Essays are usually a tool used to gauge something about you—for example, your skill at writing, your ideals and personality, or your ability to repeat some things about Charlemagne before forgetting them forever.
You might assume that if you're writing about your ideals and personality, there are no right or wrong answers, and that's probably true. But there are awesome and far-less-awesome answers. Sometimes, despite seeming absolutely insane, an unexpected approach winds up surprising and delighting the people who read these things. Here are three crazy college admissions essay approaches that somehow (rumor has it) actually worked.
1.) The Oxford Entrance Exam
According to the story, a student taking her entrance exam at Oxford got to the philosophy essay section and found that the first question was "What is courage?" Being either very clever or very ridiculous, she wrote, "This is courage," turned in the exam booklet, and went home. Of course, she wound up getting into Oxford, because otherwise it would be a pretty lousy story.
Whether or not the story is true is a mystery for the ages. We think it's from 1983, but because the internets weren't around back then, it's hard to be 100% sure.
2.) The 3A Essay
You know that common essay prompt, the "tell us about your experiences" one? It's deceivingly tough to respond to. You want the readers to know about how great you are, but you don't want to sound arrogant, right? But what if you're so arrogant that you take the admissions people by surprise?
A kid named Hugh Gallagher originally did just that in this essay, which he originally wrote for a satirical writing contest, and later used as an admissions essay. Gallagher glorifies himself with obvious lies ("I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru."). His essay flows well, it was funny enough to win a writing contest, and it ends with "but I have not yet gone to college," demonstrating that Hugh considers college even more important than his fictional prizewinning clams.
3.) The One About Peeing
Lydia Mitts, Tufts '11, wrote her admissions essay about having to pee. Well, okay, that's not all it's about. The bathroom emergency just sets up some reflection about her personality and interests. But still, when you think about the fact that there's an entire industry built around writing admissions essays, and how to achieve that perfect segue into the selfless dedication you've learned from your rigorous mathlete training, you realize it takes guts to say "No, you know what? Thanks, guys, but I'll take it from here. I am going to write about pee."
Disclaimer: Each of these crazy ideas hinges on some specific brilliant idea that makes them work (or, alternatively, their authors were the luckiest students alive). It is not advisable for you to just throw them out there at every opportunity. It is especially not advisable for you to combine them.
Related Post: The Etiquette of Getting Into College