Let's post our essays to help next years students get an idea of what they should write.
Here's my Chicago essay exactly as I submitted it (typos included).
Apperently it didn't work :(
Essay Option 2: Destroy A Question
There must be an answer. I thought to myself. I, a thinking being, must be able to deduce the answer to any question I can pose. I could not. Every argument I concocted I just as easily repudiated. I only got back to where I began- nowhere.
I frantically perused the musty pages of the classics in a vain attempt to resolve my question. I found that my question was more often a topic of prevarication than discourse. Plato never pushed beyond his postulate that the universe was eternal and immutable. Descartes brilliance collapsed when his haphazard proofs of Gods existence were repudiated. William James simply dismissed the question as unanswerable. It seemed that the great minds spent more time dismissing each others work than building their own.
I was lost. In every other field I had studied reason provided a clear path to knowledge. This time, however, reason led me nowhere. Every time I thought I had deduced the logical path to a new idea I discovered faults in my logic that left me in the same place I had started. I could not find any axioms of knowledge.
I consulted a revered theologian. He consigned my question to the mind of god. But who created god? I asked, sensing a hole in his answer.
God is the uncreated creator. The memorized rebuttal carried with it contempt towards my lack of knowledge of theological canon. I left the conversation refusing to accept any axioms of my existence.
I then sought out a venerated scientist. I asked him my fabled question, expecting a meek response. Instead, he began a dissertation on the mechanisms of the universe. But why is it that way? I asked again and again only to be met with another wave of explanations.
That is what empirical evidence indicates. He retorted constantly.
But how do you know your conclusion isnt like an explanation of the movement of shadows on a wall I asked alluding to Platos Allegory of the Cave.
I neednt concern myself with hypotheses that cannot be falsified. I am a man of science. His dismissive reply left me in the same place I started.
As I walked out of his office I overheard a toddler importuning his mother. But why? he asked time and time again. His mothers repeated explanations failed to satiate his need for knowledge. He continued probing. Her explanations eventually focused on the existence of the universe. The toddler was not pleased. Why does the universe exist?
It just does, the mother said as she walked out of earshot.
As I walked on I noted that all three never reached any firm basis for their knowledge. The theologian and the scientist both dismissed the question as unanswerable. In his youth, the toddler refused to capitulate. He continued probing for knowledge beyond what his mother could provide.
My question was fundamentally a question of the mechanism explaining a condition. However, in order to explain something we must be able to observe it. By definition I couldnt step out of the universe and observe it. I couldnt answer my question because it was impossible for me to observe the mechanism. I capitulated to the inevitable: my question had no answer.
Post edited by Bill_h_pike on
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This is a prompt that appears every year. This essay really poses the highest risk but also the highest potential reward. Writing your own question allows you to write an innovative essay that either tackles a difficult or controversial topic (for example, our founder Vinay Bhaskara’s essay tackled why mainstream Hollywood films are more valuable than seemingly more intellectual independent films), or presents the information with a unique format (such as a conversation with a dead historical figure).
Using a prompt from past years also allows you to write an essay that is thematically and tonally different from many other applicants (as they will mostly be writing about the first five prompts offered above).
Generally speaking, your best payoff to this essay comes if you want to try something unconventional, such as writing an essay that describes the four years of high school as Hell, Purgatory, Paradise, and Heaven, and is written in the style of the divine comedy.
There are a variety of possibilities here ranging from the idiotic (you probably don’t want to write your own variation on the alt-right’s platform referring to events in your high school life) to the (relatively) overdone — they’ve probably seen several essays that have been written in iambic pentameter as an ode to Chaucer.
And we’ll reiterate the note above: This type of essay has the highest variance in terms of outcome. If done well, an unconventional essay can captivate the right admissions counselor in a way that no conventional essay can. Conversely, if the essay is executed poorly or even if it isn’t, your essay may go over the admissions counselor’s head or bore them. So this is only a strategy that you should try if you are confident in your abilities and have at least a couple of sources of high-quality feedback.
This is also an optimal prompt for truly diving into an academic passion, particularly if it is of an advanced level or unique tenor. For example, if you know a lot about Soviet cars produced between 1957 and 1983, then writing a custom prompt that allows you to explore that passion may be easier than trying to bend that topic to match one of the prompts provided.
As with any academically oriented essay, you do want to make sure that any jargon you use is made clear, either via explicit explanation or context clues. You shouldn’t shy away from jargon — it’s one of the things that helps position you as an expert on the subject of your essay. But you don’t want to render the essay unintelligible to your reader.
One broader note on writing your own prompt — it doesn’t have to be as complex or convoluted as the other UChicago prompts, and you mainly just want to find a prompt that matches the essay that you want to write, even if it is straightforward.
We wish you the best of luck writing your UChicago essay!
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