"So where is Waldo, really?"
That's not the kind of question most high school seniors expect to find on their college admission applications. But it is one of the essay options that applicants to the University of Chicago face this year in their quest for a coveted freshman berth.
It is the kind of mind-stretching, offbeat or downright freaky essay question that is becoming more common these days as colleges and universities seek to pierce the fog of students' traditional self-aggrandizing essays detailing their accomplishments and hardships.
From Caltech in the West to Wake Forest University in the East, more schools are serving up unusual essay prompts to gain better insights into young people's minds and personalities. Colleges also hope for more authenticity in a process skewed by parental intrusion, paid coaching and plagiarism.