IvyWise Counselor and Former Assistant Director of Admissions at UChicago, Victoria, Comments on the School's Record Year
The University of Chicago is hot, hot, hot. I have always been a fan of UChicago and as an alumna of the college and a former Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions it has been no surprise to me that the college remains a highly attractive option for students. While I saw the increase in popularity of the college first hand, I am still astonished at the rate at which the college's application numbers and popularity have increased.
The numbers do not lie: applications to the undergraduate college are at an all time high this year totaling 30,369, a 20% increase from last year's number. The 19.5% increase in early action applications indicates that more students than ever are looking at UChicago as a first choice option. The college is even jumping up in numbers on the U.S. News and World Report, finding itself ranked number four, up four spots in the past three years. While many factors may have led to a shift in applications and notoriety of the college, it is clear that UChicago is on many students' radars.
The admissions office has made an effort to attract more students as well. First, the college decided to join the common application in 2008 making it easier for student to access the application, though they kept their well-known, unusual yet fun essay questions as part of their supplement. Knowing that many students with a diverse background love their undergraduate experiences at UChicago, the admissions office fought the idea that it was “quirky” or “not fun.” It reaffirmed that while the college offered a rigorous education and students who enjoyed intellectual challenges and scholarly work, it was still a place where you could have the fun undergraduate experience that you wanted. New Scholarship programs and financial aid opportunities that were also added in recent years may have also bolstered applications. The Odyssey Scholarships reduce or eliminate loans for lower income families and UChicago Promise offers a no-loan pledge for admitted students from the city of Chicago, both very attractive options in this economy.
The University of Chicago has not always been as well known as it has been in recent years. Applications have tripled since I applied in 2004 and the college used to be seen as rather self-selecting. It was described as “quirky” and “not for everyone” but it has always been know as a haven for intellectuals and scholars. The core curriculum at UChicago, a staple of the undergraduate education, remains a transformative experience in which students learn how to think, discuss, and analyze in small classes with lots of faculty interaction. The college has been known for tough rigor and innovative minds often misleading people to believe that a popular campus joke: “UChicago: Where fun comes to die” was actually true. But students at the school have always enjoyed themselves in a wide range of extra curricular activities while getting a world class education.
The college as a whole, from campus housing, to campus activities, to academics, and to the arts, has made many efforts over the years to make an incredible education and intellectual experience an attractive option for students of diverse interests. The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts (http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2013/03/15/college-sends-admission-decisions-milestone-year-applications) was recently opened on campus, offering a multi-use facility that encourages cross collaboration between artists, performers, musicians and more. This incredible building is definitely an attraction for anyone interested in the arts. Similarly the Institute for Molecular Engineering and the Institute of Politics were opened to afford students new opportunities in the fields of engineering and political science. A new state of the art dorm was opened in 2009 and a new library opened on campus in 2011. The University is always adding new initiatives for its diverse population and could be one of its attractive qualities to incoming students.
The University of Chicago offers a college with diverse offerings, small discussion based classes, faculty interaction, and opportunities in the arts. It is also a leading research institution in one of the largest metropolitan cities in the US. With so much to offer it is no surprise that UChicago has succeeded in attracting more students than ever. As a happy alumna of the college I am happy to see the college gaining popularity among students as I think it is a fantastic education and environment for students interested in the pursuit of knowledge or the life of the mind.