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University of Chicago Admissions Profile

Keep reading to learn more about UChicago's admissions process, including extracurriculars, personal essays, and interviews. Maximize your application to UChicago and schedule a free consultation with one of our counselors!
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The University of Chicago, known for its rigorous academics, intellectual curiosity, and vibrant campus community, stands as a bastion of academic excellence. Aspiring students from around the world seek admission to the University of Chicago to engage in intellectual exploration, critical thinking, and scholarly pursuits. In this comprehensive article, we delve into the University of Chicago admissions profile, shedding light on the key factors that shape the application process, the qualities the university seeks in its applicants, and valuable insights for prospective students. If you're ready to embark on a journey of intellectual discovery, read on to uncover the secrets behind the University of Chicago's admissions process.

University of Chicago Admissions Profile

The University of Chicago, situated in the vibrant city of Chicago, Illinois, takes a holistic approach to its admissions process. Understanding the University of Chicago admissions profile is crucial for prospective students aiming to secure a place at this esteemed institution. Let's explore the essential components of the University of Chicago admissions profile to gain valuable insights into the application process.

Below are tables highlighting how UChicago evaluates each applicant through information published in the Common Data Set, a resource that compiles a standardized list of data items provided by universities about their admissions profiles.

Relative importance of each of the following academic and nonacademic factors in your application

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Intellectual Curiosity: A Passion for Learning

The University of Chicago values intellectual curiosity and a passion for learning. The admissions committee looks for applicants who demonstrate a genuine desire to explore knowledge, ask thought-provoking questions, and engage in intellectual discourse. The university seeks students who are eager to challenge existing ideas and contribute to the academic community.

Academic Excellence: A Strong Foundation

Academic excellence forms the foundation of the University of Chicago's mission. The admissions committee reviews an applicant's high school academic record, including course selection, grades achieved, and overall GPA. The university seeks students who have excelled in challenging coursework, displayed intellectual rigor, and demonstrated the ability to thrive in a rigorous academic environment.

Personal Essays: Expressing Unique Perspectives

The personal essays provide applicants with an opportunity to showcase their unique perspectives, experiences, and aspirations. The University of Chicago values authentic and thoughtful responses that reflect an applicant's intellectual curiosity, creativity, and engagement with ideas. Applicants are encouraged to demonstrate their ability to think critically, articulate their thoughts effectively, and connect their experiences to broader intellectual themes.

Supplemental Essays in the University of Chicago's Admissions Process

In the admissions process for the University of Chicago (UChicago), supplemental essays play an integral role. These essays provide a platform for students to showcase their creativity, critical thinking skills, and intellectual passions, all of which are traits highly valued by UChicago.

For the 2023-2024 admissions cycle, UChicago requires two types of supplemental essays: the "Why UChicago?" essay and the Extended Essay. Let's take a closer look at each:

"Why UChicago?" Essay

In this essay, usually around 250 words, applicants are expected to articulate why they are interested in attending UChicago specifically. This is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of UChicago's unique academic and social culture, and to convey how they see themselves contributing to and benefiting from this community. Applicants should emphasize what sets UChicago apart from other institutions in their view, referencing specific courses, professors, research opportunities, or student organizations that align with their interests and goals.

Extended Essay

The Extended Essay is where UChicago's application truly stands out. UChicago is renowned for its unconventional and highly creative essay prompts that challenge students to think outside the box. The prompts vary each year and often include hypothetical, philosophical, or whimsical questions designed to provoke original and in-depth thinking. For example, past prompts have asked students to "Find x" or consider how they would design a course on the number 'zero'.

The Extended Essay has no firm word limit, but most successful essays tend to fall between 500-600 words. With these prompts, UChicago is less interested in the 'correctness' of the response than in how applicants showcase their intellectual curiosity, creativity, and ability to formulate and articulate complex ideas.

When writing these essays, applicants should be authentic, thoughtful, and unafraid to take intellectual risks. UChicago values students who are eager to engage with challenging ideas, question the status quo, and contribute to a vibrant, intellectual community. Therefore, these essays are a valuable opportunity for students to demonstrate these qualities and make a compelling case for their fit with UChicago's distinctive academic environment.

