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UChicago College Apps Down 9.5 Percent

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Replies to: UChicago College Apps Down 9.5 Percent

  • unaloveunalove Registered User Posts: 3,725 Senior Member
    (P.S. If you read through my posting history you'll get to know me as somebody who does love UofC but I definitely have my quibbles. I take my posts here fairly seriously and I try not to assume that Chicago is for everybody, because I don't believe that to be true and I apologize if I come off that way!)
  • salrightsalright Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    edited February 2014
    Retention rates can be high because students at schools that practice grade deflation don't really have the option of transferring to schools of a similar caliber. It is a very misleading statistic.
  • unaloveunalove Registered User Posts: 3,725 Senior Member
    edited February 2014
    1. That Chicago practices "grade deflation" of any sort is an unproven claim. If anything I'd be willing to argue the opposite with the sample sizes I've seen, based on the number of Chicago resumes I've seen over the years. Once upon a time a poster made an effort to count up how many students were on Dean's List (3.5?) or graduated with general honors (3.25?) and concluded that the majority of the class was receiving honors. Look up @newmassdad 's posts on this.... or was it @JHS ?

    I know what my GPA was at the time of graduation; I felt it was fair of my efforts. My grades were uneven and my efforts in class were uneven too.

    2. You are correct that retention rate doesn't encapsulate "transfer application rate." It doesn't reflect "changed mind about transfer" either. However, if people really felt Chicago was a bum deal, expensive and grade-deflated, why wouldn't they all be transferring back to their in-state schools and pursuing the honors programs there? Those numbers would be reflected in the retention rate, no?

    Listen, the University of Chicago is a hell for the wrong student. Only worse than hell, because you have to pay to be there and it's cold. Don't apply and don't go if it's not your shtick. But if you are looking for it, it's one of the best places around. And at this point it sounds like this is not the place for you, and that's fine.

  • guccigirlguccigirl Registered User Posts: 156 Junior Member
    I think a problem with UChicago might be that it still can't stack up next to HYPSM and some other ivies in the minds of many students. The students that fit UChicago seem to be a bit different from the ones that go to HYPSM. As an admitted EA student, don't get me wrong: I really like UChicago, think its a great school, and I could probably go there for four years and absolutely love it. But in my mind it still just isn't at the same level as what most people consider the best schools in the nation, and isn't the perfect environment for me. Thus I still applied to HYPSM and a few other ivies, which if accepted I would probably attend over UChicago. Criticize me if you want, but in a way UChicago is my "HYPSM safety", and I'm sure i'm not alone. But I think this is more of my personal preference in a college experience rather than an overarching theme.

    But I have noticed that many if not most fellow EA admits I know are committed, when in past years yield was under 50%, so I believe UChicago is quickly rising up the ranks and "threatening" the prestige of HYPSM. I think the lower application rate might be explained as backlash towards the rapid rise in UChicago ranking; last year my valedictorian best friend EA'd UChicago because it was his top choice, and was deferred and then rejected. He ended up at Yale. This kind of story scared alot of people from my school from applying, because UChicago is no longer REALLY that "HYPSM safety". Bottom line is UChicago is a top, respectable school, that most students in this country would kill to attend, so I feel like super analyzing all these statistics is pointless. But it probably is ture that the most "ambitious" high school seniors who are shooting for HYPSM don't usually consider UChicago a top choice.
  • unaloveunalove Registered User Posts: 3,725 Senior Member
    @guccigirl has a good point -- most of my friends who did apply to ivies didn't apply to Chicago, because it was "too hard." I think that was their way of saying, "If I am going to work hard in college I at least want to go to a school that has rear window decal prestige." That wasn't my way of thinking, but I can't blame them.

    My impression is that by the time we're slicing top schools, the determining factor is (or, really, should be) fit. That is, should somebody be hopelessly lucky enough to have such a choice!
  • unaloveunalove Registered User Posts: 3,725 Senior Member
    ^alice this was back in the day, when apps were <9,000. sorry for not clarifying that I am of an older vintage.

    I agree with you about the hyper-marketing, though! I never received Chicago marketing when I was in HS.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,400 Senior Member
    This discussion has been fascinating. Probably more than any other top school, UChicago is in a very strange position. It has a carefully cultivated and maintained academic reputation, but it hasn't engaged in the decades of tradition-building and consistent crafting of culture and identity that its peers have. As I've said in the past, UChicago's niche "life of the mind/monastic" approach to college, as seen in the 1970s and 80s (and early 90s) was a failure. Focus on academics alone does not make for a happy college. Students were unhappy, transfer rates were high, graduation rates were low. In the past 10-15 years, UChicago has been trying to change its culture. Changing culture is difficult, and takes a long period of time.

