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?

Your job, if you’ve started this early, is not to start writing your draft immediately, or even to choose which Common App question you plan to answer. First, you’re going to freewrite using the above prompts as a guide—choose the ones you like, or print them out, cut them up, and put them in a hat; each day, shake up the hat and grab one at random!


Technique #2: invented terminology. The second technique is the way Bridget coins her own terms, carrying them through the whole essay. It would be easy enough to simply describe the people she imagined in childhood as helpers or assistants, and to simply say that as a child she wanted to rule the world. Instead, she invents the capitalized (and thus official-sounding) titles “Fixer-Upper” and “Emperor of the World,” making these childish conceits at once charming and iconic. What's also key is that the titles feed into the central metaphor of the essay, which keeps them from sounding like strange quirks that don’t go anywhere.

Unlike the rest of your application, which consists largely of objective facts like grades and test scores, your application essay allows you to truly showcase what makes you unique as a student and a person. Use your own voice and your own stories to illustrate why you would be an asset to the school. Don’t fall into the trap of sanitizing your speech and your opinions for risk of offending an admissions officer. Although you do need to use proper spelling and grammar, your college essay is a perfect place for creative metaphors, witty turns of phrase and humor.
The Raytheon Patriot Scholarship supports U.S Army student veterans who are entering their sophomore, junior or senior year of undergraduate study or are enrolled in a graduate program. Students must demonstrate leadership and engagement in their community and a commitment to and passion for their chosen field of study. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship provider's [...] More
My older sister is the first in my family to go to college. I was always the shyer one. She's taught me through her efforts that the only limits you have are the ones you place on yourself. With my sister's example I have followed in the footsteps of never letting money become a reason why I can't or won't do something. If my sister can do it, I can do it. I see the leadership characteristic is genetic and it runs in my entire family. I witness my parents be leaders everyday as they tackle cultural obstacles in a country that wasn't the one they were born into, speaking a language that is not their own, and raising children to succeed in a system of higher education; one they never had the privilege to be part of. My family and I are one. We stack our efforts, and obstacles on top of each other to further our successes as a whole. When I think back to my family's story I'm amazed to think that my grandpa came to the US in the midst of WW2, a bracero, leaving his family to help feed millions of Americans in time of war. My grandpa, a man of the fields, paved the way so I could defy the odds with my prosperity.
The first time when the comparison between magical fixer-upper’s and the future disability specialist is made is when Bridget turns her metaphor onto herself. The essay emphasizes the importance of the moment through repetition (two sentences structured similarly, both starting with the word “maybe”) and the use of a very short sentence: “Maybe it could be me.”
Nothing is more important to me than ending racial inequality and discrimination in America, as I do not want my younger siblings to face the discrimination Black people continue to face in our present society. After winning our fight to freedom and provoking the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, why do Black teens face higher poverty rates than Whites and are still four times more likely to be incarcerated? “That was such a long time ago. You really need to get over it,” my White peers say when referring to racial inequalities. But, why then, in 7th grade, after winning Nazareth Academy’s Spelling Bee competition, did my fellow White classmate state with a heavy dose of surprise, “You know…when I first saw you, I didn’t think you were going to be smart?”
Tzu Chi USA Scholars is a scholarship program funded by Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation to recognize and provide financial assistance to outstanding college-bound high school graduates and continuing undergraduate students in selected areas of the United States. Tzu Chi USA Scholars are selected on the basis of their financial need, academic achievement, and community involvement. Each Scholar will [...] More
ASDSO Senior Undergraduate Scholarships will be awarded for the upcoming school year and have ranged from $5,000-$10,000 in recent years. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and enrolled full-time at the senior level (during the upcoming year) in an accredited civil engineering program, or in a related field as determined by ASDSO, and must demonstrate an interest in pursuing a career in hydraulics, [...] More
Award Amount: $1,000 The Blades of Green Scholarship Fund is open to undergraduate and graduate students. You must be pursuing education in environmental studies or related fields and submit a 350 to 500 word letter of intent describing your career path, passion for your intended field and what inspired your pursuit of your field in order to be considered for this award. Learn more about the Blades of Grass Green Scholarship Fund.
From its good-natured bruise-counting competitions to its culture of hard work and perseverance, ice skating provided the nurturing environment that made my other challenges worthwhile. Knowing that each moment on the ice represented a financial sacrifice for my family, I cherished every second I got. Often this meant waking up every morning at 4 a.m. to practice what I had learned in my few precious minutes of coaching. It meant assisting in group lessons to earn extra skating time and taking my conditioning off-ice by joining my high school varsity running teams. Even as I began to make friends and lose my fear of speaking, the rink was my sanctuary. Eventually, however, the only way to keep improving was to pay for more coaching, which my family could not afford. And so I started tutoring Spanish.
Personal interaction with objects, images and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For your intended area of study (architecture, art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education), describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image or space effected this type of change in your thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?
The Better Business Bureau Foundation of Delaware recognizes college-bound seniors who personify high ethics as demonstrated through leadership, community service, overall personal integrity and academic history. Two (2) $2,500 scholarships will be awarded on behalf of the scholarship recipient to an accredited college or university. Students will be required to submit an essay that answers the [...] More

The International Bipolar Foundation Annual High School Essay Contest is open to all high school students, ages 13 to 19. Applicants must Research the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act and draft a letter to a politician or insurance/healthcare provider about one of the provided questions. Also in the letter, explain how mental health care is necessary for the wellbeing of all [...] More


The value of education is something that I have understood since a very young age. Neither of my parents had an opportunity to attend college, and faced many struggles in their personal and professional lives because of this. They made a commitment early in my life to do everything within their power to instill in me a love of learning and an understanding of the importance of hard work and dedication.

After a humiliating recital, wherein my pointe shoe ribbons untied in the middle of our group performance, I all but gave up on dance. I was in the middle of doing a Changement de Pieds (Change of feet jumping step) when I glanced down in horror to see my beautiful ribbons untied as I forgot to tape them with clear tape as I usually did before my performances. Glancing to my right, I saw that my ballet teacher backstage had also taken note and was rushing me to get off the stage, her hands beckoning me in a frantic manner. After berating me for not having properly tied my laces, I was not allowed to finish my part. Later, I could barely get back on stage that evening for our final performance as I didn’t want to fail myself and my team again. But, because of my move to Port Saint Lucie in the summer before sophomore year, I was able to rekindle my passion for ballet and pointe at South Florida Dance Company. South Florida Dance Company was my saving grace, a place where I was able to restart my experiences in dance and renew the joy I once felt in my art. It was an incredible feeling regaining my confidence and surety in my abilities, as a result of the additional help that I received from my dance teacher, Ms. Amanda.

Youth Council isn’t something most students with a passion in practicing medicine chose to participate in, and it certainly wasn’t something I thought would have such an immense impact on the way I view patient care. As a patient’s ultimate advocate, a physician must look beyond hospital gowns and IV tubes and see the world through the eyes of another. Rather than treat diseases, a physician must choose to treat a person instead, ensuring compassionate care is provided to all. While I know that throughout my academic career I will take countless classes that will teach me everything from stoichiometry to cellular respiration, I refuse to take the knowledge I learn and simply place it on a flashcard to memorize. I will use it to help those whom I must be an advocate for: my patients.
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The William Vatavuk Scholarship will be awarded to a deserving high school senior who currently attends an accredited North Carolina high school and plans on attending a two- or four-year college or university. Students must be a high school senior who has a minimum 3.0 GPA. Three written essays of 400-600 words each are also required; essay prompts can be found on the scholarship application. [...] More
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In short, the book discusses several instances in which typical American history classes do not tell the whole story. For example, the author addresses the way that American history classes do not usually address about the Vietnam War, even though it happened only a short time ago. This made me realize that we hadn't discussed the Vietnam War in my own history class! The book taught me that, like my story of the Indian reservation, there are always more stories beyond what we see on the surface and what we’re taught in school. I was inspired to continue to tell these stories and to make that my career.
The Raytheon Patriot Scholarship supports U.S Army student veterans who are entering their sophomore, junior or senior year of undergraduate study or are enrolled in a graduate program. Students must demonstrate leadership and engagement in their community and a commitment to and passion for their chosen field of study. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship provider's [...] More
The Samuel Robinson Award seeks to stimulate interest in the Westminster Shorter Catechism by challenging Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) members who are juniors or seniors in college and attending a Presbyterian-related college or university to memorize and recite the catechism from memory. To further demonstrate an understanding of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the applicant will write a [...] More
2. Tension, conflict, and opportunity to show growth. Josh might write a lovely reflection on how close he and his brother were, or how much he likes his little sister—but that doesn’t give the admissions committee much to work with. Why? Because your topic needs to display your ability to grow, to show change over a period of time. If Josh has always had a perfect relationship with his sister, well—first, no one will believe that!, and second, Josh is not really telling a story. So as you’re identifying the right anecdote for your essay, make sure you have a point of tension—a point where we, the reader, wonder if everything will turn out okay. For J, this might mean beginning with a time before he and his sister were close—say, when all the siblings were in the house and there wasn’t much time for the two to connect. Then Josh would tell us about what changed as soon as the brother left, and in there he might find an opening anecdote.

The Raytheon Patriot Scholarship supports U.S Army student veterans who are entering their sophomore, junior or senior year of undergraduate study or are enrolled in a graduate program. Students must demonstrate leadership and engagement in their community and a commitment to and passion for their chosen field of study. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship provider's [...] More


I have encountered an emotional barrier making it difficult to manage my schoolwork, extracurricular activities and family responsibilities. I have had to deal with being viciously raped by a peer during my sophomore year, resulting in severe depression. I am no longer allowed to be alone for a long period of time, as I’ve attempted to commit suicide twice, but I do not regard those as true attempts to end my life. I just wanted someone to know how I felt and how much I needed help. My past has only made me more resilient, as I choose to prove to myself and those around me that I am more than the barriers I’ve encountered–but overcome.

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Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History... a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here.
I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

The key to answering this prompt is clearly defining what it is that sparked your growth, and then describing in detail the nature of this growth and how it related to your perception of yourself and others. This part of the essay is crucial, as you must dedicate sufficient time to not undersell the description of how you grew instead of simply explaining the experience and then saying, “I grew.” This description of how you grew must be specific, in-depth, and it does not have to be simple. Your growth can also be left open-ended if you are still learning from your experiences today.
And if you ever participated in a situation in tandem with adults and found some success (i.e., by blogging, starting a tutoring organization, or participating in political campaigns), you could discuss your experiences as a young person without a college degree in professional circles. However, avoid sounding morally superior (as if you’re the only person who went against this convention, or that you’re better than your peers for doing so).
Higher education is expensive and can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per year. The Montgomery G.I. Bill and the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill both provide a strong foundation for educational finance, but even these solid tools often fall short of footing the bill. This scholarship program provides financial support to service men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart and are [...] More
Award Amount: $1,000 The Love Your Career Scholarship is available to students attending an accredited college or university. You must submit an essay of at least 1,000 words describing at least three steps that you plan to take in the next year to start a path towards having a career that you love in order to qualify for this award. Topics may include: What are your passions that could be turned into a career? What are some ideas you have for a business based on things that you love and are skilled at? You must also interview a professional in your chosen field that has at least three years of experience. Learn more about the Love Your Career Scholarship.
My dad and I have a typical father-daughter relationship; I get mad when he doesn’t let me go out, he gets mad when I neglect responsibility. But in the year since we began staking out the bar, we’ve gotten so much closer. On the rides to and from, we talked about everything from school to politics to pop culture. And we talk about sports as equals. My best friend once told me that neither she nor her dad were willing to make the extra effort to find common ground. And I realized how lucky I was: sports offers my dad and me an inexhaustible topic that we can always turn to.
I have encountered an emotional barrier making it difficult to manage my schoolwork, extracurricular activities and family responsibilities. I have had to deal with being viciously raped by a peer during my sophomore year, resulting in severe depression. I am no longer allowed to be alone for a long period of time, as I’ve attempted to commit suicide twice, but I do not regard those as true attempts to end my life. I just wanted someone to know how I felt and how much I needed help. My past has only made me more resilient, as I choose to prove to myself and those around me that I am more than the barriers I’ve encountered–but overcome.
That second page is incomplete because I have no precise itinerary for my future. The red flags on the map represent the places I will travel to, possibly to teach English like I did in Cambodia or to do charity work with children like I did in Guatemala. As for the empty frames, I hope to fill them with the people I will meet: a family of my own and the families I desire to help, through a career I have yet to decide.

