Are you wondering what it takes to get into the University of Chicago?
This post will tell you everything you need to know before you apply.
We’ll cover academics, campus life, and what the University of Chicago is looking for. Let’s go!
About the University of Chicago
Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched.
The University of Chicago is a private university in – you guessed it – Chicago, Illinois. A coeducational school from day one, the current Hyde Park campus was established in 1890. This new campus was a continuation of the Old University of Chicago, which began in 1856 and closed following a fire four years before its Hyde Park incarnation.
Academics at the University of Chicago
UChicago undergrads attend The College, a school that offers 53 majors and 59 minors on top of the university’s Core curriculum. Established nearly a century ago and ever evolving, the Core curriculum is designed “to teach students how, not what, to think.”
Through persistent questioning, challenging of assumptions, and intellectual debate, the Core teaches undergraduates how to think and approach problems from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Required coursework includes courses in Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, Civilization Studies, and the Arts.
UChicago Campus and Student Life
The main campus occupies over two hundred acres, stretching across the Chicago neighborhoods of Hyde Park and Woodlawn. It’s about eight miles south of downtown Chicago. Despite its big-city location, the campus is filled with gothic buildings and abundant greenery.
The ornate and beautiful Hitchcock hall, an undergraduate residence hall with red-tile roofs and thick ivy crawling up its stone walls, is on the National Register of Historic Places. And the spectacular Harper Library gives off strong Hogwarts vibes.
Between seven and eight thousand undergraduate students study at the University of Chicago each year. There are hundreds of campus activities to enjoy including improv groups, thirty theater shows per year, quiz bowls, and capoeira.
Is it Hard to Get into the University of Chicago?
In recent years, acceptance rates at UChicago have been between six and seven percent.
This past year, 37,977 students applied to the University of Chicago. 2,460 were accepted. That’s under seven percent of everyone who applied, making UChicago an extremely selective school. If you want to earn admittance to the University of Chicago, you’ll have to distinguish yourself both in and out of school.
What is UChicago Looking For?
The University of Chicago wants to bring together a diverse community of students “who, with their own distinctive viewpoints, contribute to the intellectually challenging culture of the University through academic pursuits as well as extracurricular interests.”
Over eighty percent of students who applied to the University of Chicago were actively engaged in community service while they were in high school. Over half played a musical instrument or had other significant musical experience, over a third of them were involved in student government, and a whopping two thirds were in varsity athletics. Many were also involved in theater, editorial, or religious organizations.
The average GPA for students accepted to UChicago is close to 4.3, meaning that prospective students will have to maintain an excellent academic record in addition to their extracurricular pursuits.
ACT and SAT Tests
UChicago is a Test Optional school, but they make a point of saying that SAT and ACT scores “continue to be an important part of the University of Chicago’s holistic admission process for students electing to send scores.” We recommend that you take these tests – ideally more than once – and submit your scores if they’re on par with or above the university average.
The ACT Middle 50% for the most recent incoming class was 33-35.
The SAT Middle 50% was 1510-1560.
That being said, if you don’t perform well on standardized tests, it’s possible to distinguish yourself in other ways.
What Should You Do in High School?
Here are some things that you can do now to increase your chances of being accepted.
Excel in Challenging Classes
You’ll want to take as many challenging classes as you can handle without overwhelm or a dip in your GPA. Advanced Placement classes show colleges that you’re truly interested in and dedicated to your field of interest. If you already know (or at least have an inkling of) what you want to study in college, it’s best to choose AP classes in those subjects. If you’re not sure yet what you want to study, take the AP classes that you think you have the best chance of acing.
UChicago doesn’t have specific requirements, but they recommend the following at minimum:
- 4 years of English
- 3 to 4 years of math
- 3 to 4 years of laboratory sciences
- 3 or more years of social sciences
- Foreign language study (2–3 years recommended)
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Serve Your Community
More than anything, colleges are looking for applicants that will be valuable additions to their communities. They want students who work well with others, think creatively and show leadership potential. You can join clubs dedicated to community service, spearhead your own projects, or volunteer with a local nonprofit.
Build Relationships with Your Teachers
School teams, clubs, and volunteer groups are all excellent opportunities to build good working relationships with your teachers. These bonds will be very valuable to you when it comes time to solicit glowing recommendations for college applications. UChicago requires at least two.
Make the Most of Your Summers
UChicago expects its students to make good use of their time away from school, especially in the summer. They list many examples of time well spent, including:
- Athletic Camps
- Boys/Girls Scouts
- Film Camps
- Journalism Camps
- Leadership Camps
- Music Camps
- High School Summer Abroad
- Zoo/Wildlife Preserves
- Local Campaigns
- Habitat for Humanity
- Red Cross
- Religious Organizations
The specifics aren’t terribly important; you don’t have to choose a career or field of study right now. The important thing is to show that you’re an active participant in the world around you, fascinated by a variety of subjects, and dedicated to working to better yourself and your community.
