UChicago vs. Brown - Admissions Questions - Application Advice - Pretty Much Every Question I Have

<p>Alright, so fair warning: this is going to be a long post with a flurry of questions. I don't expect anyone to have all of the answers to the questions I'm asking about college selection, admissions, essay writing, and everything else. While some answers would be hugely appreciated, I'm also kind of using this as a way to organize all of the jumbled thoughts in my head. Thanks in advance for anyone who cares enough to answer!</p>

<p>So, I'm 18 (just began my senior year/second year of IB) going to a public high school in southern Missouri contemplating the terrifying whirling vortex of endless possibilities of the near future (i.e. college). After extensive amounts of research, consideration, and dreaming, I've narrowed down my list of dream colleges to two: Brown and UChicago. I plan on applying to Chicago Early Action and Brown Early Decision. I also think I'd be a good fit at Columbia, but I'm very apprehensive about even touching that applicant pool, knowing my chances. My list of preferred universities is as follows:</p>

<li>Somewhat less prestigious liberal arts college a la Swarthmore, Amherst, Wesleyan, etc.</li>
<li>If worse comes to worse... Mizzou... maybe... :(</li>

<p>I choose UChicago and Brown because being an INTP (very INTP, like I fall into pretty much every INTP stereotype out there [I will probably mention my INTP-ness many times throughout this post (he he "INTP-ness" [sorry])]) I have a passion for learning and understanding and making interdisciplinary connections and really want to surround myself with these kinds of people (I honestly care nothing for the prestige or the brand name education or even the pull going to a renowned institution may give in employment, I just think that these places will have the highest concentration of individuals I would connect with and offer a great environment to find myself over four years while at the same time learning how to really think clearly, constructively, and critically). I think that these two institutions will offer that the more than any other ones I've looked at. I suppose you could say I have a passion for film making (yes, my naive and indulgent dream)(I've made 4 or 5 short films over the past year or so [some of them are on youtube, and I can post some links if anyone is curious], and there was also an attempt at a feature length over the summer... more on that later) and analysis (among my favorite activities is watching an obscure film recommended to me by a teacher or friend and discussing and over-analyzing it the next day with them), but really, I'm just an intellectual pop culture nut. Brown specifically has the MCM department which I find very intriguing yet somewhat elusive (It's like film studies, but much, much broader, encapsulating television, literature, other media, etc. and 100x more intellectually theoretical? But also with some production classes? Maybe? I don't know, really. Any information on that would be pretty nice.) I think that this would be a great option for me because I really delight in the theoretical, and if I'm going to be serious about a film making career... Well, let me put it this way: I think that great art comes from about 25-50% practical expertise and 75-50% intriguing and original ideas. So, what this department offers in regard to film (analysis, theory, critical evaluation, production, etc.) and beyond, I think is the most perfect fit of any major I've found at any university (seriously: a class on Kubrick? a 16mm intro to production course? overanalyzing EVERYTHING? Sounds perfect). Here's a question: what other universities have similar programs in content and quality as Brown's MCM concentration? How would UChicago's Cinema and Media Studies department compare? I've read a good amount of conversation about MCM but have seen practically nothing on Chicago's Cinema and Media Studies.</p>

<p>I feel similarly about Pomona and Columbia as I do about UChicago and Brown. One thing I think that would be great about Columbia, though is the city of New York (same with Chicago). Living in a tiny town in podunk Missouri, I see people who live in cities on TV and the movies (yes I understand that there is a distinction between life and entertainment) and they are utterly in love with their city. I've always wanted that. I visited UChicago and Northwestern over the summer and really think that I could have a great relationship with Chicago.</p>

<p>Now, Northwestern I believe to be a great school but somewhat less of a great fit for myself, as, from what I understand, it is more geared towards people who would be closer to S than N on the Meyers-Briggs, and my N quality is probably my most polarized. However, they do have a great Radio/TV/Film program, I'm just afraid that if I were to take part in that, there would be a good amount of production instruction, but the tradeoff would be a loss of the mind-nourishing environments and departments of UChicago and Brown. And I'm not terribly concerned with focusing on production in university. Paul Thomas Anderson spent like two days in film school, then dropped out. Wes Anderson majored in Philosophy. (Speaking of which I think that I could major in just about any of the humanities and be perfectly happy. It seems to me that the humanities are almost the only thing worth studying anymore as more and more jobs are being outsourced and/or being turned over to computers. If the trend continues, what will be left for humans besides the arts?)</p>

