Chicago FAQ

<p>I’m aware that RD decisions from other colleges are coming out soon, and ours are probably on the way… so I thought I might create a home base thread for what I think are the most frequently asked questions and my own personal answers to them.</p>

<p>Add-ons in whatever form are more than welcome (questions, answers, questions and answers).</p>

<li>… So, is this really where fun comes to die?</li>
</ol>

<p>Short answer: No.</p>

<p>Longer answer: Only if you want it to be.</p>

<p>More eloquent answer: The “WFCTD” slogan was created by the residents of Tufts House in 1597 as a rallying cry/ secret handshake that dissuaded inherently unfun students from applying and to attract students who understood the slogan’s humor and also understood that fun is immortal and fits pretty well in a suitcase. It’s probably the school’s best-selling and most ubiquitous t-shirt, next to “If I wanted an A, I would have gone to HARVARD.” </p>

<li>…I still don’t believe you, unalove. Prove it.</li>
</ol>

<p>Uhmmm… okay. So on top of lollygagging here on CC, I’m very involved in my job, my schoolwork, and my volunteering, and, of course, my friends. Tonight, for example, I’m procrastinating planning for one of my final papers. Tomorrow, night, though, I’m going to celebrate reading period in style by going to one of my favorite restaurants in the city with a bunch of my friends and then going on to celebratory activities… Friday I’m going to see a movie at Doc Films, and Saturday, we’ll see.</p>

<li>I heard that the U of C is centrally located inside of a huge ghetto. Will I be safe on campus?</li>
</ol>

<p>Technically, the U of C is in Hyde Park and a tad of Woodlawn. HP is a diverse, gorgeous, sleepy little neighborhood that is better than most students make it out to be and yet lacking in comparison to the ideal college town. We border less savory neighborhoods, but students and residents have little interaction between those neighborhoods outside of volunteer programs, like the one I’m a part of.</p>

<p>Staying safe is mostly about being smart. If you are walking alone at night and you see a group walking towards you who don’t look like they have any connection to the University, your best bet is probably to change direction or cross the street. Then again, there’s no reason you have to walk alone at night, because there are shuttles and door-to-door van services. But if you do walk through (I admit that I have), just be uberaware. The longer I’ve lived here, the safer I feel. I know that’s an odd thing to say, but I think it’s part of a certain kind of city identity that I didn’t have before I got here.</p>

<li> What are the academics like? Who’s teaching my classes? What’s the average class size?</li>
</ol>

<p>Really awesome, for the most part. Professors here are a bit hit and miss, but I’ve been surprised at how many hits I’ve had, and how few misses. Average class size varies widely depending on the class, the concentration, etc.</p>

<li> What do you think about the core?</li>
</ol>

<p>I’ve loved core and I’ve loved the fact that it’s given me a “tasting menu” of various academic options. I still think parts of it need to be revised a tad, but it stands overall quite excellent. I think most U of C students agree, though issues with Core Bio, Phy Sci, and Reading Cultures Hum get a little sticky.</p>

<p>If you want to quadruple-major and choose all of your classes from day 1 year 1, you will be babied by core. On the other hand, if you want to sow your wild oats before settling down in a major or are woefully indecisive and a “the grass is always greener in another discipline” person, then you will find core the best thing on earth.</p>

<li> What’s up with that grade deflation I keep on hearing about?</li>
</ol>

<p>Chicago isn’t grade-deflated; it just doesn’t give high grades at the same magnitude as other institutions. One thing I have found, though, is that grading is woefully inconsistent. I hate to divulge particular grades here, but I’ll do it to demonstrate a point: I finished a paper that I thought was pretty sloppy on my part, and I was willing to take the blame in the form of a low grade. The result? A B+. I finished a paper for another class that I thought was one of my best pieces of academic writing to date. My grade? A B.</p>

<p>What to me made the B more valuable than the B+ was that I got really extensive feedback on it, why the B was a B, and I realized that my TA didn’t dislike the paper; far from it-- he was very happy with it, but he just saw a few significant issues with it that could have been remedied. I was given the chance to rewrite the paper for an auto-higher-grade, but I turned the opportunity down. I got no feedback on the B+, so my reaction was “Okay, it didn’t stink as much as I thought it did.”</p>

