The Ivy Scholars guide to University of Chicago’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Population: Phil the Phoenix
Type: Private Research Institution
Population: 16,000 (6,000 undergrads)
The University of Chicago, usually abbreviated UChicago, is in the neighborhood of Hyde Park in Chicago, a short train ride from the Loop downtown. Sitting mere blocks from the shores of Lake Michigan, the institution is home to the largest university operated press in the United States. The tree covered 217 acre campus is often compared to Hogwarts, due to its gothic inspired architecture.
Year Founded: 1890
4 Year Graduation Rate: 86%
Gender Distribution: 52% male, 48% female
Acceptance Rate: 7%
Residency: 18% in state, 69% out of state, 13% international
Location Type: Urban
Schedule System: Quarters
Student/Faculty Ratio: 5:1
Average Class Size: 12
Demographics: 43% Caucasian, 21% Other/unreported, 18% Asian, 13% Hispanic, 5% Black
US News Rankings:
Average Applicant Pool: 32,000
Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 2,300
Average Number Enrolled: 1,800
Application Systems: Common App, Coalition App
Average GPA: 4.48 weighted
*UChicago is test optional for students who desire to apply that way, and does not require the writing section.
SAT Scores: 25th% – 1470, 75th% – 1570
ACT Scores: 25th% – 33, 75th% – 35
*Test mandatory. Writing sections are not required.
UChicago does consider demonstrated interest.
Recommendation Letter Policies:
Two teacher recommendations are required, both of which must be from high school teachers you have had in academic subjects. An additional letter is accepted if a student feels these two letters alone are not enough to encapsulate all necessary information.
UChicago Essay Prompts:
The factors UChicago considers very important are: course rigor, essays, recommendations, character, extracurriculars, and talent.
The factors which UChicago considers are: GPA, test scores, class rank, legacy status, first generation status, geographic origin, level of interest, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and work experience.
While the school does recruit athletes for their athletic department, they are not given admissions priority or additional financial aid.
What is UChicago Looking For?
UChicago evaluates students in three categories: Academic, Personal, and Intellectual. Students are additionally given an activity rating, based on whether or not they were recruited or otherwise highly sought for one of their extracurriculars. Academic rating is on a scale of 1-6, with 1 being the highest, and is based on grades and test scores. Personal is A-E, with A being the highest, and is based on activities. Intellectual refers to a student’s intellectual vitality, and is rated on a scale of W-Z, with W being the highest. This is determined through a number of factors, with the essays being most important.
Among these factors, a middling academic score of 2 or 3 can be overcome with a high intellectual rating. A low intellectual rating cannot be so easily overcome with high academics. High academics are expected, but displaying intellectual vitality is necessary. A low personal rating can similarly sink an application, though a high one won’t necessarily save it.
UChicago has sought to elevate their institutional prestige by influencing admissions numbers. The recent admission of two rounds of ED applications seems to be in an effort to increase yield, or the number of accepted students who actually decide to attend the school. Going test optional also increased the number of applicants, and allowed the school to inflate average test scores, as admitted students with lower scores generally did not submit them for consideration. Thus, students with low test scores should not submit them, as these will hurt their chances more than not submitting scores at all.
UChicago is known for being academic and quirky, and that is still the kind of student they are looking for. While they want students with high grades and impressive extracurriculars, they also want students who will fit into the image of the school; who will contribute to its culture and ethos.
Finally, the school has undertaken several recent initiatives which will impact admissions. They have opened a new graduate school for Molecular Engineering, which will also host new undergraduate majors. They have begun initiatives to attract more rural, underprivileged, and first generation students. They also announced new scholarship programs, guaranteeing full tuition for families earning under $125,000 a year.
It is important to determine if UChicago is a good fit for you. Students applying to the school to check off a box for “Top Schools applied to” will have a harder time gaining admittance if they do not seem genuinely enthused about the school. UChicago’s drive to boost their stats, and thereby boost their ranking, has impacted admissions by flooding the field with under-qualified or under-interested students.
While many of the students applying are fully qualified, the field has grown so large that it is hard to stand out. Students hoping to attend must do more than meet the academic minimums.
If UChicago is a student’s top choice, they should apply Early Decision, especially ED 1. They should only submit test scores if they have good scores; at or above the average for admitted students. They should demonstrate the same passion for learning that all top colleges want to see. Scheduling an interview (either on campus or with an alumnus) can also help boost a student’s admission chances.
If UChicago is a student’s second choice, they must decide between applying EA, and waiting to see if they get into their first choice before applying ED II. Applying EA is a good idea if you are uncertain about schools, and applying to many EA, while if you are certain about UChicago as your second choice, you should wait and apply ED II.
As UChicago does track demonstrated interest, doing so is a good way to increase admissions chances, especially given the school’s recent focus on increasing their yield numbers. While their yield is very high, and demonstrated interest won’t grant a major edge, it will provide a slight boost.
The essays are a very important part of the application, and are considered more important than GPA overall. UChicago’s essays are notoriously weird and difficult, and should be approached from a place of intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn. Do not wait until the last minute to begin the supplementals. These are a major factor in how admissions judges whether a student will fit in with UChicago’s “quirky” character.
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Courses of Study:
AP Credit Policies:
Computer Science Options:
Additional Specialty Programs:
Programs for High Schoolers:
School Motto: Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched
Mission and Values:
Residential Housing System:
UChicago’s House System, based on the British model, separates dorms into houses, each with 30-100 members. Houses are overseen by RAs and Resident Heads, and have individual cultures, traditions, and quirks. Houses have designated tables in dining halls, compete as teams for intramural sports, and plan group activities. Houses also have individual lounges and kitchens.
Campus & Surrounding Area:
Approximately 20-25% of the student body is involved in Greek life on campus. This includes social, service, and professional organizations.
Yearly Cost of Attendance:
UChicago has committed to making sure college is affordable, and offers need blind admissions. Students from families who make less than $60,000 a year receive free tuition, fees, and room and board, while those whose families earn less than $125,000 receive guaranteed free tuition.
Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information
All admitted freshman applicants are automatically considered for merit-based scholarships. Additionally, UChicago has the Odyssey scholarship, which provides need based aid to students, including funding for study abroad and health insurance, and seeks to ensure that students in the program graduate from the school entirely debt free.