University of Chicago
BackgroundInterview Date:August 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Private school in Durham, NC with a graduating class of about 100. Every person went to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Political Science
Minors: Double minor in Statistics and Human Rights
Extracurricular Activities: I have a few on-campus jobs and I am in Greek life.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
I mainly have readings, anywhere from 100 to 300 pages per class. We have three exams or papers a semester or some mixture of the two.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
We have a lot of celebrity professors which is really cool. Even in the intro courses, my professors are really impactful political scientists that are great resources. One negative is I have not experienced any female professors in the department. I feel like there is a bit of an issue with that. I also like that the expectations of the professors are really clear.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It depends on who you surround yourself with. I started as a pre-med student and I found that to be extremely competitive. In Political Science, I think it’s much more collaborative. I have a study group and we break up the readings, take notes together and go to office hours together. It’s really nice.
How accessible are your professors?
It depends on what field you’re in. The Political Science professors have been really accessible. I have gone to coffee with a few just to learn about their past, which is really awesome. They have office hours, and the teaching assistants have additional office hours.
What has been your favorite class so far?
My favorite class I’ve ever taken is Cognitive Disabilities in Human Rights. The professor had a younger sibling with cognitive disabilities, so he provided insight but still allowed the class to discuss all angles. He introduced arguments, like people who don’t think they should be in our moral community because they don’t understand our morals or people who think animals who have higher IQ’s should be treated better. It had a really large breadth of information.
What has been your least favorite class so far?
General Chemistry. The expectations weren’t clear. A consistent problem with STEM classes is that professors are really exceptional in their field, but that doesn’t mean they are great at teaching something. I found in a lot of my pre-med classes the coursework was too much for what should have been expected.
Do you feel people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Absolutely. You have kids who are like, “Kant changed my life,” and people who are die-hard capitalists. People are just like that at UChicago [laughs]. People are pretty open as long as you can back up what you think.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Renee Granville-Grossman, but everyone calls it “South,” with one roommate who I’m still very, very close with.
Sophomore: An off-campus apartment with one roommate. I’m going to live there through senior year.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel very safe. I know the south side of Chicago isn’t seen that way, but there are security guards on every corner. They probably wouldn’t be able to do that much if something did happen, but the visual aspect is very important. I feel totally safe walking home alone at night from a party or the library. One thing is If I’m below 61st street or above 53rd I don’t necessarily feel safe. It’s a bubble around campus.
How was transitioning from North Carolina to Chicago?
The cold is awful oh my God! We have really mild winters in North Carolina, it snows like an inch. In Chicago, you need a long winter coat and snow boots. It will also rain really hard for a few days at a time. The big thing is the wind. It will push you around. That’s something that I didn’t even consider, so be conscious of how cold it is outside. I had a rule at school that if it was below 0 degrees I didn’t go to class. Realize that it’s going to be really cold and you don’t see the sun in the winter. Once it gets sunny, it’s hilarious. Everyone starts smiling for no reason walking around campus.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
LoKal, they have a location in Wicker Park and another location in Lincoln Park. This is going to sound super basic [laughs], but their brunch is so good I cried. The Lincoln Park Zoo is right nearby, so you can walk around after.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I get really claustrophobic if I’m in Hyde Park for too long. There are two places I like to go do work away from the crushing UChicago environment where people literally live in the library. I will go to the Cook County Law Library and go up to the 32nd floor where there are beautiful wooden tables and big windows. I will also Google random coffee shops downtown and go there for the day. I like the Art Institute of Chicago, we get in for free and you can bring your laptop and it’s a really good place to write an essay. There are lots of ways to get off campus but still be a student.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you participate in at UChicago?
I’m in a sorority, so we have mixers with fraternities every Thursdays. There’s a theme and you go to their house and dress up. Sororities don’t have houses at UChicago. Wednesday is “Bar Night.” One of the fraternities turns their basement into a fully functioning bar and everyone can come. Friday and Saturday night depends on what we want to do, sometimes we go clubbing downtown, sometimes we go to frats, and sometimes we go bar hopping.
Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year?
Freshman year I didn’t go downtown at all. I went out a lot on Wednesdays. I don’t feel like I knew a lot of the brothers at the fraternities I was going to parties at. They were huge open parties and a bunch of people would be there and I just didn’t know anybody.
