So, how do you feel about Wednesdays?
I’m betting that’s not a question you get asked frequently. It is, however, a past application essay question for the University of Chicago—one of many we’ve amassed in the years we’ve asked “uncommon” questions. Much like your feelings on Wednesdays, we bet you aren’t also often asked about your Ph, your thoughts on odd numbers, or why you’re here and not somewhere else. And, hint: that’s kind of why we’re asking you.
Every year the University of Chicago asks five “uncommon” questions as part of our application supplement. Rather than giving you the same old “what did you do on your summer vacation”-style prompt, we ask our students and alumni to suggest questions they’d like to pose to prospective students, and then consider the over 500 suggestions we get each year among a group of admissions officers before choosing our “final five”. This is how we wound up with this year’s questions, ranging from things like “What’s so odd about odd numbers?” to a quote from an art installation on campus, “Why are you here and not somewhere else?”
We ask you these questions not because we want to fool you, or make you squirm, or hurt your brain. We ask you these questions precisely because we love, love, love seeing where your brain goes when you’re asked a question you’ve never thought about before before. These are the kinds of intellectual encounters you’ll have on our campus every day; it’s rare that a professor will ask you to explain how your loss in the big sports game affected you, but very common for someone to ask you a question you’ve never encountered, and to see how you work with it. The question might be about Plato, or muons, or the work of a beat poet from the South Side in the 1960s instead of about your thoughts on odd numbers—but the ways you’ll be thinking are the same even if not on the same topic, and this, precisely, is why we ask you to try it out as part of your application.
So how, exactly, do you respond to such an open-ended question? This is, of course, also open-ended. We want you to use this as a time to be creative, to take a prompt and run with it in the way that you think represents what’s going on in your brain best. There are some things we suggest avoiding, and many many things that are totally up for doing. We think our questions are pretty neat, and would love to see what you do with one of them, so we don’t suggest re-using an essay from class, another school, or from your common/universal app personal statement for this essay. We also hope to see students taking this beyond simply factual information about them; a resume is not an essay, so there’s no need to pack all of your achievements and accomplishments in to narrative form. While we welcome fun explorations of new topics, sometimes we do see students who come up with some kind of “schtick” they think helps them stand out (case in point: an essay written entirely backwards, or an acrostic poem). Know that we’re most impressed and influenced by the content, thoughts, and skill contained in your writing rather than tricky tricks, so try not to conflate crazy style with skill—make your essay about the ideas first even if you’d like to explore them in a new way. Some students feel compelled to write about an experience they’ve had or an idea they’re passionate about, and that can be a great choice if you feel the urge. But know that we can often learn a lot about you with how and what you choose to write about even if you’re not writing about yourself, so if you’d like to take this as a time to explore something beyond your own personal experiences, go for it! We read everything and are tickled by lots, and always welcome students who think a little bit outside of the box. So if you’re sitting there thinking “Man, I wish I could write my essay like a critical analysis/book report on Skymall Magazine” (note: this has happened, and the student was admitted) but are shying away because Skymall Magazine isn’t covered in that pulpy book your mom bought you about writing college essays—write about Skymall Magazine! A UChicago supplement essay that responds to our question with a topic you see as interesting and compelling (that is, of course, well thought through and edited reasonably) will shine out much more than following a standard “college essay” format. Don’t be afraid to stretch your mind and have a little fun. That’s what we do here.
And, as a final note: we don’t require your essays to be in a standard 5-paragraph essay format, although we do hope they’ll have words in them (it’s totally fine, although not required at all, to add a visual or musical or any-other-ical accompaniment to your writing, but know we’re also looking at your writing skill here, so we do hope you’ll write something). Some students write personal narratives, some write what could be considered more traditional essay style works, some write short stories, some write something completely different. We ask simply that your essay is somewhere in the realm of 500-650 words, or about 1-2 pages single or double spaced (and we’re flexible—don’t take this as license to write a 14-page tome, but know that we won’t stop reading at 651 words if you need an extra verb).
Any questions? You can always feel free to email us at email@example.com.
What is your minimum GPA or required SAT or ACT score?
There is no minimum required GPA or test score. At UChicago, the admissions committee considers a candidate’s entire application. You can learn more about this holistic review process here.
