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How to Write Successful University of Chicago Essay Supplements

by Will Geiger, on Sep 5, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Want to rock your admissions essays and “wow” admissions officers? Our free Storybuilder platform will guide you with simple, step-by-step instructions!

The University of Chicago or “U Chicago” is a prestigious research university located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. It is well-known for quirky essay questions, which should not be surprising, because U Chicago is a very quirky, intellectual place. We always tell students, “if you have fun with the University of Chicago essays, it is probably a good fit for you” (and if not, maybe another college is a better fit).

Supplemental essays are a very important part of the University of Chicago admissions process. They want to get to know you as a student and learn about what excites you intellectually. On the surface, U Chicago’s essays can seem a little bit daunting, but we are here to guide you through them.

There are two University of Chicago essay supplements, and there is no official word limit to them. Generally, admissions officers need to read applications quite quickly, so brevity is valued and they probably won’t appreciate a 5,000-word missive. So, we would suggest keeping them to around 650 words (which is the Common App word limit).

University of Chicago Essay #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 essentially a “why this college?” essay question and is meant to identify students who are a great fit for the university. The question is asking about this in both an academic and a non-academic context, so you will need to address both in the essay.

This question also assumes that you have a strong understanding of the University of Chicago and what makes it unique. As a refresher, you can do some research on their website or think about your past experiences with the university (perhaps you visited campus or spoke with an admissions officer at a college fair). Your goal will be to identify 1-2 specific reasons that the University of Chicago meets your “wishes” academically, extracurricular, as a community (both the campus and the surrounding neighborhood), and as a future alumn (think career services, research, and internship opportunities).

Once you do this, you can connect these specific reasons “why U Chicago” to personal stories from your life that are relevant. For instance, if you are really interested in getting involved at the University of Chicago’s Institute for Politics, you can relate it back to your experience canvassing for a congressional race in your home district. A moment that is supported by description, dialogue, and details will make the most compelling case for you as a student. Be sure to use Storybuilder to help you turn these stories into a powerful essay.

Next Steps:

  1. Identify specific reasons “why Chicago” meets your academic, extracurricular, community, and “future” needs
  2. Connect these reasons to specific moments
  3. Using Storybuilder build these moments into powerful stories

University of Chicago Essay #2:

Students have a choice of the following essay prompts but can also create their own prompt or choose a prompt from a previous year (which you can view here):

Essay Option 1

Cats have nine lives, Pac-Man has 3 lives, and radioactive isotopes have half-lives. How many lives does something else—conceptual or actual—have, and why?

—Inspired by Kedrick Shin, Class of 2019

Essay Option 2

If there’s a limited amount of matter in the universe, how can Olive Garden (along with other restaurants and their concepts of food infinity) offer truly unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks? Explain this using any method of analysis you wish—physics, biology, economics, history, theology… the options, as you can tell, are endless.

—Inspired by Yoonseo Lee, Class of 2023

Essay Option 3

A hot dog might be a sandwich, and cereal might be a soup, but is a ______ a ______?

—Inspired by Arya Muralidharan, Class of 2021 (and dozens of others who, this year and in past years, have submitted the question “Is a hot dog a sandwich,” to which we reply, “maybe”)

Essay Option 4

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” – Jessamyn West

—Inspired by Elizabeth Mansfield, Class of 2020

Essay Option 5

UChicago has international campus centers around the world, but we don’t have any interplanetary, interstellar, or interdimensional campuses… yet! Propose a spot in time or space, in this or any universe, for a new UChicago campus. What types of courses would be taught at this site? What cultural experiences await students who study there?

—Inspired by Peter Jasperse, Class of 2022

Essay Option 6

“Don’t be afraid to pick past prompts! I liked some of the ones from previous years more than those made newly available for my year. Also, don’t worry about the ‘correct’ way to interpret a question. If there exists a correct way to interpret the prompt I chose, it certainly was not my answer.”

—Matthew Lohrs, Class of 2023

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to these essays, because they can go in so many different directions. We have seen a variety of successful essays ranging from creative stories to intellectual essays. The purpose of the second supplemental essay is to learn about your intellect, creativity, and view of the world.

Our suggestion for most students is to have fun with this essay and to focus on telling a memorable story.

Next Steps:

  1. Pick a prompt (or choose your own prompt)
  2. Using Storybuilder craft a story that responds to your chosen prompt
  3. Don’t forget about your main Common App or Coalition Application personal statements!
Want to rock your admissions essays and “wow” admissions officers? Our free Storybuilder platform will guide you with simple, step-by-step instructions!
Topics:college admission