<li> But won’t a low(er) GPA interfere with my dreams of being an investment banker/doctor/lawyer/grad student/contestant on “Girlicious”?</li>
</ol>

<p>There’s no real way for me to answer that question, besides anecdotally, and anecdotally, it seems like the people I know have been very, very successful at attaining what it is they wanted, whether it be admission to law school, med school, an obscure PhD program at Yale, or part of Teach For America teacher corps. Getting a Chicago education, and, with that, Chicago grades, did not hurt them and probably even helped them figure out what it was they wanted post-graduation.</p>

<p>I don’t think there’s a definitive way to answer this question, though, in terms of which option, Chicago or another school, will secure admission to med school/law school/ Girlicious. To truly tell, you’d have to go to Chicago, see your admission results, and then reverse the clock four years to go to another school and see your admission results.</p>

<li> What’s the student body like?</li>
</ol>

<p>Short answer: The ying to Faber College’s yang.
Longer answer: There are a lot of kids here. It’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy that you’re going to run into a lot of people who are exactly like you. You will also meet people who are not like you, not in race, family background, political views, personality, dress, etc. We like to call this diversity. And yes, you will meet some really odd people. A lot of people like school and schoolwork.</p>

<li> What’s the party scene like? What are the best fraternities and sororities?</li>
</ol>

<p>If you want parties, they will be there by the plenty on weekends, sized small (dorm), medium (apartment), and large (frat). Alcohol is permitted in the dorms, and parties are supposed to be “registered” in advance, but maybe some other students can shed light on how party registration works in their houses… in my house, registration is a rubber-stamp that basically tells the resident heads to watch out for puking guests.</p>

<p>I don’t know diddly about the fraternity and sorority scene, other than I know a bunch of Greeks who are all pretty cool. At one point I thought that all of the sorority letters I saw were advertising the same sorority, but since I’ve figured out that we have Alpha Omicron Pi, Delta Gamma, and Kappa Alpha Theta. The sororities are non-residential, so while there’s a sense of sisterhood among them, it’s not that central to sisters’ lives.</p>

<p>University Ave. is home to “frat row,” but there are frats around the neighborhood. DKE is “known” for giving the best parties (according to one of my friends, who frequents frats). AEPi has Jewish kids. For those of you visiting campus on one of the April days, you’ll have the opportunity to see our frat scene all by yourself. And then enjoy the fact that yes, Chicago kids do have parties. And then laugh at how simple it all is. You’ll probably tell your friends who go to state schools that the party was lame, but you’ll also probably think it was the best thing that ever happened to you, because you stood outside on the lawn and had a great conversation with some random frat brother you’ll never see again.</p>

<li> What don’t you like about the University?</li>
</ol>

<p>I have very small quibbles, on the order of that I don’t like that Saturday and Sunday brunch start at 11am, that the Div School coffee shop’s milks are not out on the table any more but in the fridge, where the Department of Health says there are supposed to be, and that I have to awkwardly interrupt the line to get to the skim milk. I often wish that Chicago was surrounded by more natural scenery, and I wish we had an American Studies or Urban Studies major. I wish Hyde Park had a few more retail-y options, and I wish that everybody who wanted to come here could, and that college admissions didn’t exist. I would also make college free and I’d make the fountain on the Hutch quads spew dark chocolate.</p>

<p>On a more practical level… I would like to see a student body more involved in extracurriculars. Between school, sleep, friends, and “Girlicious,” I feel like a lot of students don’t go out and do stuff in the community or continue along with their bizarre interests. For me, I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t found the energy (or the desire, really) to continue some of my non-academic interests that I pursued in high school. I’ve discovered the hard way that I prefer a sort of free-floating academic one to a rigid one, but I think I like people who like rigid work ethics more, and I make sure I get out and do other things by scheduling them first and getting work done in the time in-between, rather than devoting a whole afternoon to schoolwork and not attending that poetry reading, that meeting, that study break, etc.</p>

<p>Of the people I know who have transferred out, all (so far) have done so for family/financial/personal reasons, and would give anything to return.</p>

<p>One of my friends was a pre-med at one point and realized the error of her ways, and is now a sociology major. She told me that she felt that her pre-med cohort was very unhappy, and that she and her classmates often mentioned transferring, but once she switched majors she, and the people in the sociology major, were much better off. </p>

