The University of Chicago’s essay prompts get a lot of attention, and rightfully so. They are typically some of the most interesting and thought provoking that an applicant will encounter. When I was an admissions officer at the University of Chicago, I would regularly hear from applicants that part of the reason they applied was those essay prompts—they couldn’t wait to grapple with them. By contrast, in my later life as a high school counselor, I’d hear from some students, “I don’t want to apply there—those essays look too hard!” Clearly, the essays are serving their purpose for the admissions office by attracting the right students, those who find Chicago’s eccentric brilliance (cough, nerdiness!) to be a match for their own spirit.
So let’s dig into the essay questions themselves. First, just like all supplemental essays at schools which read applications holistically, the Chicago essays should be understood as puzzle pieces that form part of a whole. Each essay fulfills a different part of the application, and each is important.