How to gain admission in University of Chicago
When you look at universities nowadays, you can’t help but feel they’re all just the same. You look at one and think, “Eh, looks similar to the one I went to the other day” It goes on and on without seeing uniqueness. But when you see the University of Chicago, also known as UChicago, you'll find yourself wondering: "Am I actually in a university?" Yep, it's a university all right. It might look like some historical neighbourhood that's travelled from the past into the modern world, but we can reassure you it’s a university. It’s also a top-ranked university that many students look up to because of the formidable challenges it offers, the illustrious library, the vibrant community and other spectacular things that make up the whole of it. It's even dedicated a page for why you should choose the University of Chicago here with quotes from the students who’ve joined this elite university.
If everything we've said above gets you excited to gain admission to the University of Chicago, then you're in luck because we have a guide written just for you! Read on below and find out what you need to get into this excellent institute.
1. Reflect on yourself and find out if you got what the University of Chicago is looking for
Before you get all excited to start your application right away, it's a good idea to reflect on yourself and find out if you got what the University of Chicago is looking for. They don't detail much about it, but the hints can be seen on their statement here: “UChicago welcomes students from all backgrounds, and each application at UChicago goes through the same holistic review process. There's no one piece of information—academic and extracurricular records, essays, letters of recommendation, or SAT/ACT scores—that alone determines whether or not you would be a good fit for the college. Instead, we want you to, through your application, show us who you are in your own voice. What is your story? Why did you choose to pursue certain opportunities? What activities are most meaningful to you? The very best way to approach your UChicago application is to simply be yourself and write in your own voice. We care about you and who you really are, not what you think we want to see in an application.”
Thankfully, College Vine points out the factors that are very much clear from other sources. From academics, extracurricular activities, leadership, character and contributions to the community, University of Chicago is looking for a student who's got diversity right from the get-go.
2. Understand why the University of Chicago made SAT and ACT test results optional for application requirements
It's common nowadays that elite universities have made the SAT and ACT score results optional due to the coronavirus. Still, it'll be a surprise to let you know that the University of Chicago has made the SAT and ACT score results optional back in 2018. As reported by The Chronicle, the plan was created so that the University of Chicago would be able to execute, “a broad initiative to increase access for low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students. Dropping its testing requirement for all domestic applicants is just one part of the plan (those who don’t submit scores will still be eligible for the university’s merit scholarships, officials say).” It’s had James G. Nondorf, the dean of college admissions, support the move to make tests optional because as he and the university did other plans that gave positive feedback, the one thing that always had many wonder is if the test requirement would remain. He said in the interview: “It was time that we looked at the application process and made sure it was fair for everyone. High-school counselors will tell you about a kid who would be a perfect fit for Chicago, who’s not a good tester but who’s talented in other ways, but who chose not to apply. You have enough of those interactions, and it tells you that the requirement is holding some students back, that it’s scaring them away." He's even said that "For years I’ve been saying to students, ‘It’s not all about the tests.’ Now I’m putting my money where my mouth is.”
So since 2018, the University of Chicago has made it clear in their goal that ACT and SAT score results are optional, which means you don't need to submit them anymore. It's also a way for the University of Chicago to boost their holistic review and show the world truly they're not going to back down on their word.
3. Nurture the spike from within
Now that you're aware of the University of Chicago's approach to application review and their reason for why they did ACT and SAT score results optional long before the other elite universities did, it does make you wonder: How can you indeed be an excellent fit for them? If scores aren't everything, you need to have something that'll spark excitement and that something can be your spike. What's that? According to PrepScholar here, a spike, "is what sets you apart from all other applicants. It goes against the spirit of simply being well rounded. By nature of being unique, you don't fit in with all of the other well-rounded applicants; you do something that truly stands out in a meaningful way." It’s another way of saying that you’ll go for the final level while everyone settles on being on the same level.
