How to Get Into the University of Chicago: Admissions Data and Strategies
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the University of Chicago was a still a premier destination for quiet, bookish types, many of whom had their heart set on a future in research/academia. Always a haven for intellectuals, UChicago was more concerned with providing an epically rigorous educational experience (the school was then known as “where fun goes to die”), than with being viewed as “most-selective” in its admissions process. As recently as 2005, the university accepted 40% of those who applied.
New leadership led to a more aggressive marketing of the school, as UChicago began seeking an increased number of applicants. By having a lower acceptance rate, perhaps even one on par with the Ivy League, the university would finally get the recognition it deserved as one of the most distinguished institutions of higher learning in the United States. Recognizing this history is important as it informs you that you shouldn’t feel too flattered when you receive a piece of mail from UChicago strongly encouraging you to apply.
In short, the marketing strategy yielded spectacular results. The acceptance rate has actually hovered right around 6% in recent years, placing the University of Chicago right with in the mix with Columbia University, Caltech, Stanford, Harvard, and Yale as the most selective colleges in the entire country. Given this newfound reality, those applying for freshman admission need to first do their homework. The intent of this article is to give those considering applying to University of Chicago:
1) An in-depth and realistic understanding of what you are up against.
2) More data on which to accurately assess your chances of admission.
3) Advice for how to get your University of Chicago application to stand out, even against other top-of-the-class students.
To accomplish these goals we will touch on the following topics:
- UChicago’s Class of 2024 ED acceptance rate
- UChicago’s Class of 2024 acceptance rate
- SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted University of Chicago applicants
- Admissions trends from the Class of 2023 and 2024
- UChicago’s system for rating applicants
- A look at the demographics of University of Chicago undergraduates
- The percent of accepted students that attend the university (yield rate)
- Tips for applying to University of Chicago
- How to assess whether applying to University of Chicago is even worth the $75 application fee (for you)
Let’s begin with an examination of the most recent admissions data.
UChicago: Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2024
UChicago offers two rounds of Early Decision. The first deadline is November 2, 2020 and the EDII deadline is on January 4, 2021. Unfortunately, the university does not offer EA or ED acceptance rates. However, we do know that in the 2018-19 cycle, the university received roughly 15,000 ED I applications, more than double the number of ED applicants a decade ago. It is reasonable to believe that there is a slight advantage to applying ED or ED II at the University of Chicago, but with such a high yield rate (more on this later), the school doesn’t have to worry too much about getting applicants to commit.
University of Chicago Acceptance Rate – Class of 2024
Out of 34,400 applicants to the Class of 2024, just 6.2% were offered acceptance. The previous year, 34,648 applications were received and 2,137 students were accepted at an identical 6.2% acceptance rate (this was initially reported as 5.9%).
University of Chicago Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank
Among those offered a place in the Class of 2024, an incredible 99% were in the top 10% of their high school classes; the average SAT score was 1518 and the average ACT score was 34. Among those who enrolled into the Class of 2023, the ACT Middle-50% was 33-35 and the SAT Middle-50% was 1500-1560.
Admissions Trends & Notes
- The acceptance rate for the Class of 2024 was 6.2%, the same as for the Class of 2024.
- Of the roughly 2,150 applicants accepted into the Class of 2024, 274 were first-generation students.
- 156 of the students accepted into the Class of 2024 were from small American towns or rural areas around the globe.
- 13% of those admitted into the Class of 2024 were international students including 60 students from China and the United Kingdom.
- SAT scores of admitted students have held pretty constant over the past few years. For the Class of 2022, the middle-50% score was 1490-1560.
How the University of Chicago Rates Applicants
There are six factors that University of Chicago ranks as being “very important” to their admissions process: rigor of secondary school record, the essay, recommendations, and character/personal qualities, extracurricular activities, and talent/ability. GPA, class rank, standardized test scores (UChicago is test-optional), first-generation status, legacy status, geographical residence, religious affiliation, ethnicity, volunteer work experience, paid work experience, and the level of an applicant’s interest are all “considered.”
The University of Chicago is not going to be impressed that you filled the ten spaces on the Common App Activity List; they are looking for genuine excellence in one or more activities. For example, the Class of 2023 included: a quarterfinalist and a finalist on teen Jeopardy! the creator of two modern operas, Oman’s Woman of the Year, a student with patent pending for an artificial intelligence swim goggle that is being made in conjunction with Olympic swimmers, a nationally ranked archer, the No. 2 ranked Scrabble player in the world, and the first high school student ever to present research at NASA.
In the admissions offices own words, they “want you to, through your application, show us who you are in your own voice. What is your story? Why did you choose to pursue certain opportunities? What activities are most meaningful to you? The very best way to approach your UChicago application is to simply be yourself and write in your own voice. We care about you and who you really are, not what you think we want to see in an application.”
Who Actually Gets Into UChicago?
Let’s look at the demographics of current UChicago undergraduates.