Once I joined a sorority, I feel like Thursday nights became more of a social night for me. With that, I had more opportunities, like we’d have smaller parties with the frats before large parties. I got to know a lot more people and I felt a lot safer at parties. I also got to go to a lot more events because I knew more people. Fraternity formals and sorority formals are typically at clubs downtown, but a lot of them are 18+ so you can go but you get x’s drawn on your hands and can’t drink at the function.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
At UChicago, the Greek life is there, but it doesn’t control the social sphere because people are still going out if they’re not a part of Greek life. With Greek life you have a bigger group of people to go out with if you want to go out. There are also more things that are planned to go to, which is nice because I don’t like planning things.
How happy are you with the nightlife? Is there anything you would change?
No. I don’t really love extremely crowded parties, so it’s nice that all the parties are a little smaller, and, if they’re open, I know the majority of the people there. There are only four sororities so there is no hierarchy. Everyone is quite friendly and there is no animosity between the sororities at all. I feel like it’s a good setting if you’re a girl. The frats have some animosity and they can’t go to each other’s parties.
How did you meet your closest friends?
My best friend was my freshman year roommate. She messaged me two days before the deadline [to submit roommates] and then we lived together and became best friends. The rest of my friends are in Greek life. I either know them through my sorority or different frats. It’s nice because a lot of them who I’m close with are in the same major as me.
How would you describe the social scene?
There really isn’t a typical overall social scene. The most social people are in Greek life as a general rule. There are some people who never go out and go to the library every day and don’t have as much of a social life. There are the two opposite ends of the spectrum. One is very typical UChicago and one is more normalized. Based on the recent classes, it seems like UChicago is trending towards the more normalized students.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I definitely don’t think it is as apparent as it should be. There was a moment when we were doing recruitment for my sorority, and there is one girl in my sorority who is Black and she said that we really need more representation, which I agree with. In terms of sexual orientations, it’s better than that, but not as great as I would like it to be.
Do you think people are happy with their choice of UChicago by senior year? Do you think people leave loving UChicago?
I think so. I think after the fact I’ll be like, “Yes, this place was really, really hard, and it had some of my worst moments, but I know I don’t think I could see myself in a different place.” The experiences I have had here are truly unique and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
We have Handshake, [an online portal for internships and jobs]. My internship right now has been funded through an alum that’s how I got it. I don’t know if there is a good general alumni network, but within different groups, there are other alumni groups. My sorority Facebook page has job postings, and I know the law and business fraternities on campus have extensive alumni networks.
Have you used the career office? How helpful were they?
I used it earlier in my college career when I was a pre-med student. They were helpful in the sense of these are the types of internships you should be looking for. I don’t know if they would be the most helpful in helping you actually get an internship.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about UChicago before entering as a freshman?
It’s super okay to change your mind. I had a huge existential crisis over the fact that I didn’t know if I wanted to be a pre-med student. It took a friend talking to me to make me realize that it’s okay to not know what you want to do with the rest of your life.
Then also to use your resources and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to message your teachers randomly to meet for coffee or something. I messaged the head of the Public Policy school to get coffee and she was a really helpful resource and is how I got into one of my classes.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
There’s a really cute botany pond that’s picturesque that they don’t talk about. It’s really beautiful to have picnics at or run to.
Reasons to attend UChicago:
1) To push yourself. For me, it’s really hard to grapple with the fact that I’m not always going to get all A’s. Any grade I get I work exceptionally hard for so it means more to me even when I get that B+.
2) To meet new people who come from diverse backgrounds. There is not the most racial diversity in Greek life, but there is diversity in other ways. I know people who have lived all around the world. I have on close friend who came from Belgium and didn’t know much English when she got here. If you give people a chance, they are much more exceptional than you think they are.
3) The UChicago name carries weight. In terms of grad school or job applications, I’m starting to realize how much weight it carries.
Reasons to not attend UChicago:
1) If you’re someone who doesn’t like to do work. I don’t know anybody who has not said, “I’m not going out tonight to do work.” It definitely breaks you down before it builds you up.
2) If you’re looking to be an engineer I wouldn’t come because we don’t have an engineering department.
3) For somebody who’s pre-med, you’re not going to have a perfect GPA. Accept that you will have a lower GPA than you expect when you graduate when you compare to the national average. Medical schools consider that you go to UChicago. It can be really frustrating to work your butt off and still not the grade that you want. If you care more about the grade than what you learned, don’t come.