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University of Chicago

the basics
Location
5801 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago IL 60637
Type
Private
Setting
Urban
5 reasons it’s cool
  • History is made at Chicago. The academic discipline of sociology was pioneered here, and the university has educated or employed more than seventy-five Nobel laureates.
  • The alumni hall of fame puts all others to shame. Chicago grads and past professors include Carl Sagan, Milton Friedman, Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, and Edwin Hubble.
  • Love a heated debate? Chicago’s super-intellectual atmosphere means stimulating conversations.
  • Chicago’s got an impressive 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
  • Chicago awards twenty full-tuition College Honor Scholarships.

Serious academics wanted. Must have warm coats.

The Intellectual Capital of the World

The University of Chicago isn’t for the faint of heart. Students here are incredibly driven and able to endure academic pressure. The university’s core curriculum stresses interdisciplinary thinking and different perspectives and requires students to complete classes in the humanities, civilizations, mathematics, art, natural sciences, and social sciences. Students find that this foundation helps immensely when taking upper-level courses, as well as the many graduate-level classes that are open to undergrads. The university operates on a quarter system. Professors are demanding and aren’t apt to spoon-feed students—nor are they likely to inflate grades. That said, Chicago professors are the best of the best and include some of the world’s most influential scholars (including a number of Nobel laureates). While sleep is a rare commodity on this campus, Chicago students can at least rest easy knowing they’re receiving one of the very best educations around. Students seem to be up for the challenge: 98 percent of freshmen return for their sophomore years.

Winter Blues? Not Here

Faced with long, cold winters every year, Chicago students have devised some pretty creative ways to keep their spirits, if not their bodies, warm. Each January, students celebrate a festival called Kuviasungnerk (or “Kuvia” for short), an Eskimo word that means “pursuit of happiness.” The festivities include ice sculpting, hot chocolate drinking, a dance marathon, musical performances, and fireside discussions with the faculty. There’s also an early morning exercise routine called kangeiko, a Japanese tradition that’s performed outside and concludes with a yoga-inspired sun salutation.

Caution: Intensity Ahead

If we had to summarize Chicago students in one word, it would be intense. Maroons work hard, and at any given moment you’ll find a high concentration of them whiling away the hours at the campus’s Regenstein Library (or “The Reg” as students call it). When they’re not studying, students blow off steam by playing intramural sports, which are very popular on campus. Many students also get involved with one or more of the university’s four hundred student organizations, including the Mock Trial Team, the Model UN Team, and the College Bowl Team, all of which are among the most competitive in the country. Students also attend guest lectures hosted by the Chicago Society, performances by the ever-popular University Theater, and film screenings and occasional question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers sponsored by Doc Films. And every Wednesday, students flock to the Reynolds Club for Shake Day, when milkshakes cost just $1.

Winter Wonderland

Chicago’s breathtaking Gothic-style architecture, complete with gargoyles galore, will make you forget that you’re in the middle of a major city. Just a few blocks from Lake Michigan, the campus is gorgeous year round, featuring flowers in the spring, colorful foliage in the fall, and an ice-skating rink in the winter. The university is located in Hyde Park, a predominantly African American neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. While the neighborhood isn’t particularly student-friendly, there are a number of restaurant options as well as the University of Chicago Seminary Bookstore and Powell’s bookstore, two independent favorites. Downtown Chicago can be reached in about fifteen minutes by train or about twenty-five minutes by bus. In the winter months, when the temperature hovers around zero degrees, students often prefer the warmth of campus environs to making the trek downtown.