Every year, we’re fascinated to read people’s answers to the Really Short Answer questions on college applications. For 2016-17, for example, we’re seeing those questions pop up on the applications for Yale, Stanford, USC, Princeton, UNC Chapel Hill, and Columbia, among others.
What’s a Really Short Answer question? That’s what we’re calling the application questions that ask you to respond to a question in 25 words or less. Kids agonize over these.
Here's the secret: Usually, your quick, gut-level response is your best response, so you really don’t need to agonize.
Let's try an example. What’s your favorite food? Answer in 25 words or less.
What’s your gut-level answer? Let’s say it’s lasagna. OK, write down lasagna. But don’t stop there. Here’s our pro tip: The more specific, the better.
So don’t just say lasagna.
"Lasagna on Christmas Eve, because it’s our family tradition.”
Try a couple. They're not so hard! Here are some other examples:
"Macaroni & Cheese: it’s a comfort food, doesn’t have to be from Kraft, but from a box. Half the butter, twice the milk, extra cheese.”
“Zwetschgenkuchen, German plum cake. It’s delicious, and it’s the one word my American mother, who speaks perfect German, can’t pronounce, so we joke about it.”
In fact, you could write a whole essay about your favorite food and why it matters to you, and that would be a wonderful essay. Really, we’ve seen plenty of them! If you can be a little more specific than just a one or two word answer, the Really Short Answer questions let you reveal something beyond just personal taste. (Family traditions? Humor? Quirkiness? International background? There's no shortage.)
The Really Short Answer questions look silly on first glance, but they turn out to be pretty useful. And fun.