UChicago currently has about 5200 undergrads, and approximately double the number of grad school students. It's big enough to reach out to different people yet it's small enough that you don't get lost (figuratively) in a tsunami of students. The administration does a fantastic job with helping students develop personal relationships with not only their professors in small class settings, but with the house system that divides residents into 37 different houses. What's great about the house system is that you aren't assigned to 'Freshmen dormitories' but rather, a community of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years who are involved in a plethora of different organizations and activities that you can learn from, grab dinner with, debate about which super smash bro character is best, actually play midnight super smash bro tournaments with, and look up to for guidance. Your house becomes your family as you take sushi trips downtown or go apple picking on the weekends, and there is always someone in the lounge (even at the most ungodly hours) that is there to keep you company as you both stay up till the wee hours, studying for your Honors chemistry exam. When people ask where I go to school and I answer they say "Wow, that's really good!" Half the time I'm not sure if they're saying that because they actually know the prestige of the University or because they don't really know anything at all. However, that is all irrelevant because UChicago is undoubtedly a prestigious name for recruiters or when you apply for jobs. Also, we have the most Rhodes scholars for an American University (score!). Our Career Advisory Planning Services (CAPS) program is also amazing. They guide you through writing your resume, and help place you into internships or jobs post-graduation and while you are an undergraduate (Metcalf internships anyone?). Before many people visit UChicago they have the idea that it will be like Columbia-- a University campus in the heart of the City. However, applicants should note that UChicago is located in Hyde Park, a neighborhood South of Chicago. It is a neighborhood that has a characteristic of its own, and we have a beautiful quad with trees and grass and ivy covered buildings. We are conveniently located a bus ride away from downtown Chicago so the accessibility to the city and the opportunities available in Chicago are great factors to consider. One thing I read the other day about UChicago and its traditions that I completely agree with is the student body's propensity to streak. The Polar Bear run is an annual campus streaking tradition to "kick the winter blues" and from time to time we have Harper Library streakers (usually during reading period/ finals week). 2008 marked the grand reopening of the Lascivious Ball, an annual event where people wear questionable costumes that shows more flesh than it covers. Apparently, at the University of Chicago, students are more comfortable meeting others sans clothes than they are properly dressed...
The best things about the U of C is the academics -- it is hands down the best in the country. Other good things are that the class sizes are small, which gives you the opportunity to actually talk and interact in your classes, which doesn't happen at a lot of big schools. And, they are pretty cool about letting you do your own thing: the dorms are quite relaxed environments about drinking and parties, they have all night libraries so you can set your own study schedule, and basically the whole school is very open to your use. Unfortunately, in many ways the bad things outweigh the good, or at least far outnumber them. The academics are amazing, but at what cost? Your happiness, personality, physical and mental health, and confidence. It is the most academically rigorous, intense, and merciless school in the country. If you get sick, you are screwed. Teachers are unlikely to give you an extension, and if they do it will only be a day or two. And, there is no one in the administration who will take your side -- your professors have complete totalitarian control about how much suffering they put you through and how much they hurt your GPA. Not all of the teachers want their students to suffer, but quite a few of them do and there is no safety net for you if you happen to get one of these teachers. Also, the other students, while many of them are awesome, are mostly horrid. Too many are cut-throat, self-centered, pretentious, mean, and malicious. This school will work you harder than you ever thought possible and harder than anyone should honestly be pushed. And, while Hyde Park can be nice, it is actually very dangerous. I was assaulted for no reason last year; a guy simply came up to me on the street, yelled at me, and then punched me in the face. And, my car was broken into last year, and my roommate was mugged. These are not isolated incidences. Over 20 young males have been randomly attacked in Hyde Park because gangs of teenagers simply beat them up, and there is a lot of muggings and armed robberies. Just this year a graduate student was shot a block away from campus by a mugger. To make matters worse, the U of C doesn't really care. They will tell you that you are safe -- don't believe them. You can't walk around Hyde Park after dark and even the campus isn't safe at late hours. This is one of the worst things about the U of C. The city of Chicago is great, but you most likely won't get to go downtown much because you will be so overworked. Overall, this school offers an amazing academic education, but it is too stressful and needlessly rigorous, and you will not get the well-rounded college experience of extracurriculars, good people, sports, and fun that you would get at most colleges. And, it is a dangerous area, and the school both lies about this aspect of the school and does not do enough to ensure your safety.
