The University of Chicago is known for its intellectually rigorous core curriculum, beautiful gothic architecture, and quirky application supplement (more on those oddball essay prompts below). It’s a nerd paradise where the blustery Chicago winters are the perfect excuse to stay inside with a nice book or ten. Even though the unofficial school motto is, “If I wanted an A, I would have gone to Harvard,” school life isn’t all books and studying. With a vibrant student body, UChicago is definitely worth getting to know. So take a peek at the University of Chicago 2016-17 application highlights we’ve pulled together in our spotlight, and who knows, this might just become your dream school. The more you know, the stronger your application essays will be.
- Number of undergrads: 5,681
- Student/faculty ratio: 6:1
- Acceptance rate: 8.8%
- SAT/ACT required: Yes
- Coalition or Common App: Both
- Regular application deadline: January 1, 2017
Digging to the Details
School Motto/Mission Statement
“Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched.”
Coolest School Tradition
UChicago’s Doc Films is one of the most active film societies in the country! They screen something different every single night, and you’re just as likely to see a classic film as you are to catch a sneak preview of a movie that has yet to hit mainstream theaters.
Most Popular Academic Programs
UChicago is a very social school with separate profiles for the University and the Admissions Office. They’re even on Snapchat! Take advantage of this wealth of information, updates, and droolworthy photos as you decide whether and why Chicago might be right for you. Links below:
Essay Prompts and Instructions
Question 1 (required): 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.
Question 2 (optional): Share with us a few of your favorite books, poems, authors, films, plays, pieces of music, musicians, performers, paintings, artists, blogs, magazines, or newspapers. Feel free to touch on one, some, or all of the categories listed, or add a category of your own.
EXTENDED ESSAY QUESTIONS
*Required. Choose one.
Essay Option 1: What is square one, and can you actually go back to it? – Inspired by Maya Shaked, Class of 2018
Essay Option 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 Afternoon on the Island of 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? – Inspired by Ender Sahin, Class of 2020
Essay Option 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.- Inspired by April Bell, Class of 2017, and Maya Shaked, Class of 2018 (It takes two to tango.)
Essay Option 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. – Inspired by Raphael Hallerman, Class of 2020
Essay Option 5: According to Lázló 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. – Inspired by Erin Horning, Class of 2016
Essay Option 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.
Complete instructions available on the UChicago Admissions website.
Chicago too cold for you? Check out UNC’s 2016-17 essay prompts.
Learn how to do effective online college research.
The University of Chicago has long been renowned for its provocative essay questions. We think of them as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions. They can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.
Each year we email newly admitted and current College students and ask them for essay topics. We receive several hundred responses, many of which are eloquent, intriguing, or downright wacky.
As you can see from the attributions, the questions below were inspired by submissions from UChicago students and alumni.
To begin working on your UChicago supplement visit, getstarted.uchicago.edu, the Coalition Application, or the Common Application.
2017-18 UChicago Supplement:
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.
Extended Essay Questions:
(Required; Choose one)
Essay Option 1.
“The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” – Joseph Joubert
Sometimes, people talk a lot about popular subjects to assure ‘victory’ in conversation or understanding, and leave behind topics of less popularity, but great personal or intellectual importance. What do you think is important but under-discussed?
Essay Option 2.
Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History... a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here: https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/academics/majors-minors.
-Inspired by Josh Kaufman, Class of 2018
Essay Option 3.
Earth. Fire. Wind. Water. Heart! Captain Planet supposes that the world is made up of these five elements. We’re familiar with the previously-noted set and with actual elements like hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, but select and explain another small group of things (say, under five) that you believe compose our world.
-Inspired by Dani Plung, Class of 2017
Essay Option 4.
The late New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham once said "Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization." Tell us about your “armor.”
-Inspired by Adam Berger, Class of 2020
Essay Option 5.
Fans of the movie Sharknado say that they enjoy it because “it’s so bad, it’s good.” Certain automobile owners prefer classic cars because they “have more character.” And recently, vinyl record sales have skyrocketed because it is perceived that they have a warmer, fuller sound. Discuss something that you love not in spite of but rather due to its quirks or imperfections.
-Inspired by Alex Serbanescu, Class of 2021
Essay Option 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.