Thinking of turning down UChicago.

<p>When I received my admissions decision, I was excited and I thought that everything related with college was behind me. I was ready to go to UChicago, yay.</p>

<p>Now that I've had time to think about it, I'm not so sure. I am a very relaxed person. I am probably the least competitive human being you will ever meet. For these simple reasons, I envision myself standing out like a sore thumb.</p>

<p>I've earned pretty good grades and decent SAT scores, but I haven't been driven to do it by parents or my peers. I just...well...did it because I could do it, not for the sake of competition or being #1 at everything. I, unlike what I think of a typical UChicago student, do not want to take over the world.</p>

<p>I don't think I can deal with how competitive people at this school are. I hate people who incessantly talk about their GPAs and scores. I can't stand it when everyone talks about "the next big assignment in (insert class here)". I prefer to keep school out of every conversation altogether. I like other laid-back, relaxed, and chill people.</p>

<p>I'm doubt I'll find people like that at UChicago, especially amongst other Econ majors. I don't want to sit down at a table in the cafeteria on move-in day and get asked by 20 people about my high school GPA.</p>

<p>Am I exaggerating everything, or is my thinking pretty much in line with how it really is?</p>

<p>i think you are exaggerating, you should definitely visit and form your own opinion about the school if you are economically able. there are many more things to do at the at the university besides academics.</p>

<p>Yngwie, I think you've developed a very wrong impression about the University of Chicago. The students that I know there are not at all competitive in the sense of wanting to take over the world, andthey definitely do not talk about their high school GPAs and scores. </p>

<p>They do talk a lot about school and academic interests. Just not in the personally competitive way you describe.</p>

<p>I barely find anyone here who talks about scores and GPA...There are a couple of exceptions, of course, but most people don't talk about those things much at all. It is not a competitive environment-at least I don't get that sense at all. It's very collaborative. Personally, I recognize that everyone is really smart, so competing is really a waste of time. I don't think a single person here has ever asked me what my HS or current GPA or SAT scores were or are.</p>

<p>I tend to think of UChicago students as being very unlike you claim them to be. I would say more kids at Chicago worked hard in HS because they wanted to, and not to be #1. I think you somehow took the ideas "kids at UofC like to talk about academics" and "academically intense atmosphere" and twisted them around. When I talk about class with my friends, we talk about the awesome debate we had in Hum about cannibalism, or how annoying Descartes is. You know, the actual content, not the grades. And there is a lot of work to do, but people hang out and study together and help each other and then take a break and chill.</p>

<p>Um, I don't want to take over the world...I don't think my friends plan to either. Your description of yourself seems to make you a good fit for Chicago, and this imaginary typical Chicago student, well, someone incredibly annoying to have around, and I haven't met many like that here.</p>

<p>Yngwie, I think you have a strange and atypical image of the typical Chicago student. I visited in July and spoke at length with students and staff. I have spoken to 8+ students in detail about the campus culture on this board and the facebook group. Given these experiences, I would say Chicago is not a competitive environment, but a mutually supportive one. That's a natural by-product of intellectualism or academic focus or whatever words you want to use for the school's ethos: students have little interest in comparing themselves to others when they're at university for personal growth and intellectual discovery.</p>

<p>Have you seen any current student on this board be overly competitive? I haven't. Search this forum; you'll find unalove or phuriku talking about how they know very few people openly concerned with others' GPAs.</p>

<p>Also note there's a big difference between conversation about class content outside of class and "talking about school" (that is, petty grade comparison).</p>

<p>TL;DR: You're mistaken, and worried for precisely the wrong reasons. You probably won't get asked about your high school (or college) GPA very often.</p>

<p>(Um, I guess we've made our point. Sorry for the redundant post; I was composing it when the others were posted.)</p>

<p>Let me try to separate things into two piles here.</p>

<p>On one hand, you have people who are very goal-oriented and very driven, and the goals they orient themselves towards are goals that are hard to achieve. I am not one of those people, and I think the University tends to cater against this personality type. Think about it: if grades are really, really, REALLY important to you, why are you going to choose a school that makes it harder for you to get an A?</p>

<p>One of my best friends does happen to be one of those goal-oriented people. She's up early in the morning at the gym, she's very focused on classes, she's the kind of person who wants X grade and Y summer internship. Even though I'm the opposite of her in that regard (I don't know my high school, or my college GPA, for that matter, I want to be as lazy as possible this summer and do thing that I love, my dream job is not a competitive one and is one in which I'll be lucky if I make in a year as much as this school costs), we are still very similar people. She likes me for my laid-back-ness, I like her for her zestyness. She has never, ever asked me about my grades, my homework status, etc. She really doesn't care about my grades or what I do. Her goals are her deal.</p>

<p>I'd be surprised if anybody explicitly asked you about your high school grades and scores, either here or at any other college. Mine were laughable.</p>

