The personal essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response.

NOTE: If you are not landed gentry, proceed to the Commoner App, where you will be directed to this year’s new plague-related prompt. In lieu of the essay, Clown School applicants should send a talent video to

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The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

NAME: Juliet Capulet

“Open it, Juliet!” my mother said, her face twitching with excitement. As I lifted the lid of the white silk box, my heart sank. It was her ruby betrothal ring. I felt like I was going to puke, so I told her I had cramps and wanted to be alone to write a poem about it. That definitely got her and my Nurse out of my hair. Nothing bores my Nurse more than iambic pentameter. Even when I’m writing about my vagina.

You’re probably thinking I’m just a privileged white girl from the Upper East Side of Verona who can’t even appreciate a ring that’s worth more than what you make in a whole year. What would I know about “challenges”? Well, here’s what you don’t know about me: My parents are making me get married tomorrow, but I’m already secretly married to the son of their sworn enemy, so I’m about to drink fake death-potion and get buried alive to fix this mess.

Just let that sink in for a minute: Buried. Alive. And, not for nothing, but I’m also managing to meet your application deadline in the three hours I’ve had to organize this plan—without my husband’s help, by the way, because he got himself exiled. So, if you’re considering an application from Romeo Montague, and he happens to write about overcoming adversity in a crypt, just remember who the real brains of this operation is.

What have I “learned” from this “experience”? I’ll tell you in a few days when I wake up (fingers crossed). But as of now, I think it’s safe to say that if I’m willing to get sealed up with the moldering bones of my ancestors, then I definitely have the grit to succeed in your creative writing program.

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Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

NAME: Robin Goodfellow (nickname: Puck)

Hi! Please don’t throw my application away because you found it bobbing in your cereal bowl! I had to send it to you this way because my Fairy King guardian, Oberon, won’t let me use his computer. But I want to tell you about my talents!

First of all, I’m really fast! Like, put-a-girdle-round-the-earth-in-forty-minutes fast! I’ve never been on a track-and-field team, because my guardian needs me to handle all of his love-drug operations, but I know I would be really good if you’d let me play for you!

I have another talent: magic! I can’t make a sports recording because my guardian won’t let me have a cell phone, but I was able to put my head on the body of the track-and-field captain at Athens University. Like for real, not Photoshop!

I think that my speed, magic, and experience trafficking in love-drugs would make me a really fun member of your school! Gotta go!

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Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you?

NAME: Hamlet the Dane

To be, or not to be? That is the question that has captivated me for the past ten years as a philosophy student at Wittenberg University, where I am working with what is now the sixth iteration of my faculty committee on a thesis-in-progress entitled “The End: Or Is It?”

As I begin my second decade of academic work and find myself forced to transfer to Elsinore Community College, I now ponder new questions: What is “community,” and if one is neither a borrower nor a lender, then what is left besides the leprous rot of bourgeois capitalism? Speaking of sullied flesh, Why would my bed-swerving mother want me to move closer to her and her new husband, and why would a middle-aged woman want to have so much sex if she can no longer bear children? And, to the matter of maternal betrayal: Did I really know you, Yorick, or was that a false memory embedded in my brain by Dr. Thalbitzer, the psychiatrist my mother sent me to when she stopped coming to recess to nurse me? Speaking of deceit: How does one know that the ghost of one’s allegedly murdered father is really his ghost and not the Devil trying to trick one into committing treason? And, while we’re on the topic of lies, Ophelia, if you couldn’t go out with me last night because you had to “wash your hair,” then how come you look like total shit today?

Also, I will require a single in a smoking dorm.

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Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

NAME: Miranda

I’ve lived with my daddy on a deserted island since I was three years old. He brought me here because he wanted to ensure I got the best education ever. He teaches me everything I need to know, so I don’t have to worry about being indoctrinated by “woke” teachers, or reading books that spread fake news about Italian History. Like, no one ever talks about how my daddy, Prospero, was the best and smartest Duke of Milan ever, and how his brother stole his job because he was jealous of how smart he is.

I am so grateful to my daddy for all he has taught me. Like, did you know that Italian is the closest national language in the world to the Latin that people spoke under the Roman Empire? I know so much about it now that I was able to teach it to this sad, alien creature who works for us. Now he can speak Italian instead of gobbledygook. Next week, I will teach him how to make lasagna and tiramisu.

If there were any other savages on this island whose lives I could enrich, then I would never dream of leaving. But now I am motivated to help others overcome their cultural illiteracy and Make Italy Great Again! And with a joint degree in Romance Languages and Social Engineering, I’ll have all the tools I need to help build this brave new world. Ciao!