Or at least some of them are out early.
This post will introduce some of the essay prompts for Ivy League and elite universities this year. We are off to an earlier than usual start for this year’s prompts, probably due to the increased number of early applicants; many of the important schools are not, however, posting yet, but I will introduce some of those that are online now, below, with a quick overview and a few of the new prompts themselves spliced in below that. Keep in mind that this post is being written on July 1st, and the application scene will change rapidly over the next two to three weeks as many of the colleges get their sites up to date. Some will not put up prompts until the beginning of August, speaking of which . . .
The Common App is planning to open for business on August 1st. If you visit the Common Application site before August, you will find last year’s downloads and pdf’s. However, the Common App’s new essay prompts have been released as a “beta.” Unlike beta software, these Common App prompts will not be modified and you can start working with them. This split presentation, with both an out-of-date website and an early release of up-to-date essay prompts can be a bit confusing, but it’s their way of helping applicants start the essays early while not opening up the website itself until they are ready for business.
I have the Common App essay prompts for 2013-2014 here: Common Application: What’s New for 2013-2014. Then read on below in this post for information on U Chicago, Yale and others, including the complete U Chicago, Yale and UC essay prompts for this year.
As a threshold matter, let’s establish our position in the calendar: if you are a rising Senior, you are going to be applying for the 2013-2014 cycle, as a prospective member of the Class of 2018. I say this because of the volume of page views I am getting in recent weeks on my posts about last year’s application essays; last year was the 2012-2013 application cycle. I know, it should seem obvious, but it can get confusing as old posts linger on and many universities have the old prompts listed under “2013.” It’s also true that some of these old prompts are going to still be in use this year–I have one example below, with the U.C. system–but most will be changed, so be sure that you are working with the right prompts before investing any time and effort. And no, I do not believe in practicing with old prompts. This is not the SAT.
So now let’s turn to this year’s prompts: U Chicago got an early jump on some of its Ivy League competitors, having posted its prompts before June even ended, but Yale has also posted its essay prompts and UPenn has, um, publicized its prompts. Harvard, Columbia, Brown, and other Ivies are still stuck in last year as of this post on July 1. Princeton is with the rest of the Ivies who are not yet up to speed, but I expect to see information on their new essays in the next couple of weeks, given their history.
Let’s start with UPenn. The Quakers had this year’s Common App prompts up, but directly below this, Penn still had last year’s supplementary essay . . . The Ben Franklin prompt. (Yep, that’s their mascot: a Quaker; and yes, the Ben Franklin prompt is from last year.) But wait, Penn Admissions Dean Furda put the new prompt up on Penn’s Insider’s blog . . . Confusing, Penn. To clear up the confusion, see below in this blogpost for this year’s UPenn admissions essay.
And Penn is not the only school with a blog by the admissions office that is more up to speed than their official admissions portal. This has to do mostly with the rise of the Common App itself and with the move to electronic submissions. The Common App effectively sets the date that admissions start for its colleges, and there is a disconnect between this date and when students try to start working on applications–the Common App itself advises starting early on the essays it requires, both in its prompts and in the supplements that the universities post on the Common App site, but August 1st is not really very early, given that more and more students use early applications and some students will be done with apps as of October 1. In steps the blogs and insider pages for many universities, to fill that gap and help you get going before August–which is what Penn offers, but they should also take down the Ben Franklin prompt.
Over on the left coast, the University of California is using the same prompts as last year, so you can get started on those now. I will also copy their prompts into this post, below, and I wrote about these prompts last year. The Stanford prompts and short writing responses are not yet up–you have to go through the Common Application website to get their supplement, but I will be perusing their admissions blog and will put up their prompts as soon as I see them. In the meantime, I’d get working on the Common App prompts and any others I post below that interest you.
As for the Common App itself: forget about registering and setting up your account on the Common App website before August 1st; they will delete any accounts that were set up before they go live on August 1st. I would suggest that you visit the Common App to check out the site format and to search for information on the schools, which will include variables that each school considers when it evaluates applicants. Go here to search for application information, by school: https://www.commonapp.org/SearchEngine/SimpleSearch.aspx
( I repeat, do not register. Yet.)
In my upcoming posts, I will begin addressing and evaluating specific application prompts, with advice on what to do and what not to do, but be warned: I offer in full only some posts on specific prompts here, on the CollegeAppJungle. Full access to all of my analysis and posts, including my advice on individual essay prompts, is only available by subscribing to my private blog or by retaining me to edit your work or to help you with a full package, including college application advising. I offer quite a bit of general advice as a public service, but this is also a business. Business requires payment, which is a point that has become somewhat obscured in the age of the “free” download.
