College application essay questions can be weird. Students’ answers? They can be weirder. Some people have a way of turning the simplest questions into unexpected essay answers. That’s called creativity. In most cases, it works.
Admission essays should never be boring. To make it impressive, you have to think of an unusual answer to the question hundreds of other students are answering. Let’s go through few weird admission essays that worked, shall we?
Benjamin’s 20 Questions Essay
At its official website, Johns Hopkins University published the top 5 admissions essays from the class of 2012. The one that’s featured first is also the weirdest one. Benjamin answers unusual questions, such as these:
- Is it bigger than a breadbox?
- Does it strive to learn?
- Is it driven?
- Does it think deeply?
All answers are yes, along a brief explanation of the answer. He is talking about himself as the it—a student with versatile interests and strong determination to grow. The admission committee? Impressed.
Josh Mahoney’s Essay about Football… And Law
This essay is featured at the website of University of Chicago Law School. At first, it seems pretty standard: Josh is talking about a passion – football. Then you wonder: wait, isn’t this an application essay for law school? What’s with the football?
Well, Josh writes about his injury; the moment that pushed him towards exploring other aspects of life. His intellect, mainly. Finally, we see why he decided to apply to law school. He connects college football, passions, weaknesses, and solutions into a single decision: entering law school to become a stronger person.
Although the essay seems disoriented and irrelevant at first, you can’t stop reading it. It’s one of the rare cases when a too long introduction to the point does work.
Joseph Poirier’s Common App Personal Essay
“When problems arise, I solve them using copper fittings.”
That’s how this essay starts. Joseph explains his fascination with copper during childhood. Then, he talks about his failures. Then, he returned to his primal interest: copper. Failures and copper, failures and copper… is that what this essay is all about? No. Somewhere along the way, you realize it’s about learning to grow from failure.
Although it’s an unusual personal statement, to say the least, it worked for the admissions board at Tufts University. In fact, it’s featured at the website as one of the best ones.
Ahmad Ashraf’s Application Essay for Connecticut College
“Mum, I’m gay.”
That’s how the essay starts. It’s bold. It’s weirdly brave. Also, what’s with the mum? What’s informal language doing in an admissions essay?
This essay defies rules. It’s exactly why it works.
Nathaniel Colburn’s Essay about the Homeless Lady
This one is featured at the website of Hamilton College. When you’re asked to write a personal story about a defining moment, the last thought of your mind is the memory of a homeless person. Well, that’s exactly what Nathaniel thought of.
A homeless person changed his point of view. He explained that moment beautifully in this application essay.
Ahmed’s #BlackLivesMatter Essay
This has to be the weirdest one. Ziad Ahmed got into Stanford with an application essay that wasn’t an essay at all. He said he didn’t think he’d be admitted to Stanford. It looks like he wasn’t even trying. To the prompt What matters to you, and why? Ahmed wrote nothing but the hashtag, 100 times.
It worked. For Stanford!
Brenden’s Essay that Got Him into Yale, Columbia, MIT, and University of Virginia
Wow! Is it possible to get into so many first-class universities with a single essay? It’s almost impossible, but Brenden Rodriquez did it. What’s the essay about? Music and math.
The sentences are long. The paragraphs are long. The entire essay goes against the simplicity tips you get from any writing guide. That’s why it’s unusual. The difference is that this student can write long sentences. Although the essay has chunky paragraphs, the reader’s attention is not lost. Plus, he talks about math being present in music. And football. How cool is that?
Before you start the process of creating an admissions essay, you should first read some successful examples. What did you notice about the ones we featured above? They were weird, weren’t they? Being unusual works sometimes. It’s always good to be brave. However, you have to find the good weird way to write the admissions essay.
Approach Crazy College Essay Prompts with Creativity and an Open Mind
More and more colleges are getting creative with their applications, including asking some weird, wacky, and unusual essay questions. These out-of-the-ordinary and very open-ended prompts can send some applicants into a panic, unsure about how to approach these crazy admissions essay questions.
While they may seem intimidating, these crazy supplements are a great opportunity for applicants to demonstrate their creativity and flex their critical thinking muscles. The answers to these prompts are meant to be just as fun as the questions themselves so take a deep breath – colleges aren’t trying to stump or trick you.
Here’s what to think about when answering unusual college application essay questions:
Remember: There’s no “right” answer.
Supplemental essays are a way for colleges to get to know you, so don’t stress about whether or not you’re giving the admissions officers the answer that you think they’re looking for. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to UVA’s “To tweet or not to tweet?” prompt. Colleges aren’t looking for a specific answer – they’re looking for more insight into who you are as a student and person.
So leave any hang-ups about what you think colleges are expecting at the door. They’re just looking for an opportunity to know you a little better.
Keep your interests in mind.
A great way to approach quirky application prompts is to keep your interests, activities, and hobbies in mind. You want to write a response that conveys who you are as a person and a student. So, if possible, relate your essay to something dear to your heart.
UChicago is known for its wacky and quirky application essays, and the admission office often faces questions about how to answer their uncommon prompts.
The assistant director of admissions said it best: “A UChicago supplement essay that responds to our question with a topic you see as interesting and compelling (that is, of course, well thought through and edited reasonably) will shine out much more than following a standard ‘college essay’ format. Don’t be afraid to stretch your mind and have a little fun.”
Write about what you want to write about – especially if it’s something you’re passionate about. For example, USC asks, “What’s the greatest invention of all time?” A student who was passionate about photography once answered the daguerreotype – the first photographic process to come into widespread use.
These questions are hard and sometimes confusing for a reason – colleges want you to get creative and exercise your brain! College courses and discussions often pose strange and unusual problems for students to consider, and admissions offices want to see how you approach such open-ended questions. Critical thinking and creativity are important.
Take your time to consider the prompt and what you want to write about. Time is key here – you don’t want to write a rushed, sloppy essay just to get it over with. Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they can tell how much time and effort went into your response. Remember supplements are also a way to demonstrate your interest in the school, so dig deep, brainstorm, and take your time writing and revising.
It may seem hard to let yourself shine with such a strange essay prompt with no context, but being yourself is easier than you may think. When reviewing essays, admissions officers are looking to learn something about you that can’t be found anywhere else in the application, so focus on crafting an essay that represents you – not who you think the college wants you to be.
For example, Villanova University asks, “What sets your heart on fire?” A student athlete who also enjoyed volunteering wrote about how community service and how it impacted his or her life. Another student who was deeply interested in the humanities write about his or her love of history. While these responses may seem a little tame compared to the prompt, they reflect who the students are and their interests – which is much more meaningful than trying to out-quirk the prompt itself.
When letting your personality shine through in your essays, avoid using language that’s out of character or writing in someone else’s voice. And don’t recycle other essay responses There’s too much room for error and it defeats the purpose of the prompt – which is to get you to think!
Wacky college application questions might elicit some unusual responses, but limit the quirkiness to the content. Avoid using gimmicks like acrostic poems, writing backwards, or not writing anything at all (i.e. just visual responses.) Again, admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and if they have to spend too much time decoding your formatting rather than reading the content, the effect will be lost and you could end up in the “no” pile.
If necessary it’s okay to include a visual element like a photo or video with your essay, but remember they ask for a written response for a reason – they want to see how you write! Keep the essay and formatting itself simple, but wow them with the content and substance!
Approaching unusual college application essays may seem daunting at first, but by taking your time and really brainstorming, you can craft a response that adds substance and character to your application!