uchicago essay prompts

UChicago Essay Prompts 2023-24

If you’re looking to learn more about the UChicago essay prompts, you’ve come to the right place. 

Located in Hyde Park, Illinois, UChicago is one of America’s most prestigious and is ranked #22 of the best global universities.  The University of Chicago acceptance rate is 6%, which combined with its high rankings speaks to an extremely selective admissions process. In order to get into UChicago, you’ll need finely crafted University of Chicago essays. First, you must thoroughly understand the UChicago essay prompts and how to approach them. 

In this guide, we’ll go over the 2023 UChicago essay prompts and advice for approaching the University of Chicago essays. It takes an outstanding UChicago application to impress the University of Chicago admissions committee, and that includes good essays.

University of Chicago Supplemental Essays: Quick Facts

  • UChicago acceptance rate: 6%. This qualifies UChicago as a most selective school.
  • UChicago essay requirements: Two essay questions, up to 2000 words each. To see exactly what the UChicago essay questions will look like on the Common App, check out their essay question resource.
  • UChicago application: The University of Chicago application must be submitted using the Common Application. Once you read the UChicago essay prompts, draft your University of Chicago essays in a separate document. Once you’re fully satisfied with your answers, then you can paste the essays back into the Common App for submission.
  • UChicago Application deadlines:
    • Early Action: November 1
    • Early Decision I: November 1
    • Early Decision II: January 2
    • Regular Decision: January 2
  • UChicago essay tip: UChicago values itself on having thought-provoking, unique supplemental essay questions. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and get creative with your University of Chicago supplemental essays.

Please note that essay requirements are subject to change each admissions cycle, and portions of this article may have been written before the final publication of the most recent guidelines. For the most up-to-date information on essay requirements, check the university’s admissions website. 

How many supplemental essays does UChicago have?

uchicago essay prompts

There are just two required University of Chicago essays. However, there are several UChicago essay prompts that you can choose from to write your two required essays.

The UChicago essay prompts are a famed part of the UChicago application. UChicago has one classic “why school” essay, while the “extended essay” responds to one of many unique questions. For some students, these prompts can be more fun to write about than more traditional prompts about extracurriculars or community. However, these essays are indeed creative, and the UChicago essay prompts vary substantially from year to year. Therefore, it can seem harder to get advice on how to write the University of Chicago supplemental essays.

That’s where we come in. There are many ways to approach the UChicago essay prompts, and we’re here to walk you through them. Maybe you prefer looking at the UChicago past essay prompts and UChicago essays that worked. Or perhaps you want to jump into brainstorming exercises to warm up your creative muscles. Whatever you do, we can help you prepare to ace your UChicago application. 

UChicago Questbridge applicants 

If you are a QuestBridge applicant, you might have to answer additional application questions. QuestBridge is a program to assist high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds in applying to prestigious colleges. Some first-generation students might also be eligible for the QuestBridge program, which provides a four-year scholarship to UChicago.

For students looking to apply to UChicago through QuestBridge, the application process varies from the Common App in several ways. Briefly, to attend UChicago through Questbridge, you must first apply for the QuestBridge National College Match. In addition, the match system requires applicants to rank colleges they’re interested in attending. Ultimately, finalists will be matched with—and must attend—the highest-ranking college that chooses them.

Compared to the single Common App personal statement, the Questbridge application requires two essays and two short answers. In terms of UChicago essay prompts, there are no additional University of Chicago supplemental essays for QuestBridge applicants. 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a closer look at the UChicago essay prompts. 

UChicago Supplement – Question 1

uchicago essay prompts

Question 1 of the University of Chicago supplemental essays is a classic “why school” essay. While the second essay involves several UChicago essay prompts, this essay has only one:

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.

On the Common Application, students are permitted up to 2000 words for this question—that’s even more than the personal essay! Of course, you don’t have to use all 2000 words; however, you have the opportunity to make this question your own. The University of Chicago admissions committee is looking for independent thinkers who can tackle problems in their own way. 

Of all the UChicago essay prompts, this is easily identifiable as a “why school” essay. The question it is essentially asking you is “Why do you want to go to UChicago?” You’ll likely encounter this question on many college applications; it isn’t unique to the University of Chicago essays. 

Approaching a “Why School” essay

How do you answer a “why school” question? First, make sure you do your research. University of Chicago admissions officers want to see that you’re already picturing what your life would be like at UChicago. Think about what excites you about UChicago and dig in deep for inspiration.

What professors would you like to learn from, or assist in their research? What would you like to major in? Would you double major, write a thesis, or maybe petition to create a niche course of study that’s never been done? What clubs would you like to join? Demonstrate that to the best of your ability, you’ve researched UChicago and can picture what you’ll do there.

