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?

Perhaps you are a brilliant writer, or maybe you're just going for the most efficient way to rack up the college scholarship money. Either way, you’ve decided that the key to funding your education lies in winning scholarship essay contests. Essay scholarships are awarded in numerous fields to students of varied backgrounds. Some essay scholarships have requirements in addition to the essay, such as GPA or financial need, whereas others are judged solely on the merit of the writing submitted. No matter what the criteria are, essay scholarships are a great way to use those writing skills you’ve been practicing to help pay for school.
Through traveling abroad in Prague, I give myself to a new perspective and open myself up to influence. I want to use my experience to create films that will convince others to do the same—as a representative of the LGBTQ community, I want to send the message of acceptance and tolerance to the world, from the screens of Mezipatra in Prague to my conservative parents’ television sets.
Essay Prompt: Discuss in your essay any challenges or obstacles you have dealt with and overcome in life and how this will help you succeed in college and beyond. Describe how volunteer, community service or extra-curricular activities have shaped who you are today and what it has taught you. May also include future educational plans and career goals. [250-500 Words]
The National Corn Growers Association and BASF Corporation will award five $1,000 scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in an agriculture-related field. Recipients and a parent or guardian will enjoy travel and lodging to attend the Commodity Classic in New Orleans, Louisiana, to be recognized at the NCGA Banquet and have the opportunity to learn more about modern [...] More

One of the most common questions at parent meetings is “what’s better college or university”? This question did not make sense to me, I then realized that parents want to know the difference between community college and a four year. Concepts like financial aid, grants, loans, are all foreign concepts as most of our parents never went to college. As a student ambassador, I help bridge that gap. We often hold meetings where we explained resources available and different options for each student. I have learned, that as a student, I can provide assistance to my own community through my knowledge. I am the communication necessary for further successes, using my personal knowledge and experience to help uplift and educate others in similar situations. My pursuit is to not only go to college but thrive and come back ready and able to help students like myself that have to fight for their seat in the lecture hall.


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This is a heavily revised version of one of 2016’s prompts, which asked students to describe a transition from childhood to adulthood. The purview of the inquiry has been expanded to ask about personal growth in general, leaving the lessons and timing of an applicant’s transformation more open-ended. Students are also now free to reflect on a “realization” in addition to an “event” or “occurrence.” While a realization that changes your understanding of the world will likely be sparked by a concrete marker (i.e., an event or accomplishment), we are happy to receive the added flexibility from you, Common App. Thank you very much.
The obvious answer is "Whichever scholarship is worth the most money" but only assuming you haven’t put things off for too long. If it is February of your senior year in high school, see which ones still have deadlines you can make – there should still be plenty. It is imperative that you respect deadlines and get your scholarship applications and/or essays in on time. Put those with the closest due date at the top of your list and don’t bother with one if you aren’t confident you truly qualify or don't stand a good chance of winning. Once you have finished the ones that are "slam dunks," you may still have time to go back and apply to the ones in the "maybe" category. If you start early enough (think October of your senior year), you will definitely be giving yourself an advantage. You might not be able to get an application for all of them yet but the rules and requirements of some great scholarships may be available. You can use these to get an early start on your application or to get a feel for what scholarship providers will be looking for. Start early and time won’t be an issue. You will be able to base priority strictly on the largest amount of money being offered and on confidence in your ability to win a scholarship. Good luck!
Reading the essays of other students who successfully got into the college of their choice is a good way to find inspiration for your own writing. Look for common patterns in college admission essay samples, such as personal stories and a touch of humor. You might also find some good ideas for structuring your essay to give it a breath of fresh air.
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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
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
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But the chicken dismisses the cowardly voice in its head, reminding itself of the injustice back in the deceptively charming prison. Over the next several hours, it learns to strategically position itself so that it is in line with the empty space between the tires of passing trucks. It reaches the yellow dashes. A black blanket gradually pushes away the glowing sun and replaces it with diamond stars and a glowing crescent. It reaches the untouched field.
In conclusion, my HOSA experience helped provide me with improvements in leadership, communication, and team work skills.  As I move onto college each of these skills will help me in defining my goals, establishing lasting friendships and relationships, and working with others for common goals for the betterment of our local, state, and national health communities.  I am confident that all of these qualities that I have learned and practiced through HOSA will contribute to my success in every aspect of my future!”
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Identity – this can mean racial identity, sexual orientation, gender, or simply one’s place within a specific community (even communities as unique as, say, players of World of Warcraft). With the topic of racial identity, it’s important to remember the audience (college admissions counselors often lean progressive politically), so this might not be the best place to make sweeping claims about today’s state of race relations. However, reflecting on how your culture has shaped your experiences can make for a compelling essay. Alternatively, focusing on a dominant personality trait can also make for a compelling theme. For example, if you’re extremely outgoing, you could explain how your adventurousness has allowed you to learn from a diverse group of friends and the random situations you find yourself in. One important thing to note: the topic of identity can easily lack originality if you cover a common experience such as feeling divided between cultures, or coming out. If such experiences are integral to who you are, you should still write about them, but be sure to show us your unique introspection and reflection.
With 100 words, you can only focus on one or two elements of your life. Think about your biggest selling points – the things that show you are the ideal candidate. Start by introducing yourself and your educational status. Then jump into the main topic of the essay. You may not have room to mention how the scholarship will help your education. Instead, mention how your education can help your career. The other information will be implied.

