Okay, so since I was a frequent on this board for a good amount of time, I think it's appropriate to give back to my beloved CC community by providing some feedback about my college experience so far. Obviously, Uchicago is a very unique school, and I think people need to have a realistic perception of this place. I really really like it here so far, but there are some downsides that come with Uchicago. Here they are =)
I'm taking 3 classes this quarter. I'm on a varsity sport here, so I thought it would be tough juggling all the plans. Turns out, I'm perhaps the most underworked person here. Because of that, my opinion may be a bit biased. I hear a lot of my classmates talking about how they're all swamped with work, but I think a big part of that is due to their own procrastination. I have 3 hours for practice everyday and am still able to comfortably accomplish my work and get **** done. Once again, I am probably the exception. My classes are Hum (Phil Per), Sosc (Power), and Bio (Topics course). My bio class has NO homework at all, so that helps. And, my I love my Hum and Sosc classes, so the work in there doesn't feel like work at all. My grades are also fine, and I plan on getting a 3.7 or higher this quarter. Basically, I think the intense courseload and grading system here are generally exaggerated. Obviously, it depends on your major. My 2nd year friend who is a pre-med says science classes here are killer for your GPA.
To add to the academics...if you're here for the love of learning and all that, then you've come to the right place. My discussion-based classes (Hum and Sosc) are both amazing. Every class I feel like I'm readily engaged in the class activity, and am learning so much. This might not be the best atmosphere for people who don't like to participate in class or are shy people, but you have to adapt. In Sosc especially, I feel like nothing in that class is a burden or anything I would call "work." We just finished reading Smith, and now we're on Marx, and I feel like I'm finally being able to read the works that I've always wanted to. Only now, not only do I have the extra motivation and incentive, but the discussion atmosphere is great for facilitating that love for these texts. To add a point, the core is amazing for me because I'm a social science/hum kind of guy. My friend here who is a pre-med has a different perspective because the core is a bit more fitting for people like me, and less forgiving to math/science types. The core science classes, from my experience at least, are pretty easy, while a core sosc/hum class can be rather difficult for a math/science person....especially if you're forced to read a bunch of archaic texts that you don't give 2 ****s about. In that respect, Uchicago is AMAZING. I really don't think I could get this enthusiasm or class atmosphere at a different school. I compare this with my visit to Northwestern, where I sat in on a few classes, and the students seemed pretty disinterested and slumped.
My other points require less description...
Chicago itself is amazing. It is so convenient to get downtown. People usually don't go downtown here, are usually too busy or just not interested in the city...never because it takes too much time or is out of their way. I lived 45 minutes from NYC, so to be able to hop on a bus that takes me to the heart of downtown in about 15-20 minutes is a great asset. Plus, it's incredibly cheap (like 4 bucks). I usually go downtown for clothes shopping, but there are great bookstores and museums or restaurants....anything you want.
This will probably only apply to a select few, but I'm incredibly happy I decided to pursue my sport in college. Playing for a DIII school was a perfect balance of sports and academics. The team is very close, and we spend a lot of time together. The idea of traveling to other states to compete is also exciting. And, my coach is awesome, so I'm improving a great deal under his training.
Finally, Chicago weather has been amazing almost 100% of the time. Obviously it's going to get cold in the winter, but the fall has perfect temperature and skies. Hyde park is a beautiful place. Cherish it...
There is basically only one thing I have against this school. It's the people. I know I'm going to say a few things now that won't be easy to hear, but sometimes you need to keep it real and realize the faults of your own school. I've been lucky because I've found a few friends that I'm getting pretty cool with. I have no problems with my own social situation, and I'm perfectly fine with what I do on the weekends or with my free time. My qualms are with the general student body here.