<p>If any other suggestions pop out to you for universities to which I should apply, please share them. As far as size goes, I'm okay with a pretty small school like Pomona, but not really looking for anything much larger than Brown or Chicago. </p>

<p>As far as career goals go, I'd love to go into journalism, too. Perhaps media journalism like writing for Pitchfork or The A.V. Club or Slate or something like that would be amazing. Or maybe I could be like Francois Truffaut, start out as a film critic, then go into film directing to show everyone how it's done.</p>

<p>Also, before I forget: Brown's open curriculum vs Chicago's Core. I think that either would be great for me and I would make the best of each one. At Brown I would probably take several French classes, as it has always been one of the most interesting things I've studied, maybe even test the waters of engineering because I really love math and applying it (I've always seen math as a puzzle that needs solving, and I may get a good amount of enjoyment from spending an hour to an hour and a half just doing problems. It feels like I'm sharpening my mind.) Also some classes in sociology, philosophy, other humanities, sciences (physics! Biology is fake science : P). I think I would probably get a chance to do all of this at UChicago with an exception to the engineering stuff and maybe a minor in French. A lot of the humanities, science, and other things are covered in the Core at UChicago, I think, so there wouldn't be a huge difference.</p>

<p>One last thing. Studying abroad is something that I am determined to do. I know UChicago has the center in Paris, which is pretty much the place I would most like to study for a semester or so. How is the study abroad program at Brown? Better or worse than UChicago? And other unis on the list maybe?</p>

<p>Okay, now on to admissions…</p>

<p>Let me lay out my credentials:
ACT: Currently 29 with 7 or 8 on writing I think. (Yes, I’m very aware that this is quite low for these universities, but I’ve only taken it once, and it was in the middle of a local 48 hour short film competition, so I was pretty jittery and ready to get out of there. I’ve been doing a good amount of prep recently and have been averaging about 32-33 on practice tests, and I’m taking it again in September.)</p>

<p>SAT: Haven’t taken yet because I was gone on a trip to Europe over the summer test date and hadn’t thought to take it before that.</p>

<p>SAT Subject Tests: Same as SAT. There is only one SAT test date before early action/decision deadlines, which one would you recommend I take: SAT or Subject Tests? I would probably take Mathematics II, Physics, and French if I were to do the Subject Tests. If I were to take the SATs in November, would the results be out in time to send to a university for EA/ED?) </p>

<p>Unweighted GPA: probably about 3.75-3.80 (Being absolutely honest, I’ve never cared about grades at all except in the most practical “I need good ones to go to a good college” sense. They really just signify nothing except how willing a teacher is to inflate grades and how willing a student is to “play the game”, which I refuse to do. I have several amazing IB teachers who agree with me on this.) (Also, I got a C in the second semester of my junior year. It was in IB French, and I have some justification. In our school, our prep for the IB class was not exactly great for all of the students as we are the first class to graduate with IB [It’s brand new at our school. Do you think that the first year status could have any effect on admissions?] In order to have finished French 3 by then end of my junior year, I would have had to taken French 1A and French 1B in junior high. I actually did take 1A in 8th grade but was unable to take 1B the next semester because of scheduling conflicts. So at the end of my sophomore year, I had only completed up to French 2, and IB French year 1 started at about a French 4 level, so I was essentially missing an entire year of French. Now, I actually loved my IB French class and though it was quite a challenge to catch up, felt like I learned perhaps more in that class than any other last year. Do you think that this is forgivable? How could I communicate this in an application?)</p>

<p>Weighted GPA: Probably about 4.5. I’ve taken basically every single honors or IB course I could since my freshman year.</p>