Geographically, the Class of 2023 is comprised of students who grew up the:
- Mid-Atlantic: 25%
- Midwest: 23%
- West: 18%
- Southeast: 15%
- New England: 11%
- South: 8%
For the Class of 2024, the most accepted students hailed from the following states:
- California: 13%
- New York: 11%
- Illinois: 10%
- Texas: 6%
- Florida: 5%
- Massachusetts: 5%
Competition is harshest among those hailing from states with endless streams of qualified applicants (the entire Northeast & the West Coast). If you hail from a less populated state like Nebraska, South Dakota, or Montana, your location is more likely to provide a boost to your admissions chances.
Looking at ethnic identity, the breakdown for the freshmen entering in fall of 2019 was as follows:
- White: 37%
- Asian American: 6%
- Hispanic: 14%
- African American: 13%
- International: 15%
The breakdown by gender is as follows:
- Male: 52%
- Female: 48%
Class of 2023 members were involved with the following activities while in high school:
- Community service: 82%
- Editorial: 24%
- Music: 46%
- Religious organizations: 13%
- Student government: 35%
- Theater: 25%
- Varsity athletics: 60%
University of Chicago Yield Rate
UChicago’s yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who elect to enroll, divided by the total number of students who are admitted is 80.7%. This number is among the highest of any school in the country. Only Harvard and Stanford (around 82%) have slightly higher rates as the University of Chicago boasts a superior figure to MIT, Yale, Columbia, and Brown.
Tips for Applying to University of Chicago
If you plan on joining the 34,000+ UChicago hopefuls for the next admissions cycle, you should know the following:
- The University of Chicago recently stopped offering on-campus and alumni interviews. As a substitute, students are allowed to submit a two-minute video introduction. This submission does not have to be edited or polished.
- Another great way for admissions officers to get to know on a personal level is through your two required teacher recommendations. For tips on which teachers to target and how to ask revisit our blog on the subject.
- University of Chicago does not consider “demonstrated interest” so you will not be judged on whether or not you made a campus visit, contacted an admissions officer, etc.
- Make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays required by UChicago. In the 2020-21 cycle, there are two required essays—one is standard and, for the other, applicants can choose from a variety of options. They are as follows:
Question 1 (Required)
How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago.
CT Advice: This is essentially asking you, “Why UChicago?” Our recent blog entitled Mastering the Why this College?” Essay will get you started on the right path.
Question 2: Extended Essay (Required; Choose one)
Essay Option 1
Who does Sally sell her seashells to? How much wood can a woodchuck really chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Pick a favorite tongue twister (either originally in English or translated from another language) and consider a resolution to its conundrum using the method of your choice. Math, philosophy, linguistics… it’s all up to you (or your woodchuck).
Essay Option 2
What can actually be divided by zero?
Essay Option 3
The seven liberal arts in antiquity consisted of the Quadrivium — astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and music — and the Trivium — rhetoric, grammar, and logic. Describe your own take on the Quadrivium or the Trivium. What do you think is essential for everyone to know?
Essay Option 4
Subway maps, evolutionary trees, Lewis diagrams. Each of these schematics tells the relationships and stories of their component parts. Reimagine a map, diagram, or chart. If your work is largely or exclusively visual, please include a cartographer’s key of at least 300 words to help us best understand your creation.
Essay Option 5
“Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” – Eleanor Roosevelt. Misattribute a famous quote and explore the implications of doing so.
Essay Option 6
Engineer George de Mestral got frustrated with burrs stuck to his dog’s fur and applied the same mechanic to create Velcro. Scientist Percy Lebaron Spencer found a melted chocolate bar in his magnetron lab and discovered microwave cooking. Dye-works owner Jean Baptiste Jolly found his tablecloth clean after a kerosene lamp was knocked over on it, consequently shaping the future of dry cleaning. Describe a creative or interesting solution, and then find the problem that it solves.
Essay Option 7
In the spirit of adventurous inquiry (and with the encouragement of one of our current students!) choose one of our past prompts (or create a question of your own). Be original, creative, thought provoking. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun!
CT Advice: Everyone likes to be given choices in life, but for many Maroon hopefuls, having to choose from seven prompts provides more anxiety than joy. Fortunately, these are quite humorous and inviting prompts that are intended to elicit fun, clever, engaging, and sometimes revealing responses. Spend ample time considering which essay works most to your strengths and have a good time with this one. Don’t be afraid to inject your true personality into this piece in a manner that will leave a lasting (positive) impression.
Should I Apply to UChicago?
If you bring world-class academic and extracurricular credentials to the table, there is no harm in filling out a University of Chicago application, but—as with all highly-competitive colleges in 2020—even the best and brightest teens need to have an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools. Those that will fare best in conquering this admissions gauntlet will boast a transcript of straight ‘A’s in an exceptionally rigorous program of classes, superior standardized test scores (while the school is test-optional, most applicants do submit them), and at least one or two talents and passions outside of the classroom.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).