As University students return from spring break, high school students around the country are spending their vacation visiting colleges and, as the Office of College Admissions has witnessed, it seems they are all choosing to visit the U of C.
Roughly 9,100 students applied for admission to the Class of 2009 and just over 3,600 were admitted. "That is about 400 more applications than last year, and about the same number of admits," said Ted O'Neill, dean of admissions, noting that the acceptance rate decreased relative to last year.
The majority of those visiting the college are younger high school students. "The hordes are juniors," O'Neill said, "and more are coming this year than ever before." O'Neill attributes this influx of prospective studentsaffectionately known on campus as "prospies"to simple word of mouth: "More juniors, and sophomores and younger, spend their spring break visiting campuses these days, and a lot more come to Chicago, because the word is out, and spreads farther every year, that this is a great University and a good place to spend time," he said. "The College is on more and more lists, and the more people who visit and tell their friends how beautiful the campus is, and how friendly the students are, the more will come in the future."
Facilitating this prospie inundation are the many student tour guides who introduce prospective students and their parents to the University of Chicago campus. The Admissions office employed approximately 45 new tour guides this past winter quarter, all of whom underwent training in order to prepare them to give tours during this quarter. These tour guides are especially helpful during the month of April when the admissions office holds their annual Junior Spring Open Houses, in which 11th graders spend a day visiting campus, sitting in on classes, and attending lectures and panels led by various faculty and staff. These lectures relate to such topics as life in the residence halls, admissions and financial aid, the Core curriculum, and career advising. During these programs, student-led tours leave from Ida Noyes every hour throughout the day, making the student tour guides an essential component to the smooth operation of the admissions office on a daily basis.
As reported in the April 1 issue of the Maroon, the admissions office recently relocated its offices from Harper Memorial to Rosenwald, providing more space for those who work in Admissions and those prospective students who visit Admissions alike. "The new space is wonderful, and much bigger, but not really big enough to handle crowds this large, so we have resorted to using classrooms in Rosenwald when available, and even the Breasted Lecture Hall in the [Oriental Institute]," said O'Neill. "Thank heavens we have had so many tour guides willing to help out."
The move has caused a change in tour routes, as they used to begin in the Harper quad and now start from the center of the academic quadrangle. "Our tours begin from the middle of the quads, which is very nice," O'Neill added. "That also means visitors have to find us in the middle of the quads, which isn't quite as easy to do, though I don't think people have had any real trouble getting to us."
While Admissions is logically pleased with the recent surge of high school visitors, some current Chicago students are not as contented. Second-year in the College Anita Bhattacharjee said that, "When large tours pass through the lobby of Cobb I find that the noise disrupts my class and is distracting."
Unfortunately these circumstances are unavoidable throughout the month of April, as admitted seniors have been invited to a program on Saturday, April 9, and then to overnight stays on April 14, 15, 21, and 22. O'Neill remarked that admitted students, "have not really had a chance to respond to our invitations, but we expect that 500 to 600 prospective students will be here those days, and others will come everyday this month."