<p>Of the two people I know filing transfer apps now, one feels a little overwhelmed by the school and wants a fuzzier, homier, smaller, more remote school (Grinnell, Middlebury, Bowdoin, Bates, etc. are the schools she is vaguely considering). Another is thinking about a school with more urban flair and more of an arts scene, hence, Columbia and NYU are on her back-burner.</p>

<p>wow...nice post.....</p>

<p>Unalove, would this be an adequate description of Chicago?</p>

<p>Chicago is just like any other college, with just a slightly more academic feel.</p>

<p>What I mean by this is that kids are kids wherever one goes (i.e. like to have fun, hang out, eat, enjoy life, etc) and Chicago is not a totally different universe.</p>

<p>I hope you prospectives appreciate (a) how generous unalove is with her time and honesty, and (b) she's talking about the end of reading period and the beginning of finals here. Procrastination is a beautiful thing! (Others may be a little more frenzied this week.)</p>

<p>From another perspective (parent of two current students):</p>

<p>Neither of my kids has felt much of a fun deficit. But -- despite the fact that the younger one describes the older one and friends as "the party scene at Chicago" -- the whole party thing seems significantly subdued compared to their friends at state universities, etc. Even the party people are pretty engaged in their classes and activities. Animal House it's not.</p>

<p>Unalove's comments on the Core seem dead on. One of my kids (who took the Hum unalove said is problematic) is the sort of person unalove says would not like the Core, and thought the whole thing was too much like high school, hated Core Bio. Sosc was great, though (mainly because the material was less familiar going in). The other kid is exactly the sort of person unalove says would love the Core, and does. Both kids, however, really appreciate how the Core gives students with a wide variety of interests a shared set of intellectual reference points with which to talk about stuff.</p>

<p>Hyde Park: My kids are city kids, and feel fine there. They walk everywhere, often alone, often late at night. They, too, wish there was a little more upscale retail around the University. They adore the Seminary Co-op and Powell's, though, and the campus coffee shops. They travel around Chicago a lot, and think it's fantabulous. (A relative of mine, who is a hip northside M.D., when she heard the restaurants my daughter had been to in the past few months said, "That's every hot restaurant in the city that's not superexpensive. She sure gets around for a college kid!")</p>

<p>If your ideal campus is Princeton, Stanford, UVa, Chicago may seem gritty and urban to you. If you compare it to Columbia, NYU, Harvard, or Penn, it's a little bucolic and sleepy. Also, in case you haven't visited, lots of the campus is quite beautiful. There's not a lot of nature, per se, but there are plenty of trees, and very little that's oppressively monumental.</p>

<p>I have to say that on my recent visit to campus I find it very hard to believe that there are many people "exactly like" me. I'm not saying those people don't exist but I know that my friend and I got a lot of funny looks from people, for whatever reason. I come from a very blue-collar, southern background, so it would be very silly for me to expect there to be a lot of kids like me there. While some might think of this as a negative, I found it relieving that I was somewhat unique among the student body rather than my current, homogeneous, state U.</p>

<p>I took the wrong route to Uchicago and ended up having to walk through the projects for a few blocks in the middle of the night. That was a scary experience for a rural kid but I made it there safe, and once you're on campus you couldn't ask to be any safer.</p>

<p>Also if you're visiting during the school year see if you can go to docfilms for a night, you can't beat seeing some obscure, indie film on the big screen for only $5. Although I did find it funny that the majority of the audience clapped when the movie was over, which I can find either pretentious or silly depending on what mood I'm in.</p>

<p>This is, of course, the perspective of someone who only spent a couple days there. If I get accepted I may have an entirely different attitude after living there a while.</p>

<p>Edit: Thanks unalove! I had a lot of fun reading this</p>

<p>Thanks, Unalove, for taking all the time you do to share your insights and experiences. The one aspect that I turn over in my mind a lot as a parent is the whole safety thing. When we visited during the day I never had one moment when I felt unsafe. Okay, maybe the parking garage seemed awfully empty and a little creepy, but all was fine. </p>