Sample Essays

Prompt: Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?


There are two types of people in this world: those who love La Croix, and those who hate it. In the extremely unlikely chance you’ve never heard of it, La Croix is a brand of canned sparkling water, featuring flavors such as ‘shy watermelon’, ‘tropical cardboard’, ‘a strawberry with low battery’, and ‘transported in a truck near bananas’ (No, these aren’t the actual names of flavors. But they maybe should be.). Personally, I’m a lover of La Croix, and my favorite flavor is ‘hint of hint of lime’. There’s actually a surprising amount of controversy over the carbonated beverage based on its subtle flavors, especially given its higher degree of carbonation, which has led to what many describe as a ‘tsunami of memes’. Given this, I love LaCroix not just for its barely-existent flavors, but also for what it shows us about human psychology, biology, and society.

While LaCroix has become the focus of innumerable memes in recent years, the company has actually existed since 1981, and was created, funnily enough, to fill the niche that Perrier failed to, since Perrier marketed itself as a posh drink for the well-established (which could’ve started a meme war of its own had the internet existed). While La Croix received little public attention at its inception, the creation of a Facebook page for Pamplemousse LaCroix memes changed that. And then social psychology and cognitive bias took over. The bandwagon effect is defined as a phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads, and trends increases with respect to the proportion of others who have already bought in. So naturally, as the page became popular, many hopped on the bandwagon and spread the memes even further. And at the same time, people who liked Coconut LaCroix, as well as people who just don’t like carbonated water in general, began creating their own groups and spreading memes, creating in-groups and out-groups that only served to meme for their own cause. And thus, there were two kinds of people: those who memed in favor of the carbonated drink, and those who memed against it.

One particular phrase that actually points to another reason some dislike carbonated beverages is “La Croix tastes like when my foot falls asleep.” Many don’t like the carbonation levels of the drink (and others like it). My friend says drinking LaCroix is “like drinking pop rocks.” This is because, unlike soda, carbonated water has no sugar or other strong flavorings, so the carbonation has to be stronger to give a more distinct taste, which is especially divisive since different people with different biological makeups perceive flavor differently. This leads to two kinds of people: those who can tolerate the increased carbonation, and those who can’t. The main reason that some can’t handle high levels of carbonation is due to the byproduct of water and CO2. When water is carbonated, it causes a chemical equilibrium in which carbonic acid is created (H2O + CO2 <=> H2CO3). This acid, combined with the taste of fizz, often overwhelms people with low pain tolerance, in the same way that some can’t handle spice and capsaicin.

One particular factor that plays a role in how a person perceives the flavor of carbonation is genetic. Specifically, the CA4 gene, located on chromosome 17, which encodes for the carbonic anhydrase 4 protein, widely regarded as the protein that exists in taste buds that give us the ‘fizzy’ sensation when we drink carbonated beverages. The carbonic anhydrase 4 protein also serves a role in a number of other functions in the body, from respiration and calcification to the formation of saliva and cerebrospinal fluid. The expression of this gene is impacted by a number of factors in the human body, from variance in metabolic functions and the expression of Human Growth Hormone to certain genetic disorders, such as Retinitis pigmentosa 17, which results from a mutation of the CA4 gene. This reduces the body’s ability to maintain specific pH levels. Since the carbonic anhydrase 4 protein facilitates the reverse hydration reaction of carbonic acid, breaking down the acidic compound into water and carbonic dioxide. When the body (or parts of it) loses the ability to facilitate this reaction, it can’t break down certain acids, meaning that we are overwhelmed by the fizz sensation. 

Or to put all of that another way: genetically, there are two types of people—those (with a functioning CA4 gene) who love La Croix and those (without) who don’t.

While some may argue that I can’t just define people by their preference regarding a specific drink, I have yet to meet a person who has a moderate stance on the taste of LaCroix and defies the duality I’ve presented. But regardless of your stance, you can’t deny that ‘tropical cardboard’ is an objectively great name for a drink.

Prompt: "There is no such thing as a new idea" - Mark Twain. Are any pieces of art, literature, philosophy, or technology truly original, or just a different combination of old ideas? Pick something, anything (besides yourself), and explain why it is, or is not, original.


