College App Prompts Become Quicker, Quirkier


December 13, 2011
by Alexis Mattera

As regular admissions deadlines draw closer, high school students are putting the finishing touches on their college application packets and preparing to send their materials off to their schools of choice. As they sit down to write their admissions essays, however, they are increasingly surprised: Traditional essay questions like “Why this school?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” are disappearing in favor of quirkier prompts and quicker responses.

As regular admissions deadlines draw closer, high school students are putting the finishing touches on their college application packets and preparing to send their materials off to their schools of choice. As they sit down to write their admissions essays, however, they are increasingly surprised: Traditional essay questions like “Why this school?” and “What is your greatest achievement?” are disappearing in favor of quirkier prompts and quicker responses.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, both students and educators weighed in on the increased emphasis on brevity (we’re talking responses of 25 words or fewer) and creativity (schools like the University of Dayton, George Mason and Tufts now accept video essays). While some are definitely in favor – "It allows colleges to learn things they may not get from a transcript and a resume," said Katherine Cohen, a college consultant and founder of IvyWise.com – others, like Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, are less than pleased: "It just reinforces that there's some secret code that needs to be cracked to gain admission," he said. Here are just a few of the more interesting prompts seen on college applications during this admissions cycle:

What do you think of this admissions shift? Would you rather write 250 words or 25? What has been the strangest essay prompt you’ve encountered on college application thus far?

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