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Last updated February 9, 2024

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How to Use the University of Chicago Common Data Set

Key Takeaway

At the University of Chicago, your academic preparation should be a given. Admissions officers expect to see high levels of academic achievement. That's why it's so important to distinguish yourself through your essays, extracurriculars, and overall application narrative.

Have you heard about the University of Chicago Common Data Set but aren’t quite sure how to use it? This post is for you. We break down all of the key data and explain how to use it to craft the most strategic application possible.

Let’s get into it.

How University of Chicago Evaluates Applicants — based on CDS data

As you’d expect, the University of Chicago evaluates applicants based on pretty standard factors like rigor, essays, extracurriculars, and personal strengths. But their evaluation process is unique compared to many other institutions because class rank and even GPA fall under “considered” rather than one of the “important” categories. As we’ll see in the GPA data below, many of the first-year students who enrolled at UChicago had strong GPAs but not necessarily perfect ones.

Very important Important Considered Not considered
Rigor   Class rank Interview
Essay   GPA  
Recommendation(s)   Test scores  
Extracurriculars   First generation  
Talent/ability   Alumni/ae relation  
Character/personal qualities   Geographical residence  
    State residency  
    Religious affiliation  
    Racial/ethnic status  
    Volunteer work  
    Work experience  
    Level of applicant interest  

Does University of Chicago track demonstrated interest?

Yes. The University of Chicago tracks demonstrated interest and ranks it as “considered” in the admissions process. Since admissions officers will consider whether you’ve engaged with the institution, it’s best to put some time and effort into information sessions, in-person and virtual visits, opening those marketing emails, and speaking with your admissions officer.

Does University of Chicago care about test scores?

Yes, the University of Chicago considers standardized test scores. Of all the enrolled first-year students this past year, 49% submitted an SAT score and 35% submitted an ACT score.

Does University of Chicago care about essays?

Yes. Essays are one of the most important factors in UChicago application evaluations. It’s worth spending extra time and attention on them—they can make or break your application. (Ready to get started on your UChicago essays? Check out our University of Chicago supplemental guide.)

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

The UChicago Common Data Set reports that 100% of enrolled first-year students were in the top quarter of their high school graduating classes, with 99% being in the top tenth of their class.

Still, the GPA breakdown for those same students reveals that students without perfect 4.0 GPAs still find admissions success at the University of Chicago.

GPA % of Enrolled Students
4.0 62.45%
3.75-3.99 24.54%
3.25-3.49 9.41%
3.50-3.74 2.43%
3.00-3.24 0.81%
2.50-2.99 0.15%
below 1.0 0.22%

If you’re one of those students who doesn’t fall in the 3.9+ GPA category, then it’s important that you go all-in on the other factors that UChicago ranks as “very important.” That means writing excellent essays and activities descriptions and paying special attention to how your character, strengths, and talents come across throughout your application.

University of Chicago Acceptance Rate

The Common Data Set reports that 37,974 students applied to UChicago. Only 2,460 were admitted. After some quick math, we can tell that the acceptance rate is just shy of 6.5%.

That’s only 1.2% higher than Yale, so you’ve got your work cut out for you. Early reports for the class of 2026 indicate that that rate has reached an even lower 5.4%.

And with an enrollment of 2,053 students, students admitted to University Chicago are also fairly likely to attend.

University of Chicago Early Decision Acceptance Rate

University of Chicago offers Early Action, Early Decision I, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision application plans. The UChicago Common Data Set doesn’t report acceptance rates for their ED plans.

What’s the right application option for you?

The right application plan for you will depend on how closely your application strengths align with what UChicago looks for in applicants. Your choice will also depend on whether you’re willing to enter into the binding contract of an Early Decision Agreement. We have a whole post about ED strategy, so here, we’ll simply say this: in general, applying ED may slightly increase your chances of admission, but an ED application isn’t going to move mountains. Your application will still need to stack up.

Most Popular Majors at University of Chicago

We can use the University of Chicago Common Data Set to get a sense of what students most commonly major in. We do this by looking at the percentages of degrees awarded in each major academic discipline.

Looking at the table below, we can see that 33.6% of students who graduated in 2020-2021 earned a degree in a social science field. The social sciences are therefore among the most popular majors at University of Chicago. Similarly, mathematics and statistics, biological and life sciences, physical sciences, and computer and information sciences also rank in the top six.

Compared to many of UChicago’s counterparts, UChicago has a fairly high number of students who graduated with degrees in foreign language, literatures, and linguistics.

Major Percent of Degrees Conferred
Social Sciences 33.6
Mathematics and Statistics 10.6
Biological/Life Sciences 7.9
Physical Sciences 7.5
Computer and Information Sciences 6
Psychology 5.7
Public Administration and Social Services 4.9
Foreign Language, Literatures, and Linguistics 4.5
English 4.1
Visual and Performing Arts 3.8

With this information in hand, you can get a sense of what UChicago is most well-known for. The more popular a major, the more generally recognized a school is for that program. So let this data inform your school list curation. If you’re interested in one of the more popular programs, then the University of Chicago likely has great offerings. But the more popular a major is, the trickier it is to earn admission. More applicants = more competition, so you’ll need to up your application strategy.

What should you do with all this information?

As you can probably guess if you’ve looked at the University of Chicago supplemental essay prompts, UChicago takes a slightly different approach to college admissions. While you’ll still need to have near-perfect grades, course rigor, and extracurriculars, University of Chicago admissions officers want to see more.

There’s a reason class rank, GPA, and standardized test scores are ranked as “considered” rather than “important.” To some extent, this decision is likely because a solid academic background is a given for most University of Chicago applicants. It doesn’t need to be “very important” because most applicants already bring high grades and course rigor to the admissions table. But that’s not the only reason.

University of Chicago isn’t just looking for stellar students who can do assignments and get good grades. They want vibrant academic and campus community members. That’s why factors like talent and character rank higher than GPA on their evaluation scale. So if you want to increase your chances of admission to the University of Chicago, then your application should highlight your strengths. If you’re ready to get going on your application, hop on over to our How to Get into University of Chicago guide, where we show you how to do exactly that.



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