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The University of Chicago reveals its 2014-2015 supplemental essay questions

Here in metropolitan Washington D.C., the week of snow days students must make up means summer will be shorter than usual. Many high school juniors will plan to enjoy every minute of those fewer days; they'll tackle college applications in the fall.

But college applications can be time consuming and stressful, so juniors with more than a few colleges on their lists may want to begin even before the firecrackers are lit for the Fourth of July. And students who are hoping to study in the "Windy City" can get started right now if they want; the University of Chicago has just revealed their supplemental essay questions for the 2014-2015 application season.

The supplemental essay is an additional requirement from the University of Chicago, which utilizes both the Common Application (available August 1) and the Universal College Application (available July 1.) The university changes its questions annually, leaving anxious applicants to wonder what topics have been dreamed up this year.

The topics from the University of Chicago are, historically, "out-of-the-box." The goal is to push students to use their imaginations and intellect to share an interesting, profound and memorable personal story.

The 2014-2015 University of Chicago essay questions are:

  1. What's so odd about odd numbers?
  2. In French, there is no difference between "conscience" and "consciousness". In Japanese, there is a word that specifically refers to the splittable wooden chopsticks you get at restaurants. The German word “fremdschämen” encapsulates the feeling you get when you’re embarrassed on behalf of someone else. All of these require explanation in order to properly communicate their meaning, and are, to varying degrees, untranslatable. Choose a word, tell us what it means, and then explain why it cannot (or should not) be translated from its original language.
  3. Little pigs, french hens, a family of bears. Blind mice, musketeers, the Fates. Parts of an atom, laws of thought, a guideline for composition. Omne trium perfectum? Create your own group of threes, and describe why and how they fit together.
  4. Were pH an expression of personality, what would be your pH and why? (Feel free to respond acidly! Do not be neutral, for that is base!)
  5. Why are you here and not somewhere else? (There are many potential values of "here", but we already know you're "here" to apply to the University of Chicago; pick any "here" besides that one).
  6. In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose a question of your own. If your prompt is original and thoughtful, then you should have little trouble writing a great essay. 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.

If these questions sound daunting, well, they were meant to require some effort and originality. A helpful blogger on the University's website, who gives sound advice on how to approach the questions, shares that as an applicant she answered the question "Find x" with a story about a favorite pair of childhood scissors that helped "shape" her life...

Oh, and in case July is not soon enough for anyone, the University of Chicago will start accepting their supplements in mid-June.

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