    All this being said, I wonder if the marketing has been "jumping ahead" of the actual experience on the ground. Nondorf et. al. has been marketing the school very broadly, but the school doesn't have the decades of tradition and cultivation of identity seen at many other schools.

    The question now becomes: how can UChicago build a tradition and a consistent identity that will persevere for generations (rather than being modulated as it has over the past 20-25 years)? Also, what will that tradition and consistent identity be?

    Some of the more fundamental changes have yet to occur. I get the sense that UChicago is looking to be some sort of Yale-Columbia hybrid (that is, a strongly residential college with a core curriculum located in a world-class city), but I'm still not sure if the emphasis on student well being, and the focus on community is where it needs to be.

    UChicago's certainly taken steps in the right direction, but these steps seem more like an effort to close gaping holes in the experience that have been present at other schools for years (e.g. building a nice gymnasium, bolstering career services and keeping better career records, investing more in the arts, bringing more restaurants and recreational activities to the neighborhood, etc.). To put this another way, UChicago is playing a gigantic game of catch up.

    From my perspective, while the school has spent lots of money on marketing, even more needs to go into assessment of the actual college experience. Moreover, some structural changes could help the school, such as:

    - Increase UChicago's footprint downtown: the Gleacher biz center is already there, but what about opening up general classroom space, auditorium space, a library, and possibly a dorm just for some fourth years who stick with housing - maybe do all this right by the Metra stop near Milennium Park. Plaster some big UChicago signs to the building, and let this be a new hub of activity. By the metra, it's easy to get to/from Hyde Park.

    - Use the new space downtown to host cultural/civic events (and maybe Paulson Institute events), and bring in people from the broader Chicago community. Use the space to encourage cross-registration with other schools. Have Northwestern students come downtown to take a UChicago class, and host Medill classes open to UChicago students (and NU students, of course). Have Columbia College art kids, Depaul Honors program kids, etc. come in for classes. In short, encourage UChicago students (and those from other colleges) to see themselves as part of the general college community within the city of chicago.

    - Create a UChicago museum/admissions hub downtown: Within or near the new space, create a museum/admissions hub that people can visit, where info sessions can be held. Have a shuttle that then transports prospectives to the main campus.

    - Increase the size of college houses - right now, UChicago's house system is still too scattered, and many of the house communities are too small. Maclean House has only 100 residents, and Stony Island has only 77. Breck has 95, and Blackstone has 80. Similar to its peers, UChicago's college houses should strive to be microcosms of the greater college community, and each house should be (at a minimum) 200-250 people, with consideration given to spreading different "types" of students out between the new houses. Having very small communities (e.g. 80 students) somewhat far from the heart of campus can lead to more disjointed campus life, and can be isolating. Perhaps this means building one more college dorm after North, and combining houses within other large dorms (such as Max). The hodgepodge present right now is not ideal.

    - Increase student activity space: While Logan has created much more space for the arts, general student activity space now is about the same as it was 10 years ago, when the College was 30% smaller. Perhaps expand Ida Noyes or build across the street from the Reynolds Club (near Bartlett). Heed the call for specific types of spaces (such as more space for dance/ballet).

    - Revamp the College Advisers system: too often, students have mixed reviews about the college advisers at UChicago. Adopt a more consumer/student-oriented approach here, where reviews from students can impact an adviser's job status and security. Many schools (such as Wharton) already build this into their reviews of administrators. The advisers are often students first contact with the administration - make sure the contact is positive.

    - Invest in/expand upon cultural/community institutions right on campus: renovate and expand the Pub in Ida Noyes, and do the same for Jimmy's Woodlawn tap on 55th st. Also, what about purchasing some of the homes that pop up for sale on Woodlawn and University Ave and creating more "homey" study spaces/outdoor or indoor cafes/small bars? UChicago did a great job with the new Stevanovich math center (https://stevanovichcenter.uchicago.edu/), so what about expanding out more on this front?

    - Renovate reading spaces and stacks in the Reg: if it's going to be a focal point, make it as nice as possible. See the 6th floor of a central UPenn library as an example: http://articles.philly.com/2014-01-25/entertainment/46567449_1_rare-books-rare-book-room-rare-manuscripts

    - Expand/intensify the sports program: 10 years ago, when UChicago was 30% smaller, it had 19 varsity sports. Currently, the school STILL only has 19 varsity sports. As the college has grown significantly, why not expand the number of varsity sports? Also, consider having a hybrid D1/D3 sports program, and going D1 in sports that blend well with the academic mission of the school (e.g. the "nonmajor" sports, such as soccer, squash, water polo, etc.). This would allow UChicago to maintain status in the UAA, but also compete with its closer peers (e.g. Columbia, Brown, etc.) in certain sports.

