Responding to Offbeat College Admissions Essay Topics

Earlier we discussed some offbeat college admissions essay topics presented by universities such as the University of Chicago, Tufts, and UNC Chapel Hill. While some college admissions essays still ask the typical, “Tell us about yourself,” or “Why do you want to attend XYZ?” several are now asking offbeat essay questions.

These schools are not alone in this either. More colleges are asking offbeat essay questions so that they stand out. These questions certainly have more people talking, but you may be left wondering how to handle such outlandish topics. I’ve posted a few tips for those finalizing applications and to lighten up the cold weather doldrums.

So how do you respond to college admissions essay questions such as the University of Chicago’s, “What do you think about Wednesday?” 

First, think about what the point is in asking the question. Does the college really want to know your take on giant mustard or is there a bigger point to those offbeat college essay questions? Certainly, there is. The college already knows it has an outstanding fine arts department or that they have a beautiful campus. They want to know about you. What makes you tick? What unique, creative way do you look at the world? How do you solve problems?

Once you’ve read the minds of whoever writes these questions (often they are posed by alumni or the current year’s freshman), decide what you want the college to know about you. Offbeat questions can receive offbeat answers that are fun and unique. Making an admissions officer smile can be just what you need to get you into your top schools; however, be sure whatever information you give puts you in a positive light in the end. Failure may be an acceptable topic if you can deliver a vivid picture of the lesson learned and how you’ve grown from the experience. You want them to see your sense of humor, intelligence, curiosity, adventure or winsome spirit not the frightening family secret that should not be shared in any introduction.

Follow specific guidelines when they are given. Even quirky essay topics require respondents to follow some rules such as those concerning length requirements. Generally essays are about 700 words, but now some colleges are asking for 25 word essays, others for 250 characters. Do not violate specifically stated guidelines.

Watch your word usage. While offbeat essay topics are fun, you still want to be sure your responses are grammatically correct. Things like punctuation, spelling, and grammar are always important no matter how offbeat the topic. Another piece of advice is to stay away from cliches which can be the bee in a bonnet of any college admissions counselor, especially those looking for unique essays.

Be yourself! There are very few “right” or “wrong” answers with outlandish essay topics. Be free to find express yourself in ways others may find unconventional, this creativity is often exactly what the counselors are looking for.

Before submitting your quirky essay topic, be sure to give it to someone who will provide constructive feedback. Even offbeat essays do better when revised and edited by a fresh set of eyes.

Offbeat college essay topics can be fun if you let them. Respond freely, present a picture in your own voice of what you want the admissions officer to know about you, and have fun!

For more help writing your college essays, contact The Right Path.