The University of Chicago has released its essay questions for the 2016-17 application season.
The “extended” essays, as UChicago terms their supplemental essays, are revised annually, leaving anxious applicants to wonder what topics have been dreamed up for them this year. The often kooky questions, submitted by current students, are selected for their potential to push applicants to use their imaginations and intellect while sharing a memorable personal story. “We think of them as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions,” says the UChicago website.
In addition to choosing one extended essay to write from the choice of questions below, students must also respond to one required essay question and, if desired, one optional question. (And let’s be clear, nothing is “optional” when it comes to selective college admissions!)
The 2016-2017 University of Chicago extended essay questions are:
1. What is square one, and can you actually go back to it?
2. Once, renowned physicist Werner Heisenberg said: “There is a fundamental error in separating the parts from the whole, the mistake of atomizing what should not be atomized. Unity and complementarity constitute reality.” Whether it’s Georges Seurat’s pointillism in “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, quantum physics, or any other field of your choosing, when can the parts be separated from the whole and when can they not?
3. The ball is in your court—a penny for your thoughts, but say it, don’t spray it. So long as you don’t bite off more than you can chew, beat around the bush, or cut corners, writing this essay should be a piece of cake. Create your own idiom, and tell us its origin—you know, the whole nine yards. PS: A picture is worth a thousand words.
4. Alice falls down the rabbit hole. Milo drives through the tollbooth. Dorothy is swept up in the tornado. Neo takes the red pill. Don’t tell us about another world you’ve imagined, heard about, or created. Rather, tell us about its portal. Sure, some people think of the University of Chicago as a portal to their future, but please choose another portal to write about.
5. According to László Babai, Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of Chicago, it is unfortunate that mathematicians do not have any procedures in place for revoking theorems once their validity is established because sometimes our results would be nicer without them. If you had the power to obliterate any known truth for the sake of getting nicer results, what truth would you choose to obliterate and why? This power cannot be used as a Ctrl-Z on events in your own life.
6. 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.
These questions may sound daunting – – they were meant to require some effort and originality – – but responses do not need to be profound. UChicago is open to “utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.”
Students ready to rise to the challenge can start their essays now; UChicago will accept your application whenever it’s ready before their Early Action deadline of November 1 and Regular Decision deadline of January 1.