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College Admissions Essays: Wacky Prompts


High school seniors are now in the final stretch of cranking out their college admissions essays. Pity them.

In an effort to keep students entertained during the admissions process, some colleges ask students to respond to some pretty wacky prompts.

Why? Well, the cynic in me wants to say that these essays are a way to separate those who are really interested in a particular college, and those who are not. Those applicants who spend the time and energy to address these prompts are perceived by the admissions office to have at least “run the gauntlet,” and are therefore more worthy of admission.

Admissions offices that require these crazy essays swear that they glean something interesting about the writer that helps them to determine whether the student is really someone they want to grace their campus. Maybe so.

Either way you look at it, my job is to help students brainstorm ways in which to respond to these kooky prompts. Sometimes the process is fun–hysterical, even. Sometimes, it’s like pulling teeth. So, readers, how would you respond to the following prompts? I’d love to read your comments!

1. How do you feel about Wednesday? (University of Chicago, 2002)

2. What outrages you? (Wake Forest, 2009)

3. Write a haiku, limerick, or short poem that best represents you. (New York University, 2009)

4. In the year 2050, a movie is being made of your life. Please tell us the name of your movie and briefly summarize the story line. (New York University, 2009)

5. What is college for? (Hampshire College, 2009)

6. Are we alone? (Tufts, 2009)

7. Make a bold prediction about something in the year 2020 that no one else has made a bold prediction about. (University of Virginia, 1999)

8. Write a short story using one of the following titles: a.) House of Cards, b.)The Poor Sport, c.) Drama at the Prom, d.) Election Night, 2044, e.) The Getaway. (Tufts, 2009)

9. How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.) (Chicago, 2009)

10. You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit Page 217. (University of Pennsylvania, 2009)


Thanks to Allen Grove for bringing this list–originally published at–to my attention. I’ve worked with students writing nearly all of these this year.  Whee!

Mark Montgomery
Educational Consultant


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