<p>Rank: Probably about 15/400. Not valedictorian or anything, but I kind of feel like the kids who are ahead of me are the ones “playing the game.” Like, if you’re just going to school for the grades, you’re doing it wrong.</p>

<p>AP: None since I’m in IB and didn’t have a chance to take any AP classes before IB started. Though, we did take our Psychology SL (didn’t offer HL) course in one year, on which I got a 6 out of 7. The highest score among my IB cohorts.</p>

<p>Recs: Perhaps the two most intelligent men I’ve ever met I’ve had consistently as teachers since junior high through to this year, and both love me. They’re both amazing guys and know me really well. I plan on asking them for LOR’s and I truly expect them to sparkle. May also ask for one from my French teacher. It’s her last year teaching, I’ve had her since freshman year, and she loves me, so I would think it could be a pretty great one.</p>

<p>Race: You probably couldn’t tell from looking at me, but I’m somewhere from 1/8 to 1/4 Native American. Will they ask me to prove this if I put Native American/White on my application? Because that’s truly how I identify myself. If someone were to ask me my nationality (I don’t know why they would be inclined to but whatever) I would definitely mention the Native American, so I don’t really feel like I’m taking advantage of anything, and we’ve put it on documents since I was in Kindergarten. I’m working on getting my CDIB, but I’m not sure if I’ll have it in time for admissions season. Is this enough to count for a hook? </p>

<p>Another question about a “hook” (I hate talking about it like that btw): Neither of my parents really went through a 4-year college program. My mom is an x-ray tech at a local clinic, and basically has the equivalent of an Associate’s degree I believe. My dad went to trade school for a little while, but I believe that he dropped out before long. This isn’t enough to qualify for first-generation is it?</p>

<p>Also, is a geographical advantage a possibility for either of these universities? I don’t believe that there are many applicants from the midwest/Missouri as most people seem to either just not know about or understand these wonderful schools, or are just complacent and satisfied with going to a state university. I don’t know…</p>

<p>Extra-Curriculars: (This is where I think I might get a bit weak, as most of the stuff I love to do doesn’t really look impressive on paper e.g. watching movies all the time which I see as educating myself on the language of film)
My short films (Would it maybe be wise to add one of these as a supplement? None of them are amazing quality because they were all made with a $400 DSLR and the built-in microphone under stringent time limitations and certain requirements, but I’m working on one right now that I think will be the best yet because it’s not for a school project or a competition and thus I have total creative freedom.)
I play guitar: with my praise band at church (not religious any more by any means, but I go along with it for the sake of my parents, and playing in the band is fun and makes it tolerable) play in an alternative rock band with friends (if you want I can provide some sample audio of one of our recordings, which just consist of covers at the moment) as well as daily practice. It all probably adds up to about 7+ hrs a week: 2 2-hour practices each week with “The Band” (we call ourselves “The Stand Ins”), about an hour practicing and playing each week at church and then the rest for daily practice.
Literature Club (Founding Officer)
Community Service (Not much past serving food at a homeless shelter on holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter, which we do pretty commonly. I also did some with an organization that my friend founded, but it wasn’t very official. It was called S.A.R.A.K. [Students Administering Random Acts of Kindness] and we would go to the poorer parts of a nearby city and just hand out groceries that we bought about once a month.
Working about 10-15 hours a week at a local fast food/ice cream restaurant chain during my sophomore and junior years to pay for the Europe trip I took this summer (which was amazing).
I did some tutoring for some extra cash on the side
Played tennis freshman and sophomore years and had a lot of fun, but really I was pretty bad, and I only did it for the exercise. I was ranked like, 15/16 on the team, lol. I’m absolutely not a competitive person at all, which is probably reflected in my lack of awards and the like. Just don’t really like competitions, though I did go to a couple math competitions freshman, sophomore, and junior years. Just won like 3rd place in a team event, so :confused:
Also do a lot of photography for which I won a couple of 2nd place awards at a school-wide photography competition. (seriously, the ones that won first place were all of like, starving African children. How do they not win?)(should I submit an arts supplement of this, too, maybe? Just ask and I’ll post a link of some of my best photos)</p>

