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Don’t tell the other schools, but UChicago is my favorite. Not an Ivy, but UChicago knows what it wants in a student – and it’s not what you expect. To be accepted the grades and scores must be there for sure. So, too are interesting extracurriculars, activities you don’t often see. An academic and intellectual focus (obsession?) that almost defines the applicant. But something more, a weird, quirky, mercurial aspect that doesn’t just emerge, but explode out of their essays. As a college essay consult, I have worked with 100s of applicants who applied there. And in each case of the more than 30 of my applicants who were accepted, there was a thrill in writing an essay based on (for example) a prompt like this:

“Daddy-o”, “Far Out”, “Gnarly”: the list of slang terms goes on and on. Sadly, most of these aren’t so “fly” anymore – “as if!” Name an outdated slang from any decade or language that you’d bring back and explain why you totally “dig it.”
– Inspired by Napat Sakdibhornssup, Class of 2028

“BE weird,” I tell the kids I work with writing UChicago’s purposely opaque essay. They want to know how creative you are, where does your brain go, how outside the realm of reality you can go, and more importantly, what you do when you get there. 

More Nobel Prize winning economists have graduated from UChicago. They have an outstanding CS department, and most of my favorite kids who graduated or go there, are pre-med. The school’s unofficial motto, “Where fun goes to die,” is apt, but unfair. Fun may die, but learning is front and center. And if you have the stomach to apply and write their essay, you will be rewarded with an inspiring four years.