Since 1996, the LEAGUE at AT&T Foundation has awarded scholarships to self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) graduating U.S. high school seniors based on the following achievements: a 3.0 GPA; significant involvement in community service; and acceptance to an accredited U.S. college or university. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship provider's [...] More

Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don’t sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don’t expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.
As a vibrant community of learners dedicated to inclusive excellence, the students, faculty and staff at the University of Colorado Boulder seek to be open and respectful of contrasting beliefs and opinions. Every student has a unique life experience and a set of circumstances by which they are shaped and influenced. Your background may have been shaped by family history, cultural traditions, race, ethnicity, religion, politics, income, ideology, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The loss of a parent or guardian is one of life's most difficult ordeals. The emotional strain can be devastating to children and young adults. And for too many families, an untimely death also brings financial stress, making recovery all the more difficult. Recognizing the character and perseverance that so many young people show in the face of such adversity, Life Happens sponsors the annual [...] More
My name is Christian Wood. I am a high school senior who will be attending the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall. I am getting a degree in journalism so I can become an online journalist. My goal is to work for the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Huffington Post, or another news outlet that has a strong online presence. The internet is already where most people get their news, and the industry will be even bigger by the time I graduate. Getting a degree in journalism with a focus on digital media will set me up for a fulfilling, fast-paced career fit for the future.
The purpose of the Zale Parry Scholarship is to offer financial support to individuals seeking to advance their knowledge or to enter professional careers in any of the following fields: ocean exploration, diving equipment technology, hyperbaric research, marine conservation. Students must be a certified diver, enrolled in an accredited college or university and demonstrate financial need. For [...] More

Another way of thinking about this is: your essay is about how your past influences your future, or the way you think now. Michael has settled on his grandfather teaching him to surf: That’s a fruitful topic—not just because it contains two characters (Michael and his grandfather), but also a place (the ocean, or, say, a surf shop), a plot (Michael couldn’t surf in the beginning, then learned in the middle, now at the end Michael can surf and tell us about it), but also because the end includes a lesson and a chance to spin that forward, perhaps by talking about how the sport has taught Michael how to be calm and collected under pressure.
The American Galvanizers Association's (AGA) Galvanize the Future: A Richard L. Brooks Memorial Scholarship essay contest was developed to assist future specifiers with the rising cost of a college education. The scholarship is open to full- or part-time undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in an accredited college or university studying architecture, civil engineering, structural [...] More
Earlier, I mentioned that you shouldn’t make mountains out of molehills within your essay. Similarly, don’t exaggerate the importance of the essay itself: it is only one part of your college application, and it is rarely the sole reason a student gets admitted or denied. A particularly strong essay won’t balance out a consistent record of underwhelming academic performance, and a less-than-award-winning essay will not necessarily cancel out an otherwise stellar application filled with excellent grades, commitment to community service, and compelling recommendations. Admission staff aren’t looking for the perfect topic or essay; rather, they just want to get a better sense of each applicant’s passions, opinions, and ways of thinking so that they can fill each incoming class with a diverse group of interesting classmates and roommates. So work hard and carefully on your college-application essay, but don’t obsess over it.
Being part of a minority is very conflicting for me as I feel both empowered as a part of a Haitian minority community but also disconnected from my non-immigrant peers. Coming from a background of poverty in Haiti, I knew that, even at a very young age, I had to be a good student in order to succeed. This work ethic--found throughout my Haitian community--has been very beneficial in my life as we all came here to pave ourselves a better future. As my mom held two jobs, went to college, and was temporarily homeless just to secure me a better future, I feel invigorated to be part of such an indefatigable community. And, it is because of this strong work ethic, central to my community’s core values, that I am now the salutatorian of a class of 679 students.
But unlike a story, an essay needs a main point that’s stated explicitly, so beyond describing the event or person, be sure to explain how that event or person changed you. Did you learn a skill you’ve used or would like to continue honing as an undergraduate? Did you learn an important lesson that has shaped how you think or behave in some way? Regardless of the topic you choose, your essay should tell a distinctive, compelling, cohesive story about who you are, how you’ve grown as an individual, and the contributions you’ll make to this particular college campus.
South Coast Water District awards scholarships to college-bound high school seniors who live in the District's service area in coastal south Orange County, California. College-bound high-school seniors who live in the South Coast Water District service area which includes the communities of Dana Point, Capistrano Beach, Monarch Beach, South Laguna (south of Nyes Place), areas of north San [...] More