But of course, trying to develop your spike and reaching a status that'll get you feeling like you're on top of the world is a challenge. It'll even take a chunk out of your time and take you away from having a lot of fun in your free time. Need a little hype? Think about Metallica. Yes, the infamous heavy metal band that everyone knows around the world. You can listen to their song and just let your anger be felt. But they started small and made an effort to be where they are now. They didn't get their fame and fortune on a plate: They worked for it. That's why when you feel like giving up on developing and nurturing your spike, remember Metallica and the many trials, errors and obstacles they had to tackle on to become a world-famous heavy metal band. That'll get your blood pumping with a smile!
4. Choose the area of interest that has a potential for developing your spike nicely
When you're ready to build your spike, it's time to decide on the area of interest that'll have the potential for you. You can't just choose any of area of interest: You need to know that the one that already gives you high energy. For example, if you're very good with a particular sport, then stick with that sport and develop it further. From there, you can start scheduling a time to nurture the spike while choosing resources that'll help you also.
5. Startup a science project
While you're nurturing your spike, why not get started with a science project? It may seem like something a kid would do, but for you, it'll be a great way to explore the boundaries of your mind and create things that'll unlock the creativity and intellect in you. It'll boost your application significantly with the University of Chicago because they'll be delighted to see that you're the kind of student who wants to learn beyond what the books say and see things with your senses.
6. Welcome a foreign exchange student into your home
If you got some space in your room and you're eager to have some diversity in life, you can try welcoming a foreign exchange student in your home and let them join you in your journey. It'll be great because you'll not only be accommodating someone else with your family, but you'll also learn a lot about the student's country, life and other aspects of their country. It'll rev up your application even further with the University of Chicago because they'll see that you're kind and generous with other people and will be a great person to be within their community.
7. Build up a side hustle
A lot of students these days fancy doing business, but it can be hard, especially when you have to think about the full-time stuff you have to do maintain it. So why not go for a side hustle indeed? It'll not only let you break down a business into manageable activities, but it'll also give you some extra money on the side while still being part of the school. It'll also get the University of Chicago looking at your application with interest because they'll see you're someone who can keep things under control and balance them all with confidence. It’ll also give them the idea you’re the person who seeks innovation and nurtures it.
8. Pick a few areas of interest that resonate with the University of Chicago which are interesting for you
While many elite universities don’t give out much advice when it comes to preparing for college, the University of Chicago goes for a different approach and dedicates a page on how a prospective student can prep up here. It might not be much here, but you have to be very vigilant in reading this page because the activities they describe here can be areas of interest that you can tackle on that can add the much-needed boost to your application. It may even help you out with your spike development if one of the activities they have listed here is already something you do.
9. Visit the University of Chicago and see the sights
Need to see if the University of Chicago is right for you? You can try going for a tour and seeing the sights with more info here. It'll give your application a significant boost because the University of Chicago will see you're the kind of student who wants to know them more and will stop at nothing to see what they can offer to you.
10. Take on the AP courses and score significantly on the exams
If you’re a bit bored and fancy having some college experience alongside your high school journey, get it on with the AP Courses. You’ll not only be able to earn some college credits that can be used when you're finally in the University of Chicago, but you can also see what the workload is like for college students. Then, when you ace up the exams, you'll have a great list of achievements that'll delight the University of Chicago and know you're a top-achiever amongst your classmates.
11. Choose the course that makes you smile
When you’ve reached this step, it means you’re now ready to choose the course that’ll make you smile when you’re applying for the University of Chicago. You can check the list of courses you fancy here. What’s great about the list that the university has assembled here is they’re all detailed with additional requirements and other useful info that'll give you a full view of your preferred course from start to finish.
