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Last updated March 21, 2024

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How to Get into the University of Chicago

Key Takeaway

Have your sights set on attending the University of Chicago? The tough truth is that good grades alone aren't enough to beat the 6.5% acceptance rate. You'll also need to craft an authentic application strategy around your personal narrative and UChicago values.

Here’s a riddle for you: what do Misha Collins, Bernie Sanders, and Carl Sagan have in common?

They all went to the University of Chicago. Well known for its intellectualism, rigor, and quirkiness, the University of Chicago has educated countless Nobel and Pulitzer prize winners, social activists, and artists.

If you want to join the ranks of notable UChicago alumni, then you’re in the right place. With a 6.5% acceptance rate, the University of Chicago ranks among the most difficult schools in the country to get into.

You don’t only need the grades and the extracurriculars—you also need the personal narrative. Especially at a place like UChicago, your application strategy can make or break your application.

In this post, we’ll walk through everything you need to know. Let’s jump in.

How to Apply to University of Chicago

The University of Chicago accepts applications through Common Application and Coalition. They also work with QuestBridge applicants. You should feel free to choose whichever application system works best for you.

Regardless of the system you use, you’ll need to submit the basics:

  • Background and personal information
  • Extracurricular activities list
  • Personal statement
  • High school transcript
  • School report
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Optional standardized test scores
  • University of Chicago supplement

The University of Chicago also lets you include supplementary materials if you think they communicate valuable information about your talents or skills to an admissions officer. That might be a recording of you during a debate, a cool side project you have, or an abstract from a research paper you published.

One fairly unique feature of UChicago’s application is the video introduction. UChicago doesn’t consider interviews, but you are allowed to send in a 2-minute video introduction. Doing so isn’t required, and your application won’t be in jeopardy if you don’t, but the admissions committee does recommend it!

University of Chicago Application Options

You’ve got four application plans to choose from: Early Action, Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision.

If you’re not willing to enter into a binding Early Decision contract, then you’ll probably be applying Early Action or Regular Decision.

University of Chicago Application Deadlines

EA: November 1

ED I: November 1

ED II: January 3

RD: January 3

How hard is it to get into University of Chicago?

With a 6.5% acceptance rate, the University of Chicago is a really competitive school to get into. It’s not quite a Stanford or Columbia sub-4%, but it doesn’t get much lower.

That rate is lower than schools like Northwestern, Cornell, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, and Johns Hopkins, so you’ll have your work cut out for you.

What does University of Chicago look for in applicants?

Some universities explicitly state what they’re looking for in applicants (thank you, Columbia!). Others, like the University of Chicago, reveal a little bit less.

So what should you do if UChicago isn’t outright telling you what they’re looking for? It’s simple: you look at who they are.

See, the thing about college applications is that you’re not just applying. You’re also marketing yourself. It’s all in the (still authentic and genuine) story you tell the admissions committee about yourself. At Admit Report, we refer to this story as your “application narrative.”

To figure out how to best position your own narrative for a particular school, it’s always a good idea to first analyze the story the school tells about itself.

For UChicago, let’s look at the “Who We Are” page. Without much digging at all, we can see that the University of Chicago prides itself on intellectual impact, freedom of expression, and ability to solve real-world problems. UChicago also lauds its community as open, challenging, diverse, inclusive, and civic-minded.

These are the core values that underlie the University of Chicago mission—and therefore its application review process, too.

When crafting your application, writing your essays, or filming your optional introduction video, keep these values in mind. Your goal as a UChicago applicant is to use your application narrative to show that you’re already acting like a University of Chicago student. You want to show, through your actions and words, that you belong.

University of Chicago GPA requirement

The University of Chicago, because of its holistic review, has no minimum GPA or GPA cutoff.

That said, all GPAs aren’t treated in the same way. We already know from our University of Chicago Common Data Set post that 99% of enrolled first-year students ranked in the top tenth of their high school graduating class. A full 100% were in the top quarter.

As you can imagine, these rank statistics also mean that the majority of enrolled first-year students had perfect 4.0 GPAs, and almost 90% had above a 3.75.

So if you want to get into UChicago, you’ll probably need an unweighted GPA in that range.

University of Chicago SAT Scores

The University of Chicago is test-optional, so you don’t have to submit any standardized scores unless you want to. There also isn’t any standardized test score cutoff, so you’re free to submit whatever score you want.

Still, I recommend that you make this decision strategically. We have an entire strategy post about how to decide whether to submit your test scores. In that post, you’ll see that the crucial number you need to make an informed decision is the school’s middle 50%.

The middle 50% tells us the score range in which the middle half of students scored. By default, it also tells us that 25% of students scored at or below the range and 25% at or above it.

Here’s the University of Chicago middle 50%:

SAT Composite: 1510-1560

ACT Composite: 33-35

If you scored within these ranges, you’re probably safe to submit them (though there’s still some nuance to that recommendation, so be sure to read the test-optional strategy post). If you’re at the upper end of the middle 50%, or if you’re above it, then you should likely submit them.

Does University of Chicago superscore?

Yes, UChicago superscores. They’ll take your best score in each section, whether you earned those scores on the same test day or not. Hopefully that gives you some peace of mind come testing day.

What high school course work do I need to get into University of Chicago?

UChicago doesn’t specifically require you to take a certain number of classes in each discipline. And unlike other schools (Northwestern, for example), they don’t segment their recommendations by academic discipline.

Instead, the University of Chicago wants you to take classes that interest you. They should challenge you to become a better thinker and student. So when you’re choosing classes, keep that in mind. You’re taking classes to learn, not just to get into UChicago!

But you’re also a strategic applicant, so you know that the courses you take ultimately do matter. What matters most, though, is the level of rigor you choose to take on. Of course, your rigor is always evaluated within the context of what your school offers.

To put it frankly: if you want to increase your chances of admission to the University of Chicago, you should take as many rigorous courses as you can reasonably handle.

Now let’s take a look at what University of Chicago recommends in terms of academic distribution:

  • English: 4 years
  • Math: 3-4 years
  • Lab Sciences: 3-4 years
  • Social sciences: 3+ years
  • Foreign language: 2-3 years

Again, you should be strategic and thoughtful when planning your courses. If you know you want to study a STEM field, for example, make sure you’re on track to complete the highest levels available to you.

What extracurriculars do I need to get into University of Chicago?

No admissions officer opens an activities section and expects to see something specific, so don’t worry about picking extracurriculars to appease an admissions committee.

Instead, your focus should be on getting the most value out of your time. Whether you’re spending time doing an activity you love or working hard to accomplish an amazing feat, University of Chicago wants to see that you’ve engaged the world around you.

In whatever your activities are, strive to be the best you can be. That might mean growing into a leadership position, earning an award, ranking nationally, or winning a competition. The bigger the accomplishment, the greater the impact, the more you’ll get noticed.

The University of Chicago website also has an unusually strong emphasis on summer opportunities. They list out a number of summer programs, volunteer ideas, camp types, and more. That tells me that UChicago admissions officers want to see that you’ve challenged yourself every summer. If you want to get into the University of Chicago, make your summers count, too.

For more on extracurriculars, or if you don’t know where to start, see our extracurricular strategy post.

Final Takeaways + University of Chicago Supplemental Essays

There you have it—your University of Chicago application strategy in a nutshell. Think through each piece of this advice, and consider how they all apply to your overall application narrative. You’ve got this.

Once you’ve thought through your strategy, it’s time to move in on your supplemental essays. The University of Chicago supplemental essays are a doozy, so be sure to give yourself lots of time. When you’re ready to get started, try out our University of Chicago Supplemental Essay Guide for more.



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