Modifying College Applications — Where’d the Fun and Creativity Go?

I didn’t want to go to Wake Forest University, but I must admit they had the most fun college application to write, and quite frankly it forced me to be as authentic and creative as possible. Most college applications follow a structure. Something like “Why do you want to attend the University of Michigan?” is pretty standard, or perhaps something like “Discuss an organization or community that you’re a part of and how you’ve improved it since becoming involved.” I think essays like these are important, but without any supplementary essays that really challenge the student to think and be creative, you really don’t know what you’re going to get out of the student.


Wake Forest asked some awesome questions:

“Give us your top ten list. Provide a theme.”

I’m sorry — what? Talk about open-ended. It was a trial and error process for me, but I ended up listing my top ten favorite quotes. Hopefully it was creative.


Another one that stood out was, “What outrages you and why?”


This one was tough, but really made me think.


And my favorite: “Given the rise in the power of social media in the last decade, describe your as fully and accurately as possible within the 140-character limit of a Tweet.”


I think more and more selective colleges should start asking for these kinds of questions, developing their own unique questions, too. It makes writing these applications fun, and the truly brightest students will show in their responses, differentiating themselves from all of the other students with top numbers. Furthermore, these kinds of questions reduce ability to rely on a tutor, leveling the playing field for lower SES students who can’t afford expensive college application counselors and tutors.

My career goals include finance (venture capital), non-profit and social enterprise, and then education. I hope to be a teacher or headmaster of a school one day, and I will always remember the importance of a creative application process like that of Wake Forest, UChicago and Tufts. It helps fills the role of interviewing students, which is difficult and takes a lot of time. I would love to see more applications for selective schools take this form down the road, schools such as the University of Michigan.


I didn’t apply to the University of Chicago, but my best friend did, and I found a pretty cool article about some of their crazy questions! Check it out:


“”Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.”

How would you answer that?!

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