Most of the kids here are very shy or socially awkward. It's hard to have a normal conversation with someone. I mean, sure, the academic conversation is there. I'm more than happy when I find someone who wants to talk about Russian literature or the last Marx passage we had to do for homework. But it's more than that. People are just uncool here. Some people are shy and unconfident, and with other people it's hard to talk about **** that you would normally be able to talk with other people about outside this Uchicago atmosphere. Either way, there's this intangible uchicago "vibe" that I get from a great deal of the students here that makes them socially off-putting. My friend described the students here as simply "boring", and it's awful, but sometimes I really get that feeling. Or at least, that's how they portray themselves as. Another friend of mine who's a second year just said "the people here suck."
Partying is another issue. I'm actually not going to argue about how ****ty the parties are here. They are bad, and I accept that. That's not even the worst thing. The worst thing is that a lot of the kids here did not drink/party a whole lot in HS, I feel. You'd think that people wouldn't be as eager to party, but for a lot of people, it's the opposite. They didn't drink in HS, and now feel that partying here is a way to "catch up," and I feel that it's very immature. If you want to party hardcore, you came to the wrong school. If I wanted that, I would have gone to Cornell or something. But what ****es me off is that a lot people here just flaunt the fact that they go out all the time, or just brag about what they do on the weekends, or how wasted they got. That's not cool, and I wish a lot of the partygoers here would just stop trying to be something they're not and embrace this wonderful academic atmosphere. Or at least stop being such stupid exhibitionists about all the "cool" stuff they do. College kids who ACTUALLY drink a lot and party well don't talk about how much they party or what their favorite drinks are or stupid **** like that.
The house system is also a bit flawed socially in my opinion. What it does is randomly place you in a group of people, and you're suddenly expected to hang out with these people and participate in group activities. I understand that some people are not good at making friends, and that this helps with that. But, it also continues to breed this shy/unsocial quality that is upsetting at Uchicago. The house system gives unsocial kids a comfortable pillow to fall back on if they're not good at making friends. The school should be encouraging more outgoing people, rather than just being fine with the fact that their students are like this.
There are just other little things that just annoy me. The "where fun goes to die" t-shirts...I mean I understand that it's a joke, but sometimes it really isn't. You should not be advertising or embracing a negative quality of our school, but rather be helping to improve it.
The rumor that the student body here is generally less attractive is no rumor. For guys and girls. I don't think there's much else I can say. Maybe that I'll see maybe a good looking guy who looks chill, and once I begin talking to him, he'll just give off that same Uchicago awkward/shy vibe.
That's pretty much it. I deal with it, because mostly the avid alcoholics **** me off the most. That's the only good social quality I can attribute this school is that everyone here is REALLY nice. I think this is perhaps just a biproduct of being less affirmative and shy, but it's nice to be at a school doesn't have ******bag jocks. Even the football players here are mostly nice and rather unlike the normal tough football players.
So, before you prospective students start posting a bunch of chances threads, really consider whether you want to come here. This school is VERY unique. It's not for normal people, with normal people interests. I've always been rather nerdy, so I love it here. I love the academic atmosphere, and I only need a few really close friends to be content socially. The city is amazing. But, this is no state school, and if you're a smart, but down-to-earth and a chill guy/girl, you might want to consider other schools in the top15 (ivies are a great social/academic balance). Once again, I love it here. You just might not.
I've enjoyed reading your posts, possibly because I also remember the anxieties you had before coming here. I can also say that as a shy and socially awkward person (IRL! OMG!) that I enjoy having people like you around campus. I couldn't stand going to a school where everybody is like me, and it sounds like you chose Chicago because you wanted to experience something different.
Here are some pointers:
-- I saw a bunch of first-years vanity-smoking outside a dorm the other night and I thought to myself, "They're practically high school students!" I remember first-years in my year doing a cooler-than-thou thing, but believe me, it dies down. First-years become second-years.
-- Your social situation will improve once you too start developing more and better out-of-house and in-house relationships. My social situation improved once I made a friend who's aggressive about going out and is bent to have me go with her to various things. You're only six weeks in. You're a guppy.