Do you grant credit for AP and IB scores? For college-level classes taken in high school?
Yes. We accept scores of 5 on most Advanced Placement (AP) exams and of 7 on certain International Baccalaureate (IB) Higher-Level examinations for credit; other scores may be accepted in particular subjects. UChicago also offers placement and accreditation tests to entering students in select subjects. Learn more.
College-level courses above and beyond a student's high scool graduation requirements that also meet requirements set by the Dean of Students may yield credit. Learn more.
Do you require SAT Subject Tests?
No. We require either the SAT or the ACT. If you have done exceptionally well on a particular Subject Test and would like to show us, feel free to send us that score. However, Subject Tests are truly optional, and not sending us Subject Test scores will not hurt your application.
Do you look at the essay section of the SAT or ACT?
UChicago does not require the optional essay portion of the SAT or ACT, and, if submitted, the essay score will not be an essential part of the application review.
I've taken the SAT or ACT more than once. Should I send all my test scores?
We recommend you send us all of your test scores. Only your best testing results—your highest sub-scores and the best result of the two testing options, if you've taken both the SAT and ACT— will be considered in the review of your application. Lower test scores submitted will not be used in the review of your application.
Do you superscore test scores?
Yes, we superscore both the SAT and ACT, meaning that if you take either test multiple times, we will take your highest individual sub-section scores and combine them to give you the highest overall score possible.
Do you accept scores from the "old" SAT?
Starting in March 2016, the College Board offered a new, redesigned version of the SAT. We will continue to accept scores from the old version of the SAT for the five years scores remain valid, and will superscore within both the old exam and the new, but will not superscore between the two versions.
What types of recommendation letters are required?
We require two recommendations from two teachers of any academic subjects. If someone who is not a teacher can provide a different perspective on your work or personality, they are welcome to send in a supplemental recommendation in addition to your two teacher recommendations. Pick the teachers who know you best; they don't need to be in subjects related to your intended major.
May I submit supplemental letters of recommendation?
You may submit one additional letter of recommendation. The writer should know you personally and have worked closely with you in some capacity; this could include a coach, religious leader, group adviser, or employer, to name a few.
Is there a word limit or suggested word limit to your essay responses?
There are no strict word limits on the UChicago supplement essays. For the extended essay (where you choose one of several prompts), we suggest that you aim for around 650 words. While we won't, as a rule, stop reading after 650 words, we're only human and cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention indefinitely. For the “Why UChicago?” essay, we suggest about 250-500 words. The ideas in your writing matter more than the exact number of words you use!
How do I make sure that UChicago has received all of my required application documents?
A little while after the application deadline has passed, you will be able to check to see which application materials we have received and processed by loggin in to your UChicago Account. Given the large volume of material submitted every year, there will be a reasonable amount of processing time between when you submit your documents and when they will appear in your Account. If anything is missing, we will give you ample time to re-submit it.
May I submit supplemental materials in the arts, music, or my own original research?
Yes. The most effective supplements share a representative sample of work that is important to the applicant. One to two minutes of a recorded work, two or three high-quality prints of a work of art, the best paragraph or page of a creatively written work, or an abstract of original research are recommended.
How can I obtain an interview?
You can schedule one here.
I would like to interview, but I cannot come to campus. How may I request an alumni interview?
Students who have completed and submitted their Common Application and UChicago supplement will be sent log-in instructions to a UChicago Account, through which you will be able to express interest in an interview with an alumnus/a. Please note that while we will do our best to accommodate requests, due to alumni availability, we cannot guarantee interviews to all students who request them. Also, an interview is a completely optional portion of the application, and not receiving an interview will not negatively affect your application.
I had bad grades or a special circumstance that affected my performance in high school. Does this mean I won’t get in?
We understand that no one’s record is perfect, and that sometimes students’ transcripts have grades that are not indicative of where they are when they apply to college. If you have made significant strides in your academic performance, please make sure that comes across in your application. (The Additional Information portion of the Common Application is a great part to communicate this.)
With that in mind, we truly embrace a holistic approach approach to reading applications; we pay attention to all the aspects, not just a single side, of the student.
Can I postpone matriculation at UChicago?