<p>On the other hand, you have people who like to talk about school... sometimes, or maybe a lot. I'm definitely one of these people. I may not care what grade I get on an assignment, but the assignment itself is very important to me. I've met a lot of people here who do like to talk about school, but not in terms of grades and scores as much as professors, experiences, etc. But I think the ways in which it is talked about can be exaggerated. For example, for this same friend I mentioned before, I can give you a brief history of every guy she's hooked up with here from O-Week to now: where she met him, where he now lives, how their friendship (or lack thereof is), and I can also give you a rundown of every class she's taken here, every professor she's had, every paper she's written, what class has been her favorite, which her least, etc. and she for me, So for me and my friends, knowing what they're doing academically is parallel to knowing them really well.</p>

<p>I'll bring up again that conversations here usually aren't academic, but they turn that way pretty often. (Check out my "That's so Chicago" thread). For example, again, the other night, a bunch of my friends and I were sitting around and some were whining about how long my friend was taking to come back with certain foul-smelling liquids, which I'm sure is a universal college conversation and a universal college experience. Then, out of nowhere, a conversation about Shakespeare pops up, only to recede again after a few minutes, when the liquids arrived. If you're the kind of person who thinks that bringing up Shakespeare on a Friday night is in horrifically bad taste and is a crime that should not be committed at any time, then yeah, maybe Chicago is not the best place in the world. But my impression is that most kids here do really like talking about Shakespeare... almost as much as they like getting drunk.</p>

<p>Yea, I'm not really sure where you got that impression of UChicago, but it certainly isn't true in the least. I was actually one of those number-obsessed people when I graduated from highschool but now, a few quarters into my education at UChicago, I am slowly being converted to a believer in "it's not what grade you get, but what you learn" philosophy. I'm sure there are certain people who are still grade obsessed, but it is surely not common, nor something you should be worried about.</p>

<p>From the parent pov, the only time my S has mentioned a grade to me is in reference to one particular class that is out of his comfort zone for subject matter and filled with second and third years. He is a first year and felt happy that he could fully engage in class and make successful arguments on paper in that situation. He certainly is not grade obsessed, he's just working hard. He hated the focus on grades in high school and feels relief from it at U of C. I'm sure he could find pockets of people who are obsessed with grades, they are at all colleges, but I don't think his friends are like that.</p>

<p>For those of you at UC now...</p>

<p>If there are grade grubbing overachievers, wouldn't they most likely to be found in Economics? That is was I was told by a couple of current students.</p>

<p>I am a high school senior and considering UChicago and several other schools. I had always got the impression that out of all the schools I am applying to, UChicago was the least competetive and full of students obsessed with grades. That was actually one of the things that has drawn me to the school.</p>

<p>I have similar (although not identical) worries to the OP's. I'm not worried about the people being competitive, but I worry that the peer group at the university of chicago would be so gifted and passionate that an A/B would be incredibly difficult to achieve. I was deferred from EA, and lately I've been thinking that if I was not qualified to gain acceptance firsthand, maybe I'd be in over my head at this university. While I'm not obsessive over the exact value of my GPA, I don't want to blow my chances at admission to a graduate school... Is this a valid concern?</p>

If there are grade grubbing overachievers, wouldn't they most likely to be found in Economics? That is was I was told by a couple of current students.


<p>Not necessarily. A lot of my econ major friends are doing econ the way a medieval studies major might do medieval studies... they like it, it's interesting, and it's a way to fill up 4 years.</p>

<p>The students most likely to be "grade grubbers" (I hate the term; I prefer "grade-oriented") are ones who are counting on them to be very high for future endeavors. This includes aspiring lawyers and doctors, as well as aspiring businessmen, and also includes aspiring (academic) grad school students. Then again, this is all in perspective... a lot of my friends who care about getting good grades don't make it the focal point of who they are and what they do. They're aware that not everybody wants to hear their saga of getting an A in XYZ class.</p>

<p>writeincursiv3-- I could see a place in which an academic but "nurturing" school would be a better choice than Chicago-- a place like Bryn Mawr, Carleton, Grinnell, etc. and maybe you'd prefer an environment where you feel challenged and engaged but not swimming in the uberbrillianceextravaganza of your peers. While I do think that Chicago does encourage enormous academic and social growth, it's also not the most hand-holding or coddling place-- I think "tough love" describes us pretty well.</p>

<p>I'll be honest-- I went from thinking I was pretty hot stuff in high school to realizing that I'm bottom of the barrel here. Don't get me wrong-- I'm much happier now than I was in high school, and I feel I have a firmer grasp of who I am, and I think that transition was a good one for me to have, but I understand if it would be rougher on some people than on others. I have no problem with picking myself up again as soon as I fall down (I fall a lot). But maybe some people wouldn't want to fall in the first place.</p>

<p>Every once in a while I wonder in the back of my head if this school really is the best place for me of all possible places. (This is very much like me: I make decisions quickly and intuitively, they're the right ones, but I ask myself a lot of "What if?" questions to pass the time). And every once in a while I fantasize that I'm at a school that oozes good feelings night and day... funny, I don't ever fantasize about being at Harvard or Yale, I don't fantasize about going to a school with lots of parties and sports, I fantasize about being at one of the warm and fuzzy schools.... and then I think about all I'd have to walk away from if I were to actually transfer there, and my immediate reaction is "No! No! No! I can't leave this school! I can't!"</p>

