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The 15 Most Ridiculous College Application Questions

Peter Jacobs

Tufts University has received some attention recently for its #YOLO-based application essay prompt, but this was far from the first time a college has asked students to think outside the box.

While Tufts and the University of Chicago may be the two schools most well known for their unorthodox essays, many colleges have slipped in quirky questions to shake up potential applicants. Topics have ranged from autobiographical to flat out insane, but all the prompts — in theory — should tell a school something about yourself.

Most of these questions are from past years’ applications; some schools, including University of Chicago and Tufts, change their questions every year.

We've compiled some of our favorites for you to ponder. Try not to think too hard.

University of Chicago

"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."

Brandeis University

"If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs, or aliens, who would you pick? Why?"

University of Virginia

"Make a bold prediction about something in the year 2020 that no one else has made a bold prediction about."

University of Pennsylvania

"You have just finished your three hundred page autobiography. Please submit page 217."

Johns Hopkins University

"Using a piece of wire, a Hopkins car window sticker, an egg carton, and any inexpensive hardware store item, create something that would solve a problem. Tell us about your creation, but don’t worry; we won't require proof that it works!"

Santa Clara University

"Tell us about the most embarrassing moment of your life."

University of Chicago

"So where is Waldo, really?"

Tufts University

"Create a short story using one of these topics: 'The End of MTV,' 'Confessions of a Middle School Bully,' 'The Professor Disappeared' or 'The Mysterious Lab.'"

St. Mary's College of Maryland

"St. Mary's College is casting for the incoming class. Send us your audition tape via the Web or DVD. Please provide us with the site for posting. Selection of this option will stand as your college essay. Consider your audience."

Amherst College

"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?"

University of Chicago

"Modern improvisational comedy had its start with the Compass Players, a group of University of Chicago students who later formed the Second City comedy troupe. Here is a chance to play along. Improvise a story, essay, or script that meets all of the following requirements:

    - It must include the line “And yes I said yes I will Yes” (Ulysses, by James Joyce).
    - Its characters may not have superpowers.
    - Your work has to mention the University of Chicago, but please, no accounts of a high school student     applying to the University—this is fiction, not autobiography.
    - Your work must include at least four of the following elements: a paper airplane, a transformation, a         shoe, the invisible hand, two doors, pointillism, a fanciful explanation of the Pythagorean Theorem, a         ventriloquist or ventriloquism, the periodic table of the elements, the concept of jeong, number two             pencils."

Kalamazoo College

"What invention would the world be better off without, and why?"

Hamilton College

"If you were reduced to living on a flat plane, what would be your greatest problems? Opportunities?"

Tufts University

"Kermit the Frog famously lamented, 'It's not easy being green.' Do you agree?"

University of Notre Dame

"You have 150 words. Take a risk."