Uncommon experience?

The average prospie’s experience does not reflect life at the U of C

By Alison Howard

It’s prospie season, which means that this upcoming Thursday, campus will be overrun with high school seniors, some more eager than others, on a scale that may be inversely related to whether or not their parents are following closely behind. I understand that overrun is a pretty mean word to use (so, if you’re my prospie and you’re reading this: Sorry! Also, I’m sorry that I probably haven’t learned your name yet). But it’s not wholly unjustified. Several planeloads of prospective students swoop down for a short period, eat our food, sleep in our rooms, disrupt our lives, and leave like the wind, never to be seen or heard from again, except for maybe awkwardly around campus the following year. Yeah, that description of events was way overwrought. And I’m not even anti-prospie. I’m just afraid that the prospie experience doesn’t actually help prospies experience UChicago in an authentic way.

I’m saying this as someone who has only ever been a prospie host, and never a prospie. As a member of the decided-to-come-here-at-the-last-minute variety, I remember sending in my housing application on April 30th. I was swayed to come by the promise of derogatory T-shirts (I haven’t bought any yet) and Scav (I haven’t participated in that one either)—and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I took a mostly uninformed gamble on this school, and I’m happy with how it turned out. Still, I don’t think I would recommend that approach to a current prospective student.

I’ve heard that visiting a campus is the best way for a student to figure out where he or she wants to go. That’s why I’m consistently surprised by how some of my friends ended up here. Most of their stories simply involve being ignored by their hosts (sorry, my prospie!), but a few are really horrific. There’s even one that involves a spinning wheel.

For every bad-prospie-experience story I’ve heard from a current student, I know at least one bad-prospie-experience-inflicted-on-a-prospie by a current student. My favorite is the kid who was so freaked out by the party going on in his host’s room that he took the bus to Northwestern to escape. Clearly, this is a cycle. People come here to stay even after they have an awful time here. Also, awkward prospies are just as common as awkward students.

The University seems to recognize this problem—that is, the potential lack of fun during April overnights—because PSAC (the student-run Prospective Students Advisory Committee) has organized a bunch of things for prospies to do. There’s the RSO fair, a variety show, a multicultural show, a movie, and even Capture the Flag on the quads. This multitude of simultaneous events is surprisingly realistic. Seriously, on any given weekday night, there really are that many activities to go and do (sadly enough, Capture the Flag is not a regular activity). But do most students participate in extracurriculars with that much intensity? No, not really.

Unless I’m completely out of touch with the majority of undergraduates living in student housing here, on a normal Thursday night, a student will go to dinner, maybe to a club meeting, and will then go back to the dorm, or maybe the library, and try to do homework. Try is a key word in this sentence, because this trying will be full of wonderful procrastination brought on by housemates and friends—YouTube videos of bunnies eating flowers, or Madonna music videos, impromptu karaoke (possibly to the aforementioned Madonna music video), innuendos found in class readings that must be shared, heated debates about the appropriate pronunciation of LOL (obviously it’s loll), unplanned cookie baking, and subsequent unplanned cookie-eating study breaks. I don’t think it’s unjustified to say that social life in the dorms revolves around study breaks, unplanned or otherwise, and I think it’s great.

Nevertheless, these are difficult scenarios to enact if there are upwards of 30 prospies in your House, especially if each host doesn’t have the time or motivation to spend time with his or her prospie. In that case, all the prospies end up hanging out in the lounge, maybe watching a movie, playing a board game, or making small talk about how many APs they’re taking this year.

Basically, if you’re a prospie: Be forgiving. Life at UChicago is, propaganda aside, awesome in the most fantastically nerdy way possible. And if you’re a host, for goodness’s sake, learn your prospie’s name.

— Alison Howard is a second-year in the College majoring in English.