Some years ago students at an Ivy League university rated party schools. The University of Chicago came in 300th out of 300. The public relations people were ready to respond, until they noticed that Chicago students had printed T-shirts bragging about the rating—and that Johns Hopkins, which came in 299th, wanted to sue because it had coveted the booby prize.
The University of Chicago invents its own way to have a good time and to be different. Prospective students at most schools dread the personal essay that must accompany applications. The essay demands autobiographical details from people too young to have had many experiences about which to write, and philosophical insights from people too old to get by on the wisdom of childhood. And the admissions people who must read these narcissistic probes are apt to be bored by them.