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How to Write the University of Chicago Supplemental Essays 2023-24
  • Oct 2022
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How to Write the University of Chicago Supplemental Essays 2023-24

22nd October 2022

The University of Chicago is well-known for its creative essay ideas. They're some of the most imaginative and out-of-the-box essays prompts you'll receive while applying to colleges, and it can be difficult to know how to approach them.

What should your UChicago essays be about? How can you demonstrate that you are educated, creative, and deserving of a spot at their school?

As someone who spent a significant amount of time on my UChicago essays (and was admitted), I know exactly what UChicago is looking for in these essays.

Continue reading to learn everything there is to know about the UChicago essays, what the admissions committee expects to see in your submissions, what themes you should write about, and which topics you should avoid.

This book also includes sample essay ideas for each of the 2022/2023 UChicago supplement essay topics, as well as an analysis of previous University of Chicago essay samples, so you can understand what a strong UChicago essay looks like.

What Are the UChicago Essays?

All your questions about uchicago supplemental essays examples will be answered. Before you can start planning your UChicago essays, you need to know which prompts you'll be seeing and the rules for each one.

You will be required to write two essays, and the UChicago essay prompts to which you must respond are often referred to as Question 1 and Question 2. UChicago supplemental essay prompts are available here.

Question 1: Why UChicago?

The Question 1 prompt is the only one that remains the same year after year, and it is also the only one that all applicants must answer (for Question 2, you will have various prompts to pick from).

You'll need to compose an essay for this question explaining why you want to attend the University of Chicago and why you believe the school is a suitable fit for you and your aspirations.

Although there are no specific word limits for essays at UChicago, they recommend a response of 1-2 pages.

The prompt is as follows:

“How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, fulfill your need for a specific type of education, community, and future?

Please be precise about your desires and how they relate to UChicago.”

The wonderful thing about this prompt is that it is a very typical "why this school" essay. And, lucky for you, we have a complete guide that will coach you through how to ace this type of essay.

Question 2: Long Essay

For Question 2, you'll have a choice of six essay questions to respond to, and you'll select one.

The essay prompts for this topic change each year, and while there are always approximately six prompts to pick from, some years there may be one more or one less.

These are the more unusual and unusual essay prompts for which UChicago is recognized.

Many were developed by UChicago graduates and current students. Again, UChicago requests that you submit a 1-2 page answer.

Here are our samples of good and bad uchicago supplemental essay examples. The essay prompts for the 2023/2024 academic year are listed below.

Option 1 for an essay: Was that a cat I saw? Yo-no-na-ka, ho-ka-ho-ka na-no-yo (Japanese for "a warm location"). Moe jutro ta dama da tortu jeon (Polish meaning "maybe tomorrow that lady will give the hedgehogs a cake"). Give a backstory to a palindrome in any language.

Option 2 for an essay: What advice would a wisdom tooth give?

Option 3: You are on a mission to establish a colony on Mars when a group of Martians emerges from a nearby crater. They appear to be eager to communicate, yet they are the impatient type who demands that you embody the human race in one song, image, memory, proof, or other notion. What do you share with them to demonstrate that humanity is worthwhile?

Option 4: Over 90 Nobel laureates have been associated with UChicago. But why should economics, physics, and peace receive all the attention? You've been entrusted with inventing a new Nobel Prize category. Explain what it would be, why you choose that particular category, and the criteria required to reach this goal.

Option 5 for an essay: Genghis Khan in an F1 race car. With a SuperSoaker, George Washington. Emperor Nero and his toaster. Leonardo da Vinci and his Furby What would you offer to any historical character if you could give them any piece of technology, and why do you believe they'd get along so well?

Option 6 for an essay is, of course, the traditional choose your adventure option! Choose one of our previous suggestions in the spirit of exploratory inquiry (or create a question of your own). Be unique, inventive, and thought-provoking. Draw on your best abilities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, world citizen, or future University of Chicago student; take a chance, and have fun!

How to Answer the University of Chicago Essay Prompts

In this part, we describe what UChicago expects to see in your essays, provide topic ideas for each essay, and discuss themes you should avoid. With our expert guidance, you'll never struggle with the uchicago supplemental essay prompts again.

Question 1: Why the University of Chicago?