<p>French Club sophomore year, but then it was abolished junior year, and I think it’s coming back this year. Might be an officer if I can swing it.
Also considering starting a film club at my school this year. Some people in drama tried to start one last year, but when the school productions started gearing up, they had to call it quits because of time constraints. And they had some terrible experience with the administration (never getting back an answer as to whether or not they could show r-rated movies, etc.) I think I could handle it and it would really be great fun. I would make production a part of it as well. Not really doing this for college apps, just would love to do it and find some similarly-minded people. Perhaps set up a viewing area and time outside of the school so we are not constrained by their fascist rules.</p>

<p>Let me know if you think I should keep any of these off of my application, as they might seem superfluous or something similar.</p>

<p>Summer Activities: Let me talk about this for a little while because I think I had a pretty meaningful summer this year. That is, if the criteria is self-discovery and personal development. If the criteria is something that looks good on a college application, eh… not so much. Me and my best friend, who I’ll call… T. were going to make a feature length film over the summer. We started working on a screenplay about halfway through the second semester of junior year. Once or twice a week, we would spend the majority of the remainder of the day after school at a local coffee shop and just sit down and write the thing and discuss where the plot was going and how we could work in the themes we were trying to convey. We did this until the end of the school year when I was leaving for two weeks on my Europe trip. At this point we had the screenplay about 75% finished, so he was to finish it while I was away (we had discussed basic plot points of the ending, but not really the details.) When I got back, he had it finished and we edited it a bit until it was workable, though perhaps not entirely complete.Here’s a brief description of the story:</p>

<p>The main character, named Brian, is a high school student who is suspicious of the recent suicide of his best friend, Ian, because he just can’t believe that he would have done something like that. Brian begins sniffing around and becomes a sort of gumshoe detective looking for clues pertaining to the death of his best friend and begins to stumble upon some strange things. Brian has a couple of other friends, Casey, who gets progressively more depressed throughout as Brian becomes more distant and obsessed with his “case,” and Louis, the skeptic trying to pull Brian away from the investigation but who soon gets sucked into it. Themes we were attempting to convey were midwestern suburban boredom (we liked to use the word “ennui”), the elusiveness of truth, and the inability to truly know anyone, even your best friend. As far as tone, think Rian Johnson’s Brick mixed with Winter’s Bone, with maybe just a dash of Sophia Coppola thrown in there for the ennui (<-my favorite word). (I have a link to an early .pdf draft of the screenplay if anyone is interested in it [about 60 pages], but only have a physical copy of the most complete one.)</p>

<p>We had everything set. Every single thing. We had equipment lined up from a local state university and the help of some of the film students there. We had actors for all but the most minor of extras. We had a shooting schedule which included which scenes we would be shot where, at what time, who was supposed to be there, which day’s costume they were supposed to be wearing, when we took a break for lunch, everything you could think of. We even did a few cold reads. There was a basic shot list and filming notes. This was seriously happening, and I couldn’t have been more excited about it.</p>

<p>It was three days before shooting started on the 7th of July. On July 4th, my friend, my only true intellectual partner, the person I felt like I knew better than anyone else, who knew me better than anyone else, the one I called T. died in a bike/car accident. So, yeah, everything went kaput. The first course of action would have been to find a replacement actor, as T. was playing the part of Casey. But I just kind of shut down. About a week later, me and the other main guys involved in the project had lunch and talked about the fate of the film. We said that we would still get it done. We would find a replacement actor. We would revise the screenplay to adjust for lost time. We said. But we were all lying to each other and ourselves. We each knew that the project was as dead as our friend. </p>

<p>If we didn’t get moving soon, there would be no hope because the guy playing the main character, Brian, (also named Bryan) was leaving for California at the beginning of August. And then with school starting, there was no way this was going to happen.</p>