If you want access to my private blog, or you want to inquire about editing services and college advising, e-mail me with either “college advising/editing” or “subscription” as a heading and send it to this e-mail address; I will send you an invoice and grant access to my private blog after you give me a payment:
And now, here is a look at some of the prompts that are already up for this year, including U Chicago, Yale and the University of California (Expect to see me start writing about how to approach the U Chicago later prompts this week):
U Penn Essay Prompts for 2013-2014Penn Supplement Essay Prompt for entry Fall 2014:
“The Admissions Committee would like to learn why you are a good fit for your undergraduate school choice (College of Arts and Sciences; School of Nursing; The Wharton School; Penn Engineering). Please tell us about specific academic, service, and/or research opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania that resonate with your background, interests, and goals.” 400-650 words
Clearly, Dear Reader, UPenn expects you to know something about their programs; get started on your research . . . before writing.
University of Chicago Essay Prompts for 2013-2014
The University of Chicago has long been renowned for its provocative essay questions. We think of them as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions. They can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.
Each year we email newly admitted and current College students and ask them for essay topics. We receive several hundred responses, many of which are eloquent, intriguing, or downright wacky.
As you can see by the attributions, some of the questions below were inspired by submissions by your peers.
2013-14 essay questions:
ESSAY OPTION 1.
Winston Churchill believed “a joke is a very serious thing.” From Off-Off Campus’s improvisations to the Shady Dealer humor magazine to the renowned Latke-Hamantash debate, we take humor very seriously here at The University of Chicago (and we have since 1959, when our alums helped found the renowned comedy theater The Second City).
Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it.
Inspired by Chelsea Fine, Class of 2016
ESSAY OPTION 2.
In a famous quote by José Ortega y Gasset, the Spanish philosopher proclaims, “Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia” (1914). José Quintans, master of the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division at the University of Chicago, sees it another way: “Yo soy yo y mi microbioma” (2012).
You are you and your..?
Inspired by Maria Viteri, Class of 2016
ESSAY OPTION 3.
“This is what history consists of. It’s the sum total of all the things they aren’t telling us.” — Don DeLillo, Libra.
What is history, who are “they,” and what aren’t they telling us?
Inspired by Amy Estersohn, Class of 2010
ESSAY OPTION 4.
The mantis shrimp can perceive both polarized light and multispectral images; they have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Human eyes have color receptors for three colors (red, green, and blue); the mantis shrimp has receptors for sixteen types of color, enabling them to see a spectrum far beyond the capacity of the human brain.
Seriously, how cool is the mantis shrimp: mantisshrimp.uchicago.edu
What might they be able to see that we cannot? What are we missing?
Inspired by Tess Moran, Class of 2016
ESSAY OPTION 5.
How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared? Possible answers involve, but are not limited to, statistics, chemistry, physics, linguistics, and philosophy.
Inspired by Florence Chan, Class of 2015
ESSAY OPTION 6.
In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose a question of your own. If your prompt is original and thoughtful, then you should have little trouble writing a great essay. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun
Yale University Application Essay Prompts for 2013-2014
Yale Writing Supplement – Essay Topic
Please note that the Yale freshman application will be available on the Common Application website sometime in August. The Yale-specific questions will include one additional required essay for all applicants, and one optional essay for prospective engineering majors. The essay prompts for the 2013-2014 Yale Writing Supplement are as follows:
Yale Writing Supplement required for all freshman applicants:
- In this second essay, please reflect on something you would like us to know about you that we might not learn from the rest of your application, or on something about which you would like to say more. You may write about anything—from personal experiences or interests to intellectual pursuits.We ask that you limit your essay to fewer than 500 words. Before you begin, we encourage you to go to http://admissions.yale.edu/essay, where you will find helpful advice.
Optional essay for prospective engineering majors:
- If you selected one of the engineering majors, please write a brief third essay telling us what has led you to an interest in this field of study, what experiences (if any) you have had in engineering, and what it is about Yale’s engineering program that appeals to you.
University of California Application Essay Prompts for 2013-2014
As you respond to the essay prompts, think about the admissions and scholarship officers who will read your statement and what you want them to understand about you. While your personal statement is only one of many factors we consider when making our admission decision, it helps provide context for the rest of your application.
All applicants must respond to two essay prompts — the general prompt and either the freshman or transfer prompt, depending on your status.
- Responses to your two prompts must be a maximum of 1,000 words total.
- Allocate the word count as you wish. If you choose to respond to one prompt at greater length, we suggest your shorter answer be no less than 250 words.
The essay prompts
Freshman applicant prompt
Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
Transfer applicant prompt
What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field — such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities — and what you have gained from your involvement.
Prompt for all applicants
Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
That’s it, for now. Get a notebook and start scribbling ideas. I recommend doing some writing every day, as ideas occur to you and also just to record where you are at or just what you are doing. This will give you a large repository of information to fall back on as you begin to write your essays. You would be–or may be–amazed to discover how easy it is to forget a good idea if you do not write it down promptly.