UChicago wants to hear why you want to attend their school, what you plan to gain from enrolling, and how the University of Chicago will help you reach your goals in this University of Chicago supplement essay.

Essentially, they want to know why you believe their school is a better fit for you than all the others. Check out our in-depth guide to the Why UChicago essay for more information.

What are they looking for in your response?

The "why our school?" essay prompt is arguably the most prevalent in college applications. Why do universities, including UChicago, pose this question?

UChicago wants to make sure you're serious about attending their university. Students that are passionate about a school are more likely to accept an admission offer and enroll, as well as to be dedicated to their studies, participate in extracurricular activities, and give back after graduation. Your enthusiasm for UChicago should be evident in this essay.

Next, UChicago wants to see that you've researched their school and have an idea of what chances you'd like to take advantage of while there.

You can accomplish this by mentioning specific aspects of UChicago that you enjoy or intend to take advantage of as a student there.

Professors you respect or want to work with, specific subjects you want to take, and extracurricular activities you want to participate in are all possible topics to address.

Finally, UChicago wants to evaluate if you are a suitable fit for their program. Your essay should describe how you will make the best use of what UChicago has to offer, how your abilities match the opportunities available, and how UChicago will help you achieve your future goals.

Topics to Consider Writing About

There are numerous approaches to this essay topic; however, because UChicago is primarily renowned for its academics (rather than its killer sports teams, for example), most people will emphasize the academic aspect for at least part of their work.

The list of possible subjects is provided below; most persons will explore one to three topics in their essays.

Majors or classes that you are particularly interested in.

The basic curriculum at UChicago.

• Professors whose work you like and with whom you would like to study or do research.

• Scav and Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko are both one-of-a-kind events.

• Investigate potential prospects.

• You admire the University of Chicago students you've met.

• Opportunities to Volunteer

• UChicago has financial aid programs that allow you to attend.

Avoidable Topics

The goal here is to avoid broad subjects that could apply to any school or kid. You want to make it obvious in your response what chances the University of Chicago provides that no other school does and how you intend to take advantage of them. Topics that will not show this include:

• How lovely the campus is.

• The weather in Chicago.

• On-campus dining.

• Where UChicago appears in college rankings.

• Your prospective major and career path without reference to what UChicago has to offer.

• Criticizing other schools.

Question 2: Long Essay

The extended essay allows you to be creative. These prompts encourage you to step outside of your regular essay topic comfort zone and respond in a way that gives readers insight into who you are and what you care about. Remember that while Question 2 is mandatory, you have six different essay response topics to pick from.

What are they looking for in your response?

Your response to Question 1 should demonstrate what you enjoy about UChicago and how you plan to take advantage of the opportunities it provides. Question 2 is more about you than it is about UChicago.

The admissions committee wants to know who you are and what matters to you. The following are the three primary things they want to see in your essay response:

• Your account

• Your character

• Your hunger for knowledge

What is your name? What have been the most significant events in your life? Which personality type are you? What are you interested in learning about? These are the questions that UChicago would want you to answer.

They want to discover what is important to you, what events in your history influenced you, who you are now, and what you hope to achieve in the future.

UChicago is especially interested in individuals who enjoy learning and have a wide range of interests in a variety of subjects and themes.

A mathematician who also dances? A creative writing major who launched her own company? Let it rip!

In your essay, make sure to demonstrate your enthusiasm for studying.

Topics to Consider Writing About

The beautiful thing about these UChicago essay topics is that you may write about nearly anything you want because they are so diverse from one another and allow you to be creative.

And you can approach it from whatever direction you like. 

Just keep in mind that you want this essay to give UChicago a solid understanding of the type of person you are and what's important to you.

Option 1: for an essay

“Is that a cat I saw? Yo-no-na-ka, ho-ka-ho-ka na-no-yo (Japanese for "a warm location").

Moe jutro ta dama da tortu jeon (Polish meaning "maybe tomorrow that lady will give the hedgehogs a cake"). Give a backstory to a palindrome in any language.”

The UChicago Optional Essay prompts begin with what is likely the most bizarre option. With this prompt, you can let your imagination run wild.

Choose a palindrome (a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward as forwarding) in any language and create an interesting tale around it!