12. Collect the requirements you’ll need for applying
Finished picking your course? You’re ready to go for it and collect the requirements you'll need for applying with the University of Chicago. The details are all here, but you can have a peek at the essentials below:
- Completed Common or Coalition Application
- Response to supplemental essays
- SAT or ACT score results (optional)
- High school transcript
- Midyear report
- $75 application fee or fee waiver form
- Two letters of recommendation (both from teachers)
- Letter of recommendation and school report from your counsellor
Also, you can submit other optional requirements: supplemental materials and a video profile. For the former, it's for the applicants who have a background in media, arts, or anything unusual. It's sort of like submitting something unique and authentic that'll give your application a real boost. For the latter, you're given the choice of recording a video of yourself and revving up your application in a way that'll show you're not an ordinary student at all. Again, these are optional, so you don't need to submit them but if you want a little challenge, go for it.
13. Check out the SAT and ACT scores that the University of Chicago fancy seeing
As you learned a while ago, SAT and ACT scores are optional and have been since 2018 which means you can rest a little easy and know that those results won't have much of a bearing anymore. Of course, it pays to be prepared, and you can never tell if the university will decide to bring it back as a mandatory requirement. So if you choose to take the optional step, you'll need to know the scores that the University of Chicago loved to see. Don't worry; College Simply has it all laid out here:
As you can see above, your SAT score must be above 1520 and ACT score must be above 34. But because SAT and ACT results are optional, you can rest easy and tread on with the other requirements you need. Still, you'll need to know these scores, so you have an idea on what the university accepts from the students they're bringing in.
14. Score significantly on the ACT and SAT tests (optional, but recommended to be taken)
You can freely skip this step because the University of Chicago made it clear a few years ago that SAT and ACT test results are optional when applying for them. But if you’re the student who wants to play it safe and still get it up and running with the scores you’ve just learned about above, you'll need to get prepped and ready. Here are the things to remember when scoring significantly on the tests:
- Practice the tests
When it comes to doing the tests, you need to be prepared for what lies ahead, and that’s why you have to practice them which means you need to do practice tests that’ll get you familiar with the question types, instructions and other elements that’ll be included. It’ll not only help you be comfortable with the tests, but it’ll also condition you to see the tests as a kind of challenge that won’t make you flinch when you’re tackling the real ones.
- Apply what you’ve learned with the app versions
When you're done with your practising, apply what you've learned with the app versions. It's a great way to be prepared because the app versions are updated regularly and may feature questions from previous tests which means you'll tackle the changes and be prepared for anything that'll come similarly your way on test day.
- Plot out study time
While you're at it, try plotting out some study time for the tests. You can map out a weekly plan where you'll do the study time after school or make a daily list where you can plot out the time that works best on your schedule such as doing it during a break or doing it after breakfast. The critical thing to remember here is making the conscious effort of accommodating time for your preparation with the SAT and ACT tests.
- Don’t overexert yourself
It's great that you're doing your best to get excellent scores on the SAT and ACT tests but don't be overexerting yourself too much to the point that you're already making your life more chaotic than it needs to be. It's a good idea to balance it all out and plot out the study time without ruining yourself. So chill out when you need to and do your practices and study time at appropriate times.
- Have an expert teach you
If you’re not confident yet in your skills, then have an expert teach you. Whether it’s a one-on-one session or a group class, getting an expert to tutor you will help you immensely because you’ll know the ways on how they tackled the tests and learn the insights on what it takes to get the scores they were able to achieve.
15. View the acceptance rates that Northwestern University has for the world
While SAT and ACT score results have been optional since 2017, University of Chicago is still hard to apply for primarily because they've been known to be super-selective when it comes to admitting students. You could even say that since making the SAT and ACT score results optional, it may have made it harder for a prospective student to get accepted. If these numbers from TopTier Admissions is any indication, it may get even harder:
The acceptance rate from 2017 was at 8.81%, which would be usual for selective universities, but the rate went down to 7.94% in 2020. It's estimated that at 2023, it's gone down to 5.92%, which can be very low. What does it mean for you? You'll have to be very vigilant because, with the way the University of Chicago does their review, you can't expect the SAT and ACT test score being optional is a call to think it's easy. You still have to pass the evaluation.