-- I think lots of people like you find off-campus living more satisfying.
-- You may be considering joining a frat, which, for you might be a great thing. I know and like a lot of fraternity brothers, and that slice of the population does seem to be a lot more "normal." Plus, it will make you feel a part of another kind of team, aside from your varsity team and your house.
-- Keep an open mind. I still meet people. I am still amazingly impressed by them in a variety of ways. I still find the shell hard to crack on a bunch of people, but I keep them in the back of my mind as people I should try to get to know more.
But you're right. Chicago is not perfect, and I appreciate the fact that you see that some of the things that you love here were tradeoffs for some of the things you don't like as much. Prospective students should remember that no school is perfect.
S1 is also taking three classes this quarter and has plenty of time to work 10 hours a week, join several groups and hang around. He says next quarter will be a different story, as he is looking at four classes and a tougher schedule. While DH and I were skeptical about three courses, it has worked out very well for establishing a new life away from home and being responsible for oneself.
He has found opportunities as a first-year at Chicago that would have taken him 3-4 years to "earn" at other schools. This has been a bit surprising.
He is a math guy but LOVES his Human Being and Citizen sequence. He enjoys writing his papers and especially likes the intense discussions in class. This was why he wanted Chicago.
Socially: S used to be pretty introverted, has become much less so over the past two years. Does not drink. Has been getting involved with house projects and activities, as well as seminars/groups in his major areas of study. His roommate is very, very quiet, so S has had to reach beyond his dorm room to meet people. I don't know if he has made any best friends for life yet, but he's certainly putting himself in a position to find them. He also heads downtown from time to time with friends, so that pleases me, too.
I expect there will be some grumblings at some point as the novelty wears off, winter sets in and he can't find anything he wants to eat. Overall, though, the launch has been smoother than we dared hope.
Cory, you need to hang out with more second-years. ;-)
Seriously though, I really like the people here. There are so many exceptional personalities that you wouldn't encounter to the same degree almost anywhere else. Also, while there is probably more awkwardness in our student body than others, I don't see it as being shy, as you do. On the contrary I think people here are pretty outgoing -- if anything they are even more outgoing because of the social repression in high school :P
Furthermore, awkward is not bad. To me it's more humanizing than anything else. I think a lot of people here have finally found a social atmosphere that they can call their home, and truly thrive in, after a long time of "not fitting in entirely". And I mean this in a mild way, not some way that makes us out as little green men -- in a way that's natural for people who are a little more passionate than their peers in high school (sorry to sound pretentious). So I believe that the awkwardness in our student body has a significant origin in this mild social repression that I'm talking about, and with this in mind I think it can be better appreciated and understood. (Of course, the phrase "social repression" these days has been skewed, so what I mean by "mild social repression" is really something like the tendencies of a bookworm.)
Before I end this post, I'd like to briefly address some of your other points:
1. The "where fun goes to die" T-shirts never gets old with me. There's a difference between banalities and tradition; you can imagine, that if there were not, there'd be no such thing as traditions. Personally I think it should be accepted more as a part of culture and tradition than as an awkward pretension. But I don't use it as a crutch for identifying myself, and don't like this use of it either -- in fact, I don't have the T-shirt, and I rarely ever speak the phrase.
2. The girls here are indeed attractive. I don't really know what you're talking about on that point. (Unless you're looking for like... Gisele Bundchen... who I should remind you is 1 in 7 billion.) Maybe you just don't see many girls? No, just kidding ;-) I guess I'll just stop now; I can't relate.
One last thing: I should probably state something about the school that I dislike or disagree with, so that I'm not a one-way street. I think the chief thing I have in mind right now is the low retention rate of students in the housing system. The housing system provides an amazing social experience, at least in my opinion, and it's sad to see so many students leave for apartments. There are probably two main reasons for this: 1) saving money and 2) the experience of having one's own apartment. There's nothing to do about the latter reason, but as to the former, I'd like to see the university take measures to make housing more affordable.