They want to see how creative you can be with this prompt. What you find intriguing, captivating, significant, or funny will be revealed by the palindrome and language you choose!

In addition, the narrative you give your palindrome will highlight your personality, ingenuity, and cultural experiences.

Make your reaction as bizarre and unusual as you like, but keep it relevant to you. For example, if you choose the palindrome "taco cat," create a tale about the meaning of "taco cat" that highlights your unique qualities.

Perhaps you grew up helping your Abuela cook tacos, and your cat enjoyed sneaking tacos off the table...which piqued your interest in researching health issues that cause animals to steal wonderful table food!

Weaving your story into the backstory of your palindrome will demonstrate to UChicago that you are creative and intellectually curious. This can contain your specialized interests, odd hobbies, or pet projects.

Use this essay to demonstrate your ability to think outside the box and tell an engaging story. Make unexpected links between your palindrome and who you are, what you do, or your passions to do this—and don't forget to have fun!

Option 2: For an essay

“What counsel might a wisdom tooth offer?”

This is a classic UChicago question that you can answer literally...or not. (The question was "Describe your table" the year I applied.) So, what counsel would a wisdom tooth have?

You can respond literally by describing the counsel your extracted wisdom teeth would have offered your past self when they were still lodged in your jawbone.

Or, like with all UChicago writings, you can take it in an unexpected route. This challenge allows you to put your interpretive and reasoning skills to the test.

You could almost think of it as a puzzle, only the answer is whatever you can conceive of and justify.

Where does a wisdom tooth obtain its information? Who would it counsel, and why? Perhaps a wisdom tooth can understand people who have gone through a huge life transition or unpleasant experience.

Perhaps a wisdom tooth can advise other items that have become obsolete!

Don't be concerned about if your advice is appropriate for wisdom teeth; the thought of a wisdom tooth giving advice is absurd in the first place!

Think beyond the box when it comes to the question's language, and utilize your ideas about what constitutes good counsel to anchor your response.

If your wisdom teeth give you relevant advice, you'll give UChicago insight into your values and personality, which are two things they want to see in these essays!

Option: 3 For an essay

“You are on a mission to establish a colony on Mars when a gang of Martians emerges from a nearby crater.

They appear to be eager to communicate, yet they are the impatient type who demands that you embody the human race in one song, image, memory, proof, or other notion. What do you share with them to demonstrate that humanity is worthwhile?”

This prompt is a little longer, but it's clearer about what it wants you to write about than the prior two. This question asks you to convey your perspective on humanity.

If you have trouble coming up with a decent topic for either of the first two questions, you could have an easier time with this one because it can apply to almost anyone.

Consider the art, music, books, historical events, and concepts that you find intriguing, enjoyable, significant, and meaningful. Then pick the most appealing one and evaluate it.

What principles, ideals, epiphanies, or revelations does your chosen human depiction convey? What does it indicate about the human condition?

Why do these things matter to you, and how do they represent a part of your personality? The basic rules still apply: find something distinctive that reflects your personality.

It's perfectly acceptable to be extremely specific in your responses here. The assignment itself invites you to get into the weeds of your chosen art/music/event/idea and explain what it is, how you'd convey it to strangers, and what it tells about the worth of humanity.

You can be as silly or serious as you want with your response, as long as it thoroughly answers the prompt and provides a glimpse into what's important to you.

Option 4: For an essay

“Over 90 Nobel laureates have been associated with UChicago. But why should economics, physics, and peace receive all the attention?

You've been entrusted with inventing a new Nobel Prize category. Explain what it would be, why you choose that particular category, and the criteria required to reach this goal.”

This is one of the prompts with the most alternatives. You have complete freedom to argue why almost anything in the world should be considered for the Nobel Prize.

And, as with the other prompts for Question 2, this is yet another opportunity for you to write about-you guessed it! —your passions, interests, and values So, what are your key life interests?

Is there a subject that you can't get enough of learning about? Can you think of anything you've seen others perform that is deserving of a Nobel Prize?

How would you classify their job or success, and what specific things did they perform to get this honor?

For this assignment, you can choose a real career field, such as underwater welding or baking, or you can make your categories, such as a Nobel Prize for Oldest Siblings or a Nobel Prize for Early Risers.

