11 Offbeat College Essay Topics

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Let's take a look at some of the stranger questions those wacky admissions officers have asked.

1. How do you feel about Wednesday? (University of Chicago, 2002)
This topic was inspired by a student. However, it was optional. Students did not have to share their thoughts on Wednesday if they did not feel comfortable doing so.

2. What outrages you? (Wake Forest, 2009)
For most students? Questions like this one. We think admissions officers are looking for a particular answer, like "genocide." Wake Forest claims they just want to know the real you, but honestly, they're just being obnoxious.

3. Write a haiku, limerick, or short poem that best represents you. (NYU, 2009)
Oh please, NYU
College essays are stressful
Don't make me do this.

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. (NYU, 2009)
College admissions officers like to throw in "fun" questions like this to relieve a bit of the stress high school seniors face while applying to college. I don't think it's working.

5. Are we alone? (Tufts, 2009)
This question is one of several options for prospective Tufts students this year. I'm wondering how most people will interpret this one—I immediately thought of extraterrestrial life. In any case, I'm betting most students will pick a more generic essay that involves less thinking.

6. What is college for? (Hampshire College, 2009)
Small liberal arts colleges like to pose deceptively simple questions like this one. I'd probably come up with something cheesy about forming close personal bonds and broadening myself intellectually.

7. Please describe a daily routine or tradition of yours that may seem ordinary to others but holds special meaning for you. Why is this practice significant to you? (Barnard, 2009)
Yet another essay that lets you sneakily show how unique you are. Colleges want students to really open up, but I wonder how many essays like these have fabricated answers of what the students think will sound good, not reality.

8. Make a bold prediction about something in the year 2020 that no one else has made a bold prediction about. (University of Virginia, 1999)
UVa is another college that offers several interesting optional essays each year. Colleges claim they truly are optional and you won't be penalized for not doing them"¦

9. 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)
This is an unusual essay, as it's asking for something fictional. But I'd imagine any prospective creative writing majors would be quite happy to pen a short story rather than a revealing nonfiction essay.

10. How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.) (Chicago, 2009)
I had to include another UChicago one—they're just so odd. This one is also inspired by a student (I'm curious to know the source of the inspiration.) This university likes to use offbeat questions because it draws in a different kind of student—a bit eclectic and intellectual—which is just what Chicago is looking for.

11. You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit Page 217. (UPenn, 2009)
This topic was popularized by UPenn in the '80s, and many other colleges have adopted it since. I read one (possibly apocryphal) anecdote about a father who called an admissions officer to ask if his son could send his essay in late, as he wouldn't have time to finish his 300 page autobiography before deadline.
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Do you know of any other interesting essay topics? Tell us about them in the comments!

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October 13, 2009 - 8:41am
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