Last edited by iamthewalrus89; 11-04-2008 at 04:31 AM.
My S would agree with you re: the house system. He plans to stay in for all four years.
I would suspect that some of the "awkwardness" comes from folks who are finally at a place where they can be true to their inner natures, but haven't quite realized just how safe it is to do so. I know my S shuts down if he feels he's in a place where it's not okay to show his intellectual true colors. (Not to be pretentious, as you said, but some kids camouflage, and do it very well.)
My complaint is with the meal plan. The freshman plan costs as much as we spent for all four of us for the first eight months of this year. That includes feeding my 245 lb. left guard/defensive tackle! S is eating maybe two meals a day, and most of the food is stuff he doesn't eat. He is living on cereal, cheese quesadillas and dessert. It is mainly a social event for him, not nutrition.
I can see why people get apartments -- the savings on food offsets the increased rent.
Next year, he can drop to the minimum/moderate meal plan for his house and get a single room, and the cost pretty much evens out.
[Apartments: The savings on food are substantial, and there is often no rent increase. You have to compare the apartment rents to what you would pay for the nicer dorm rooms, not the one-size-fits-all first-year rate. Trust me on this. It does help if your kid spends the summer in Chicago, though. You may take about a 50% bath on subletting for the summer -- that's what the food savings offset.]
I certainly have met enough nice-looking female students at Chicago to scratch my head about what cory is saying about them. But it looks from the post that cory may be female (I always thought cory was male), and I would have to admit that I have met fewer attractive Chicago men than women. The issue seems to be grooming standards or lack thereof, though. I'm not saying they all have to become metrosexuals, but five minutes/day of attention to their appearance would (a) represent a significant increase, and (b) produce a substantial aesthetic improvement.
I would tell prospective students and their parents to take cory's posts with a little grain of salt, either way. My kids (now 4th and 2nd years) are both the opposite of socially awkward, do not have a lot of socially awkward friends, and have never felt nearly as surrounded or oppressed by socially awkward people as cory seems to. As time rolls on, cory may notice that she (or he) and friends are less exceptional and more the norm. And the wave of ostentatious partying by ex-high-school-nerds happens everywhere relevant, and passes quickly. Also, neither of my kids loved all of their Hum and Sosc classes all the time, and while Bio topics was interesting and fun, core Bio was neither.
Referring to what I said about the attractiveness of the students here, I just don't think it's uncalled for. In general, girls and guys (I'm a guy btw) are just not as good looking. I might be a bit biased because I pay close attention to what I wear, but a lot of guys here are just content with throwing on some dirty track sneakers, jeans, and a sweatshirt. It's pretty clear to me, and all the guys that I talk to when it comes to the girls here. Of course there are good looking girls here...I never said there weren't. On average though, it's not what you would find at most other schools. I'm not even comparing the girls to, say, state school girls. I was visiting a friend at Brown earlier this year, and it's apparent that girls there are more attractive as a whole. It's really not subjective, IMO. Guys tend to agree with me....I don't know if you're a girl who is trying to defend yourself or just offended, but remember I'm speaking in general terms. If you're a guy, the best thing is just to find the attractive girls here and work with what's there.
I really don't think what I've said about the school is that specific to my case. I'm generalizing what I've seen of the student body here. Sure, you'll find cool kids here and there, but I know that the people who I've met here who wanted a "normal" social college experience are displeased with this school. Often times, my friends here are the people who were seeking a more normal social experience. I certainly don't share their discontent with the school, but some of their points about the social life here are worth noting. If you have students who don't like it here, you want to ask yourself why, or how you can improve this.
To emphasize my point with housing, I don't think it's the best way to just group people in completely arbitrary groups and make them do all these house activities. You could be grouped with people who you are just totally incompatible with. My friend and I will probably get an apartment next year, and it's because I seek my own friends, and don't need a "house" for a safe place to eat lunch or satisfy my social needs.