Meret Oppenheim. Object, 1936. Fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon, cup 4-3/8 inches in diameter; saucer 9-3/8 inches in diameter; spoon 8 inches long, overall height 2-7/8"

(The Museum of Modern Art)

The notion of originality in art has been widely debated, with implications extending beyond the scope of the subject. Matthew Teitelbaum, director of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, has said, “At one time, all art was contemporary … it was received by an audience and played a certain role in relation to a culture or community.” Art can be groundbreaking and revolutionary, though over time, it can lose its meaning due to changes in preferences, tastes, and fashion. But with thousands of years of ancient history, could any object in the modern world be truly original? Or are creations today merely regroupings of the past and combinations of old ideas? In my opinion, because artists inevitably draw inspiration from the past, true originality does not exist, but ultimately this doesn’t matter—what is essential is that art motivates and ushers in intellectual discourse across interest groups and sparks transformation. 

Enter Object by Meret Oppenheim, regarded as one of the defining representations of Surrealism for its embodiment of mundane objects challenging logic and reasoning. At first glance, Object may seem ugly, even idiotic: a teacup, saucer and spoon, evocatively wrapped in animal fur, strike a stark contrast to my vision of the pinnacle of art: e.g., the luminous landscape, thick brushstrokes, and vivid colour of Starry Night. In creating Object, Oppenheim challenges the nature of originality in art with the jarring combination of fur and everyday items. Even the 3D sculptural elements deviate from past establishments. Object does not follow the idealistic canon of proportions of Polykleitos’ Doryphoros, nor does it embrace the pop art of contemporary icons. Was this thought-provoking sculpture a satirical response, or unintentional brilliance? 

Object was inspired by a luncheon with Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar, who complimented the furry brass bracelet of Oppenheim and jokingly proclaimed: “Almost anything can be covered in fur!” Oppenheim was struck with inspiration—she left the cafe immediately and created the now-iconic Object using a cup, saucer, and spoon from a nearby store. 

Object is certainly not original in that it utilizes ready-made items for art creation; this concept has been exemplified by artists such as Marcel Duchamp and his famous sculpture Fountain. But ultimately, originality should not be the end goal of artists. The goal of art should be to challenge the human mind. Object certainly accomplishes this goal—the idiocy of the brown gazelle fur layered on top of the presumably ceramic/porcelain dining utensils transposes human logic. 

Object creates a lasting impression, even if Object is not truly original. As the colour of the earth, the brown exterior symbolizes a return to simplicity and a sense of dullness of everyday life. More importantly, why fur? And why gazelle? This particular medium might serve as an allusion to the 1790-1890 American Fur Trade, which represents a period of economic and social significance. Though disagreements permeate art historians, some recognize fur as sexual in nature, alluding to fetishistic qualities in the fur-lined set; others believe that Object is linked to the alchemical transformation of Surrealism in the transition from smooth ceramics to a bristly fur to attain a higher state of consciousness. 

Now, imagine being in an exhibition, examining this bizarre and extraordinary spectacle. The saucer, spoon, and cup are arranged in a naturalistic way, almost as an invitation for a warm cup of black tea paired with a fine assortment of chocolates on a pleasant afternoon. Yet no one in their right mind would ever drink from a cup full of fur. Fur may be pleasant to touch, but the physical discomfort and ridiculousness of wet fur filling one's mouth and throat is an appalling nightmare, simply disgusting. Abominable. Through creating Object, Oppenheim had given practical, everyday commodities transcendence, moving into a realm of irrationality and absurdity. The creation of Object speaks to the fact that originality should not be the end goal of art; art should focus on transforming the way humans see the world. Object exemplifies these characteristics in that it evokes a visceral and profound response: the absurd addition of fur challenges the logic in our everyday thinking regarding simple things around us. During Object's exhibition at the MoMa, a woman fainted "right in front of the fur-bearing cup and saucer." (Landsdale & McKelway 1936) She left no name, but the fact that an eccentric combination of everyday objects could cause such a sensation shows why Object exemplifies Surrealism's desire to revolutionize human consciousness and experience. 