<p>Back in the day, when I was at a small LAC we would walk everywhere at night - from dorm to dorm, to the student center, the library, downtown, etc. Plenty of the time I walked alone. Sometimes I'd even meet up with strangers who were also walking back to campus from downtown and we'd walk together. I was always, always safe. In hindsight, I was also a little naive, but I did experience a freedom and safety that was wonderful. So, at Chicago, do the students pretty much stay inside after dark - no carefree wandering about? Dark comes mighty early in the Chicago winters. Probably no campus is going to be like I experienced in the current world, but for me, much of the fun happened after dark. </p>

<p>I'm just trying to visualize what students do at UC in the evenings, other than study. Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to criticize, just trying to figure this out.</p>

<p>Thanks!</p>

<p>
[quote]
Chicago is just like any other college, with just a slightly more academic feel.</p>

<p>What I mean by this is that kids are kids wherever one goes (i.e. like to have fun, hang out, eat, enjoy life, etc) and Chicago is not a totally different universe.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>That's a really good way of putting it. When I first came here, I was expecting Chicago to be more extreme in its difference, but now I'm pretty sure that anybody who likes school (enough of the time) and is good at it will like it here. I think JHS and I have a running thesis that most Ivy League kids would be happy at Chicago and vice versa.</p>

<p>Also, consider that you have kids at Chicago who applied to all kinds of schools, and chose Chicago over another option. While some people know Chicago is for them right off the bat, some people are here because they didn't get into Stanford or Duke (i.e. they wanted to go to a well-rounded party/academic school). The Stanford/Duke rejects find what they are looking for, too.</p>

<p>I'm hoping to make this thread about other general questions that are going to come off over and over again or for kids who don't think they have any questions but would rather just read a consistent narrative, and that particular, situation-based questions (if you have them) get their own threads.</p>

<ol>
<li> Pretend the University of Chicago closed and you had to transfer to other schools. Which ones would you transfer to?</li>
</ol>

<p>I think my first choice would be Reed, because Reed seems to have a lot about what I like in Chicago-- great academics, excited, happy people, a city, AND A FOREST.</p>

<p>My ideal school is at the intersection of academic and offbeat. For that kind of school, I also like Brown, Columbia, Yale, Carleton, Bryn Mawr, Oberlin, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Vassar, Bard, Pomona, Haverford, Rice, Colorado College. I think I would be happy at just about any school, though those are the ones that strike me as being most up my alley.</p>

<p>stoneimmaculate: </p>

<p>Perhaps not blue-collar south, that's where we are lacking, though we do have geographic representation from the southeast. Just the other night at dinner, I was reminded of my own cultural heritage, one that's overrepresented at elite schools (wealthy Jew from New York), and I was reminded that nobody I sat with shared that with me, so I had to bunker down and explain the social scene of bar and bat-mitzvahs. It was also refreshing, to me, to be around people who didn't know what I knew and vice versa, though I do sometimes feel like the "token rich Jewish girl," even though I do everything I can not to suggest that I have money. It was only after one of my good friends went on an "I hate rich people" rant (he has reason to, he grew up lower-middle class) that I felt I had to let him know I was very well-off myself.</p>

<p>Mmomm:</p>

<p>I do have friends who do wander around at night, but it's not something I recommend. I agree with you, it would be nice.</p>

<p>Maybe our ideas of "night" are a little bit different. There are enough people out when it's dark but not "night" (i.e. 8-12pm) doing lots of student activities on campus to be safe. After midnight, though, I don't think you're going to be seeing many students out.</p>

<p>There's a thrill and a freedom to wandering around alone late at night, I agree, but I also think there's a thrill and a freedom to taking a bus that goes to the loop in 15 minutes. I think you have to trade one thrill for another.</p>

<p>Unalove,
You completely answered my concern. It was that 8-12 time slot that I was wondering about. As long as the campus students don't have to hunker down in their dormrooms once the sun sets, that sounds normal enough. You are completely right about the different kinds of freedom. I wouldn't begin to know how to manuever public transportation in Chicago and I wish I did!</p>

<p>For what it's worth, I doubt either of my kids is always back in his or her room (apartment, dorm) by midnight. At times, they may not even leave to go out until around then. And one of my daughter's activities had her walking across the campus in the very wee hours on a regular basis, alone. Neither has ever had a problem, as far as I know.</p>