<p>Now, I’m not really emotional at all (remember, INTP here) but I just am absolutely terrible at handing them when they come. I had cleared my schedule for the rest of the summer, quit my part time job that I no longer needed because my trip was paid for. So with an empty summer (well I still had my Extended Essay to write for IB and a couple of online classes to do for graduation requirements, but those weren’t getting done any time soon) I plunged into the numbing depths of mediocre television. I think I watched 5 seasons of Supernatural (hour long episodes, 22 in each season, long story) in about 3 or 4 weeks. Slowly pulling myself out of that was a difficult process, but I’ve come out of it having gained a good amount of understanding and self-knowledge I think. I don’t know how well I’d be able to put it to words, but I feel wiser and more determined for it.</p>

<p>Essays: </p>

<p>Common App: I was leaning towards the “Describe a time you experienced failure…” prompt and relating the story I told above with a good amount of self-reflection. What are your thoughts on this? It would allow me to discuss what film means to me, how my directing responsibilities have contributed to my character, and also display my habit for deep reflection, not to mention that I believe this to likely be the most meaningful experience of my life in recent years. I’m just worried that it may come across as exploiting my friend’s memory. Also, the topic of death is kind of hard to write about well without sounding cheesy or insincere. (A major part of my personality is that I crave sincerity, and anything less kind of disgusts me.)</p>

<p>UChicago Supplements:
I’ve already written my “Why UChicago?” essay. I quite like it, but it needs a good amount of editing. It’s around 500-600 words (UChicago doesn’t impose word limits! Freedom!). It begins with an explanation of how I first discovered the school (in a book called Geeks by Jon Katz which I read for a non-fiction book report freshman year) then fell in love with it and everything it offered (I still regularly visit the Doc Films website to see what films they are playing nowadays). It ends with a reflection on my learning habits and desires which concludes with this quote from Fight Club (the novel, not the movie, though I do prefer the film.) “May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect.”</p>

<p>UChicago Supplement: I’ve been mulling these prompts over in my head for the past few months and I think I’m gonna do “What’s so odd about odd numbers?” How about the fact the distinction even exists?! Like, what’s the difference between an even and an odd number? The evens are divisible by two? Is that worth making an entire number set that we reference all the time out of? It’s just a demonstration of an aspect of human nature to try to look for patterns in everything and apply order where there is none. Arbitrary systems and pointless categorization. It made a lot more sense in my head than on paper. But I guess that’s the curse of the INTP.</p>

<p>I should have no problem writing the optional “Tell us what you love” essay for Chicago, because I love so. many. things. But I’m unsure how I should organize it. Should I have maybe a paragraph each on my favorite album (Black Sheep Boy by Okkervil River), my favorite film (Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia”), my favorite director (Paul Thomas Anderson, duh), my favorite website/publication (The A.V. Club), my favorite author (tossup between Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut), etc. to show that I have a wide, wide variety of interests? Or should I just focus on one or two key things that truly mean everything to me? Like reflect on how Pynchon and Vonnegut have impacted my worldview, perhaps?</p>

<p>Brown Supplements:
“Why Brown?” - Okay, so I was considering taking something of a risk on this one. Since there’s a 200 word limit kind of have two halves to it. The first half would be satirical about how I want to attend Brown because it’s Emma Watson’s alma mater as a sort of parody of celebrity culture. Then the second half be sort of like, “Seriously, though…” and explain earnestly the reasons I’m obsessed with Brown and why I’d be a good fit.</p>

<p>Why the chosen field of study - Don’t think I’ll have a problem with this one.</p>

<p>“What’s a community you’ve been a part of and how did it shape you and how did you contribute to it?” - I was considering using the Internet for this, or my IB family (most of the IB kids have pretty much every single class together). Or perhaps write about my love of the show “Community,” my 2nd favorite show after Mad Men.</p>

<p>“Where have you lived?” - Either just take this completely literally, but there’s not much to discuss. I’ve lived in southern Missouri all my life. Moved once in 2nd grade but it wasn’t that big of a change and I hardly remember it. Or perhaps take it a bit more figuratively and reflect on how I never seem to be able to get out of my head even in the most visceral of experiences. </p>

