College application essays don’t have to be a drag – and these schools prove it. They’ve created some of the most outlandish, thought-provoking and original essay questions out there.
Here are the 15 schools that think outside the box, when it comes to admissions essay, with some examples of our favorite questions they’re asking on The Common Application this year.
Now, it’s up to you to impress admissions officers with a response that measures up.
Amongst the schools with the most create assortments were Lehigh University, Tufts University and Wake Forest, though we’ve decided to remain (sort of) impartial and list the schools with the most creatively candid questions in alphabetical order.
The following 15 schools had some of our favorite imaginative college admissions essay questions begging the question: how would you answer?
1. Brandeis University
“You are required to spend the next year of your life in either the past or the future. What year would you travel to and why?”
Leave it to the liberal arts colleges to come up with something thought-provoking. This private research university, located in Waltham, MA, is sure to get your creative juices flowing!
Learn more about Brandeis University.
2. Bucknell University
“Pick a movie or novel where the protagonist makes a difficult choice. Do you agree or disagree with the decision he or she made?”
Another private liberal arts university, Bucknell is located in the central part of Pennsylvania in the town of Lewisburg. If you’re looking to bring unique perspectives to a university, this may be the one for you.
Learn more about Bucknell University.
3. Hampshire College
“Create two questions that drive you.”
This private liberal arts school, located in Amherst, MA, is so outside of the box, they got rid of the box (i.e. questions) all together. If you’re up for the creative challenge, seize it!
Learn more about Hampshire College.
4. Kalamazoo College
“Let’s go back to a time when learning was pure joy. Please tell us your favorite childhood book and why.”
Also dubbed “K College” or “K,” this Kalamazoo, Michigan school produces more Peace Corp volunteers than any other U.S. academic institution!
Learn more about Kalamazoo College.
5. Lehigh University
“What is your favorite riddle and why?”
“Describe your favorite \”Bazinga\” moment.”
“You’ve just reached your one millionth hit on your YouTube video. What is the video about?”
“If your name were an acronym, what would it stand for and how would it reflect your strengths and pesonality?”
When it comes to originality, Lehigh definitely took the cake. Believe it or not, we had to narrow our choices down to the above questions! But this Bethlehem, PA, university is also known for academics and landed on the Top Party Schools list. Talk about well rounded!
Learn more about Lehigh University.
6. Stanford University
“What matters to you, and why?”
Stanford left the essay open to interpretation for the scholars applying to the university, which is considered to be one of the most prestigious in the United States and the world.
Learn more about Stanford University.
7. Texas Christian University
“Take a blank sheet of paper. Do with this page what you wish. Your only limitations are the boundaries of this page. You don’t have to submit anything, but we hope you will use your imagination.”
This optional “assignment” from the university, located in Forth Worth, TX, must leave a blank stare on students faces all the time. Who else wonders what types of submissions (and how many paper airplanes) they get?
Learn more about Texas Christian University.
8. Tufts University
“Celebrate your nerdy side.”
“What makes you happy?”
“What does #YOLO mean to you?”
Competing with Lehigh, Tufts University had quite the array of unique questions, so we had to pick favorites. Tufts is known as a Little Ivy and a “New Ivy,” so we imagine that those applying to this school, which ranks amongst the top in the nation, appreciate the chance to speak their minds via the college application essay. Learn more about Tufts University.
9. University of Chicago
“Winston Churchill believed ‘a joke is a very serious thing.’ Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it.”
“How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared?”
The University of Chicago cleverly takes essay questions suggested by students. So if you find the questions a little too peculiar, blame your peers. If you can take on the essays, you can join the nearly 15,00 students that attend the school – which is another ranked as one of the most prestigious, both nationally and worldwide.
Learn more about University of Chicago.
10. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“What do you hope to find over the rainbow?”
This public research university is consistently ranked among the highest in the United States and is one of eight original Public Ivy schools. Perhaps the answer to the essay question should be: an Ivy League education with public university tuition prices?
Learn more about University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
11. University of Notre Dame
“By the end of the college application process, you will have probably written dozens of essays and responded to a multitude of questions. Use this opportunity to try something new.”
If you want to become one of the 8,000 undergraduates who identify as the Fighting Irish, you’ll need to plan and strategize to impress admissions officials at this private Catholic research university.
Learn more about University of Notre Dame.
12. University of Virginia
“To tweet or not to tweet?”
“What’s your favorite word and why?”
“Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.”
Located in Charlottesville, VA, this public university was conceived and designed by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. We cannot help but wonder, which side of the “tweet” or “not to tweet” spectrum do you think he’d land?
Learn more about University of Virginia.
13. Villanova University
“What sets your heart on fire?”
Founded in 1842, this private university is the oldest Catholic university in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It was named for Saint Thomas of Villanova, but we’d advise against answering in any way that may suggest he sets your heart ablaze. That’s just …awkward.
