2022-23 University of Chicago (UChicago) Essay Prompts and Tips
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 admitted just 5% of applicants into the Class of 2026, 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 2022-23 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.
- 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
Was it a cat I saw? Yo-no-na-ka, ho-ka-ho-ka na-no-yo (Japanese for “the world is a warm place”). Może jutro ta dama da tortu jeżom (Polish for “maybe tomorrow that lady will give a cake to the hedgehogs”). Share a palindrome in any language, and give it a backstory.
Option #1 was changed for 2022-23; yet, it remains a particularly quirky offering. Last year, this spot was reserved 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 palindrome-focused prompt. If you happen to love a particular palindrome, it could be a fun launching off point here. However, if you aren’t obsessed with sentences that read the same backwards and forwards, you shouldn’t put too much time into constructing an essay from scratch here (just our opinion).
Essay Option 2
What advice would a wisdom tooth have?
Research has shown that 11% of UChicago applicants who have the wisdom tooth impart to “enjoy the time you have” are accepted. Those who utilize some sort of wise man/tooth-related pun are admitted at only a 2% clip. Just kidding. If you want to write about a wisdom tooth guru, or some creative spin-off concept, knock yourself out. If not, keep moving down the list of prompts…
Essay Option 3
You are on an expedition to found a colony on Mars, when from a nearby crater, a group of Martians suddenly emerges. They seem eager to communicate, but they’re the impatient kind and demand you represent the human race in one song, image, memory, proof, or other idea. What do you share with them to show that humanity is worth their time?
This new prompt is a pretty decent platform upon which an applicant can build an imaginative, clever, and/or deep response. Other essays you’ve completed may have asked you to name a song that is meaningful to you or an idea you find inspirational. If so, feel free to rework that essay here. No pressure–you are only responsible for convincing an alien species of humanity’s worth in a single image!
Essay Option 4
UChicago has been affiliated with over 90 Nobel laureates. But, why should economics, physics, and peace get all the glory? You are tasked with creating a new category for the Nobel Prize. Explain what it would be, why you chose your specific category, and the criteria necessary to achieve this accomplishment.
This essay affords applicants a chance to flex their intellectual muscles and show off a talent for making interdisciplinary connections that stretch the imagination. After all, the prompt wants a “specific” category. This means that you probably don’t want to offer a straightforward answer like “History”. Of course, the prompt ignores that the Nobel Prize is also awarded in medicine and literature (so don’t name those!). However, we want to emphasize that the explanation matters more than the category. For example, you could name something straightforward like the “Preservation of Democracy” and write a compelling piece ripped from contemporary headlines.
Essay Option 5
Genghis Khan with an F1 racecar. George Washington with a SuperSoaker. Emperor Nero with a toaster. Leonardo da Vinci with a Furby. If you could give any historical figure any piece of technology, who and what would it be, and why do you think they’d work so well together?
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, the examples in the prompt itself are very funny. If you enjoy writing humorous compositions, this could certainly provide some fun. Alternatively, you could even take things in a slightly more serious direction.
Essay Option 6
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.
Want Personalized Essay Assistance with the UChicago Essay Prompts?
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.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).