Admissions

Essay Questions You Love to Hate

Well, boys and girls, if you're reading this the same day as I am writing it, you have exactly two weeks left to finish up all your Regular Decision (RD) applications that are due January 1. Actually, New Year's Day is on a Wednesday this time, so you may have an extra day to sneak your application into the post office mail box, but don't hold me to that. Many colleges with a January 1 application deadline really don't microscopically examine postmarks to see who has been remiss in obeying that midnight December 31 drop-dead moment for postmarks. Anyway, I'm betting that perhaps one of the components you may have been putting off to finish up your application(s) may be your essay(s).

When I applied to college, I recall that the essay (note that I said, “the essay" not “the essays" [plural]) prompt asked “Why do you want to attend [here]?" Granted, that prompt, or some variant thereof, appears on most college applications today, but there is most always a fleet of other prompts to torture even the most gifted writers' imaginations and patience. Many rising high school seniors use the summer to ponder their essays and some are fooled into thinking that the Common Application's relatively light writing requirement is all they'll have to tackle. Then, some of those less-well-informed applicants stumble onto the dreaded Common App supplements from their candidate schools, which pile on a few more perilous prompts.

Speaking of prompts, I came across a very interesting and sometimes hilarious article about the ridiculous and sometimes pompous nature of application essay questions. Peter Jacobs, writing in Yahoo! Finance's Business Insider calls out The 15 Most Ridiculous College Application Questions. This subject has always been a pet peeve of mine. Granted, I think that's it's a good thing for a college to plumb the depths of an applicant's creativity and resourcefulness, not to mention his or her writing ability. However, sometimes the prompt itself can challenge the length of the actual essay itself. For example, check out this Common Application supplemental essay prompt from this year's Princeton University application:

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