Learn more about Villanova University.
14. Wake Forest University
“Some say social media is superficial, with no room for expressing deep or complex ideas. We challenge you to defy these skeptics by describing yourself as fully and accurately as possible in the 140-character limit of a tweet.”
“Give us your top ten list.”
Wake Forest is a private university with its main campus located in Winston Salem, NC. The original location was in Wake Forest, hence the name. What would be on our top ten list? How about these school facts? The school has 93 percent retention rate and an 85 percent four-year graduation rate – not bad!
Learn more about Wake Forest University.
15. Yale University
“You have been granted a free weekend next month. How will you spend it?”
“What is something about which you have changed your mind in the last three years?”
You may have heard of Yale University – it’s a private Ivy League research university in Connecticut? It’s also the alma mater of five U.S. presidents, among countless other scholars. With a retention rate of 99 percent, we’re guessing most students don’t answer, “Going to Yale,” as what they’ve changed their minds about.
Perhaps which side of a legal issue you fall on would be a safer answer, especially since Yale Law School is the most selective within the United States.
Learn more about Yale University.
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As we get closer to theScholarship Marathon, we want to make sure you’ve got as many scholarship opportunities as possible at your fingertips. Today, we’re focusing on 15 great scholarships that are perfect for students with a GPA around 3.0. Check these out, and make sure to complete a profile on College Greenlight to get matched to hundreds of other great opportunities!
Farrah Gray Scholarship
Deadline: Varies Award: $1,000
This scholarship is for graduating high school seniors who have a cumulative 2.5 GPA or better. To qualify for this scholarship, applicants must be pursuing an undergraduate degree or entering a trade school. Scholarship applications will be judged on their own merit based on experience and education level.
Jack & Jill of America Foundation Scholarship
Deadline: April 1 Award: $1,500 – $2,500
This scholarship is for African American high school seniors who will become students and maintain full-time status at an accredited, four-year post-secondary institution in the upcoming fall semester. To qualify for this scholarship, applicants must have a 3.0 GPA and be working toward a bachelor’s degree.
Germans from Russia Heritage Society Essay Contest
Deadline: March 31 Award: $1,00 – $1,000
To enter this contest, applicants must submit an essay on German-Russian history and culture.
ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Math and Science Scholarships
Deadline: April 2 Award: $5,000
This scholarship is for African American and Hispanic high school seniors who plan to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). To qualify for this scholarship, applicants must be completing their senior year at a high school that is in a member district of the Council of the Great City Schools (see application for the list of school districts). Applicants must be accepted for full-time enrollment at a four-year college or university in the next academic year and have a 3.0 GPA.
AFSA High School Senior Scholarship Contest
Deadline: April 3 Award: $2,000
To apply for this scholarship, applicants must read an essay about automatic fire sprinklers and then take an online test about it.
American Foreign Service Association National Essay Contest
Deadline: April 15 Award: $2,500
This contest is for high school students whose parents are not in the US Foreign Service. To qualify, applicants must be US citizens. To apply, applicants must write an essay on a topic related to the Foreign Service.
FiSCA National Scholarship Program
Deadline: April 15 Award: $2,000
This scholarship is for college-bound high school seniors. To qualify for this scholarship, applicants must be US citizens, nationals, or permanent residents. Two scholarships will be awarded per region; see application to identify your region and the address to which you should mail your scholarship application materials. Selection will be based on academic achievement, leadership skills in school and the community, perseverance in the face of significant obstacles, and an essay.
Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest
Deadline: April 22 Award: $1,000
To apply for this scholarship, applicants must submit an essay on one of the topics listed on the website about a specified book; this year’s book is “1984” by George Orwell.
HSF/Walmart Foundation Scholarship
Deadline: March 31 Award: $2,500
Applicants must be Hispanic and reside in one of the following areas: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, or Washington, D.C.
League of United Latin American Citizens Honors Awards
Deadline: March 31 Award: $500 – $2,000
Applicants must be Hispanic and have a strong academic record including a 3.0 GPA, an ACT score of 23, or a 1590 SAT.
Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program
Deadline: March 15 Award: $1,000 – $10,000
Applicants must have done volunteer work that goes beyond what is expected of someone their age. Open to students ages 6 to 18.
Hays C. Kirby Scholarship Contest
Deadline: March 10 Award: $500 – $5,000
Applicants must submit an essay on the topic, “Is my country proud of me?”
Through the Looking Glass Scholarship
Deadline: March 11 Award: $1,000
Applicants must have a parent with a disability or medical condition.
Scholarship Slam on Civil Rights
Deadline: March 13 Award: $1,000
Applicants must submit an original poem inspired by the civil rights movement
Tzu Chi Scholars
Deadline: March 9 Award: $1,000
Applicants must demonstrate financial need.