What is UChicago Known For?

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UChicago is one of the most prestigious schools in the country. The university is known for attracting students who are intellectually engaged and a bit quirky. 

 

In this post, we’ll cover what makes the University of Chicago unique, from its unusual essay prompts to the birth of improv comedy.

 

Overview of University of Chicago

 

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,734

Acceptance Rate: 6.2%

Middle 50% SAT: 1510-1560

Middle 50% ACT: 34-35

 

UChicago is consistently ranked in the top 10 universities, and its rigorous admissions reflects that. The admissions committee strongly weighs applicants’ writing skills, even if students intend to pursue STEM. 

 

Writing is even prioritized above extracurriculars, but academic standards typically won’t be relaxed for students with strong essays.

 

Students can show off their writing skills in the UChicago supplements, which demand highly-original and engaging responses. Admissions also values published writing in any field or medium. 

 

Unique Aspects of the University of Chicago

 

Essays

 

UChicago’s essay prompts are known for being outlandish and quirky. They demand creative yet analytical treatment, and provide ample opportunity for students to demonstrate their investment in “the life of the mind,” UChicago’s unofficial motto.

 

Some examples of previous years’ prompts include:

 

  • A hot dog might be a sandwich, and cereal might be a soup, but is a __ a __?
  • Find X.
  • Who does Sally sell her seashells to? How much wood can a woodchuck really chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Pick a favorite tongue twister (either originally in English or translated from another language) and consider a resolution to its conundrum using the method of your choice. Math, philosophy, linguistics… it’s all up to you (or your woodchuck).

 

For more insight on how to approach the University of Chicago’s infamous essays, take a look at CollegeVine’s breakdown of this year’s prompts.

 

Academics

 

According to U.S. News, University of Chicago’s five top majors for the class of 2019 were Social Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Public Administration and Social Service Professions. University of Chicago does offer minors, but they are not required—they are generally a means of complementing a student’s major. Not every major offers a minor, and some minor programs do not have a corresponding major.

 

UChicago offers several unique programs. 

 

  • Big Problems is a capstone elective offered to fourth-year students. In these courses, students investigate mysteries and issues of monumental importance, such as intelligent life and sustainable development
  • Chicago Studies is an interdisciplinary program that brings together academic studies and experiential, social-responsibility-focused learning via engagement in the Chicago community. Students who complete the program earn a certificate. 
  • For students whose academic interests don’t fit neatly into a preexisting major, Tutorial Studies provides a solution. Instead of a major, students in Tutorial Studies each have a tutor—a faculty member who guides the student’s intellectual journey. This academic style is similar to the tutorial system at the University of Oxford.
  • UChicago has international Centers in Paris, Beijing, and Delhi, where special programs, conferences, and meetings take place. In addition, the larger Yuen Campus in Hong Kong hosts several courses and acts as a meetingplace for research and collaboration

 

Extracurriculars

 

Contrary to the popular perception that the University of Chicago is “where fun comes to die,” the university has a lively student life outside of academics. Multicultural groups, pre-professional groups, sports, greek life, and arts groups are all popular amongst the student body. UChicago also has a couple unique student organizations, like the circus, Le Vorris and Vox, and MODA, the university’s fashion magazine.

 

As the place where improv originated, UChicago has a strong culture of comedy performance. In the 1950s, a University of Chicago performing group called the Compass Players developed the art of improvisational comedy and went on to become The Second City. Then, in 1986, the cofounder came back to UChicago and created Off-Off Campus, UChicago’s current improv comedy performance group.

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Traditions

 

  • Scav is a four-day scavenger hunt in which students search for riddles and items across campus and the country (sometimes involving road trips to other states)
  • Kuvia is a weeklong festival held just before the start of the winter quarter. Students wake up each day at dawn and come together for yoga, s’mores, and dance classes. The name Kuvia is a shortened form of the Japanese word for winter training and the Inuit word for “pursuit of happiness.”
  • The Latke-Hamantash Debates began at the University of Chicago in 1946 in an attempt to resolve the question of which staple of Jewish cuisine is superior. Past participants have included Nobel Prize winners and University presidents
  • Summer Breeze is a festival held at the end of spring quarter. On this day, students come together to enjoy free food, games, and live music to celebrate the end of the academic year.

 

Dorms

 

UChicago’s residential life is divided into 39 houses, which serve as a microcosm of the university’s community. Each house develops its own identity through traditions, a mascot, and shared values; like a family, members of a house all eat and live together.

 

The Art to Live With program allows University of Chicago students to borrow designated artworks from the Smart Museum of Art for free. The collection includes works by well-known artists such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Francisco de Goya. 

 

Financial Aid

 

The No Barriers policy allows students to graduate free of debt. The university is need-blind and meets 100% of demonstrated need. 

 

Families earning less than $125,000 per year (with typical assets) will have tuition fully covered. Families earning less than $60,000 per year will pay nothing for tuition, fees, and room and board.

 

Location

 

UChicago is located on Lake Michigan in the great Midwestern city of Chicago. Students have access to all that a world-class city has to offer within the more intimate community of the university.

The University of Chicago places special emphasis on integration and partnership with its environs. The university is the largest private employer on the South Side of Chicago. 

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance at University of Chicago?

 

Selective schools like UChicago use a metric called the Academic Index to filter out their applicants. If your grades and test scores don’t meet expectations, the rest of your application might not be reviewed.

 

To get a better sense of your chances at UChicago, check out our free admissions calculator. All you need to do is enter your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, and we’ll give you your estimated odds of acceptance, plus feedback on how to improve your chances.

 

Using our platform, you can also search for schools based on criteria like location, size, and acceptance rate, or filter schools based on your chances of acceptance.

 

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Short Bio
Alura Chung-Mehdi graduated from Amherst College with a degree in English. When she's not writing, she enjoys cooking, rock climbing, and daydreaming.

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