How to Get Into the University of Chicago: Admissions Data and Strategies
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the University of Chicago was 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. In 1993, an incredible 77% were admitted, and 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 5% in recent years, placing the University of Chicago right 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 a full understanding of the following topics:
- UChicago’s Class of 2026 acceptance rate
- UChicago’s Class of 2026 ED acceptance rate
- SAT, ACT, and class rank of accepted University of Chicago applicants
- Admissions trends from the Class of 2025 and 2026
- 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)
First, let’s examine the most recent admissions data.
University of Chicago Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026
The university has not yet released the official number of applicants for the Class of 2026. However, the school has revealed that the overall acceptance rate was 5%. Out of 37,977 applicants to the Class of 2025, just 6.5% were offered acceptance.
UChicago: Early Decision Acceptance Rate – Class of 2026
UChicago offers two rounds of Early Decision–the first deadline is November 1 and the EDII deadline is on January 4. 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 Admissions – SAT, ACT, and Class Rank
Looking at the enrolled Class of 2025, the ACT Middle-50% was 33-35 and the SAT Middle-50% was 1510-1560. In a typical year, 99% of attending students placed in the top decile of their high school class.
Admissions Trends & Notes
- According to the University 200+ early admits into the Class of 2026 were first-generation students.
- The 37,977 applications received for a place in the Class of 2025 was an all-time record.
- More male students than female students were admitted into the Class of 2025.
- Accepted early applicants into the Class of 2026 included international students from more than 40 countries.
How the University of Chicago Rates Applicants
Overall, 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, one recent freshman class 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.
Lastly, 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?
Up next, let’s look at the demographics of current UChicago undergraduates.
The Class of 2025 is comprised of students who grew up the:
- Mid-Atlantic: 24%
- Midwest: 19%
- West: 21%
- Southeast: 14%
- New England: 11%
- South: 11%
In past years (when data was released), students hail most frequently from the following states:
- California: 13%
- New York: 11%
- Illinois: 10%
- Texas: 6%
- Florida: 5%
In general, 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.
Turning next to ethnic identity, the breakdown for the freshmen entering in fall of 2021 was as follows:
- Asian American: 27%
- Hispanic: 19%
- African American: 10%
- International: 18%
Further, the breakdown by gender is as follows:
- Male: 53%
- Female: 47%
Class of 2025 members were involved with the following activities while in high school:
- Community service: 81%
- Editorial: 22%
- Music: 51%
- Student government: 38%
- Varsity athletics: 65%
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%. This number is among the highest of any school in the country. Only schools like Harvard, Stanford MIT, Yale, Columbia, and Brown sport comparable yield rates.
Tips for Applying to University of Chicago
If you plan on joining the 37,000+ 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.
- The University of Chicago also 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.
- Also make sure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to the supplemental essays required by UChicago. In the 2021-22 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.
Question 2: Extended Essay (Required; Choose one)
Essay Option 1
What if the moon were made of cheese? Or Neptune made of soap? Pick a celestial object, reimagine its material composition, and explore the implications. Feel free to explore the realms of physics, philosophy, fantasy…the sky is the limit!
—Inspired by Tate Flicker, Class of 2025
Essay Option 2
What’s so easy about pie?
—Inspired by Arjun Kalia, Class of 2025
Essay Option 3
In Homer’s Iliad, Helen had a “face that launched a thousand ships.” A millihelen, then, measures the beauty needed to launch one ship. The Sagan unit is used to denote any large quantity (in place of “billions and billions”). A New York Minute measures the period of time between a traffic light turning green and the cab behind you honking. Invent a new unit of measurement. How is it derived? How is it used? What are its equivalents?
—Inspired by Carina Kane, Class of 2024, and Ishaan Goel, Class of 2025
Essay Option 4
“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.
—Inspired by Haina Lu, Class of 2022
Essay Option 5
It’s said that history repeats itself. But what about other disciplines? Choose another field (chemistry, philosophy, etc.) and explain how it repeats itself. Explain how it repeats itself.
—Inspired by Ori Brian, AB’19
Essay Option 6
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!
For detailed advice on how to approach each UChicago essay, visit our blog: University of Chicago Essay Prompts and Tips.
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 2022-23—even the best and brightest teens need to have an appropriate college list, containing a complement of “target” and “safety” schools. In conclusion, 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.
A licensed counselor and published researcher, Andrew’s experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans more than one decade. He has previously served as a high school counselor, consultant and author for Kaplan Test Prep, and advisor to U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admissions and financial aid.