Consider what you will bring

Second, think about what you could contribute to UChicago. Don’t just stop at listing a professor whose work interests you. Instead, offer a research topic that you would like to pursue under their advising. Instead of just listing clubs that sound fun, think about what you would do if you were in the club. Are there high school extracurriculars that you would like to continue? Did you run a blood drive in high school that could be done bigger and better with UChicago’s resources? 

Above all, don’t forget the goal of the “why school” essay. After reading your essay, University of Chicago admissions officers should come away knowing UChicago is the best and only place for you. To do this, highlight facets of your personality and worldview that align with UChicago’s values and campus culture. Why are you a good fit for UChicago and vice versa? Don’t forget that college fit goes both ways.

Now, let’s move on to the more creative of the UChicago essay prompts: the extended essays.

UChicago Extended Essay

uchicago essay prompts

With so many UChicago essay prompts, the extended essay is where you get to have a little more fun. These UChicago essay prompts are famous for their quirky approach to the college application. 

Here are seven UChicago essay prompts for this year’s extended essay: 

UChicago Extend Essay Options

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.

– Inspired by Emmett Cho, Class of 2027

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

– Inspired by Ryan Murphy, AB’21

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).

– Inspired by Garrett Chalfin, Class of 2027

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.

– Inspired by Sonia Chang, Class of 2025, and Mirabella Blair, Class of 2027

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?

– Inspired by Adam Heiba, Class of 2027

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? (Our custom is to have five new prompts each year, but this year we decided to break with tradition. Enjoy!)

– Inspired by Maryam Abdella, Class of 2026

7. And, as always… the classic choose your own adventure option! In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, 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!

Phew, that’s a lot of UChicago essay prompts! Now you might get what we mean by creative, quirky, unique prompts. 

Approaching these UChicago essay prompts might feel a little daunting, and that’s okay. We’ll go over some tips on how to best answer these UChicago essay prompts, and how to write your UChicago essay.

How do you write a UChicago essay?

uchicago essay prompts

So, now that you’ve read the many fun UChicago prompts from 2023-2024, you might be a little intimidated. You’re probably wondering how on earth to approach writing the University of Chicago supplemental essays. Especially if you’re not used to writing creatively, these prompts can seem to defy your attempts to write. Here are some tips to get you started.

Free write to brainstorm

Pick a prompt, or two, or seven! Then, do a timed free write to answer each of the UChicago essay prompts. Give yourself a set time limit—not too long—and just write. Don’t edit, don’t focus on grammar, just write. No deleting! Let your fingers type (or write) whatever your brain demands. The UChicago essay prompts encourage you to think outside the box– give your imagination the chance to run wild! Your free-write may lead to the nugget of an idea or a great hook to kickstart an essay.

Get personal

The University of Chicago admissions officers want to know what makes you, you. This is good advice for any college essay, but with these UChicago essay prompts it’s easy to get sucked into a fun topic. Whatever prompt you choose, make sure that your University of Chicago supplemental essays say something about who you are. Illustrate what you value, what your background is, what’s shaped you, and who you want to be. 

Of course, this doesn’t need to be said outright. After all, you can learn a lot about someone from their favorite song lyric or a game they can’t stop playing. Indeed, that’s why the UChicago essay prompts include fun options like these! But don’t be afraid to go into detail about why you like these things.

You may believe in the enduring power of chess because your grandfather tried to teach it to you as a child—but it’s only since his death that you’ve learned to play. On the other hand, perhaps you volunteered in a veterinary hospital sophomore year, so you know the answer to “Who let the dogs out?” is Macy, the weekend vet tech? You’ve got a lot of words at your disposal: use these University of Chicago supplemental essays to tell the full story.

Tell a story

These UChicago essay prompts are very open-ended. They leave the option open for you to answer in 50 words or 500, if not the full 2,000. So, use your answers to the UChicago essay prompts to take your reader on a journey.

Describe a change or a moment you gained a new perspective on something. Explain the backstory of something that might be common knowledge for your inner circle, but intriguing to a stranger. Expand a small, average moment into something meaningful to segue into the prompt. A narrative answer to a UChicago prompt is always going to be more interesting than a more straightforward description. 

Don’t be afraid to get creative

These prompts are just begging you to liven up the form of your answers. Answer in a screenplay, a song, a map, a riddle, and instructions for a game. The other UChicago essay prompts and your Common App personal statement will allow you to flex your powerful prose. Why not use the extended essay to try some poetry? Link a Spotify playlist! Submit a piece of art and write an artist’s statement explaining how it answers the question! With these University of Chicago essays, the world is your oyster.

Fall back on tried and true essay writing skills

Even while being creative in answering the UChicago essay prompts, you can still apply classic essay writing tips in this context.

Regardless of its prose, poetry, or dialogue, your essay needs structure, starting with a hook. With a classic essay, this often means using an anecdote or a quote to grab attention. Your conclusion should also be mindful of the essay’s message: how does it apply in a broader context? What did you learn over the course of the events that you’ve described? You can even recall an image, phrase, or idea from your opening.

