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'What are you looking at?' and other college application questions

Listed below are some of the unusual and more thought-provoking essay options facing college applicants this year.

December 19, 2012

• Stanford University: Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate — and us — know you better.

• Carleton College: Have you ever tossed around a Frisbee___, a hot potato___, an idea___?

• Connecticut College: Tell us about your favorite place and why it holds special meaning for you. It can be close to home or on another continent, your kitchen or a mountaintop.

• Pomona College: You are walking down the street when something catches your eye. You stop and stare for a long while, amazed and fascinated. What are you looking at?

• Bard College: One hundred years ago, in 1912, the Austrian writer and social critic Karl Kraus, famous for his provocative aphorisms, wrote "Civilization ends, since barbarians erupt from it." Write a short commentary on what you think this might mean from your perspective 100 years later, and whether it makes any sense.

• Brown University: Complete "I felt like I truly belonged when..."

• University of Notre Dame: In your opinion, what is the difference between intelligence and wisdom? You may cite a historical or fictional example, or offer an illustration from your own experience.

• Whitman College: Descartes observes, "There are few people who are willing to say everything they believe ... because many do not know what they believe." Describe an unpopular opinion you have had and why you stood (or stand) by it.

• St. Edward's University: People believe in all kinds of things: political candidates, sports teams, ghosts, their friends, a raw-food diet. Aside from your religious views, what do you believe in?

• Loyola Marymount University: Do social media and instant communication pose obstacles to reflection and serious thinking? How can college students practice serious reflection in our always connected and instantaneous world?

— Larry Gordon

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