Beside us, our comrades were dying, each falling to the ground crying in “agony,” their hands clasping their “wounds.” Suddenly a wish for heroism surged within me: I grabbed Min-young’s arms and rushed towards the enemies’ headquarters, disobeying our orders to remain sentry duty. To tip the tide of the war, I had to kill their captain. We infiltrated the enemy lines, narrowly dodging each attack. We then cleared the pillars of asparagus ferns until the Captain’s lair came into view. I quickly pulled my clueless friend back into the bush.
And finally, I hope to better understand Czech culture as it pertains to film making by studying at Charles University and taking classes like “Central European Film: Search for Identity” and “Hollywood and Europe”. I will get more in touch with the performance and character elements of film by taking the theater class “Prague Theater Scene: Performance Analysis.” Finally, I’ll learn to better listen to what my community in Prague has to say (literally and figuratively) by taking Czech language classes in a two-week intensive course that includes two language-focused events where students engage with the local area.

Tips to consider: Feel free to address anything you want the Office of Admissions to know about your academic record so that we can consider this information when we review your application. You can discuss your academic work, class rank, GPA, individual course grades, test scores, and/or the classes that you took or the classes that were available to you. You can also describe how special circumstances and/or your school, community, and family environments impacted your high school performance.

The Seattle Public Library Foundation is pleased to host the Stimson Bullitt Civic Courage Scholarship Competition. High school seniors and undergraduate students who live, work or attend school in Seattle are invited to participate. The competition asks students to write an essay about an individual or group of individuals from Washington state who have demonstrated civic courage on an issue of [...] More
As always, remember to use specific examples to illustrate your point. What relevant experiences have you had or interests have you pursued? What made you think this subject or career would be a good fit for you? Are there related classes or activities you're excited to participate in at the school? The more specific you can be in addressing these questions, the stronger your essay will be.

When tailoring responses to individual college prompts, it’s important to use specific details you’ve learned through visiting and research. Not only does this show colleges that you’ve have done your homework, but it also demonstrates your interest in the college – and colleges want to admit students who are likely to enroll. Show your knowledge of the college by mentioning specific courses, professors, places of interest, and more. Show how you fit into the campus culture and how you will impact the community through specific examples.
We encourage you to try something unconventional for this prompt, like comparing your personality to a Picasso painting, using an extended philosophical metaphor to describe your four years of high school, or writing in a poetic style to display your love of poetry. If you are extremely passionate about a topic or an expert in a certain area, for example Renaissance technology or journalism during World War II, you can use this prompt to show your authority on a subject by discussing it at a high level.
The Megan Meier Foundation is seeking St. Charles high school seniors that have made a positive impact regarding issues of bullying and cyberbullying in their own school and community. Applicants must be currently enrolled as a full-time student, either within his or her high school or through an approved college program; reside in St. Charles County; have a minimum 3.0 GPA and passionately [...] More
With the announcement of the essay prompts and the ability for applicants to roll over their Common App account each year, counselors can introduce their juniors to the Common App now to help them start thinking about the application process. For more information, go to Common App Ready, a series of ready-to-use resources, presentations, training videos, and handouts covering everything from account creation through submission. Last year, we expanded this free tool with Spanish language translations. 
It is the mission of the NW EEO/Affirmative Action Association (NWEEO) to provide education, information and resources to individuals, groups and institutions in support of their efforts with regard to equal employment opportunity, diversity, and affirmative action planning. In concert with our mission, NW EEO offers the Alyce Marcus scholarship to eligible high school graduates in the Portland [...] More
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Through traveling abroad in Prague, I give myself to a new perspective and open myself up to influence. I want to use my experience to create films that will convince others to do the same—as a representative of the LGBTQ community, I want to send the message of acceptance and tolerance to the world, from the screens of Mezipatra in Prague to my conservative parents’ television sets.
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.

