally in English or translated from another language) and consider a resolution to its conundrum using the method of your choice. Math, philosophy, linguistics… it’s all up to you (or your woodchuck).
—Inspired by Blessing Nnate, Class of 2024

Essay Option 2What can actually be divided by zero?
—Inspired by Mai Vu, Class of 2024

Essay Option 3The seven liberal arts in antiquity consisted of the Quadrivium — astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and music — and the Trivium — rhetoric, grammar, and logic. Describe your own take on the Quadrivium or the Trivium. What do you think is essential for everyone to know?
—Inspired by Peter Wang, Class of 2022

Essay Option 4Subway maps, evolutionary trees, Lewis diagrams. Each of these schematics tells the relationships and stories of their component parts. Reimagine a map, diagram, or chart. If your work is largely or exclusively visual, please include a cartographer’s key of at least 300 words to help us best understand your creation.
—Inspired by Maximilian Site, Class of 2020

Essay Option 5“Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” – Eleanor Roosevelt. Misattribute a famous quote and explore the implications of doing so.
—Inspired by Chris Davey, AB’13

Essay Option 6Engineer George de Mestral got frustrated with burrs stuck to his dog’s fur and applied the same mechanic to create Velcro. Scientist Percy Lebaron Spencer found a melted chocolate bar in his magnetron lab and discovered microwave cooking. Dye-works owner Jean Baptiste Jolly found his tablecloth clean after a kerosene lamp was knocked over on it, consequently shaping the future of dry cleaning. Describe a creative or interesting solution, and then find the problem that it solves.
—Inspired by Steve Berkowitz, AB’19, and Neeharika Venuturupalli, Class of 2024

Essay Option 7In 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, a citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun!