Don’t let unusual college application essay and short answer prompts intimidate you. This is a chance to get creative so take some time to think about what you want to convey with your essays or short answer questions. If you need any help with the college application process, contact us today for more information on our college counseling services for seniors and younger high school students!


But don’t get stressed if your first outline feels like it’s getting away from you. Tip #4: Try a reverse outline. Once you’ve written one draft of your essay, print it out. (By the way: Tip #5: print stuff out! Don’t get stuck in an endless spiral of copy-and-paste—by printing out your draft, you can keep a draft next to you and then open a new document so that you feel free to rewrite entire paragraphs, or delete sections entirely.) Then take your printout and write out what the function of each paragraph is in the margin. Might get a little tough, right? If you can’t answer the question what is the goal of this paragraph? or what do I want the readers to garner from this paragraph?, then you’re probably missing a topic sentence.
When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.
Before you dive (or cannonball!) into our pool of essay advice, we’d like to leave you with one last little secret: the prompts are not actually as important as you think they are. In fact, in our instructional writing course and private advising, we encourage applicants to root around for their most meaningful stories first and consider the prompts later. This is a process we call the Backwards Brainstorm, and you can learn more about it here. For now, the main point we want you to take away is this: The prompts don’t really matter. What matters is the story you want to tell. (And that you floss at least every other day—trust us, it will pay off in the long run.) We are as sure as ever that every single one of you has a valuable story (or two or twelve!) to communicate to admissions. All it takes is ample time for reflection and a little writerly elbow grease to find it. So take a peek at what the 2018-19 application has in store for you, absorb what these prompts are really asking, and then forget about them (really!) as you explore the endless possibilities.
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?
Homeschooling laid a firm foundation; my values are firmly rooted. My work ethics are strong. I can stand on my own two feet and function independently. I have the skills to manage both my education and my personal life outside of my home. I have the skills necessary to be a successful college student and to pursue a higher level of learning. I give much of this credit to the experience I received as a homeschooled student early on in my formative years.”
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This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.

2) When I realized I cannot understand the world. I recently debated at the Orange County Speech League Tournament, within the Parliamentary Division. This specific branch of debate is an hour long, and consists of two parties debating either side of a current political issue. In one particular debate, I was assigned the topic: “Should Nation States eliminate nuclear arms?” It so happened that I was on the negative side and it was my job to convince the judges that countries should continue manufacturing nuclear weapons. During the debate, something strange happened: I realized that we are a special breed of species, that so much effort and resources are invested to ensure mutual destruction. And I felt that this debate in a small college classroom had elucidated something much more profound about the scale of human existence. In any case, I won 1st place at the tournament, but as the crowd cheered when my name was called to stand before an audience of hundreds of other debaters, and I flashed a victorious smile at the cameras, I couldn’t help but imagine that somewhere at that moment a nuclear bomb was being manufactured, adding to an ever-growing stockpile of doom. And that's when I realized that the world was something I will never understand.
The Young Ambassador Scholarship in Memory of Christopher Nordquist is awarded in his memory and is intended to encourage young people to pursue learning and to help spread the message about the priceless gift almost anyone can leave after death - the gift of sight through eye donation. Eligible students must reside within New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Duchess & Putnam [...] More
The Franchise Education and Research Foundation and the Marriott Foundation have collaborated to sponsor this scholarship award. A competitive one-time award will be presented annually. Additionally, the individual selected will be invited to the International Franchise Association's (IFA) Annual Convention and will receive a travel stipend (up to $1,500) to attend. To be eligible for this [...] More
After freeing up that block in my brain that told me that I shouldn’t look at guys in a certain way, I could embraced the fact that I’m attracted to men (and people in general) in a lot of different, new ways. My growth as a person was exponential. I rewrote so many areas of my life where I didn’t do things I wanted because of social conditioning. Within two months, my world expanded to include polyamory. I looked back on my past relationship with my girlfriend and realized that I wasn’t jealous (angry, yes. hurt, yes. But not jealous) when she cheated on me. I realized that people’s needs — whether they are for sex, someone to talk to, someone to engage intellectually — don’t necessarily all have to be met with one person. It can be easier sometimes with one person, absolutely. But that’s not the only way. As someone who is both polyamorus and queer, I feel like parts of my family and large parts of my community marginalize me for being different because society has told them to. I want to change that.
I am on Oxford Academy’s Speech and Debate Team, in both the Parliamentary Debate division and the Lincoln-Douglass debate division. I write screenplays, short stories, and opinionated blogs and am a regular contributor to my school literary magazine, The Gluestick. I have accumulated over 300 community service hours that includes work at homeless shelters, libraries, and special education youth camps. I have been evaluated by the College Board and have placed within the top percentile.
Adding feelings to your essays can be much more powerful than just listing your achievements. It allows reviewers to connect with you and understand your personality and what drives you. In particular, be open to showing vulnerability. Nobody expects you to be perfect and acknowledging times in which you have felt nervous or scared shows maturity and self-awareness.
Looking back on my years at the Academy I realize how big of an impact the school made on how I view education. I wasn’t coming to school to mark another day off my calendar and inch closer to finishing the next 25%. I came to school to learn and question and push myself. Now, as a senior, I’m excited. I’m thankful for the sample that my high school gave me of what learning is supposed to be like and thankful that it left me wanting more. I’m entering college in August with a new understanding of its importance. It is important because it is what I want for my future.”
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1) That the world is ruled by underwear. There is a variety of underwear for a variety of people. You have your ironed briefs for your businessmen, your soft cottons for the average, and hemp-based underwear for your environmental romantics. But underwear do not only tell us about who we are, they also influence our daily interactions in ways most of us don't even understand. For example, I have a specific pair of underwear that is holey, worn out but surprisingly comfortable. And despite how trivial underwear might be, when I am wearing my favorite pair, I feel as if I am on top of the world. In any case, these articles of clothing affect our being and are the unsung heroes of comfort.
The Jesse Jackson Fellows-Toyota Scholarship is a renewable scholarship that awards up to $25,000 dollars annually to deserving African-American college sophomores. Students who are interested in applying for the scholarship must have a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA, be a business or STEM (Science, technology, engineering and/or math) major that can be applied to the automotive industry, [...] More
It is good to be afraid of cliché—but one of the truisms about clichés is that they become trite because they reiterate feelings we’ve all had. That also means that buried beneath many clichés is some authentic, particular, and personal relationship you have to your topic. If you’re working with a teacher, counselor, or advisor on your statement, they can help you discern whether you’re in cliché territory or whether you’ve bypassed it to a more fruitful realm.
The ABPA Harrington-Arthur Memorial Scholarship Essay Competition was established to reward students that seek to increase their knowledge and understanding of how Cross-Connection Control and Backflow Prevention help ensure safe drinking water. Backflow Prevention is designed to prevent dangerous - and sometimes fatal - bacteria, chemicals, and other harmful agents from entering the local water [...] More
Plus, the easy-to-follow structure means there’s no room for confusion. Furthermore, the real-life examples used throughout the essay make her passion for science even more obvious and engaging. If you’re passionate about the topic at hand, don’t be afraid to let it shine through! It just might be the difference between an essay that worked and one that didn’t.

Another way to get critical distance from your essay is to get criticism. And I don’t mean a slash-and-burn review like you might get from an unreasonable reality-TV competition judge. I’m talking about constructive feedback from trusted friends, family, or mentors. Southwestern University Assistant Director of Admission Rebecca Rother recommends having two people review your essay. The first should be someone “who knows you super well, such as a parent, best friend, close teacher, etc. They will be able to see the essence of you in the story you’ve chosen.” The second reader should be “someone who doesn’t know you as well,” such as “a teacher you haven’t had for a few years, a friend of the family, the librarian at the local library, etc. This will be the person who makes sure that you aren’t missing key details to your story.” Often, the college-application essay is so personal that you can forget that your reader, the admission officer, is practically a stranger and may not recognize the people and places you mention in your essay, so your second reader can help you clarify those unfamiliar references.


It is 6 am on a hot day in July and I’ve already showered and eaten breakfast. I know that my classmates are all sleeping in and enjoying their summer break, but I don’t envy them; I’m excited to start my day interning with a local newspaper doing investigative journalism. I work a typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and despite the early mornings, nothing has made me happier. Although it wasn't clear to me then, looking back on my high school experiences and everything that led to me to this internship, I believe this path began with a particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of class.
The Pride Foundation offers more than 50 different scholarships though there is only one application to complete. Scholarships are available to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and straight-ally (straight and supportive of LGBT issues) students as well as students from LGBT families. Students must either be residents of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington (but may study [...] More
All applicants to Yale are asked to respond to a few Yale-specific short answer questions. Those applying with the Coalition Application are asked to upload a digital file of their creation along with a short reflection. Those applying with the Common Application are asked to respond to two short essay prompts. Those applying with the QuestBridge National College Match Application are asked to complete a short Yale QuestBridge Questionnaire, available via the Yale Admissions Status Portal after an application is received and a student activates his/her status portal. See additional details below. 

