College Intel

University of Chicago Admissions

A castle-like building covered in ivy sits beyond a green lawn at the University of Chicago.
The University of Chicago’s overall admission rate for the Class of 2027 stood at 4.8% (photo credit: Nicomachian).

The University of Chicago is widely considered to have the most rigorous liberal arts curriculum in the nation. Nestled into the Hyde Park Neighborhood of its namesake midwestern metropolis in Illinois, UChicago has forged an impeccable reputation for its commitment to academic excellence, its history of establishing entire schools of thought (ever heard of the Chicago school?), as well as its extensive itinerary of successful alumni, which includes several heads of state, world-renowned writers and thinkers, and a significant number of CEOs and billionaires. Faculty at UChicago have included free-market economist Milton Friedman, President Barack Obama, Freakonomics author Steven Levitt, and writer T. S. Eliot. 

The University is split into its undergraduate college (which enrolls around 7,500 students), and a number of graduate and professional schools (which enroll around 11,000 students in total). The College offers 51 majors and 33 minors, drawn from five academic divisions: the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division, the Physical Sciences Collegiate Division, the Social Sciences Collegiate Division, the Humanities Collegiate Division, and the New Collegiate Division (which administers interdisciplinary coursework). The core curriculum distribution requirements account for some of the most demanding standards and highest workloads among undergraduate curriculums at elite universities. However, students are mercifully aided by the ninth largest library system in the U.S. and 140 research centers and institutes while pursuing their studies.

While student life historically lacks a strong party culture, extracurricular opportunities abound with nationally-ranked debate and Model UN groups, the nation’s oldest student-run film society, literature and comedy magazines, and Greek life. Participation in fraternities and sororities has increased to about 20% of the student body in recent years as students and the administration alike have sought to do away with the university’s reputation as a school where fun goes to die. Perhaps the most notable student tradition is the UChicago Scavenger Hunt, known affectionately as “Scav,” a four-day hunt for 300 esoteric items led by groups of committed students, which holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest scavenger hunt.

The University of Chicago was established in 1890 on the site of a previous University of Chicago dating to the mid-nineteenth century that had been plagued by fires and poor philanthropic endeavors. The American Baptist Education Society took a donation from John D. Rockefeller and land donated by Chicago businessman Marshall Field to establish the new coeducational institution. The university’s early history was marked by efforts to expand its Baptist religious affiliation with a Divinity School in 1891, while in subsequent years the Business School (1898) and Law School (1902) joined its ranks. During the 20th century, UChicago became a hotbed of student activism, punctuated in 1962 by a 15-day sit-in by freshman Bernie Sanders (now Senator from Vermont) to protest segregation in student housing.

Today, UChicago is ranked among the most prestigious universities in the world for its immense $10 billion endowment, its legacy of steering American intellectual thought, and its record of producing high-achieving and financially successful alumni. Predictably, admissions for undergraduates are incredibly competitive: of the 38,800 applicants to the Class of 2027, only 1,849 were accepted, for a miniscule acceptance rate of 4.8%.

The Office of Admissions emphasizes its endorsement of all of the standard components of a strong college application, including extracurricular involvement, volunteering, and a challenging high school curriculum, but there’s something else that might catch some by surprise. The essay supplement traditionally consists of unorthodox questions and prompts, such as “What can actually be divided by zero?,” and “How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.)” UChicago has pushed their prospective applicants to take risks on the supplemental application for years, and Ivy Coach is here to help you make sense of whatever oddball question they will throw at you this admissions cycle!


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