<p>So… yeah. </p>

<p>I posed several questions in the body of this. I guess I want to know if you guys think I have what it takes to get into UChicago or Brown. I understand that even the most qualified of applicants are hardly guaranteed a spot at a top university anymore. But do I have the credentials to at least be competitive? And, seriously, I have no problem linking one of my short films or my band’s recordings or photography or the screenplay if anyone is interested in taking a look/listen and giving some input.</p>

<p>Looking back over what I spent the past four hours writing, I am realizing that I am actually insane. I probably should be writing my Extended Essay (4000 words… the same length as this post…) instead of writing this, but I just can’t focus because my mind is filled with worry about college and all of these questions.</p>

<p>If you read all of this… Thank you so much for listening to my insane rambling, complaining, and explaining. I am truly impressed. </p>

<p>Since you are new, I will point out that there are several forums here. For essays, search, admission questions and college specific forums for Brown and Chicago. (I don’t say fora, fora sounds asinine.) As I was reading, I started skimming in the middle of your first post, then when I got to the end I see it goes on, so I then skipped to the last sentence of the last post. This is where I should say ‘get a blog.’ But I will instead say that you will do better here, breaking down your questions into smaller posts at a time in the relevant forum. It would take hours to read and reply to your post and you can’t really expect that. </p>

<p>I hate to comment on off topic but here are a couple things caught my eye:</p>

<p>My daughter ended up with Brown and Chicago as her top 2 choices also so I can see why you love those. MCM sounds perfect for you, as does Brown. Brown has RISD access to classes and community that you might benefit from. She is ENTP, but I can see some possible I as well. But I personally think to pick based specifically in M-B is like picking based on your sun sign.</p>

<p>Do NOT make your Why Brown on that topic. Dont go there. You can be light but not flip, and it would just be a groaner to mention Emma, no matter what your intent.</p>

<p>You can’t make those sort of links here, and we are not the people to judge we are not experts.</p>

<p>Brown has a very extensive list of programs abroad that are approved. Anything you want to know if likely online. They also will approve other programs on request. My dd spent a semester in Budapest.</p>

<p>As far as 1st generation college, you put what their post secondary was and the college will decide. Many colleges will consider you 1st gen if they don’t have a 4 year degree, but you just put down what is asked and don’t worry about interpreting it, they don’t ask you directly if you are 1st gen.</p>

<p>Read it, and to me it screams Wesleyan - a hotbed of intellectual indie film that spawns great indie collectives like Court 13.</p>

<p>I think UChicago and Brown may break your heart and close the door on an early play like Wesleyan. Wes has a 42% early acceptance rates, but all those thousands of kids deferred by Brown et. al. will drop in to Wesleyan’s RD and EDII pool - making it a very tough later admit.</p>

<p>IF you crack 30 on the ACT, I would seriously consider Wesleyan ED before wasting your silver bullet on Brown.</p>

<p>You may also want to research Reed, Vassar and Bard.</p>

<p>I would be careful getting to cutesy on the essays - a la Emma Watson. It’s good you’re writing early so you can bounce them off one of one your teachers and allow the essays to gestate. Don’t get too many editors, it will F it up - go with one, maybe two good writers to review your work.</p>

<p>Yes Wes sounds perfect too, from what I read.</p>

<p>I just read @BrownParent‌’s excellent post. </p>

<p>If nothing else, you have two independent, but like opinions from total strangers on your Emma Watson idea.</p>

<p>You may want to check out these resources. They really helped my D get started with her college essays last summer.</p>

<p>The Essay chapter in Hernandez’s book here:</p>

<p><a href=“A Is for Admission: The Insider's Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and ... - Michele A. Hernández - Google Books”>A Is for Admission: The Insider's Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and ... - Michele A. Hernández - Google Books;


<p>On Writing the College Application Essay by Harry Bauld—formerly an admissions officer at Brown University and assistant director of admissions at Columbia University</p>

<p><a href=“http://www.amazon.com/Writing-College-Application-Essay-Acceptance/dp/0064637220”>http://www.amazon.com/Writing-College-Application-Essay-Acceptance/dp/0064637220&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;

<p>I don’t have anything very constructive to add, but I recommend you also apply to Parentheses University (Don’t worry, I’m the same way, evidently, lol).</p>