    - Programming to encourage faculty/student interaction (and light socialization): what about a budget to create more community within majors? As students must select a major by the end of 2nd year (and UChicago students take this seriously), what about "department receptions or open houses" where second year students and faculty can mingle over snacks and beverages and then hear a keynote address from a faculty member who talks about the importance of a specific discipline? Third or fourth year students could then have "major dinners or receptions" where they share a meal with faculty/staff and hear another address.

    - There are many other points that still bear mentioning (e.g. expanding community engagement), but this is a start!

    I'd imagine, if these student-life changes were implemented, in the long run, apps to the college wouldn't be a problem, and the actual experience in the College would improve significantly.

    Thoughts on all this are welcome.



  • unaloveunalove Registered User Posts: 3,725 Senior Member
    @Cue7 is right on the money (ha) as usual. If Chicago IS going to play in the deep end of the pool, it needs to really play and not just talk a good game. I am fairly sure every one of your suggestions has a precedent or a parallel currently.... I mean, the College I entered wasn't the College I graduated from, and that was only a few years ago.

    In my heart of hearts, Chicago isn't Yale, or Stanford, or whatnot, it's just Chicago. Take it or leave it. But alas, that's probably not sustainable long-term strategy and it's not what Prez Zimmer wants.

    But one note:

    "Programming to encourage faculty/student interaction (and light socialization): what about a budget to create more community within majors? As students must select a major by the end of 2nd year (and UChicago students take this seriously), what about "department receptions or open houses" where second year students and faculty can mingle over snacks and beverages and then hear a keynote address from a faculty member who talks about the importance of a specific discipline? Third or fourth year students could then have "major dinners or receptions" where they share a meal with faculty/staff and hear another address."

    My department(s) did this all the time, even in the "bad old days." The beverages were alcoholic in nature. Nobody carded. You bet I went!


  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,944 Senior Member
    Yeah, that paragraph brought me up short, too. One of my kids was in a mid-size department that did that all the time. By the middle of his third year, he had some kind of personal relationship with 3/4ths of the faculty and grad students in the department. When I visited, the department office was one of the places he took me to, and there was friendly banter with the people who happened to be there, including two tenured faculty members. They had regular departmental barbecues, and plenty of academic events (like thesis talks, visitor lectures, or candidate presentations) with incidental alcohol and food. He had a job that was connected to another, smaller department, and there was a ton of socializing associated with that department, too, including more spontaneous let's-all-go-drinking moments.

    My other kid was in a much larger department that wasn't nearly so cozy. But, still, she knew lots of faculty and grad students, she spent tons of time with other undergraduates in her major, she went to plenty of academic events sponsored by her department, and I think she decided fairly early on that for the most part she preferred her faculty interactions in 50- or 90-minute bites. There was no horrible defect in the social fabric of her department.

    As for some of Cue7's other points:

    - Chicago is never going to have a lot of sports stuff with Brown and Columbia, because no one at either school wants to spend that much time traveling. The league it's in is perfectly appropriate, but it doesn't play full schedules because no one wants to travel so much. Most of the Ivy League seems to have given up on high-level sports, by the way. And I don't know what is supposed to get better at Chicago if it establishes more varsity sports that no one comes to see and that mainly rich preppies play.

    - I will take Mansueto's sensationally lovely version of corporate modern over the new stuff at Penn. Something that looks like an airport lounge under the seats at Franklin Field? Really? The Reg could be spruced up, but Chicago hardly lacks for great places to study and maybe flirt.

    - I think it would be nuts to diffuse energy by sticking a dorm and more classes in River North. Nuts socially, nuts economically. (The University has virtually unlimited expansion possibilities in or adjacent to Hyde Park with a land cost approaching $0. Land costs in River North approach infinity.) Showing the flag in downtown Chicago is fine, connecting students with the city is fine (although I think Cue7 way underestimates the degree of connection that's there now), but not by making kids live there and take the Metra to school.

    - I agree about the house sizes. By the way, when my kid was in Maclean it was the largest house in the system (with 100 students). That may still be true for all I know.

