Advice from an Old Fogey, should you choose to listen

<p>I've been weaving in and out of these forums because my niece has had a very emotional college search process and just got into a good school for her.</p>

<p>I see a lot of the emotions she's expressing echoed here, so I thought I'd chime in with some advice, if you don't mind.</p>

<li><p>Don't think of yourselves as products. Maybe this is just me, but I'm absolutely tickled that you're reducing yourself to percentiles and scores and reading into the acceptance rate as if it tells you something valuable. Think of it this way: I got into the University of Chicago back when the school was admitting about half of the students who applied. I am an active volunteer with the University in many ways, so I see a lot of current students. It was a challenging school for bright kids then, and it's a challenging school for bright kids now. The only difference in the student population, as far as I can tell, is that the lower 25%ile of admitted students' testing increased significantly. </p></li>
<li><p>Attend the University of Chicago because you want to, and don't feel like you have to attend it. Don't feel like your sense of self is dependent on getting in. My niece, for example, is a bright young lady but I'd be the first person to say that the University of Chicago is simply not a fit for her. She wants big-time sports, a lot of school spirit, an active Greek scene, and an undergraduate business major. The University of Chicago can be many things to many people, but a Division III school is not a Division I school, and Reed College is not the University of Michigan. It's your tuition dollars and you deserve to spend them at a school where you are going to be happy and have a productive four years.</p></li>

<p>Some other thoughts... Speaking as an alum, I am overwhelmed with pride at how the institution has grown over the years. If you're a high school student who has only known about U of C for a few months, you are probably not familiar with the row of high-profile gifts that the University has received towards science research, libraries, arts, undergraduate financial aid, housing, business, you name it, and how the University's put these gifts to good use. I continue to be amazed by Dean John Boyer's leadership and his commitments to undergraduate students- particularly in funded internships and study abroad.</p>

<p>U of C students continue to be U of C students-- intellectually ambitious, professional when the situation accounts for it but unafraid to unleash their inner nerd, a dash of midwestern wholesomeness and self-deprecating humor mixed in. I love how the school continues to use the application questions as both a screening mechanism and a marketing technique- if you had fun thinking and writing about the essays, if you found them challenging yet intriguing, you'll be a great student here.</p>

<p>But really.... I'm sure you (students and parents) all have better things to do than participate in games of one-upsmanship and contribute to unproductive conspiracy theories. I attended the University of Chicago, thrived at the University of Chicago, and will send them as much money as they ask for, but it also doesn't mean I wouldn't have been happy at another institution.</p>

<p>That was a nice dose of reality. What did you go on to do after you finished? What did you study? What courses in life did your friends take? I was so thrilled to get in; I was convinced that I'd get deferred. I feel like UChicago is a very strong fit for me, but I'm not absolutely set on it and am continuing to apply to schools RD. What made the difference for you?</p>

<p>I work in education research (along with many, many UChicago alumni.) My friends have scattered- some in law practice/law school, many many in some form of consulting, some in think tanks, many in grad school.</p>

<p>Out of the schools I researched and considered seriously, I felt that UChicago was the university that invested the most in the academic experience. </p>

<p>The mid-size universities I considered seemed to look at undergraduates as tuition-paying cash-cows that the university is beholden to keep happy and safe for the sake of the university's "real" work in research; the liberal arts colleges I considered seriously seemed to run out of academic steam at the highest levels due to size restrictions. I thought that UChicago had a seamless integration of College and graduate divisions, structurally and philosophically.</p>

<p>I also liked the idea of attending a school at the hip of a major city and a school with a strong undergraduate house system. I remember being particularly intrigued by going to the Divinity School coffee shop on my campus visit in high school, by looking at the billboards in Cobb, by attending a class. I felt it would be easiest for me to be happy at U of C.</p>

<p>djz, you're coming into this process from a position of strength, so if I were you I'd continue to apply and ask good questions of the schools you're considering.</p>