4 Tips for Writing a Stand-Out 'Why UChicago?' Essay


For students applying to the University of Chicago, the "why UChicago?" essay is more straightforward than most of the other essay prompts you'll see, but it can still be intimidating to try to figure out how you should tackle this essay.

What should you mention? What will impress the admissions team? What are they really looking for in your response?

We break down the "why UChicago?" essay, explain everything the University of Chicago is looking for in this essay, suggest topics to write about that'll help you stand out, and provide "why UChicago?" essay examples to help get your creative juices flowing.


The Why UChicago Essay Prompt

The "why UChicago?" essay is the only prompt that shows up every year on the UChicago application. It's also the only prompt that everyone must answer (you'll have multiple prompts to choose between for the other essay). This alone should tell you that the University of Chicago takes applicants' responses to this prompt very seriously.

Here is the prompt:

"How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago."

There is no strict word limit to this essay, but UChicago suggests a response of one to two pages.


What Is the Purpose of This Essay?

Why does UChicago require applicants to answer this essay? What are they really looking for in your response? Let's analyze this prompt.

No matter which schools you're applying to, "why our college?" is probably the most common prompt you'll see on college applications, and for good reason: colleges, including the University of Chicago, want to see that you really want to attend their school. Why? Applicants who love UChicago are more likely to accept an offer of admission, be committed to their studies, participate in extracurriculars, and give back after they graduate.

If you show in your essay that you really love UChicago, it makes admissions officers feel more confident you're going to have a significant and positive impact on their school.

If you can't give any compelling reasons for choosing UChicago or you don't seem to have done much research on it, that makes UChicago admissions staff worry that you're not that invested and will do only the bare minimum in college without having much of an impact at the school or afterward. They may also think you don't really care about getting into their school, which can make them less likely to admit you.

Additionally, UChicago asks you to write this essay to ensure that you and their school are a good fit for each other. If you use the "why UChicago?" essay to talk about how much you love Division I sports teams or how you want to be a famous geologist, the admissions team may hesitate to offer you a place because their sports teams are Division III and they don't have a geology major.

Ultimately, the purpose of this essay has two parts: UChicago wants to make sure you know and value what they offer, and they also want to see how you're going to make use of these opportunities to reach your goals for the future.




What Should You Write About in Your "Why UChicago?" Essay?

There are multiple ways to approach this essay prompt. However, since UChicago is best known for its academics, most applicants will make sure that at least part of their response touches on coursework and specific majors.

Here's a list of possible topics you can write about:

  • Majors or classes you're especially interested in
  • The UChicago Core curriculum
  • Professors whose work you admire and whom you'd like to study with or research with
  • Extracurriculars that you'd be interesting in joining
  • The school's intense academic atmosphere
  • UChicago Scav
  • Research opportunities you'd like to have
  • Small class size and discussion-based classes
  • UChicago students you've met who you admire
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Financial aid opportunities UChicago offers that make it possible for you to attend

In your response, you should choose about one to three reasons why you think the University of Chicago is the best school for you. For each reason, you should describe what UChicago offers and connect it back to your interests and skills to show how you're a good match for the school. Remember to answer the prompt completely; this means talking about both the learning and community at UChicago, as well as your plans for the future and how UChicago can help you achieve them.



Tips for a Great Response to the Why UChicago Essay

Regardless of how you decide to answer this prompt, there are four tips everyone should keep in mind to make sure they're fully answering the question, giving the information UChicago wants to see, and making sure they stand out from other applicants.


#1: Do Your Research

Before you begin writing your response to this essay prompt, you should know exactly why you want to attend the University of Chicago. There are multiple ways to do this research:


#2: Be Specific

From your research, you should have come up with specific reasons why UChicago is a great school for you. The more specific you can be when answering this prompt, the better. Don't say UChicago has great academics, caring professors, and an interesting student body. Most schools have that.

Instead, try to mention opportunities only UChicago can provide, such as specific professors, course names, extracurriculars, or research opportunities. The things you discuss should be things your other top schools don't offe— things that really make UChicago stand out.


#3: Show Your Passion

UChicago wants students who care a lot about their studies and their school, so make sure this comes across in their response. A bland statement like, "I am impressed by UChicago's strong economics program" doesn't tell the school anything about you or help you stand out from other applicants.

You've done your research to mention specific qualities of UChicago that have enticed you, and now you need to discuss specific qualities about yourself as well. Why does the economics program make you so excited? What do you want to get out of it? Do you want to use your knowledge to study the economies of different developing countries and use that knowledge to fight global poverty? That's what you should write about.

Showing a passion that's unique to you will help differentiate you from other applicants and show UChicago that you're going to take your studies seriously.


