Your Task: Respond to one of the essay options listed below. Most of the well-crafted, developed responses are approximately 2 pages, but

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“Divergence” Response


Do you remember the chapter three scenarios involving bricks, blankets, and manhole covers? Gladwell asserts that imagination and creative problem-solving skills are valuable but often overlooked facets of knowledge.

Bearing this in mind, more firms and schools are attempting to appraise this creative knowledge in potential employees and students. A Divergence Test is an assessment where there isn’t a single right answer. In a divergence test, the test giver is looking for the uniqueness of one’s response. In short, this “test” appraises creativity and the ability to explore situations from different perspectives.

The University of Chicago, which has long been renowned for its provocative essay questions, sees these questions as an opportunity for students to tell the institution about themselves, their interests, and their ambitions. The questions can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.

Your Task:

Respond to one of the essay options listed below. Most of the well-crafted, developed responses are approximately 2 pages, but it’s not how much you write, it’s what you write.
As you compose:

  1. Don’t just “fill the page”—think about your response and what it can reveal about you! Your word choice, creativity, transitions, argument development, and level of detail all make a statement.

  2. Use MLA format, as always. You may give your response a creative title, but please include “Essay Option #” at the top of the page, too.

  3. Send your essay to and bring a printed copy to class on the due date.

Essay Option 1

Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?

Essay Option 2

“Honesty is the best policy, but honesty won’t get your friend free birthday cake at the diner.” —Overheard in the city of Chicago

Does society require constant honesty? Why is it (or why is it not) problematic to shift the truth in one’s favor, even if the lie is seemingly harmless to others? If we can be “conveniently honest,” what other virtues might we take more lightly?

Essay Option 3

"A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies." –Oscar Wilde.

Othello and Iago. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch. Autobots and Decepticons. History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined).

Essay Option 4

So where is Waldo, really?

Essay Option 5

Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by something super-huge in our culture.

Essay Option 6

People often think of language as a connector, something that brings people together by helping them share experiences, feelings, ideas, etc. We, however, are interested in how language sets people apart. Start with the peculiarities of your own personal language—the voice you use when speaking most intimately to yourself, the vocabulary that spills out when you’re startled, or special phrases and gestures that no one else seems to use or even understand—and tell us how your language makes you unique. You may want to think about subtle riffs or idiosyncrasies based on cadence, rhythm, rhyme, or (mis)pronunciation.

Essay Option 7

Capture the hidden life of some inanimate objects in your bedroom. What do they do when there are no people around? Track their activities and social interactions. You may have to go undercover for this operation.

Essay Option 8

The “Butterfly Effect” refers to the repercussions of a seemingly small change or event. The term comes from a hypothesis that a hurricane could be indirectly caused by a butterfly flapping its wings a few weeks earlier. Document a seemingly trivial event, real or imagined, from your own life that could drastically alter the course of your existence.


"The artist is never bored. She looks at everything and stores it all up. She rejects nothing. She is completely uncritical. When a problem confronts her she goes through all the stuff she has collected, sorts out what seems to be helpful, in this situation, and relates it in a new way, making a new solution. She prepares for leaps by taking in everything."

-Corita Kent

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