So head north to DePaul, or if you like the preppy look, Northwestern.
And, you're not looking to date "in general". You just want one person who appeals to you, I hope.
Beauty, Brains, Personality. Choose 1. You want two? maybe. All three? Good luck...
Maybe I should be glad my D already graduated?
Seriously, though, I think the beauty thing cuts both ways and balances out in the end. It does not matter how many good looking folks there are, I would think, just if there were enough to go around, if that's your thing.
Cory, I'm a "guy", but old enough to make it very creepy for me to pay too much attention to how cute my kids' friends are. Plenty of them are nice-looking, let's leave it at that. Especially the non-guys. But, yes, less attention to personal appearance than at Penn State all around. (Good thing, too. But sometimes maybe a smidgen too much of a good thing.)
I don't feel like repeating my Timeless Magic Spell for increasing the number of attractive people around you, because I've already done it too much in this forum, and it's not so appropriate. But no one ever has to live in a world devoid of attractive people.
I see where I deviate from cory et. al. on the subject of "normal." I was turned off by college campuses that seemed to be "normal" in the way that everybody was trying to live up to a platonic ideal. I am not the kind of person who aggressively seeks "weirdness", either.... in fact, a high pecentage of my friends here wear collared shirts and the like.
As a female, I can't even begin to explain how important it is to me that this campus is not image-obsessed, nor does it present one way for women to look. My feelings in high school were that my female peers put themselves under a lot of anxiety to look and act and dress a certain way specifically to be appealing to men, because somehow validation from others is the path to enlightenment....? My feeling here is that the women (and men) who dress up do so because they like looking good in clothing rather than they feel the need to impress others. I say that as a person who spends between 1 and 5 minutes contemplating my personal appearance every day.
I find a lot of people here to be beautiful, with and without the magic spell. Unless daydreaming in class counts as a magic spell ;-)
To sort of bookend Cory, I think I was expecting Chicago to be a lot more eggheady than I've found it. I was expecting nothing but Aristotle and Heidegger, and instead I see a lot of beer pong, "Weeds," rock concerts, IM sports, and "Family Guy." Typical college stuff, no?
I don't think Cory and I attend different Universities of Chicago. Instead, I think we might be a case of blind men and the elephant (The Elephant and the blind Men), where our different points of view affect how we look at the same thing.
Always insightful, unalove. I respect your views about this school, and I share a lot of your optimism.
For people who are giving me suggestions...don't. I am not discontent. I would not give up the intellectual experience at Chicago for a Northwestern-type school, and the friends that I have made here are very valuable to me.
I'm simply making observations, and this post is mainly for prospective students, and not parents. This especially goes for you fathers whose perception of a "hot" girl is not the same as an average horny college student's, haha. I really don't think your insight is helpful in this respect. A consolation for guys here would be the above mentioned, which is that you only need 1 good looking girl to satisfy what you're looking for. That's actually what's best for me. But, of course there are guys out there who value being single and just want to hook up with as many good looking girls as possible. I'm trying to tell those guys that this might not be the best school for them.
I personally feel that "University of Chicago: not your typical school" is emphasized (and, IMO, hyper-emphasized) by things like our postcard marketing series, our essay questions, and yes, even our ...sigh... slogans.
Everybody I've talked to who knows enough to know that the U of C is not a state school also seems to know that the school isn't going to be the best for those who are seeking a *certain* kind of culture/atmosphere/whatchamacallit, at least when it comes to the collegiate holy trinity of football, beer, and girls.
(That is to say, we have all three, they're just not in any house of worship).
Question for Cory: Do you think the school truthfully advertises and markets itself? Do you get the impression that most of the students here (by most, let's say about 95-98%) came here with the understanding that they'd sacrifice some aspects of the football-beer-girls for Marx-Kant-Aristotle? My answers to both of these questions would be yes, but I'm intrigued to know if you think otherwise.