What If The Onion Sponsored an Essay Contest

A website called foreclosure.com is sponsoring an essay contest for current undergraduates in America’s colleges and universities. The contest was introduced in 2009. First prize is $5,000, and there are four runners-up prizes of $1,000. The students must write an 800- to 2,000-word essay on an assigned topic, and this year’s topic is the following:

You’ve been tasked with analyzing two foreclosure properties to determine which one is a better investment. Many factors come into play, including cost, location, renovations (if necessary/desired) and local market conditions, among others. The goal is to maximize profit, whether it is a buy, hold or flip strategy over the short- and/or long-term. Please select a property, provide reasons that support the decision, detail your investment strategy, describe all that you would do (improvements, rehab, etc.) and how it would impact your potential bottom line. To view the two subject foreclosure properties click here.

The link takes you to the following property profiles:

Property A:

House Photo 2

Price: $125,500
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 2
Property Type: Single-family
Square Feet: 1,700
Description: Great centrally-located starter home located in desirable neighborhood, which was recently ranked in the Top 10 “Best Places To Live” in “Money” magazine. It needs some TLC, with outdated appliances, cosmetic changes and other upgrades required. Nearby schools are among the best and crime is virtually non-existent in this friendly suburban area. Perfect for a growing family looking to get in on the bottom floor with an amazing property that has tremendous profit potential or investor looking for an easy flip.

Property B:

House Photo 1

Price: $125,500
Location: Stockton, Caifornia
Bedrooms: 3
Bathrooms: 2
Property Type: Single-family
Square Feet: 1,700
Description: Completely re-done, move-in ready property that has been completely overhauled. Top-of-the-line kitchen and appliances, new windows, crown mouldings throughout, lush landscaping and other cosmetic upgrades that must be seen to be believed. Owner spared no expense to make this turnkey property the prettiest on the block — it will not last long!

This contest has made my head spin with all of the other possibilities for provocative topics.

Let’s start with several related to academia:

You have been tasked with selecting between two student loan packages, one of which will ultimately cost you the equivalent of a thirty-year mortgage on a modest home and the other of which will require much smaller monthly payments spread out over the course of your entire lifetime, assuming that you achieve the average life expectancy for a people born in your birth year. In instances in which the borrower dies prematurely, the remaining balance will be charged in full against any assets in his or her estate and that claim shall be given priority over any other claims against the estate.

You have been tasked with choosing between two applicants for an adjunct faculty slot in your discipline. Both are over-qualified for the position, but neither is an absolutely perfect match for the department’s immediate needs (i.e., coverage of entry-level courses in the major). Your task is to determine which of the applicants seems most likely to be an engaging, knowledgeable, and conscientious instructor who may be willing to work many hours outside of the assigned class time for a per-course stipend not much larger than what a student meal card costs for the semester.

Or moving beyond academia into the realm of current events and issues:

You have been tasked with directing a drone strike against one of two suspected terrorist masterminds, each of whom is hiding in plain sight in a nation in which the government is ostensibly an ally of the United States but in which the population is largely hostile to the United States. Your task is to consider the intelligence information gathered on these two potential targets and to weigh the probability of a successful strike, the risk of collateral damage, and the likelihood that a successful strike will result in serious backlash against Americans and American installations in that nation.

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