You can be serious or silly (or both!) as long as your response explains what your category is, why you chose it, and what the criteria are for obtaining a Nobel Prize in your field.

Of course, your experiences, interests, and values should all be considered while describing your category. That way, UChicago will have a better understanding of who you are and what is important to you!

Option 5: For an essay

“Genghis Khan in a Formula One race car. With a SuperSoaker, George Washington. Emperor Nero and his toaster.

Leonardo da Vinci and his Furby What would you offer to any historical character if you could give them any piece of technology, and why do you believe they'd get along so well?”

This prompt allows you to be more intellectual in your response. You'll be able to demonstrate your understanding of history, culture, politics, economy, religion, scientific discovery, and so on by writing about a historical individual!

Choose a historical figure and a technological advancement that interests you in some manner. Your historical figure could be someone you like, someone who influenced the course of history, or someone who exemplifies a value or lesson that speaks to you.

And, given that the prompt suggests race cars, SuperSoakers, and Furbies as examples, the sky's the limit in terms of technology.

While discussing historical individuals and technology will be enjoyable, the most important element of this essay will be justifying why your combination makes sense and why it is significant.

Consider what your historical character could do with your technology, how it may affect historical events, and what the consequences might be for people now.

As long as your response is imaginative, descriptive, and thorough, it can range from serious to humorous and still fit the requirements for this challenge.

Option 6: For an essay

“And, of course, there's always the classic choose your adventure option! Choose one of our previous suggestions in the spirit of exploratory inquiry (or create a question of your own).

Be unique, inventive, and thought-provoking. Draw on your best abilities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, world citizen, or future University of Chicago student; take a chance, and have fun!”

If you don't feel like responding to any of the other five optional prompts, you can choose and respond to a previous UChicago optional essay prompt or develop and respond to your own.

Consider your identity, interests, strengths, and aspirations while choosing a prompt, writing your own prompt, and writing your response.

You might not feel up to creating your own prompt, but you could enjoy the concept of finding an old prompt that piques your interest.

Examine the previous prompts and decide which one will allow you to play to your strengths. If you wish to highlight a certain experience or expertise in your response, use a prompt that allows you to do so.

Alternatively, if you want to write about a specific experience, you can create your prompt and answer to it. Use the tone and structure of the existing UChicago prompts as a guide for writing your own.

It should come as no surprise that your initial prompt should be compatible with those offered on the application. This may require you to be a little quirky, mysterious, or risky...which is a good thing!

Though this option allows you to construct your question, keep in mind that your response to the topic should still focus on displaying who you are, what skills you will bring to UChicago as a student, and why UChicago is the best fit for you.

Don't get too carried away attempting to dazzle admissions officers with clever phrasing or convoluted logic; instead, be honest, assertive, and you.

Some people avoid this challenge because they believe it is "cheating" or less spectacular to not follow one of the precise prompts provided by UChicago. This, however, is not the case!

Your essay will boost your application if you write a captivating essay that gives readers a greater understanding of who you are. For what it's worth when I applied to UChicago, I chose this prompt, and I was still admitted.

Avoidable Topics

There aren't many topics that are off-limits since UChicago wants you to be innovative. However, you're attempting to persuade them that you'd be a terrific and intriguing addition to their institution, so utilize your essay to demonstrate who you are and why UChicago would want to admit you.

This implies you should avoid comments that don't provide readers with a clear picture of who you are. If you choose essay option 1, for example, don't just claim that "taco cat" is humorous because it reminds you of your favorite meme.

Instead, explain how it relates to you and your life, such as making tacos with your Abuela and fending off the family cat's attempts to steal tacos.

Because these prompts are so creative, it's easy to get carried away, but always remember to answer the prompt completely to give UChicago a better understanding of who you are.

Furthermore, do not believe that some University of Chicago essay prompts is "better" or more impressive than others.

UChicago would not have chosen these essay subjects if they did not believe candidates could write excellent responses to them, so please select the prompt for which you believe you can write the greatest essay.

Examples of University of Chicago Essays

This section contains two samples of University of Chicago essays submitted by accepted applicants.

We examine what makes each UChicago supplement essay so effective here.

