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July 6, 2009

The Class of '14?

The Office of College Admissions has posted this year’s religiously weird essay questions. The Uncommon App and the anti-common admissions czar might be gone, but you won’t find questions like these on a Northwestern application.

Essay Option 1 How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.) Inspired by Kelly Kennedy, a fourth-year in the college. Essay Option 2 The late-eighteenth-century popular philosopher and cultural critic George Lichtenberg wrote, "Just as we outgrow a pair of trousers, we outgrow acquaintances, libraries, principles, etc. at times before they're worn out and at times-and this is worst of all-before we have new ones." Write an essay about something you have outgrown, perhaps before you had a replacement-a friend, a political philosophy, a favorite author, or anything that has had an influence on you. What, if anything, has taken its place? Essay Option 3 "Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust," wrote the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail." What is "human personality?" Is it obvious what uplifts and what degrades it? Can law be justified on the basis of it? We want to hear your thoughts on justice as it relates to this "human personality." Essay Option 4 From game theory to Ultimate Frisbee to the great Chicago Scavenger Hunt, we at the University of Chicago take games seriously. We bet you do, too. Even if "just a game," sport, play, and other kinds of games seem to share at the very least an insistence that we take seriously a set of rules entirely peculiar to the circumstance of the game. You might say, in order to play a game we must take it seriously. Think playfully-or play thoughtfully-about games: how they distract us or draw us into the world, create community and competition, tease us and test us with stakes both set apart from and meaningful to everyday life. Don't tell us about The Big Game; rather, tell us about players and games. Essay Option 5 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.
I bet the admissions staff is looking forward to reading all 7 trillion responses about outgrowing childhood. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the answer to #1 is “my mistress’s ex-boyfriend hacked into her Hotmail account and forwarded all my love poems to the local paper.”