The scholarship is open nationally to high school seniors who have a hearing loss, which requires the use of hearing aid(s) in their daily life. The purpose of this scholarship is to help students with hearing challenges reach their full potential by giving them the gift of sound. This will further allow the students to build confidence and self-esteem as they prepare to begin their college or [...] More

George Staby has provided scholarships limited to current AGR undergraduates who are enrolled with a declared horticulture-related major in entomology, environmental horticulture, horticulture, landscape gardening, landscape horticulture, ornamental horticulture, pest control, plant breeding, plant pathology, plant science (with horticulture emphasis), pomology, and/or vegetable crops who have [...] More
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
Going to college makes sense. From helping my parents land stable jobs after coming to America to giving my brother the chance to gain work experience at some of the top financial firms, college educations have shown their worth in my family. Yet I didn’t think about what actually goes on inside the magical universities until I entered high school. Applying to the Academy for Math, Science, and Engineering was the first time I had actively made a decision in my education. With the encouragement of my parents and favorite science teacher who recognized that I would excel in the challenging environment of like-minded students, I applied. Four years later, I can confidently say they were right.
If a prompt asks about why you’re interested in a specific school or how you'd fit in, don't try to use it for more than one school. Admissions officers want to see that you're excited about their school and will bring something interesting or special to their community. It's impossible to show them this if you can't be bothered to write a unique essay for their application.
An essay is a piece of writing with a subject assigned (or picked) and your main ideas described. To prepare a good paper, you should fully dedicate yourself to the process from your thesis statement and the first body paragraph to the conclusion. It is a time- and energy-consuming assignment which brings many troubles into the lives of students. A high-quality essay combines a well-structured material, creative writing, proficient use of the language, and diligence from the introductory paragraph topic sentence to the last full stop. Also, you are to interest the reader and represent your competence in a certain issue. You might be good at structuring the content and making it entertaining, but you can make a lot of grammatical mistakes. After all, essay writing is one of the hardest tasks for many students.

This essay is designed to get at the heart of how you think and what makes you tick. Present a situation or quandary and show steps toward the solution. Admissions officers want insight into your thought process and the issues you grapple with, so explain how you became aware of the dilemma and how you tackled solving it. Don’t forget to explain why the problem is important to you!


Lisa Laine Miller, began her journey as an artist struggling to make ends meet. Unbelievably, two of her high school art teachers personally contributed to her first college courses and the inspiration for the future Tenfold Initiative was born. Through this, we were inspired to create The Tenfold Initiative to honor the dedicated teachers and mentors in our lives. Particularly, Lisa's own high [...] More
ISI's Graduate Fellowship Program is characterized by the observation of Richard M. Weaver that "a liberal education specifically prepares for the achievement of freedom." After more than fifty years, the ISI graduate fellows program boasts some of the most distinguished figures in the academy and public life. Each year ISI grants Richard M. Weaver Fellowships to students who intend to use their [...] More
Another guy wrote about making kimchi with his mom. They would go into the garage and talk, really talk: “Once my mom said to me in a thick Korean accent, ‘Every time you have sex, I want you to make sure and use a condo.’ I instantly burst into laughter and said, ‘Mom, that could get kind of expensive!’ ” A girl wrote about her feminist mother’s decision to get breast implants.
The National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2011 State of College Admission report found that while grades, strength of curriculum and admission test scores are the top factors in the college admission decision, a majority of colleges and universities believe the essay to be of considerable or moderate importance in determining which academically qualified students they would choose.
As a Catholic university, we strive to be a community in which the dignity of each person is respected and everyone can truly flourish. Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., challenged our community to reflect on the following statement: “Let us never do anything to make another member of our community feel unwelcome, and let us not stand by if we see others doing so. Either we walk together in mutual support, or we do not walk at all. Either we are all Notre Dame, or none of us are.” Tell us about a time when you walked with others.
Now things began to get really interesting. During the experimentation phase of the project, I spent the majority of my waking hours in the lab – and I enjoyed every minute of it. From debriefing with my coordinator in the morning to checking and rechecking results well into the afternoon, I was on cloud nine all day, every day. I even loved the electric feeling of anxiety as I waited for the results. Most of all, though, I loved the pursuit of science itself. Before I knew it, I was well into the seventh week and had completed my first long-term research experiment.
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