The Knudson Churchill Scholarship is designed to promote and support education in the fields of print journalism or automotive technology. Endowed by the New England MG T Register, the program will present the best applicant with a monetary award to an, accredited, post-secondary school of winner's choice in order to study in one of these two areas. Applicants who demonstrate an interest and [...] More

Experts say well-crafted application essays can get an admissions officer to take notice and propel an applicant to the top of the heap. Whether it’s about a life-changing event or a moment as simple as fishing, a compelling essay can reflect a student’s voice and mindset, or provide a glimpse into his or her life that a transcript alone may not convey.
Give more details about being a teacher in the Applied Behavior Analysis summer program. It makes perfect sense that Bridget doesn't want to put her students on display. It would take the focus off of her and possibly read as offensive or condescending. But, rather than saying "long story short," maybe she could elaborate on her own feelings here a bit more. What is it about this kind of teaching that she loves? What is she hoping to bring to the lives of her future clients?

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 goal of these revisions is to help all applicants, regardless of background or access to counseling, see themselves and their stories within the prompts. They are designed to invite unencumbered discussions of character and community, identity, and aspiration. To this end, we will be creating new educational resources to help students both understand and approach the opportunities the essay presents for them.
The Apprentice Ecologist Initiative awards three scholarships to the authors of the three best Apprentice Ecologist essays. Applicants should embody the spirit of the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative by demonstrating personal leadership and environmental stewardship in their project. Winning essays have been 750 to 1,500 words long. Middle school, high school, or undergraduate college/university [...] More
Internal Auditor Magazine, the world's leading publication covering the internal audit profession, is offering six (6) scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students who write the most informative and intuitive essays on internal audit subjects, as judged by The IIA's Publications Advisory Committee. Once the student winners are announced, we will publish the winning essay on our website. [...] More
We are pleased to share the 2017-2018 Common Application essay prompts with you. The changes you see below reflect the feedback of 108 Common App member colleges and more than 5,000 other Common App constituents, as well as consultation with our advisory committees and Board of Directors. Students represented the single largest share of constituent survey respondents (59%), followed by school counselors (23%), and teachers (11%).

Grammatical problems, punctuation errors, and spelling mistakes can hurt your chance of being accepted. When excessive, these errors are distracting and make your application essay difficult to understand. Even a few errors, however, can be a strike against you. They show a lack of care and quality control in your written work, and your success in college partly depends upon strong writing skills.
Explain your interest in the major you selected and describe how you have recently explored or developed this interest inside and/or outside the classroom. You may also explain how this major relates to your future career goals. If you're applying to the Division of General Studies, explain your academic interests and strengths or your future career goals. You may include any majors or areas of study you're currently considering.

Because of their love and sacrifice over the years, I have been able to devote the time and energy necessary to academic accomplishment even though money has always been tight. In my senior year at XYZ High School, I have a 3.9 grade-point average and have been named Salutatorian of my graduating class. In addition to focusing on my own studies, I also worked as a math and science tutor throughout my years in high school as a way of contributing to my family's budget.


Set aside six minutes each morning, or a few times a week, for the period of time you’re freewriting. Six minutes, that’s it! Put your timer on, put your pen to paper, and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. If you run out of things to write, write “I don’t know I’m bored I don’t know help help I hate writing!” until new words come. What are you going to write about during those six minutes? You can try thinking about those Common App essay prompts—they’re so broad that they should let you in in some way: what’s my obstacle, my identity, the thing I love? Note that Anita isn’t sitting down to write her disquisition on How my life as a mock trial champion makes me prepared to go to law school. Instead, what might come out as she writes by hand is… I remember the rush the first time I stood up at a mock trial tournament. I was wearing a blazer and my mom’s heels and they were so uncomfortable. It was so overheated in the room and I’d drunk way too much Mountain Dew. But why did I love playing this role of attorney? Was it the theater? The chance to finally argue without getting in trouble at the dinner table? If six minutes doesn’t work for you, or if you think you’re not getting in the zone in that amount of time, try doing three pages in your composition notebook instead. Write in big letters and double-space. Let your hand roam free.

As with rock-paper-scissors, we often cut our narratives short to make the games we play easier, ignoring the intricate assumptions that keep the game running smoothly. Like rock-paper-scissors, we tend to accept something not because it’s true, but because it’s the convenient route to getting things accomplished. We accept incomplete narratives when they serve us well, overlooking their logical gaps. Other times, we exaggerate even the smallest defects and uncertainties in narratives we don’t want to deal with. In a world where we know very little about the nature of “Truth,” it’s very easy—and tempting—to construct stories around truth claims that unfairly legitimize or delegitimize the games we play.


Some instruments are built to make multiple notes, like a piano. A saxophone on the other hand doesn’t play chords but single notes through one vibrating reed. However, I discovered that you can play multiple notes simultaneously on the saxophone. While practicing a concert D-flat scale, I messed up a fingering for a low B-flat, and my instrument produced a strange noise with two notes. My band teacher got very excited and exclaimed, “Hey, you just played a polyphonic note!” I like it when accidents lead to discovering new ideas.
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