Students review admissions questions & give BEST reactions. Any Tutorial how to, tips, or piece of advice that you’ll typically find on application essays or filling out the FAFSA usually won’t give you a student’s perspective. So we thought it might be nice to get a quick reality check (and laugh) about some of the absolutely ridiculous questions colleges and universities ask us to answer while we’re in the process of just, oh you know, planing our futures! And while there’s probably not much we can do to change what the top colleges and universities ask us to write, we can hold them accountable for respecting our intelligences. This isn’t to say that these questions can’t sometimes show off our creative minds, but that perhaps it’s a bit of a whimsical method to be judging where we belong! Imagine, for example, if your best friend’s first and only impression of you was your answer to one of these questions! Would they still be your friend—maybe? The point is that we are more than forced answers to crazy questions! These two students go to Shimer College, where the students are taken seriously and where no authority, no matter how undoubtedly authoritative, goes unchallenged. Shimer skips the admissions gimmicks and instead asks you to show us your brilliance, on your own terms. We, too, wanna see your genius—but realize that there’s CLEARLY more than one way to show it. No boxes.
For those of you who are just discovering Shimer for the first time, Shimer is an alternative (self-governing) liberal arts College where students study a comprehensive “Great Books” program. This is just to say that our students take all discussion style classes instead of lectures, reading and discussing transformative books of the various fields of the liberal arts; i.e., math, science, philosophy, art, literature, psychology, sociology, anthropology and political science. Meaningful things. We offer traditional four-year degrees along with early entrance and transfer paths--Oh, and of course, the financial aid and scholarships you need to make such a real education possible. Our biggest scholarship opportunities are the Dangerous Optimist Scholarship for transfer students transferring in the spring, and the Montaigne Scholarship for new students beginning in the fall. These scholarships, like our education, are designed to take you seriously—to meet you halfway and acknowledge the real seriousness of purpose and (in all honesty) the risk you take in applying. Shimer is a school that doesn’t care if you’re an over-achiever or terminal procrastinator. Instead, we wonder whether you have a thirst for learning about and discussing things that matter, for preparing for a meaningful place in a world that needs creative & critical thinkers—not multiple-choice answers.
Other critics have begun making a similar point about the strange—very American—culture developing around the top college admissions practices. Students are on the one hand applying to college, which is an statement of vulnerability, i.e. “I am a student who acknowledges I lack knowledge, and for that reason want an education,” and simultaneously supposed to be saying, “look how smart and knowledgeable I am for answering your question geniously.” It’s paradoxical and would seem to invite students to merely fake it. In a recent Atlantic article, Julia Ryan noted:
“Applying to college shouldn’t be the intellectual equivalent of dressing up in your mother’s clothes. It should be about displaying curiosity and excitement for the process of growing and developing into an adult. I’ll resort to a cliche my college counselor certainly would have edited out of my application essays: College is about the journey. So why are schools asking high school seniors to already be at the end of it?”
But can we get beyond SAT scores, entrance exams, and extra-curricular show-off resume to college admissions that are both humane and generative of original, creative, and dedicated students?
The Essay Topics were taken from another article:
The questions we chose were:
"Make a bold prediction about something in the year 2020 that no one else has made a bold prediction about."
--University of Virginia
"You have just finished your three hundred page autobiography. Please submit page 217."
--University of Pennsylvania
"Tell us about the most embarrassing moment of your life."
--Santa Clara University
"So where is Waldo, really?"
--University of Chicago
"Sartre said, 'Hell is other people,' but Streisand sang, 'People who need people/Are the luckiest people in the world.' With whom do you agree and why?"
"Kermit the Frog famously lamented, 'It's not easy being green.' Do you agree?"
-- Tufts University
"You have 150 words. Take a risk."
--University of Notre Dame