16. Boost up your application and profile
Have everything you need to apply? Awesome! Your next move will be boosting your application and profile. Before you get going, here are some tips and tricks to remember and use:
- Write the essays with confidence
As an application requirement, you’ll be submitting your response to the supplemental essay questions with your application. But unlike most elite universities, University of Chicago have unusual essay questions that have gained them quite a reputation. The university even admits it here and are eager to give some tips for prospective students. What you can do to ace your way here is to make sure that you write actively with conviction. You'll also need to make sure that when you're reading the essay questions, be on your guard and answer them without sounding so silly. Don't worry; the link gives out essay questions from previous years that'll give you an idea on what you may have to face.
- Address your academic strength subtly
While it's not said out loud, it's been known that the University of Chicago fancies the academic strength in a student. So how can you make this a boost for your application and profile? You can address anything you'd done involving academics. You can also show off a few of your achievements with the AP courses and exams you've done so that they'll know you're diverse with things outside and inside the classroom.
- Consult the experts
Once you’re nearing your application’s completion, have a chat with the experts and let them see how it looks. Consulting the experts will not only give you the second opinion but also figure out what needs to be added, remove or changed. You can also ask anyone you know who graduated or studied at the University of Chicago and ask them for tips and tricks on how they created their applications.
- Submit either the video profile or the supplemental material (or both)
As you've learned earlier, the supplemental materials and the video profile are optional, so there's no need for you to submit them. But if you want to give your application the boost it needs at this point; it'd be a great idea to provide one of them or even both. It'll not only be a great challenge, but it'll also have the University of Chicago see that you're creative, diverse and impressive. It'll also give them a great idea on who you are and how you can contribute significantly.
17. Submit everything, cross your fingers and hope for the best
Once you've got it all under wraps, make that submission, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. It's not a guarantee you'll get right in, and you can already see the acceptance rate is quite low that you got to hope. So it's all in the matter of patience.
You did all that you can, you wait for a time, and you finally get the results. What do they say? Rejected! In the end, the University of Chicago doesn't consider you an excellent fit for them. Does it mean you’ll give up? No, not yet because there are still other options to pursue, which are not the usual type. It’s no guarantee you'll get in, but you've already tried applying, so trying them out won’t be too much of a hassle. Here they are:
Alternative Option A: Go for another college and transfer to the University of Chicago later
You can try heading to another college and transferring to the University of Chicago later. The requirements for transferring are here. But before you get excited, you’ll need to know that the transfer acceptance is 5.4% according to College Transitions. It's lower than the acceptance rates for regular applicants which means it's going to be a mammoth of an uphill battle to even get through the transfer process. But you can use your time with the other college and grow so when you're ready to transfer to the University of Chicago you can show them you're different and you're better than the first time you applied for them.
Alternative Option B: Apply again after finishing a gap year
Another option is reapplying after finishing a gap year. What's a gap year? It's the year between graduating high school and applying for college where you won't be doing anything academic. It's a riskier option to take because when you reapply, University of Chicago may see you didn't do much with your time and might reject you again. But doing a gap year can be beneficial. According to College Vine here, the pros of doing a gap year can include gaining professional experience, broadening your perspective and making a difference. It's a way of building up yourself in ways that can benefit your overall growth as a person. It's also another way of building up your spike and maintain excellence in other areas of interest. If you're willing to take the risk while building up to be the student the University of Chicago wants, you can go for this option.
For a university that's got a reputation for having unusual essays, unique building design, a vibrant community, and a fancy library (picture is shown below), the University of Chicago goes adequately secure. It can be hard to apply to them even with the SAT and ACT test results being optional because you have to prove that your scores aren't what make you the best of the best: You need to show the University of Chicago you have what it takes to be one of them. With the guide above, you can gain the factors and let them see you are genuinely the student that deserves to be with them.