Despite the success of Object, the majority of Oppenheim’s artistic career was tragically overwhelmed by the focus of the world spotlight. Yet Object was something fresh—the stunning fur-wrapped set remains one of the defining icons of Modernist art cemented in the minds of enthusiasts worldwide. Today, Object is no longer the groundbreaking sensation it was in 1936. Still, it embodies the glamorous and elegant elements of the principle of art: a regrouping of old ideas and transformative creativity challenging the nature of the human mind and paving the way for future artworks that no longer obsess over the notion of originality. So now, when I sit on my comfy couch sipping a lovely afternoon tea, I will always remember the furry, thought-provoking Object and its role in creating history. 

Test Scores: Demonstrating Aptitude

Standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, are considered by the University of Chicago in the admissions process. While the university takes a holistic approach to admissions, strong performance in standardized tests can positively impact an applicant's candidacy. High scores can demonstrate an applicant's intellectual abilities and potential for success in the university's rigorous academic programs.

Letters of Recommendation: Insights from Others

Letters of recommendation provide valuable insights into an applicant's character, abilities, and potential for success. The University of Chicago requires two letters of recommendation, typically from teachers or mentors who can speak to an applicant's academic achievements, personal qualities, and potential contributions to the university community. Selecting recommenders who know the applicant well and can provide specific examples of their strengths is essential.

Demonstrated Impact: Making a Difference

The University of Chicago values applicants who have made a positive impact in their communities and beyond. Engagement in extracurricular activities, community service, research projects, or initiatives that demonstrate leadership, creativity, and a commitment to making a difference are highly valued. The university seeks students who have the potential to contribute meaningfully to the campus community.

University of Chicago Application Deadlines

For prospective students planning to apply to the University of Chicago (UChicago), it is critical to be aware of the application deadlines. UChicago offers three application plans: Early Action (EA), Early Decision I (ED I), and Early Decision II (ED II), and Regular Decision (RD). Each of these plans has distinct deadlines to accommodate various applicant timelines.

Early Action

The Early Action program at UChicago is non-binding and provides students with the opportunity to receive an admissions decision earlier, typically by mid-December. The deadline for Early Action applications is November 1. While this gives students the advantage of early notification, they have until May 1 to accept or decline their offer.

Early Decision I & II

UChicago's Early Decision I and II are binding plans, meaning that students who apply through these programs commit to attend UChicago if admitted. The application deadline for Early Decision I is November 1, with decisions usually released in mid-December. The application deadline for Early Decision II is January 1, and decisions are typically released in mid-February. These plans are suitable for students who have identified UChicago as their first choice.

Regular Decision

The Regular Decision deadline is January 1. This allows students additional time to put together their application materials, including their academic accomplishments from the first half of their senior year. Admissions decisions for Regular Decision applications are typically released in late March.

Financial Aid Application

To be considered for need-based financial aid, students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the UChicago Financial Aid Worksheet (or optionally the CSS Profile) by February 15. UChicago is committed to ensuring that students from all backgrounds can afford a UChicago education, meeting 100% of demonstrated need for all admitted students.

Remember, UChicago's application deadlines are firm, and all components of the application must be submitted by 11:59 PM Central Standard Time (CST) on the respective deadline dates.

The application journey for UChicago requires thoughtful planning, time management, and meticulous effort. By understanding and adhering to these deadlines, students can smoothly navigate their path towards becoming a part of the intellectually vibrant UChicago community.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the acceptance rate at UChicago?

The acceptance rate at the University of Chicago is typically around 6-7%, making it a highly competitive institution to gain admission to.

Does UChicago require interviews for all applicants?
No, the University of Chicago does not require interviews for all applicants. Interviews are conducted on an invitation-only basis.
Does UChicago consider demonstrated interest in admissions decisions?

The University of Chicago takes a holistic approach to admissions and does not explicitly track demonstrated interest. Admissions decisions are primarily based on an applicant's qualifications, achievements, and fit with the university's academic community.


Securing admission to the University of Chicago requires a combination of intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, and a genuine passion for learning. By understanding the various components of the University of Chicago admissions profile and showcasing your unique strengths, you can increase your chances of joining the esteemed University of Chicago community. So, embrace intellectual exploration, think critically, and let your passion for knowledge guide you toward unlocking the doors to intellectual discovery at the University of Chicago.