#4: Discuss Your Vision for the Future

The "Why UChicago?" prompt clearly asks you to connect your desire to attend UChicago with your future goals. So let them know your plans! Do you hope to use your time at UChicago as a launching pad for a career as a researcher at Fermilab? Do you want to major in theater and performance studies and eventually open a drama school for underserved kids? UChicago wants students who dream big, so let them know what your dreams are.




"Why UChicago?" Essay Examples

To help you get a better idea of what a great response to this prompt can look like, below are two Why UChicago essay examples. The first is an excerpt of an essay written by an admitted student, and the second is an essay we wrote. After the examples we explain what makes them excellent responses.


Essay 1

As I prepare to leave my home for a university, I dream of joining the University of Chicago community. In all honesty, UChicago is probably the only university that will accept and even encourage my eclectic thinking and passion for finding adventure in everyday life. Although I hope to major in Computer Science, I also want to study political science and the Italian language to the extent that I can confidently debate Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan and copy Dante's terza rima poetry. I want to learn about game theory and astrophysics not just in surface-level introductory classes, but through in-depth discussion and analysis. At UChicago, the Core curriculum will feed my hunger for a broad undergraduate education by guaranteeing  that one-third of my studies will be dedicated to the exploration of the humanities, sciences, and arts. I yearn to engage in vibrant discussion with UChicago musicians who study neurosciences, business majors who star in theatrical productions, and psychology students who are learning Mandarin. At any other school, I would be an untraditional student, but at UChicago, I will fit right in. Traditional warrior princesses feel at home in castles; it is no surprise that UChicago's campus is full of them. At UChicago, surrounded by diverse thinkers and unique personalities of every kind, I know that I will feel at home, too. —Samantha M.


Essay 2

It was reading an issue of the Chicago Shady Dealer that made me know the University of Chicago was the right school for me. Any school that produced a satire paper that included hilarious and clever articles joking about students taking a math class in an abandoned parking garage or hysterical preaching and projectile vomiting during alumni weekend was a place where I knew I'd belong.

After speaking with a current UChicago student, I felt even more strongly that this is the school for me. This student is a Creative Writing major, as I plan to be, and he mentioned so many opportunities for University of Chicago students to publish their writing, from the Shady Dealer, to the Chicago Maroon, to Sliced Bread. My only concern was having enough time to write for all these publications! I'm especially interested in the student magazine Diskord because of its focus on student opinions of national and global news. Many people dismiss young people as uninformed or naïve, but I've found many have my peers have extremely important things to say, and it's important to hear each other. The student I spoke with on the phone also mentioned that he was able to combine his interests in poetry and French Literature, and I really like how interdisciplinary the major is.

Theater and scriptwriting is something I've always been interested in learning more about, and I think University of Chicago's theater workshops and groups like Court Theatre could help me gain more skills in this area. People joke the University of Chicago is where fun comes to die, but from what I've seen, it's just the opposite. I've never met a group of students who were so funny, creative, and intent on making an impact, and I'd love to be a part of that.


Why Do These Essays Work?

  • Answer the entire prompt: Both of these responses answer every part of the "Why UChicago?" essay prompt. They mention the type of learning the writers hope to receive, the type of community they want to be surrounded by, and what their plans for the future are.
  • Give details: There are many details in both these responses, such as specific classes the authors want to take, what they want to major in, specific extracurriculars, and school publications they want to join.
  • Show where they fit in: It's clear from reading these essays how the authors see themselves fitting in at UChicago The first hopes to major in computer science while also debating famous literary works with fellow classmates, whereas the second wants to become a writer for school papers and possibly work on theater productions. They've shown that UChicago has opportunities they want to take part in and contribute to, and they tie this into their goals for the future.



The "Why UChicago?" essay likely won't be the make-or-break factor in your application, but it can help give the admissions teams a good idea of why UChicago is a great fit for you. The purpose of this essay prompt is for you to show UChicago that you've done research on their school, you feel it's a good fit for you, and you already know some of the opportunities at the school you want to make the most of.

In your UChicago essay, you can write about multiple topics, including academics, the student body, extracurriculars, and research opportunities. Just make sure to thoroughly research the school, be specific, show your passion, and mention plans you have for the future. When in doubt, don't forget to check out successful "Why UChicago?" essays!


What's Next?

You'll need to write one other essay when you apply to the University of Chicago. Check out our other guide to learn how to tackle both UChicago essays.

The "Why This College?" is a common essay topic on college applications. Learn how to write a great "Why This College" essay for every school you're applying to by reading our guide on the topic.

Want to see some more college essay examples? We have links to 145 great college essays that includes our expert analysis on how you can write a standout essay of your own.



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About the Author
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Christine Sarikas

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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