Question No. 1

The dear University of Chicago,

It fills me up with that gooey sap you feel late at night when I think about things that are special to me about you. Sometimes I just hunger for more, but I keep that a secret. The mail you send is such a tease; I like to imagine additional words on the page. Words like "you're accepted" "you're awesome!" or "don't worry, she still loves you!" but I know they're all lies. You never called after that one time, I visited you thrice, but you never come around anymore. Tell me, was I just one in a line of many? Was I just another supple "applicant" to you, looking for a place to live, looking for someone to teach me the ways of the world? The closeness between us was beautiful, it couldn't have been just me that felt it, I know you felt it too. The intimacy was akin to that of scholar and original text, your depth as a person is astounding! To be honest, I must confess I had already dreamt of a rosy future together, one filled with late nights and long discussions over the Gothic era and the ethical stage of Kierkegaard, we would watch the sunset together and spend every Christmas snuggled in blankets. Eventually, we would get older, I would become a well-educated corporate lawyer and you would enrich yourself within the domain of human knowledge. Your cup overfloweth with academic genius, pour a little on me. You're legendary for it, they all told me it would never work out between us, but I had hope. I had so much hope; I replied to your adorable letters and put up with your puns. I knew going into it that you would be an expensive one to keep around, I accounted for all that; I understand someone of your caliber and taste.

And now you inquire as to my wishes? They're simple, accept me for who I am! Why can't you just love and not ask why? Not ask about my assets or my past? I'm living in the now, and I'm waiting for you to catch up, but you're too caught up in my past, I offer us a future together, not a past to dwell upon. Whenever I'm around you, I just get that tingle deep inside me that tells me you're the one; you have that air of brilliance and ingenuity that I crave in a person, you're so mature and sophisticated, originality is your strongest and most admirable trait. I wish we could be together, I still think in my heart of hearts we were meant to be, but you have to meet me halfway, dear. I'm on one knee here with tears welling up in my eyes, the fireworks are timed and ready to light up the night sky for you, just say 'I'



Why Is This Essay Effective?

• A creative spin on a familiar prompt: For this essay, the writer took a rather unique angle: equating the University of Chicago to a lover. He's most likely the first applicant to respond to the essay prompt in this manner, making this a memorable essay. UChicago was so impressed with this article that they mailed it to thousands of prospective students (which got them a bit of backlash). You do not have to tackle this subject in the same way that the above writer did, although doing so can help your essay stand out.

• It answers the complete prompt: Even though this is an odd essay, the writer manages to address all of the prompt's questions. He discusses his plans (to become a lawyer), his broad hobbies (the Gothic era, the philosopher Kierkegaard), and what he enjoys about UChicago (the brilliance, ingenuity, and originality the school offers). He even mentions visiting campus three times, demonstrating a genuine interest in the school. If you choose to write an unusual essay, it's critical to do what this essay did: answer the prompt while being creative.

Question No. 2

This essay was written several years ago, so it does not address a current prompt, but it is still worth reading and analyzing.

The prompt is as follows:

“Share a handful of your favorite books, poetry, authors, films, plays, music, musicians, performers, paintings, artists, blogs, magazines, or newspapers with us. Feel free to touch on one, some, or all of the mentioned categories, or to create your own.”

Let us now look at the successful essay:

The Illuminati changed my life. Three years ago, I found my first ambigram in one of my favorite novels, Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. I turned the page, and there it was: the word "Illuminati" printed into the exact center of the book. It was styled like a newspaper masthead, exquisite and complex, yet oddly symmetric. Curious, I rotated the book upside-down.

Impossibly, the inverted word was still "Illuminati." Gazing closer, I realized that the letters, I-L-L-U-M, were shaped into a flipped I-N-A-T-I. Suddenly, I was reading it in both directions. My eyes waltzed along the broad curves and sharp twists of the calligraphy, striking poses in a glamorous font against a sheet of creamy whiteness, sliding between the dense vertical strokes, peering at the edge of the defined serif as it angled away, then bent boldly toward me. Every line was deliberate, every flourish smiling with purpose, and the whole word balanced on the delicate cord that joined two letters into one. It was unforgettable.

Ambigrams are words that can be read from different directions. Actually, "ambigram" is an umbrella term that encompasses dozens of distinct types of visual wordplay. The most popular ones are rotational, mirror image, and-my personal favorites-symbiotic ambigrams, which can spell two different things when viewed normally and upside-down.

