College Essay Questions I Wish They'd Ask

The Common App essay prompts were officially released August 1 and they have been confounding college-bound teens all summer.

Why?  They’re ANNOYING!

And hard to write.   And did I mention annoying?

How many kids do you know who overcame a serious challenge or obstacle that’s worth bragging about to someone they haven’t met but who can affect their future?

I’m sick of these questions, so instead of complaining, I thought I’d offer some essay prompts I’d like to see.

1.  “Diversity” means different things to different people.  Students at _______ University hail from all kinds of social, ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds. How much money does your family have?  Describe, rounded to the nearest $10,000, your parents’ income, their savings accounts, and fully discuss their ability to pay your tuition, giving special consideration to their likelihood to voluntarily donate to our endowment during and after your years with us.

2.  It is said that we are bombarded by more than 5,000 unique messages each day, and our ability to sort through these messages critically is essential to becoming a successful citizen and contributor to today’s global community.  How easily influenced by our marketing are you?  Your answer may include, but should not be limited to:  our tsunami of “personal,” deceptive emails, our glossy brochures depicting a melting pot of acne-free, smiling college students of all races and creeds, our athletic teams’ results, our Five Diamond dining options and luxury, spa-like living conditions.  Your answer need not include graduation rates or success of our graduates finding jobs that actually pay bills.

3.  “Ah, to write, that is to search, to live!”  We just made that quote up.  But it sounds like some pretentious saying that could be googled within 1.7 seconds and used in a supplemental essay.   Describe your search for the perfect College Essay Consultant, and how your parents ultimately decided to hire her or him to ghostwrite your essays.   Example:  If your folks interviewed middle-aged moo-moo wearing hippie poets who serve as adjunct professors at a local college and live with more than five cats, elaborate on your personal search.  If you met with any consultant that implicitly or expressly indicated that, because they have written essays for other people who got into Yale, you too will be admitted to Yale, please indicate how much you paid them.

4.  Most colleges would brag that their campuses are examples of the culture of ideas, where free debate and diversity of opinion are welcomed and encouraged.  Yet, approximately 90% of professors are registered members of one political party.   Please help us square these contradictory facts, because we cannot (or are unwilling to).

5.  Suck up to us in 250 words or less.

What questions would you like to see?