Obviously, creative form isn’t an excuse not to have immaculate spelling and grammar. Unless your essay is about creative misspellings and what they teach us about the evolution of language, you still need to spellcheck. 

Read UChicago essay examples

What better way to learn how to answer the UChicago essay prompts than to read essays that worked? We have extensive essay guides to support you in your essay-writing process. For some examples of UChicago essays, UChicago past essay prompts, and why they worked, read this guide.

Did you know that UChicago essay prompts are often inspired by students’ answers from years past? Reading innovative takes on the current questions can help you understand how creative you can be in your essays. The UChicago essay prompts are a little unconventional, but they are absolutely within your ability to answer. Just be true to yourself and what you care about—and start drafting early!

How long should the UChicago essays be?

uchicago essay prompts

The University of Chicago essays don’t really have a word limit. Under the UChicago essay prompts on the Common Application, the word limit is technically 2000 words. But that number mostly functions to let students know that they can write as much—or as little—as they like. Remember that admissions officers read thousands of University of Chicago supplemental essays, so unnecessary words should be cut wherever possible. 

We understand that the lack of a solid recommended length for the University of Chicago supplemental essays is a little overwhelming. After all, it’s easier to answer a narrower question than a more open-ended one. But that’s part of the UChicago philosophy: the University of Chicago essays are intentionally broad to give students freedom. 

UChicago is looking for intellectually curious, driven students who will contribute to their community. This is why the University of Chicago essays have essentially no length requirement and ask such unconventional questions. UChicago is trying to find students who fit their idea of a unique, thoughtful, and even quirky student body. 

We hope that looking at UChicago past essay prompts and this year’s UChicago essay prompts is helpful. The University of Chicago supplemental essays are challenging for many, so you can’t be too prepared to write.

What is the application deadline for University of Chicago?

uchicago essay prompts

The University of Chicago application deadline will vary based on which timeline you choose.

The first University of Chicago application deadline is November 1. This is the deadline for Early Action and Early Decision I applicants. Early Action and Early Decision are different application options. Remember, Early Decision is binding, meaning that if you get accepted into UChicago that you are required to attend. Early Action is not binding, so you can apply Early Action to more than one school. It’s important to note that Questbridge applicants must apply by this deadline.

Both of these options are for students who have prepared early and extensively for their college applications, and who have strong first-semester grades. If you apply Early Decision, you should be 100% sure that UChicago is your first choice of school. Moreover, if you are accepted to UChicago Early Decision, you cannot compare financial aid packages from other universities.

The next University of Chicago application deadline is January 2; this is for Early Decision II and Regular Decision. Early Decision II is for students for whom UChicago is still their first choice, as it is binding. ED II may be for those set on UChicago but waiting on second-semester grades, or who are still workshopping essays. Regular Decision is part of the regular application cycle and is, of course, non-binding. 

If you want to get into UChicago, make sure that you pick the best University of Chicago application deadline for you. 

More UChicago Essay Resources from CollegeAdvisor

Applying to UChicago can be overwhelming. The university has a very high ranking, and the University of Chicago acceptance rate is extremely low. In light of this, it can feel like there’s nothing you can do to improve your chances of admission. But don’t despair—we are here to help! College admissions don’t need to be paralyzing: at CollegeAdvisor, we’re here to provide resources and support you through the process. 

For more tips on writing your UChicago essays, watch our workshop on how to write the UChicago supplemental essays. In this workshop, a former admissions officer shares her takeaways on what makes a great essay. 

If you’re looking for more essay examples, we have another guide here. The more UChicago essay prompts and examples you read, the more familiar you’ll be with UChicago’s unconventional essay style. 

UChicago Essay Prompts – Takeaways

As one of the best colleges in the Midwest, UChicago attracts many qualified applicants. The University of Chicago acceptance rate is 6%, and statistically, even the best applicants might not make the cut. Your University of Chicago supplemental essays must make you stand out from the applicant pool. You have to show UChicago that you would be a great fit for their community.

Here are some final takeaways about the UChicago essay prompts:

  1. UChicago has two required supplemental essays that you must complete in addition to your personal statement. 
  2. If you’re a QuestBridge applicant, you must write the Questbridge essays. However, there are no additional UChicago essay prompts. 
  3. Many recognize UChicago for its unconventional and quirky essay prompts—don’t be afraid to give a creative answer to a creative question!
  4. One of the UChicago essay prompts is a “why school” essay, asking you why you want to attend UChicago specifically. Do your research and be specific in answering this prompt. 
  5. There are several University of Chicago application deadlines for Early Decision, Early Action, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision. Make sure you know which deadline you’re applying for! 

Now that you’ve read all about UChicago essay prompts, you’re more prepared to take on your University of Chicago application!

Rachel Kahn wrote this essay guide. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.