    - I also agree about the advisers. But, honestly, I am not certain who really does it better. My college's system worked great for me, and for most people I know, but not for everyone, and it really depended on students' ability to self-counsel.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,944 Senior Member
    Nope, the monastic approach was a failure, and came within a whit of killing the college, and possibly taking down the whole university with it. It was a failure because not enough high-quality students wanted it, because relatively few ambitious people want to be monks at 17, and because far too many of those who wanted it, and maybe were invigorated by it, also hated it. Bottom line: It didn't produce an alumni corps that supported the university, and it's hard to have a top-shelf private research university without that.

    It's not a close question. If you took a snapshot 100 years ago, you would not have been able to tell which of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Chicago would most succeed institutionally. 60-70 years later, it was easy to tell what had worked and what hadn't.
  • idadidad Registered User Posts: 5,027 Senior Member
    One does not have to take a monastic approach to cultivate and embrace a life of the mind ethos. Chicago has always been the academic stronghold of American education, an intellectual culture second to none. The pursuit of knowledge and inquiry was its primary value, not jobs, or applied engineering, or the other more mundane pursuits of the other colleges. It was always exploring the idea of the University and often stood alone in its commitment to it. I believe Chicago needs to maintain that theme as it strives to improve student life and activities, to abandon it turns it into just another Ivy type, pre-professional institution of which we have enough. I believe Chicago has the chance to maintain its mission and still attract students. Seeking knowledge for the fun of it can be and should be made attractive. I would, however, prefer a 40% admit rate and a ranking of 15, over a top ten ranking and no soul.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,400 Senior Member
    JHS and Kauakauna,

    Thanks for the feedback. JHS, what are your thoughts about how to take UChicago to that "next" level, and improve upon what, generally, is a "softer" general reputation (certainly when compared to Harvard, Yale, etc, and probably still when compared to, say, Columbia). As I said above, UChicago has a lot of ground to make up, because for decades, the College was languishing.

    In terms of specific responses:

    - Re: faculty/student interaction: that's great if UChicago has instituted receptions encouraging faculty/student interaction now. For my concentration back in the day (now nearly two decades back!), interactions were decidedly more staid affairs. There were certainly lots of conferences and symposia, but everything was, well, serious. As opposed to the more recreational/celebratory "wine messes" for students and faculty at UChicago Law, the interactions I remember with faculty were certainly thought provoking, but a lot wasn't done to promote friendly relations between the two groups. If that's present now, that's great.

    - On that note, I'm not sure if second years have a "shopping" period where different departments host receptions to "woo" students. I think such a series of events would be a lot of fun - students could learn about and meet faculty/staff in different departments over the course of a couple months, and I think there's something positive and fun about it.

    - Regarding sports and increasing the percentage of varsity athletes on campus, I think this would be a welcome trend because it diversifies the types of people on campus, and the range of endeavors students pursue at a high level. The hybrid D1/D3 model works well because it can also increase the school's recognition in a venue outside academics/research. Johns Hopkins and their lacrosse program is a good example of this.

    Further, frankly, I think the UAA is a bit silly geographically. If UChicago and its athletic teams didn't care about traveling, why are their teams often traveling to NYU, Emory in Atlanta, and URochester in upstate NY? If UChicago is committed to such extensive travel, it doesn't seem that difficult to have a D1 soccer or volleyball team that travels to Ithaca and Providence instead of Atlanta and NYC, and then plays many games in the midwest against Michigan, NU, Wisconsin, etc.

    The new UChicago athletic director (Erin McDermott) seems to be doing a great job, and she's finally bringing accountability to the sports program. She's hired D1 level coaches (see the new volleyball coach hire) and, generally, having more athletes around with a winning mentality might not be a bad trend for the school.

    - Re a new center downtown: having a dorm or not, planting a flag downtown seems like a very good move. Roosevelt University just opened a huge new student complex downtown (it's a skyscraper near Milennium Park) for $130M. The price doesn't seem outlandish (it's about the same price as UChicago's new dorm), and establishing more of a footprint downtown would be a welcome trend. If not a dorm, have classroom space and auditorium space and a reading room, coupled with an admissions center, present downtown. Have it be an alumni hub too. Have civic engagements there, and invite students from other schools in for classes. This creates a bit more goodwill between the university and the city, and breaks down the "UChicago is an island" idea that existed in the past.

    (Frankly, I think having a dorm - maybe even just a relatively small dorm of 200-300 students, isn't a bad idea. Requiring fourth years to stay in the dorm system for all years in the college to access the downtown dorm would, subsequently, increase the number of third years who stay in housing and serve as upper level guides in the house system. If this isn't a good idea, build a grad dorm downtown - grad students who may be looking elsewhere might come to chicago because of this sort of setup.)

