Quiz: Are these college application essay questions real or fake?
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Quiz: Are these college application essay questions real or fake?

Quiz: Are these college application essay questions real or fake?

The college application essay is something that most high school seniors dread. A lot is riding on it – a good one will make your application go to the top of the recruitment pile, a bad one will lump you in the with the hundreds or even thousands others who did not make it. Whether you get into your dream school or not depends on this.

The purpose of this essay is to show the person you are behind the grades and standardised test scores. It’s to sell who you are and the potential you have to admission officers.

It’s serious, yes, but some universities like to have some fun too.

But how wacky is too wacky? Can you tell which of the following are real college essay prompts and which are just pure hogwash?

"Cats have nine lives, Pac-Man has three lives, and radioactive isotopes have half-lives. How many lives does something else - conceptual or actual - have, and why?"

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It's real! This is by the University of Chicago, which prides itself on its provocative essay questions. Every year, the university asks newly-admitted and current college students to submit essay topics, which are then used as inspiration for new questions for the incoming cohort.

"Describe yourself as fully and accurately as possible in 140 characters."

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This short but snappy question is REAL. It's by the Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

"What do you hope to find over the rainbow?"

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It's REAL. It's by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"A hot dog might be a sandwich, and cereal might be a soup, but is a ______ a ______?"

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It's REAL. Another one by the University of Chicago. According to its website, it's inspired by Arya Muralidharan, Class of 2021 and "dozens of others who, this year and in past years, have submitted the question “Is a hot dog a sandwich?""

"The planet has warmed beyond 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which scientists have warned would bring catastrophic impact to humankind. Describe what you imagine you will see outside your window and why."

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It's FAKE. This is the brainchild of one of Study International's writers and not of any university (but we are very keen to know how you would answer this still!).

"What do you think will be a better acronym than YOLO?"

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It's FAKE. However, Tufts University did have an essay prompt in 2013 that goes: "What does #YOLO mean to you?"

"You were just invited to speak at the next UN Climate Action Summit. Write your speech."

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It's FAKE. This is by one of Study International's writers, who was inspired by 2019 student-extraordinaire Greta Thunberg. However, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did have a similar question in 2014/15 that goes: "You were just invited to speak at the White House. Write your speech."

"So where is Waldo, really?"

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It's REAL. Another zinger from the University of Chicago, this time inspired by Robin Ye, AB’16

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