There’s no escape. Getting into college means studying, taking the ACT, filling out applications, answering questions and writing essays. Everyone expects the usual questions about academic performance, interests and extracurricular activities. Some schools go beyond the ordinary, however, when it comes to quirky application questions and essay prompts. Prestigious schools, such as the University of Chicago, have built reputations on their use of unorthodox, out-of-the-box prompts. Here are examples of actual quirky questions and bizarre essay prompts you didn’t see coming.
We’re Not Making This Up
Tufts University consistently ranks as one of the top colleges in the United States. It is also noted for its use of highly unusual application questions. Tufts garnered a lot of press recently for its essay question, “What does #YOLO mean to you?” The acronym YOLO stands for “you only live once” and is a popular phrase with the under-25 age group. It’s not the first time the University used popular cultural memes on its applications. A previous essay prompt asked students to create a short story using one of several topics, including “The End of MTV.” Other Tufts examples include “celebrate your nerdy side” and “are we alone?”
Tufts is not alone in the unusual and quirky essay prompt department. The University of Pennsylvania recently came up with a head scratcher with the prompt, “You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217.” Bennington College asked applicants “Can a toad hear? Prove it.” Amherst College asked students to write about their agreement with either Sartre’s “Hell is other people” quote or Barbra Streisand’s song lyrics, “People who need people / Are the luckiest people in the world,” and explain their choice. The prompt included the instructions, “Don’t be icky.”
Johns Hopkins University asked applicants to think like MacGyver. Students had to come up with a problem solver using an egg carton, Hopkins window sticker, piece of wire and an inexpensive hardware store item of their choice. Fortunately, officials didn’t require proof that the invention actually worked. Brandeis University asked applicants if they would rather be raised by aliens, robots or dinosaurs and why. In a nod to American Idol, St. Mary’s College of Maryland asked for audition tapes, rather than essays. Instructions included, “Consider your audience.” The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asked students, “What do you hope to find over the rainbow?” Lehigh asked applicants what their favorite riddle was and why.
And, the Winner Is? The University of Chicago
John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in 1890. A private school, the University of Chicago ranks number five on the 2014 U.S. News & World Report’s top national universities list. The University of Chicago has a distinguished academic reputation. It is also the source of some of the most unusual application questions and essay prompts ever devised.
One of the University of Chicago’s most famous quirky essay prompts asked applicants if they had ever walked down a Sam’s Club or Costco aisle and wondered who would purchase a foot and a half tall jar of mustard. Applicants were then asked to write an essay about how a giant jar of mustard inspired them.
The University of Chicago relishes its ties to Second City, Chicago’s famous improvisational comedy troupe. Second City evolved from a group of University of Chicago students who originally called themselves the Compass Players. Admissions officers recently combined comedy with academia when they came up with this improvisational essay prompt. Applicants were asked to write an essay, script or story with the following requirements:
Another famous University of Chicago essay prompt asked, “So where is Waldo, really?”
If you are a student who has shored up your skills, taken the ACT and are ready to tread the college application waters, remember that college admissions officials are always devising new ways to discover who you are. Unusual questions and prompts give you a chance to show off your creativity, reasoning and thinking abilities, which is precisely what admissions officers are looking for when they decide which applicants to accept.
The ACT for Bad Test Takers (BadTestTakers.com) is the brainchild of Louisville tutor Moshe Ohayon. He found that students who are frustrated and disappointed by their performance on the ACT might just need a different (more strategic) way to approach the test. His website offers the perfect solution for students who underperform on standardized tests.
Students who suffer from testing anxiety or who seek proven methods to boost their ACT test results will find a great resource in BadTestTakers.com, developed by Moshe Ohayon of Louisville, Kentucky. Ohayon, who as a student suffered from poor test-taking experiences, is now a professional tutor who helps students of all ages succeed academically.
Students who are nervous about taking the ACT or who want to learn new strategies for increasing their score may find help at BadTestTakers.com. Moshe Ohayon, a professional tutor in Louisville, Kentucky, suffered from poor test-taking skills until he found ways to work around these problems. Ohayon has since founded Bad Test Takers, a company that offers online ACT prep courses that teach his novel and highly effective approach to achieving measurable success on the ACT.
At BadTestTakers.com, Moshe Ohayon has created the perfect resource for students who are anxious about taking the all-important ACT college entrance exam. Students who are hesitant to talk about their testing anxieties can visit the website to find great resources and information on his practical but somewhat counterintuitive approach to outsmarting the ACT.
Moshe Ohayon knows what it is like to dread test taking. The inventor of a revolutionary test-taking approach to the ACT was once a poor test taker himself. He has likened his challenge to that of thousands of students who struggle to understand what kind of answers test makers expect when they frame ACT test questions. The popular program, called The ACT for Bad Test Takers (BadTestTakers.com), has helped students achieve phenomenal score increases on the ACT by following Ohayon’s advice: Ditch the test-taking methods you learned in school and tackle the test more practically and strategically by adopting his approach.
Ohayon is no stranger to professional tutoring. He also owns the Louisville Tutoring Agency (LTA), which caters to students of all ages. The tutors at LTA are guided by a central concept: to achieve the highest levels of achievement, every student’s education should be customized to his or her individual learning style, needs, and goals.
At LTA, Ohayon and his staff work with students’ materials from their current classes to devise a way to improve learning, boost test scores, and give students a better chance at getting into the colleges of their choice and earning the scholarships they need. Students with higher test scores not only have better choices when it comes to college admission but are also more likely to receive scholarships and other funding to help defray the costs of higher education.
Moshe Ohayon has spent nearly ten years helping students in Louisville, KY, to maximize their test scores and improve their performance both in and out of the classroom. He is the author of The ACT for Bad Test Takers and is also the founder of Educational Justice, an organization dedicated to growing opportunities in education for underserved students.