    To sum, I'm interested in hearing other initiatives that could help UChicago get to that "next level." Unlike, say, Columbia, which has the NYC location and the Ivy League tag and the bonus of being grouped together with schools like Harvard and Yale, and unlike Stanford, which benefits greatly from the Silicon Valley, it seems as if UChicago needs to create some initiatives that give the school broader traction. Again, I'm interested in hearing what next steps should be - beyond the artificial fixes like more marketing and hitting up alums more often for money.


  • neweducationneweducation Registered User Posts: 78 Junior Member
    to be completely honest, who cares that college apps are down by 9.5%? what exactly is the relevance? The quantity of applications a college has no impact on its academic quality. UChicago has always been for a type of student that is not in the "mainstream", those students that are interested in a rigorous, life-changing academic experience. not every student is up to that, and nor do most students believe that they are. So what does it matter if Chicago's apps have fallen by 9.5%. Chicago would still be the same if it received 8000 apps.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,400 Senior Member
    edited February 2014
    alicejohnson asked: "why does it always have to be about levels and hierarchy?"

    Well, that's simply how the marketplace operates. Many books documenting higher ed note that schools tend to track themselves against peers and, at the very top, "prestige" (recognition, wealth, etc.) is the coin of the realm. For a long time, UChicago's College was an outlier on this front, and did NOT play the big-numbers admissions game, it did not seek to create leaders across all industries, fundraise as heavily, etc. These decisions nearly closed the college and adversely impacted the health of the university. Of late, UChicago has very much thrown its hat in the ring, noting that a healthy college is good for the university itself. Administrators seem to have targeted other schools to track, and the executives have made decisions to improve the College's standing.

    For a while, I was against these changes (which track back to the late '90s). I went to UChicago back when it was a monastic place, a place that was essentially a preparatory program for future PhDs/scholars. I thought these changes would ruin the spirit of the school. I was wrong.

    The College now is probably healthier than ever, with smart, motivated students and a much better esprit de corps. I sometimes argue with the extent UChicago markets (and solicits alums for donations), but the results have been quite positive.


    Neweducation: It was precisely because UChicago was not for "mainstream" students that it started to falter. The pendulum swung far too heavily in favor of academic monasticism, and when it received 8000 applications and had a 50% accept rate, it was not a healthy place. When you ask who cares if apps are down by 9.5%, I imagine the administrators care greatly about this. A college's standing is precarious, and it requires tremendous effort to keep momentum going with these metrics. UChicago doesn't need to be all things for all people, but it certainly has to broaden its appeal to keep the college relevant and at the forefront.


    Other posters asked whether such changes will ruin the "soul" of the school. I dispute this, mainly because the College is only so important vis a vis the rest of the institution. The goal of the college should be to exist as a thoughtful, happy, and healthy place. The true reputation of the research university sprouts from its current primary goal: the production of academic research. In this vein, as long as faculty continue to do what they do, and the school attracts committed, analytical grad students, the general rep of the school will be safe.

    As a case in point, the character of the student body has changed significantly over the past ten years. I haven't heard any faculty members, however, yearning to go back to the UChicago of the 80s or early 90s. From what I can tell, they seem quite satisfied with the current crop of students, and the students themselves seem happier and healthier.

    Put another way, making the UChicago college experience more enriching (by augmenting the house system, broadening extracurricular offerings and varsity sports, creating more institutes and initiatives, etc.) won't dilute the core strengths of the university. Academic seriousness and a robust, happy college can coexist.

    For UChicago now, though, this is the time where the rubber really hits the road. The school always had a great academic rep, and they ratcheted up the marketing and made some sorely overdue changes (centralizing dorm life, closing shoddy dorms, opening up an arts center and a new gym). Now, though, is the time where we see if the school can put its money where its mouth is. Truly, to enrich college life and to make the College at once a tradition and a destination, there's a lot more work to do. I don't think simply staying the course will be enough - some additional, significant improvements (building a center downtown, centralizing the housing system even more, putting more resources into extracurricular offerings, etc.) are still needed. The next 5-7 years are critical, and they correspond exactly with the planned fundraising campaign (which should be announced later this year). I'm eager to see what plans lie ahead for the College. If the marketing is to be believed, the plans better be significant.

  • rhg3rdrhg3rd Registered User Posts: 947 Member
    Good. Now Chicago can go back to being a grad school. Grad students have been ousted from graduate housing over the last several years to fuel the College's aspirations of greatness.
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