UChicago Supplemental Essays 2023-24 – Prompts and Advice

July 14, 2023

UChicago has long been known for their “provocative” essay prompts, viewing them as a chance for “students to talk about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions.” The University of Chicago admissions committee invites you to approach the UChicago supplemental essays with “utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.” While writing this “uncommon essay” sounds like a real lark, we have to keep in mind the sobering facts that UChicago admits just 5% of applicants, and the mid-50% SAT range of those who enroll is 1510-1560. This level of competition places the UChicago essay prompts squarely in the spotlight.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into UChicago? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into the University of Chicago: Admissions Data and Strategies for all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

When applying to an institution like the University of Chicago that rejects 19 of every 20 applicants, you’ll need to put maximum effort into every area of the application, including the two UChicago supplemental essays. Below are UChicago’s supplemental prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle along with our advice for composing a winning essay.

UChicago Essay Prompts – 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.

For the absurd level of uniqueness in the prompt choices in Question #2, Question #1 is as common as they come—the good ol’ “Why Us?” essay, Chicago style!

How to write a winning “Why University of Chicago?” essay

How will you take advantage of UChicago’s endless resources both inside and outside of the classroom?

  • Cite specific academic programs, professors, research opportunities, internship/externship programs, study abroad programs, student-run organizations, etc.
  • Show evidence of how your past/current endeavors will carry over onto the University’s campus community.
  • Lastly, what special talents and passions will you bring to the University of Chicago?

Examples of items to include in a “Why UChicago?” essay

Examples of items that quality “Why UChicago?” essays touch upon include:

  • Two-thirds of UChicago professors live in Hyde Park, making for a particularly cohesive campus.
  • 80% of undergrads elect to participate in undergraduate research.
  • Additionally, the quarter system allows students to explore a greater number of courses each year in a more in-depth manner.
  • 85% of UChicago classes enroll fewer than 25 students.
  • The school has 160+ research centers, institutes, and committees.

UChicago Supplemental Essays (Continued)

  • Many students win Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright Scholarships after graduation.
  • The Jeff Metcalf Internship Program also offers 3,500 paid internships .
  • They offer 450 student organizations.
  • The university sponsors 66 study abroad programs in 31 cities; many include chances to study with UChicago professors around the globe.

Of course, these are just a small sampling of the thousands of possible features that could be part of a successful essay, but we hope this helps your brainstorming session take flight!

Question 2: Extended Essay (Required; Choose one)

Before offering a few words about how one might address each of the following prompts, we want to stress to future UChicago applicants that there is no right way to talk about celestial objects made of provolone, the unspoken challenges of baking, or creating your own unit of measurement. What matters is that your response to any of the following prompts demonstrates your excellence and creativity as a writer. If the first five prompts don’t appeal to you, there is no downside in constructing your own via option #6.

University of Chicago Supplemental Essays:

Essay Option 1

Exponents and square roots, pencils and erasers, beta decay and electron capture. Name two things that undo each other and explain why both are necessary.

This essay affords applicants a chance to flex their intellectual muscles and show off a talent for making interdisciplinary connections that stretch the imagination. As illustrated in the built-in examples, the items may be of the everyday or highly-scientific variety. Your explanation of why both are necessary is where the real creativity comes in.

Essay Option 2

“Where have all the flowers gone?” – Pete Seeger. Pick a question from a song title or lyric and give it your best answer.

Research has shown that 11% of UChicago applicants who select “Who let the dogs out?’ are admitted. Those who go with “Life on Mars?” are admitted at only a 2% clip. Just kidding. If answering a question posed by David Bowie or the Baja Men appeals to you, knock yourself out. If not, keep moving down the list of prompts…

UChicago Supplemental Essays (Continued)

Essay Option 3

“Vlog,” “Labradoodle,” and “Fauxmage.” Language is filled with portmanteaus. Create a new portmanteau and explain why those two things are a “patch” (perfect match).

A few years back, UChicago offered a prompt for imagining that the moon was made of cheese or Neptune from soap. To that prompt, we advised that it didn’t matter if you wrote about a quasar made of Jergens Enriching Shea Butter or Jupiter’s moons constructed from Bored Ape NFTs—your imagination and writing ability is what matters here. The latter half of that advice remains applicable to this prompt. If you happen to love a good portmanteau, act like you stepped about a Frontier Airlines flights and “Go Wild!” The explanation will be far more important than the portmanteau itself.

Essay Option 4

A jellyfish is not a fish. Cat burglars don’t burgle cats. Rhode Island is not an island. Write an essay about some other misnomer, and either come up with and defend a new name for it or explain why its inaccurate name should be kept.

There are an endless number of interesting misnomers that may be worth unpacking: Peanuts are not nuts. Some ladybugs are male. Chinese Checkers was invented in Germany. The Hundred Year War was 116 years in duration. As always with a good UChicago essay, absolutely nothing here is straightforward. As they state, you make up a new name for your misnomer or explain why the poorly crafted name should remain.

Essay Option 5

Despite their origins in the Gupta Empire of India or Ancient Egypt, games like chess or bowling remain widely enjoyed today. What modern game do you believe will withstand the test of time, and why?

If you, as a ridiculously busy applicant, have time to spare, this is a pretty fun prompt to ponder. The only downside is that—since this is so specific— you may not be able to reuse your composition for any other college to which you are applying. That said, if you’ve always felt called to muse about the perfection of pickleball or the beauty of Backgammon, your day has come.

UChicago Supplemental Essays (Continued)

Essay Option 6

There are unwritten rules that everyone follows or has heard at least once in their life. But of course, some rules should be broken or updated. What is an unwritten rule that you wish didn’t exist?

An applicant can quite easily take this in a very serious or seriously humorous direction. Our only suggestion is that your rule doesn’t include the phrase, “If it’s mellow, let it yellow.” Or, it can. This is the UChicago supplemental section. Anything goes. Get weird.

Essay Option 7

And, as always… the classic choose your own adventure option! In the spirit of adventurous inquiry (and with the encouragement of one of our current students!) choose one of our past prompts (or create a question of your own). 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!

If you elect to go with an archived prompt, you can locate some past entries around the internet such as here and here. A good number of applicants we have worked with avail themselves of the flexibility offered by this restriction-free offering.

How important are the UChicago essay prompts?

The University of Chicago lists six factors as being “very important” to the admissions committee and the essays are among them. In addition to the essays, UChicago most heavily weighs the rigor of your secondary school record, recommendations, extracurricular activities, talent/ability, and character/personal qualities. Clearly, the Common App and supplemental essays are among the most important considerations for the University of Chicago in their decision-making process.

UChicago Supplemental Essays – Personalized Assistance 

Lastly, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your UChicago supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.