The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday March 25th

UNC aims to enrich applications with unique essay prompts

Gone are the days when applicants had to answer generic questions about their high school experiences to get into college.

Instead, high school students this year can ponder questions such as, “What do you hope to find at the end of the rainbow?” or, “What’s better than sliced bread?” to have a shot at being admitted to UNC.

UNC and colleges across the nation say unique application essay prompts encourage students to think outside the box when applying.

Ashley Memory, senior assistant director of undergraduate admissions, said because UNC does not have an interview component for the application process, the supplemental questions are an essential part of the application.

“We meet and talk about the upcoming questions and what we hope to gain from it. We decide on questions to give the applicants a chance to explain what they weren’t able to in the Common Application essay,” she said.

Some of the longer questions on the application question the applicant’s personality quirks, and a shorter question asks what students would choose for their theme song.

Memory said the factors for choosing the Common App essay and UNC supplemental essays are similar. Both processes involve a group of committee members who work collaboratively to choose the questions.

The Common App essay prompts were the culmination of two years of discussion between the organization’s board of directors and the outreach advisory committee, said Aba Blankson, spokeswoman for the Common App.

“As they considered the topics our members suggested, they worked diligently to ensure that all applicants, regardless of background or access to counseling, would have the chance to tell their unique stories,” she said.

Blankson said the selection process is supposed to be holistic, and the questions add to a more complete picture of the applicant.

Memory said the reason why UNC chooses unusual questions is mainly because they offer another way to get to know applicants.

Supplemental questions are meant to give applicants free rein to write about anything.

“I think that it is important for UNC and other schools to consider creativity because creativity is essential to innovation,” said Sarah Colbert, a high school senior who applied to UNC this fall.

“I don’t think that schools can learn much about applicants by reading a generic essay about teamwork on a sports team or a ‘life-changing’ trip abroad.”

High school senior Mary Page Welch, who also applied to UNC, said having a quirky question can break some of the tension students feel when applying.

“Initially the questions created more stress because they simply added components to the supplement,” she said.

“However, once I started the application I enjoyed the opportunity to give admissions a better view of who I am through creative and quirky responses that illustrate my personality.”

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