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6 Strangest College Essay Questions Ever Asked

Posted on Thursday January 20, 2011 by Staff Writers

Many individuals who are interested in earning a degree at a traditional or online college find the application process to be tedious and nerve-wracking. Administrators use the submissions to determine whether a candidate is worthy of attending an educational institution. For applicants, anxiety typically runs high until they receive a notification of their acceptance or denial.

One of the most crucial parts of the application process is the essay. Postsecondary schools typically require students to write a short essay on a select topic to not only gauge their writing skills, but potential to positively contribute to the institution. However, not all questions administered by schools are the same. Although the word limit may be similar, many colleges have been known to require thought-provoking, unusual answers from individuals who wish to enroll. These are some of the most notable essay questions that have gained attention for their uniqueness over the years.

  1. If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk? (University of Chicago) When individuals apply to attend the school of their dreams, many don’t expect to be asked a simple, one-line essay question. However, the University of Chicago asks their students the tightrope question to not only have them address their potential fear of heights, but think creatively as well.
  2. Select a creative work — a novel, a film, a poem, a musical piece, a painting or other work of art — that has influenced the way you view the world and the way you view yourself. Discuss the work and its effect on you. (New York University) Many people have a few idols who have influenced them throughout their life, and this question from New York University simply asks applicants to elaborate on their role models. The question is also open to works of art, which can shape an individual’s life and affect their decision to earn a postsecondary degree.
  3. You’ve just written a 300-page autobiography. Send us page 217. (University of Pennsylvania) Although this essay question is one line, applicants might need hundreds of words to fully provide an answer. An autobiography presumably covers in-depth details about an individual’s life. Applicants who are answering the question must plan out which experiences would be worthwhile to tell to increase their chances of appealing to a college admissions official.
  4. Are we alone? (Tufts University) Not all college application questions are open-ended, but this one from Tufts proposes a question that has been asked for centuries. Although there may be no definitive answer as to whether life exists elsewhere in the universe, applicants are asked to make their best attempt. Believers and skeptics alike are placed on the same playing field with this question, asking them to think outside of the box to reach a conclusion about one of the most daunting questions in science. Individuals can also interpret the question as an opportunity to examine their existence and identity.
  5. Attach a small photograph of something important to you and explain its significance. (Stanford) Pictures are worth a thousand words, and Stanford asks its applicants to submit a few hundred about one that has a special significance. Not all individuals are professional photographers, but people typically have an old picture lying around that captures a worthwhile memory. Elaborating on a photo can show college administrators what makes an applicant unique.
  6. How do you feel about Wednesday? (University of Chicago) Wednesday is commonly referred to as the hump of the week. After it passes, individuals can look forward to the weekend. However, not everyone shares the same opinion on the matter, and the University of Chicago asks individuals to provide details on their view of Wednesday. It may just be another day of the week, but for applicants, an extensive answer can increase the chances of acceptance.