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10 offbeat college essay topics

By Katie Naymon, Mental Floss
What are my thoughts about Wednesdays? Do I prefer them to Mondays?
What are my thoughts about Wednesdays? Do I prefer them to Mondays?
  • Teens trying to get to college often must include an essay with their application
  • Essay questions range from "What outrages you," to "How do you feel about Wednesday?"
  • Pretend to write a 300-page autobiography -- but just submit page 217
  • Careful answering this: How did you get caught? (Or not caught)

(Mental Floss) -- As high school seniors across the country are hard at work polishing their college applications, let's take a look at some of the stranger questions those wacky admissions officers have asked.

1. How do you feel about Wednesday? (University of Chicago, 2002)

This topic was inspired by a student. However, it was optional. Students did not have to share their thoughts on Wednesday if they did not feel comfortable doing so.

2. What outrages you? (Wake Forest, 2009)

For most students? Questions like this one. We think admissions officers are looking for a particular answer, like "genocide." Wake Forest claims they just want to know the real you, but they're just being obnoxious.

3. Write a haiku, limerick, or short poem that best represents you. (NYU, 2009)

Oh please, NYU

College essays are stressful

Don't make me do this.

4. In the year 2050, a movie is being made of your life. Please tell us the name of your movie and briefly summarize the story line. (NYU, 2009)

College admissions officers like to throw in "fun" questions like this to relieve a bit of the stress high school seniors face while applying to college. I don't think it's working.

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5. What is college for? (Hampshire College, 2009)

Small liberal arts colleges like to pose deceptively simple questions like this one. I'd probably come up with something cheesy about forming close personal bonds and broadening myself intellectually.

6. Are we alone? (Tufts, 2009)

This question is one of several options for prospective Tufts students this year. I'm wondering how most people will interpret this one -- I immediately thought of extraterrestrial life. In any case, I'm betting most students will pick a more generic essay that involves less thinking.

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7. Make a bold prediction about something in the year 2020 that no one else has made a bold prediction about. (University of Virginia, 1999)

UVa is another college that offers several interesting optional essays each year. Colleges claim they truly are optional and you won't be penalized for not doing them.

8. Write a short story using one of the following titles: a.) House of Cards, b.)The Poor Sport, c.) Drama at the Prom, d.) Election Night, 2044, e.) The Getaway. (Tufts, 2009)

This is an unusual essay, as it's asking for something fictional. But I'd imagine any prospective creative writing majors would be quite happy to pen a short story rather than a revealing nonfiction essay.

9. How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.) (Chicago, 2009)

I had to include another UChicago one -- they're just so odd. This university likes to use offbeat questions because it draws in a different kind of student -- a bit eclectic and intellectual -- which is just what Chicago is looking for.

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10. You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit Page 217. (UPenn, 2009)

This topic was popularized by UPenn in the '80s, and many other colleges have adopted it over the years. There's a (possibly apocryphal) anecdote about a father who called an admissions officer to ask if his son could send his essay in late, as he wouldn't have time to finish his 300-page autobiography before deadline.

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