A couple of days ago, we reported that the University of Chicago has decided to go test-optional, to no longer require that applicants submit an SAT or ACT. We saluted the University of Chicago for marching to the beat of their own drummer, for defying the status quo in college admissions. While the University of Chicago is certainly not the first school to go test-optional as many schools have chosen to walk this path before them, in announcing the decision the University of Chicago became the most selective university in America to not require the submission of an SAT or ACT. After all, the University of Chicago ranks behind only Princeton University and Harvard University in the all-important “US News & World Report” ranking of colleges, in a tie with Yale University. Among the most selective universities in America, through its decision to go test-optional, the University of Chicago now stands alone. But why?
UChicago Marches to the Beat of Its Own Drummer
The University of Chicago has long marched to the beat of its own drummer, ever since the days when it founded the nation’s first department of economics — a department that has since become the home of more Nobel Prize laureates in economics and more John Bates Clark medalists than any department of economics in America. But if you still don’t believe the University of Chicago forges its own path, just check out their admissions essay prompts. They’re long. They’re weird. If a student wants to apply to the University of Chicago, you can bet they’ll have to devote quite a bit of time to answering their essay prompts — and they won’t get much mileage out of these essays for other schools since they’re unique to UChicago.
UChicago Plays the College Ranking Game Masterfully
But while offering such specific essay prompts may deter the less passionate University of Chicago applicant from submitting an application (you can bet the school is ok with that — that’s one of their objectives and it helps to increase their yield which serves their ranking well!), the University of Chicago is making it easier for all types of students to apply by going test-optional. You see, by going test-optional, students with great grades and low test scores who otherwise wouldn’t have considered the University of Chicago within reach now may very well consider submitting an application to the school. So they’ll get more applications — and more applications from students who really do love the University of Chicago due to their super specific essay prompts.
Just think about it like this — the University of Chicago will be able to offer admission to that recruited athlete or legacy applicant in spite of their low test scores. Because these students will no longer be required to submit their scores. And yet the school will still benefit from all of the students who submit fantastic scores. Those scores will still be used to calculate its all-important “US News & World Report” ranking. It is a win-win for the University of Chicago. The school has just figured this out before many of their competitors — and that’s precisely the right word for it since colleges are businesses.
And make no mistake. The University of Chicago is masterful at manipulating the “US News & World Report” rankings. The school is ranked behind only Princeton and Harvard — need we say more? The University of Chicago is not an Ivy League school. It is not Stanford or MIT. And yet it’s ranked in a tie for third with Yale University in the world’s most important college ranking. The admissions office of the University of Chicago is masterful at marching to the beat of its own drummer. The school’s ranking is an absolute reflection of this mastery. And the school should not be criticized for this mastery. You see, every school hopes — and tries very hard to — manipulate the college rankings. The University of Chicago just happens to do it better than most — if not all.
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