<p>Maybe the best way to determine what's best for you is to visit some classes in the spring if you're admitted. Until then, cross your fingers, and know that whatever you have in store for you will work itself out.</p>

<p>I was also thinking about turning down UChicago for Carnegie Mellon. I want to major in a math-related field (not math directly), but can't decide if its going to be economics or physical science. While UChicago is more prestigious and world-famous and top 10 now in US News (wooohhh), I just think Carnegie has a lot more options in the math area- econ, engineering, computational finance etc. While Chicago's pure math and econ are better than CMU, I just think I am not positive enough to choose to go to chicago and have the limited majors. I don't want to go to CMU then end up majoring in econ and being like "damnn i shoulda gone to chicago..."</p>

<p>Then again, chicago gives me 2 years to choose a major whereas at CMU I automatically begin in the engineering school. I also am worried about the high male % and the high asian % of the student body because I think it will be extremely competitive.</p>

<p>Just adding one personal anecdote: My best friend's daughter crashed and burned at Chicago a few years ago. She had no trouble with the academic part -- even was getting all As, I think -- but she's a pretty quiet kid and had a hard time making friends, and had the impression that there were a lot people who considered themselves (her words) "the smartest person in the world." The girl wound up having a nervous breakdown and leaving. The school was NOT supportive: RAs absent and uninvolved, mental health staff basically uninterested. No one noticed one kid's troubles. That said, of course it's a wonderful school with many wonderful graduates etc. . .</p>

<p>mhny-- sorry to hear of your friend's daughter's painful experience. It sounds like a real miss-match. Chicago is not a place where the warm fuzzies will seek you out. Even though the house systems are growing stronger, it can be lonely and one has to have social courage to initiate connections. This is true of many large schools. Sounds like smaller liberal arts may have been better-- where did she land and how is she now?</p>

<p>Chicago seems to attract more internally driven students for a number of reasons:</p>

<li><p>the rewards from the hard work, the intellectual challenges and the environment are pretty internal. After all, how many of your friends back home will be impressed by that late night philosophical discussion?</p></li>
<li><p>the grading system is such that it is difficult to tell where you stand. An example is the total absence of verifiable information regarding grade distribution or even average GPA. The place does not want you to know this.</p></li>
<li><p>Chicago offers tremendous individual opportunity. It is not big on collective rah-rah like some other schools.</p></li>

<p>My daughter (4th year) and I have talked about the atmosphere there. She and her friends never talk about grades and such. It seems most of them are working against an internal standard.</p>

<p>I am not really certain how the OP came to this conclusion. I think the competition at Chicago amongst students is weak to non-existent, not just relatively vis-</p>


<p>Good point that the atmosphere does not discourage personal achievement. Quite the opposite, in the way that it offers opportunities for achievement far beyond what many other schools offer, especially in the opportunity to mix with and work alongside, grad students. But the culture is pretty agnostic regarding whether such personal achievement is good or bad.</p>

<p>I also agree about the absence of metrics upon which to establish yourself, both academically and socially. This is what I love most about the school.... you're really on your own in charting out who you are, what categories you don't fit into, and what you make of yourself.</p>

<p>As for students who think they are really smart, yes, we have those. Some are really smart and think they're really smart. Some aren't really smart and think they're really smart. Some are really smart and don't realize that they are giving off uncool vibes. I think it comes with the territory of an academic school, and while I don't celebrate high-mindedness, I do celebrate that students feel it's okay to talk about smart things without being stigmatized (for the most part). Not everybody who likes talking about what they read is out to prove how smart they are, just like not everybody who wears Lacoste and Abercrombie is out to prove how rich they are.</p>

<p>In terms of students transferring out, I concur with your experiences, uca, based on anecdotes as well. Some students think about transferring before realizing that the situation making them unhappy is easily changeable (wrong major, bad roommate, etc.) but some just don't gibe with the school well. Some want more city, some want more touchy-feely, some want more prestige, some want less work. It's pretty common for students to file a transfer app or two winter quarter of first year "just in case" only to watch spring of first year roll around and realize how in love with the school they are after all.</p>

<p>I, actually, am considering turning down UChicago for the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign...but not for the reasons you mentioned.</p>

<p>I've had a hard time this year -- not on an academic level, but a personal/emotional one; and the atmosphere at Chicago, though lovely, I think may be a bit too intense for me. Plus, I think it'd be nice to give my parents a little break; UofI costs only half as much as UChicago.</p>

<p>Granted, I'd be lying if I said UChicago wasn't the better school. It certainly is on so many levels, but I'm not sure if I can make the type of commitment to UChicago as an undergrad. Perhaps it'll be a school I can consider for grad school?</p>

<p>My parents are flipping out, and I've had crying spells for the past month because I'm so confused. Ah well, I'm ranting....</p>