UChicago is absolutely amazing. I love the people, the classes, the core (the requirements every student has), the campus, the house system (the dorm system here), the location, etc. If I had the option, I’d change the weather (which tends to oscillate wildly and be freezing during the winter). The size is perfect for someone who wants to always meet new people, but always see familiar faces around as well. Also, despite the large amount of people that go here, UChicago’s house system (which breaks down undergraduates into various dorm ‘houses’) allows people to find a smaller group of people to depend on as their family. It’s really nice, and definitely one of my favorite parts about being here. When I tell students (from my high school, for example) that I go to UChicago, I can tell people don’t really know about the school’s reputation and prestige. However, talking to people who go to other top schools and employers, they’re always very impressed. On campus, my time is evenly spread out. I’ll hang out in my dorm/dorm lounge, go over to the library to study, meet friends at a coffee shop/dining hall to talk, go to the main quad for classes/other activities, etc. Everything’s close enough that walking everywhere is convenient and generally, pretty pleasant. Also, the location/surrounding college town is incredible. We’re very close to downtown and surrounded by some of the most interesting neighborhoods of Chicago. I wouldn’t change it all. There’s also a cute strip of small restaurants and things near campus and convenience stores/grocery stores within a small walking distance away. Public transportation for students go into the city is also very readily available near/on campus. And despite what I heard before I came to this school, UChicago certainly has pride. I wouldn’t say it’s as intense as a state school’s, but people do go to athletic events (like homecoming) and go to support teams. On an average day here, you’ll see many people walking around with UChicago gear. Students have some complaints – about the weather and the core – but nothing too major. . I’ve noticed that people that go to this school generally really like it and are proud to be here.
I have met more unique, strange, hilarious, and surprising people at this school than I would have thought possible. Where else could I go to dinner with a Seventh-Day Adventist from Chile, a stuffed animal enthusiast/econ major, a Colombian anarchist, and a South Indian guy in a Jewish a cappella group? I have learned far more about the world and the people in it than I could have dreamed, coming out of small town Ohio. However, these fascinating people are also all brilliant - and, if you allow them to, they will intimidate you academically. Most people at this school come in as HS valedictorians or top students, and very quickly and painful find out, upon withdrawing from their first quarter math class, that their definition of "hard work" needs a reworking (this may or may not be a personal anecdote). However, once you've found your academic niche and can excel in one area, you'll find that you'll begin to enjoy these challenges (or, if you don't, that you're perhaps at the wrong school). The undergraduate population (~5,000 students) is a good size - you recognize a good number of people, but there is a wide enough variety of activity and enough social groups that it does not feel claustrophobic. It is also not so large that you become just a number among thousands. The administration has been working to improve student life on campus (UChicago had very poor student approval in the 80s), and they've added new gym facilities, a career services center, and other student support systems to improve student life. There is some tension between the university and surrounding neighborhoods - Hyde Park is surrounded by very poor neighborhoods and the crime rate is fairly high. Campus police are very vigilant and every attempt is made to ensure student safety, but there is certainly racial and economic tension (a recent controversy broke out when a black student was arrested in the library for refusing to show his ID).
What matters most about college will be the people-- not the classes or professors, not the parties, not the dining halls and residence halls-- it'll be who you're spending the next 4 or so years with. What attracted me to this school are the people who are passionate about something incredibly detailed or quirky, who are are able to have a deep conversation about everything, who have overtime acquired a large number of hobbies and interests. We are all intellectuals, but we are often artists at heart. We are ambitious in a non-standard way, and we want to do everything. As I write this response, I am sitting at the front of a student-run cafe, Hallowed Grounds, listening to the Open Mic-- a night where numerous student volunteers come to perform improv comedy, or slam poetry, or serenade us with their guitar. We enjoy beauty and expression, despite our rumored focus on academics. Tomorrow, I dance Argentine Tango outdoors and practice with the student circus, playing with fire, bodies, feathers, and stilts for a future show. Last Friday, I organized 40 people to give free hugs to everyone on campus. And in 6 hours of class today, I questioned the learning of number and language, the views of the world by Greek philosophers trying to decide if there is an answer to "What is?" and explored topology. We are not that big for a college, slightly over four thousand, but our number of activities is almost unmanageble. Sometimes, that is our weakness-- everyone is a leader or an idealist, and too much happens on those individual plots of land. We are still working on collaborating across groups. We are headstrong-- we WILL do what we have set out to do-- in fact, we dedicate 75k in school funds to fund these uncommon projects. I love that about us.
The U of C (it actually prefers to be called Chicago – but that’s a recent development) is a great place to learn. The U of C, as an institution and as a community, genuinely supports and encourages the “life of the mind.” If you’re honestly interested in getting a great education and really challenging yourself the U of C offers countless opportunities to do so. Great class selection. Great professors. Small classes (except for most of the entry level science classes). Beautiful gothic campus (some say all that grey stone and gargoyles are depressing – but I loved it). The one thing I’d change about the school is the location. The campus is located in Hyde Park in the south side of Chicago, and while the campus itself is relatively safe and clean, the surrounding neighborhood is not (though it is getting better). Now, don’t get me wrong, Chicago is a great city, and there are a lot of great things about Hyde Park (local dive bars and restaurants), but I did feel a little isolated living there (though some of this was self-inflicted). The class advisors were cool as was the rest of the administration. One experience I remember was getting grilled in class on a book I hadn't read (I joined the class late and didn't realize we had a reading assignment). I tried to fake my way through it but the professor wasn't buying it. He eventually left me off the hook only to come back to me the following week and grill me about another book. This time I was prepared and it went really well. Months later when I went to turn in my final exam he shook my hand and told me it was a pleasure having me in the class. Sort of a "Paper Chase" (it's a movie) type moment that led to a happy ending.
