Some schools, in addition to the standard run-of-the-mill Why Major and Why College essays, will ask you to think a bit outside of the box. Here are two examples:
- What advice would a wisdom tooth have? (University of Chicago)
- Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate—and us—know you better. (Stanford University)
- You are on an expedition to found a colony on Mars, when from a nearby crater, a group of Martians suddenly emerges. They seem eager to communicate, but they’re the impatient kind and demand you represent the human race in one song, image, memory, proof, or other idea. What do you share with them to show that humanity is worth their time? (University of Chicago)
Despite how different these prompts seem, their fundamental purpose is the same as any other prompt: to get to know you better. With these prompts, the admissions team is simply going about it in a different way.
Here are a few tips for tackling these kinds of essays
- You should get creative. If it’s a creative prompt, the expectation is that you have a little bit of fun with it and think outside-of-the-box. Let your imagination run wild. Brainstorm different and perhaps unordinary ways of responding. Consider utilizing different stylistic devices, if you want. It’s perfectly okay (and even encouraged) to show a sense of humor and have light, even silly, remarks.
- But you shouldn’t get too creative. The essay needs to make sense. Remember that the reader isn’t going to stop and restart if they get lost in the shuffle. Many creative essays, especially for the University of Chicago, go so far into the weeds that, by the end, I don’t have a coherent image or understanding of what I just read.
- If you’re going deep down the creative rabbit hole, come up for air every now and again. That is to say, every now and again, give your reader something tangible that they can latch onto, something that will tether them back to reality and clear up any potential confusions.
- Remember the purpose. These essays, like all essays, are there in order for the reader to get to know you better. Once you’ve written your first draft, come back to it a day or two later, read it, and ask yourself what you’re communicating about yourself to the reader.
- Stay true to yourself and play to your strengths. Some of us feel, when confronted with some of these prompts, that we have to write super creatively even if we aren’t super creative writers. That usually doesn’t work out too well. Of course, you may need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, but don’t do this to such an extent that you lose your natural voice entirely.