Quirky Time

Suddenly, it seems that quirky essays are all the rage. This weekend, the New York Times ran an article about just that:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/education/robots-or-aliens-as-parents-colleges-gauge-applicants-creativity.html

I found the article especially interesting as I am currently working with a number of students who are coping with the University of Chicago’s quirky prompts (created by current students, no less). Now, my students are trying to tell jokes very seriously, some are contemplating the skill set of the mantis shrimp, and still others are comparing the proverbial apples and oranges.

From time immemorial, the University of Chicago has been regarded as a bastion of industrial-grade intellectualism. Nobody went there who wasn’t ready to spout Schopenhauer. In recent years, I’ve noted with interest that a number of my students, who I suspect had never even heard of Schopenhauer and were–gulp!–even kind of jocks, were going there. This year, I find that everyone seems to be applying to Chicago, so obviously they have some marketing geniuses over there working their magic. However, these quirky prompts spell intellectual intimidation for many of my students, who are gnashing their teeth and tearing their hair but soldiering on. Some of these students have been looking for the “easier” of the prompts but I tell them that the whole point of this exercise is to show yourself as an intellectual daredevil and if you’re not ready to do that kind of skydiving then maybe you should look for another school. By design, such essays are meant to separate the wheat from the chaff. And so, this year, I have found myself applying a surcharge for these essays from Chicago as well as for some of the essays required by the more select UPenn programs. Such essays are just a lot of work, so be prepared!