The University of Chicago is known, among other things, for its astounding number of associated Nobel Prize winners. These scholars and academics have certainly left an impact on the University, and human life, but they are not what affects me on a daily basis. Instead, each day at the UofC I am even more astounded by the brilliance, diversity, and talent of my peers that is truly "prize" worthy. Sure, this University is populated by superior intellectuals that are aces in the classroom, but that is not what amazes me. Rather, what makes this school truly so unique is the unbelievable drive and talent that students here commit to other pursuits, outside of the classroom. I have a friend who is a committed student and a varsity athlete, as well as a concert pianist. Another has just incorporated a start-up that has gained nationwide, and global attention. Another still as a chef, has cooked with some of Chicago's leading restaurant chefs. One might have also caught drift of a number of web start-ups that have gained attention, and sold, from UChicago undergrads. There are chess masters, esteemed playwrights, international youth diplomats, debate champions, Starcraft whizzes, and nationally renowned classicists. Around each corner, and in each classroom seat is another student with another fascinating talent, skill, or lifelong pursuit. This cannot be the case at just any University. This cannot be the case at more than ten colleges nationwide. Combine this stellar student body with its unabated and unrivaled thirst for knowledge, and you find that there is not any place quite like the UofC. It is one of a kind.
I couldn't be happier with my choice to attend the University of Chicago. When I initially told all of my friends that I was coming here, the general reactions were, "I guess you won't be going to a single party for the next four years," and "Wow! I had no idea you were that smart!" With that being said, this school will definitely push you to your limits academically. Countless hours are spent in the library, but the funny thing is; everyone needs to get work done, so going to the library is almost always done with friends, and is not really seen as too much of a drag. I love the size of this school, as I did not want to go to a University with 50,000 students, but also wanted more than 750. I think this 5,000-6,000 student size is perfect, as you still meet plenty of new people every time you go out, but its also not hard to know where everything and everyone lives and interacts. Although the school spirit for athletics sucks (I'm a football player and it tends to be pretty depressing looking up at the stands), everyone still supports the athletes and school in general. Overall I love the challenge of school and competing with some of the best students around the world. As far as the party scene goes, there typically is not too much going on during the week, which I like since that helps keep you focused on your studies, but on the weekends it is easy to find a party close to the dorms. These are always fun, as UIC and Loyolla kids always come down to party with us. The best thing about this school? You are but one 10 minute ride on the metra from the greatest city in the world, Chicago.
I think U Chicago is just the right size. It's not too small where you know everyone, but it's not too large that you might get lost. Well, people in California don't really know of the school. So when I was first telling people that I was going to attend the school, most of them just warned me about the weather and said bring a heavy coat. Out here, however, people often mistake U of C for UIC and it can be very annoying. Not there this anything wrong with UIC but it's just not the school that I go to. People who understand that I mean University of Chicago usually assume that I must be smart and probably think I might be stuck up. On campus, I tend to be in the library a lot unless I'm running to class or different meetings. I also spend time in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs building and also the University Community Service Center. Since we are div. III, there's not an overwhelming amount of school spirit on campus. However, there are people that faithfully attend athletic events and I would say they exhibit the most school pride. U Chicago tends to pride itself on being uncommon or unusual. One thing that is unusual is the quarter system and the rigorous, infamous core curriculum. One time that I'll always remember is O Week or the freshman orientation week, because that is the only time when you'll just be on campus with absolutely nothing to do! And even then we had required meetings we had to go to!
I think that UChicago tends to blend into the background of other colleges--we aren't known for boasting our greatest achievements to the world or grabbing to take credit for our accomplishments. I think that it's both good and bad; it's good that we aren't pompous and full of ourselves and egotistical, but at the same time, we deserve a lot more credit than we are getting in a lot of different fields. At the same time, I am really disheartened when I tell people in Ohio (where I'm from) that I go to the University of Chicago and they think it's a state school with a fancy name. It's not. When people say that, I feel like it's taking a shot at all I've worked so hard to accomplish and all that I'm still working so hard to do with my life. Where I come from, you never hear that you can get into a college as hard and impressive as UChicago, so just the fact that I'm here now is a big deal. To have that undermined by other people's lack of knowledge is pretty sad. And I think that makes the student population a little bitter about being the so-called little sister or brother of the "big deal" colleges like Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. I've heard it and seen it a million times from a bunch of really happy, really content UChicago students. Although, I feel that our biggest issue right now is the Alderman's re-routing the 171 Bus Stop away from 57th and University.