Compelled by the striking art, I could not help but try my hand at designing ambigrams, and slowly I felt the pitiful stick-figure artist inside me shrink away as my inner energetic graphic designer sprang up. Before early volleyball tournaments, I work myself up by filling up pages and pages of experimental letter combinations, gleefully satisfied at the way that a rounded lowercase "a" was a perfect upside-down lowercase "e." In my AP Literature class, I drew "She's a witch!" which revealed, when flipped, "Communist" to reflect Arthur Miller's contemporary motives for writing The Crucible. On a challenge from a friend, I even drew an ambigram of "Jay-Z" and "Beyonce" on a bumpy bus ride back from a leadership retreat.

In the last few months, I have also practiced drawing ambigrams as fast as I can. I dream about the day when I can effortlessly write out a message saying "Hi, how are you today?" normally and "The password is cherry268" upside-down, without pausing or rotating the paper. I imagine a world in which everyone had this ability, and could write two things at once. How would that change communication? Encryption? Trust? My legs swing comfortably from this innovative edge, excited to take a stab at the answers.

The best part about the ambigram is that it refuses to define itself as just one thing. It is a linguistic passion, a cryptographic endeavor, an artistic design, and an ironic illusion. I relish the fact that ambigrams force both the artist and the audience to reject first glances and embrace secret identities.

This may just be a nerdy obsession, but ambigrams have taught me far more than how to sketch fancy words. Their multidimensional truth implies that my hobbies of both writing Italian sonnets and solving logical riddles are not opposing functions of my left and right brains, but rather, a perfect conglomeration of my passion for creating and solving puzzles. The beauty of the most surprising combinations reminds me to take bold risks in both my life and my designs.

Above all else, ambigrams have taught me that I can create the impossible. I can make true and false the same word depending on something as simple as a 180-degree head turn. Victory can be defeated. Open can be closed. An amateur piano player with an obsession for cryptology can learn how to program iPhone apps and get the game-winning kill at the varsity volleyball championship. A girl with divorced parents can make time for both families, and an inspired teenager from California can write her name into world history--both normally and upside-down.

-Samantha M.

Why Does This Essay Work?

• This article demonstrates passion by focusing on a unique and specific topic: ambigrams. While many people are unaware of what an ambigram is, the writer cares about them. She talks about how much time she spends trying to make new ambigrams, her ambigram-creation goals, and some of her favorite ambigrams she's made. UChicago values people who are passionate about something, especially if it is odd or unusual. It gives UChicago hope that those students will bring their enthusiasm to campus.

• The majority of this article is on the author's interest in ambigrams, but she also manages to effectively slip in several other references to her personality and hobbies. Her article reveals that she enjoys volleyball, writing Italian sonnets, and solving puzzles. Including these characteristics provides UChicago with a more complete picture of what makes her tick.

• Connects it to a larger picture: Although the writer chose to write on a very narrow topic—ambigrams—she was still able to tie it to larger concepts like communication, truth, and how she balances her various interests. She can take a weird issue and demonstrate how it informs her viewpoint.

Final Advice: UChicago Essays

Students often ask us how to write uchicago supplemental essays, so we put together a list of helpful resources to make sure your essays stand out. When responding to University of Chicago essay prompts, keep in mind that the main reason UChicago is reading these essays is to determine who you are as a person and whether you would be a good fit at their school. Don't forget to check out the required uchicago supplemental essays to enhance your application and improve your chances of admission.

The University of Chicago seeks students who are enthusiastic about learning, creative, eager to make the most of their time on campus and have lofty goals for themselves, and the UChicago supplement questions are designed to help you demonstrate these characteristics to the school.

You'll want to demonstrate to the school why you want to go there, why you think you're a good fit for the school, and how UChicago will help you reach your goals throughout college and beyond for the "Why UChicago?" question.

You can (and should) be more imaginative in your extended essay. These UChicago essays are more "out there," and your response should demonstrate your personality and enthusiasm for studying.

Remember to highlight who you are and what you are passionate about in both University of Chicago essays, including details about yourself and the institution to help you stand out from other essays, and discuss your plans and ambitions.



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