Yes. Students interested in taking a "gap year" between acceptance and attendance are welcomed to postpone their matriculation at UChicago. If this might be an option for you, it is a good idea to let us know as soon as possible. Alerting our office to your possible gap year will not negatively affect your application. If you are an admitted student interested in taking a gap year, please see the Gap Year section below and contact your regional counselor.
I have attempted to register for a UChicago information session in my hometown, but the session is full. May I still attend the session?
Many of our UChicago information sessions are held at libraries and public facilities in local areas that place limits on the number of registrants in order to comply with relevant building codes. If a session is full, unfortunately we will not be able to accommodate further visitors, although will try our best to add additional sessions to meet demand. You do not need to email your regional counselor. We will email you if we add additional sessions.
I am taking the November SAT or October ACT as an Early Action applicant, or the January SAT/February ACT as a Regular Decision applicant. Will you consider these scores?
While we would, of course, like to receive your scores before the appropriate deadline, we will accept October ACT and November SAT scores for Early Action and Early Decision I, December SAT and ACT scores for Early Decision II, and January SAT and February ACT scores for Regular Decision.
I am interested in participating in a varsity sport. How may I contact a coach?
Contact information for our varsity coaches, as well as a survey for students interested in participating in varsity athletics, may be found here.
Does the University of Chicago grant second bachelor’s degrees?
We do not offer second bachelor’s degrees. Please visit the website of the Graham School of General Studies for information on post-baccalaureate coursework and non-degree-program coursework.
May I apply to UChicago for entry in the Winter or Spring quarters?
No. Entering students may only begin study at UChicago in the Autumn quarter.
Do you accept Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) credit?
Yes. Generally, we accept a 4 or 5 on AP tests and a 6 or 7 on IB examinations. You can learn more about entering the college with outside credit by visiting our College Catalog.
I am not a US citizen or permanent resident, but have been living in the United States for some time, or am in the process of obtaining a green card but have not yet received one. Am I considered an international student?
Yes, for application and financial aid purposes you will be considered an international applicant until you receive a green card. For further help and questions as they arise during this process, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How may I sign up to visit a class?
Prospective students who are high school seniors or transfer students are welcome to visit undergraduate classes during their campus visit. No advance notification is necessary to visit a class. You will be asked to select a course from the College's course listings upon arrival in the Office of College Admissions.
How may I sign up for an overnight visit with a current student?
Overnight visits are available only for high school seniors on Tuesdays and Thursdays in October and November. There are additional overnight visits available for admitted students in February and April. See here for registration information.
I am interested in speaking with a member of the faculty in my area of interest when I visit campus. How may I arrange this?
You are welcome to arrange a meeting with a professor in your area of interest; departmental websites are a great place to start looking for faculty who you may wish to speak with.
Do you offer tours of your residence halls?
We offer extensive web-based resources for students to learn more about our house system, as well as opportunities for high school seniors to stay overnight in the residence halls. However, because each dorm is so different from each other, a tour of one would not give a very representative picture of the many options available to incoming first-years.
What do I bring to campus when I visit?
Questions! We love answering them, and we hope you have a bunch about UChicago. If you’re worried about forgetting some of your questions, don’t feel embarrassed to write them down. There is no need to bring an activities list or a resume to our campus. We prefer that you indicate activities and accomplishments directly on your application.
If you are coming for a pre-scheduled overnight visit, please bring a sleeping bag or blanket, pillow, and any personal toiletries that you will need for the evening.
Do you accept Gap Year students?
Yes! We have many students that participate in gap years before enrolling at UChicago. Gap year opportunities can range from exchange student programs, to academic research, to working with political campaigns and more. Gap years can be a great fit for certain students.
When/how do I defer for a year?
We encourage students to apply during their senior year of high school, and once admitted they can defer their enrollment for the duration of their gap year or years. It is easier to apply during high school as students have better access to high school resources, such as teacher letters of recommendation, transcripts, and advising. When students are admitted to the college and are certain that they will be participating in a gap year, they will write a letter to their regional admissions counselor for the deferral to be approved. This will be an ongoing conversation between the prospective student and their admissions counselor.
After high school, I am obligated to serve religious or military service before college, does this count as a gap year?
We certainly understand these obligations and are more than willing to work with student to help facilitate these gap years!