<p>That's not to say that things are perfectly safe. The police reports tell you they aren't, and things like bikes get stolen from time to time. A graduate student was shot to death near campus at 1:30 AM last fall (the first such incident in over 20 years, I believe). </p>

<p>But even the circumstances of that were telling: There were three muggings within the space of about two hours, including the fatal one, and the police immediately suspected that the same criminals were involved in all of them, because, even with thousands of students and staff, and a spread-out campus area, they rarely get that many robberies. The criminals were caught within a week, and were not from the nearby community at all -- they had driven miles to raid the campus.</p>

<p>It's always great to see someone honestly trying to evaluate a college from the inside and answer questions about it - kudos, Unalove! I hope to visit and see for myself in April, but I can't really commit (limited time and resources) until I see the financial picture in... three weeks! (Oi.)</p>

<p>
[quote]

Chicago is just like any other college, with just a slightly more academic feel.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Yeah, and with more nerds/not-as-social folks. </p>

<p>My whole first year I was surprised at how completely normal so much of the experience is here. When I go back home I have all sorts of good stories about drunken adventures and random sex and random goofy stuff. Like last night we were running around drunk and I remembered that we had thrown out a safe at work (nobody remembered the combo and it would cost too much to open it). So we dragged it back to our room and we spent today trying to open it. </p>

<p><a href="http://img81.imageshack.us/img81/1971/dscn1785hl4zw4.jpg%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://img81.imageshack.us/img81/1971/dscn1785hl4zw4.jpg&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>we're going to make some thermite but if anybody has an idea private message me</p>

<p>You need Richard Feynman to help you out on that one, Jack.</p>

<p>Oh right, you were talking about how most of us were totally normal human beings and I go and make geek references...
Safe-cracking</a> - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia</p>

<p>oh and i forgot, no dumb people. plenty of people who do dumb things, but few actual dumb people. a nice counterbalance with the real world (which, as you may have noticed, contains dumb people in abundance)</p>

<p>^^lol at dumb people comment
Thanks unalove, jack, and others for your honest evaluations!</p>

<p>So I checked out that Wikipedia link, and...</p>

<p>"In the absence of any other information regarding the safe's combination, a combination lock may be opened by dialing every possible combination. Richard Feynman discovered that many combination locks allow some 'slop' in the settings of the dial, so that for a given safe it may be necessary only to try a subset of the combinations."</p>

<p>Yeah... him and everyone who's ever been a student in a school with, what are they called... lockers! I just don't even see how it's remotely possible for him to get credit for that :-p</p>

<p>Haha he talks about safe-cracking in more detail in one of his memoirs. I don't remember exactly what he did or why it was cool, but if Richard Feynman did it, it's got to be cool (says the person who, in high school, rented his Lectures on Physics audiocassettes from a library that was 45 minutes away and then had to find a cassette player for them)!</p>

<p>He figured out how to do it in 4 hours, not the days that it should take to try every possible combination :-)</p>

<p>Hmmm... back to the actual intention of the post.</p>

<p>Do you think that students at UChicago tend to be competitive with each other in terms of getting higher grades than others? I've heard cases from both sides, one from Libby Pearson when she visited my high school and one from my UChicago interviewer. Libby said that the students there are not competitive and like to collaborate with each other (e.g. form study groups). My interviewer said that there was some competition, but stressed that competition isn't necessarily a bad thing. The way he saw it, competition can keep you motivated to do the work. What do you think?</p>

<p>If students are competitive, they are competitive with themselves and are pushing themselves to do well because that's what they are used to doing and that's what has worked out well for them. (That's probably what your alumni interviewer was pushing towards). If you remain "competitive" insofar as you work hard in class and work hard to maintain high grades, your options are less limited.</p>

<p>However, I do not think that there is pressure to be competitive, and you don't have to be competitive to learn and have fun with the curriculum and get decently good grades. So some students care a lot about their grades (particularly the ones with set aspirations on business/law/med/grad school), and some students don't really care about what grades they end up getting. I'm of the latter set.</p>

<p>There is virtually no competition among students, and I don't know why that is. It's generally seen as extremely bad form to share personal information like grades and scores, just as it would be sort of improper to share information like household income and financial aid award. I think it's because students come to Chicago not expressly to get good grades, but rather to learn, and the students who so desperately want good grades end up choosing an institution where they feel they can get them more easily.</p>