As you’re iterating, try Tip #7: Read your drafts aloud so that you can tell when things feel stiff or weak; this should sound like you. Reading aloud can help you catch things like Common Error #5: tonal errors—sounding too formal or too glib/casual. Ramya never suffered from either of these problems; she sounded like herself even in early drafts. But many students feel that they either have to sound formal to the point of stuffiness (“On a Sunday afternoon, my father would pick me up from my room and take me down to the kitchen, whereupon we would adjourn to Dee’s Sports bar…”) or “authentically young” to the point of disrespecting the reader (“On Sundays my dad’s like, let’s go to Dee’s Sports Bar, and I go okay so I come on down and we get going...”) When you’re staring at the blinking cursor until your eyes cross, it can be easy to fall into one of these traps, and to write in a voice that isn’t yours. When you read aloud, you can catch it. Tip #8: The right essay-voice is the most polished version of your speaking-voice. You shouldn’t sound like you swallowed a Thesaurus, but you should sound a little more formal than your text messages to your friends would.


In order to be eligible for the Alumnae Panhellenic Association of Washington DC Scholarship, the applicant must be a member in good standing of a fully participating sorority of the National Panhellenic Conference; a rising sophomore, junior, senior or graduate student in the fall; and from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area or attending school in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. For [...] More
The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Construction Management Association of America (MAC CMAA), awards a limited number of scholarships to qualified students to help them defray the costs of pursuing a degree in construction management or a related-degree program. Applicants must have completed a minimum of one full academic year of studies and must have a minimum of one full academic year remaining [...] More
Two (2) Two Men and a Truck Moving Up With Education scholarships are offered each year to any graduating senior who attends the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system. The first is a renewable $1,000 scholarship that will be awarded to an individual who will pursue a degree in education. The second is a renewable $500 scholarship that will be awarded to an individual who is entering a technical [...] More
So you’ve started putting together your college applications, and like a boss, you’ve been requesting transcripts, filling in your personal information, and asking for recommendation letters. But there’s one last requirement that you’ve been dreading. It’s the summit of your mountain, the boss fight in your video game, the spun sugar on your croquembouche.
Bridget the Fixer-Upper will be slightly different than the imaginary one who paints houses and fetches Frisbees. I was lucky enough to discover what I am passionate about when I was a freshman in high school. A self-admitted Phys. Ed. addict, I volunteered to help out with the Adapted PE class. On my first day, I learned that it was for developmentally-disabled students. To be honest, I was really nervous. I hadn't had too much interaction with special needs students before, and wasn't sure how to handle myself around them. Long story short, I got hooked. Three years have passed helping out in APE and eventually becoming a teacher in the Applied Behavior Analysis summer program. I love working with the students and watching them progress.
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The purpose of our scholarship program is to provide support to individuals that are legal residents of the United States of America, under the age of 25, who have been diagnosed with or treated for cancer, a chronic, or life threatening debilitating disease within the past five years. Applicant must write an essay on how their diagnosis has impacted their life and their future goals.


I have encountered an emotional barrier making it difficult to manage my schoolwork, extracurricular activities and family responsibilities. I have had to deal with being viciously raped by a peer during my sophomore year, resulting in severe depression. I am no longer allowed to be alone for a long period of time, as I’ve attempted to commit suicide twice, but I do not regard those as true attempts to end my life. I just wanted someone to know how I felt and how much I needed help. My past has only made me more resilient, as I choose to prove to myself and those around me that I am more than the barriers I’ve encountered–but overcome.
Emphasize volunteer work or other ways you’ve helped people or made your community a better place. It helps if the activity is related to the subject you want to study. For example, Christopher Rim of Command Education Group, which coaches students, remembers that one student who wanted to become a dentist set up a nonprofit and held fund-raisers to distribute toothbrushes, toothpaste and other dental products to homeless shelters. Admissions staff members want to know how your presence will make the college a better place.
Your essay is a unique reflection of who you are as a person. Even if your parent or friend is a gifted writer who would be happy to help you write your essay, do not let them write your essay. Your own words are the best way to convey who you are as a student and a person; using someone else’s words won’t give your essay an authentic voice. Additionally, if you’re caught letting someone else write your essay, you may be automatically disqualified from admission. That’s exactly the kind of college application help you don’t need.
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