Chicago Essay Questions

2011 essay questions:

Essay Option 1.

“What does Play-Doh™ have to do with Plato?” – The 2011 University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt List
Every May, the University of Chicago hosts the world’s largest scavenger hunt. As part of this year’s hunt, students raced to find the shortest path between two seemingly unrelated things by traveling through Wikipedia articles.
Wikipedia is so passé. Without the help of everyone’s favorite collaborative internet encyclopedia, show us your own unique path from Play-Doh™ to Plato.
Inspired by Ayla Amon, AB’10, Daniel Citron, AB’09, and Benjamin Umans, AB’10

Essay Option 2.

Observation, Hypothesis, Experiment, Analysis, Conclusion; since the 17th century, the scientific method has been the generally accepted way to investigate, explore, and acquire new knowledge. The actual process of intellectual discovery, however, is rarely so simple or objective. The human mind often leaps from observation to conclusion with ease, rushes headlong into hypothesis-less experiments, or dwells on the analysis, refusing to conclude.
Tell us about your non-scientific method. (Diagrams, graphs, and/or visual aids allowed within your essay.)
Inspired by Megen Cowett, AB’11

Essay Option 3.

Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote, “Between living and dreaming there is a third thing. Guess it.” Give us your guess.
Inspired by Jill Hampshire, AB’08

Essay Option 4.

While working at the Raytheon Company, Percy Spencer noticed that standing in front of a magnetron (used to generate microwave radio signals) caused a chocolate bar in his pocket to melt. He then placed a bowl of corn in front of the device, and soon it was popping all over the room. A couple years later, Raytheon was selling the first commercial microwave oven.
Write about a time you found something you weren’t looking for.
Inspired by Ashwin Acharya, an entering student from Hunter College High School, NY

Essay Option 5.

In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose a question of your own. If your prompt is original and thoughtful, then you should have little trouble writing a great essay. 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.

Essay Option 6.

Don’t write about reverse psychology.
 They came out today. I don't think I can handle this. I think I know which one I am going to write about already, but I need to make sure it's not an obvious answer that a lot of people would write about. I'm dying.


  1. I feel you. I was left a little frazzled after reading the prompts.

  2. omg. i love them. i'm excited to write mine, but they're all good and i don't know which one to pick.