How to Apply to UChicago
UChicago accepts the Coalition Application or Common Application and treats both equally in the admissions process. In addition to the essay questions detailed below, UChicago requires students to solicit teacher recommendations, list their extracurricular activities, and provide a personal statement.
You’ll need at least two recommendations from high school teachers who taught you in an academic subject. Choose teachers who know you well. They should be able to write specifically and positively about your contributions in the classroom, academic interest, and interactions with classmates. Applicants are permitted to submit a third letter from another teacher or anyone else who can help paint a more complete picture of who they are.
The list of extracurricular activities is simply a list of what you spend your time doing outside of class. Official clubs, teams, and work experience goes here. But it doesn’t have to end there. You should also include familial responsibilities and anything that you’re passionate about. Do you take care of your cousin? Read to your grandma? Knit scarves while watching Korean dramas? Go ahead and list anything that’s meaningful, worthwhile, or interesting to you.
When you apply to colleges and universities with the Common App or Coalition Application, your personal statement is sent to all of the schools you are applying to. So this isn’t the place to tailor your answer to a specific school (you’ll have the chance to do that in your supplemental essays). It is your chance to paint yourself in the best possible light and describe what makes you a standout choice that any school would be lucky to have on campus.
University of Chicago Supplement
The 2022-2023 UChicago Supplement begins with one required question:
How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago.
This is your chance to explain why UChicago is such a great fit for you and vice versa. Get as specific as you possibly can. Touch on what you’re passionate about and weave that together with specific programs and offerings at the University of Chicago.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to choose one of the following essay options. They’re quirky as all get out, so go ahead and match that in your response! This is a chance to showcase your originality, creativity, and intelligence – be as weird as you’d like, but make sure your grammar and spelling are flawless!
Essay Option 1
Was it a cat I saw? Yo-no-na-ka, ho-ka-ho-ka na-no-yo (Japanese for “the world is a warm place”). Może jutro ta dama da tortu jeżom (Polish for “maybe tomorrow that lady will give a cake to the hedgehogs”). Share a palindrome in any language, and give it a backstory.
Essay Option 2
What advice would a wisdom tooth have?
Essay Option 3
You are on an expedition to found a colony on Mars, when from a nearby crater, a group of Martians suddenly emerges. They seem eager to communicate, but they’re the impatient kind and demand you represent the human race in one song, image, memory, proof, or other idea. What do you share with them to show that humanity is worth their time?
Essay Option 4
UChicago has been affiliated with over 90 Nobel laureates. But, why should economics, physics, and peace get all the glory? You are tasked with creating a new category for the Nobel Prize. Explain what it would be, why you chose your specific category, and the criteria necessary to achieve this accomplishment.
Essay Option 5
Genghis Khan with an F1 racecar. George Washington with a SuperSoaker. Emperor Nero with a toaster. Leonardo da Vinci with a Furby. If you could give any historical figure any piece of technology, who and what would it be, and why do you think they’d work so well together?
Essay Option 6
And, as always… the classic choose your own adventure option! In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, choose one of our past prompts (or create a question of your own). Be original, creative, thought provoking. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun!
Should You Apply Early to the University of Chicago?
The University of Chicago offers an Early Action plan for students who would like to apply early and receive an admissions decision early, but don’t want to commit to UChicago before they hear back from other schools.
The Early Decision option is a good fit for students who know that UChicago is their absolute first choice. The Early Decision admission plan is binding – that means that if you’re admitted, you commit to attending UChicago. You would need to withdraw applications from other schools and refrain from submitting any more applications. There are two Early Decision windows for UChicago, shown below.
Here is the University of Chicago’s application timeline:
Application Due Date
Early Action: November 1
ED I: November 1
ED II: January 3
Reg. Decision: January 3
Admission Decision Release Date
Early Action: Mid-Dec
ED I: Mid-Dec
ED II: Mid-Feb
Reg. Decision: Late March
Student Reply Due Date
Early Action: May 2
ED I: Mid-Jan
ED II: Early March
Reg. Decision: May 2
Final Thoughts: How to Get into the University of Chicago
The University of Chicago asks a lot from its applicants, and fewer than one in ten will be accepted. Students interested in UChicago should maintain a GPA of around 4.3 and score well on standardized tests, but requirements go above and beyond that. You’ll need to excel in extracurricular pursuits, engage with your community, and show originality and a vibrant personality in your essay questions. If you can do all of that, you’ve got a shot.