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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Ask a quirky question ...

Test scores are optional or ignored, grades are inflated -- and essay questions are more important than ever for students applying to selective colleges. Essay prompts are designed to force students to think -- or fake it -- outside the proverbial box, writes Bob Hoge, a father of four, on Red State. Quirky is in.

Rombutan: It’s always ‘Where’s Waldo?’ and never ‘How’s Waldo?’

A college hopeful might be asked: “Where is Waldo, really?,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Hoge posts a response from Rombutan (@rombutans) at left.

Application season opened on Aug. 1 when the Common App, accepted at more than 1,000 colleges and universities, became available, notes Hoge.

Already stressed 12th-graders are struggling with questions such as:

“What advice would a wisdom tooth have?,” from the University of Chicago.

If that's a stumper, try this U of C question: “Genghis Khan with an F1 racecar. George Washington with a Super Soaker. Emperor Nero with a toaster. Leonardo da Vinci with a Furby. If you could give any historical figure any piece of technology, who and what would it be, and why do you think they’d work so well together?”

Princeton wants to know: “What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?”

"What's your favorite thing about last Tuesday?," asks the University of Maryland.

The University of Vermont queries: “Which Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (real or imagined) best describes you?”

Students are supposed to show their creativity. It seems a lot like torture to me, and writing is my thing. I wonder if it's a way to screen out industrious but nerdy applicants. They work so hard, taking AP courses, loading up on extracurriculars and community service and then they have to be cute and funny and quirky too.

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Aug 09, 2022

All I can think is that Jane Austen would have been amazing on social media.


Aug 08, 2022

Wouldn't it be easier just to ask the applicants to submit some original fiction?


Aug 07, 2022

Ok, this is a worthless article. The U of C has always been famous for quirky questions (some of which involve improv comedy!) People who love it there apply BECAUSE of the quirky essays, not in spite of. (Mine was based on the improv piece, about a group of recent college graduates working for a pittance as congressional interns and struggling to pay off their loans--- until they start creating "performance art" and winning NEA grants for terrible "art". It was the mid-90s, and that was actually a scandal (NEA grants to fake artists who looked avant garde) at the time. And it was a pretty funny essay, and admissions clearly thought so too. But alumni actually love seeing the current ye…

Aug 07, 2022
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Yes, theirs are pale imitations of the real thing. But the amount of space devoted to acting like the U of C is the trendsetter here is kind of silly. The sad thing about the U of C essays is that, post-Obama, they no longer are enough to keep out the grade grubbers and social climbers. Once upon a time, they were a barrier to people who couldn't embrace the life of the mind.

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