If there’s one thing UChicago students hate more than the hideous, incongruous architecture of Pick Hall, it's the return of the prospies. “Prospies” (derogatory)—fresh-faced, bright-eyed admitted prospective students, notable for the bright red lanyards dangling out of their pockets and “My Name Is!” stickers plastered on their shirts—inundate campus every spring, extending lines for food and crowding the quad to the inconvenience of current UChicago students rushing to class. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we view prospective students with contempt as they frolic around campus, marveling at the buildings and the gargoyles, completely unaware of what’s yet to come.
That’s what I thought to myself, at least, when I witnessed a huge group of prospective students encroach on my study area in Harper Memorial Library to gawk at its gothic design—or, as I overheard a prospie say, to have a “Hogwarts moment.” Apart from considering them a nuisance, we tend to think of prospective students as idealistic and oblivious. Their seemingly blissful naïveté incites annoyance in many cynics who see them enjoying their time on campus, ignorant to the realities faced by current UChicago students. Not every prospective student, however, is oblivious. In fact, most going through the visiting days and long student panels are taking necessary steps to make an informed college decision. While prospie weekends may not provide high schoolers with a truly immersive experience of a UChicago student’s daily functions, it does offer prospective students at least some information to make an important, lasting decision: whether UChicago is right for them.
I could talk about my own hardships as a prospie at great length—from tripping on the main quad’s uneven stones and leaving with a bruised leg to getting rained on while my phone died and not knowing my way around campus. Or I could approach it differently and talk about my more pleasant memories: making lasting friendships with people I met and gaining first-hand accounts of what it’s like to study the subject areas that interested me. After prospie days, I left campus excited to return in the fall. This is not, of course, to say that everyone had—or will have—a similar experience. Nevertheless, prospie weekend was a solidifying moment for me, just as it can be for many other prospies.
During my first evening as a prospie in the Destination UChicago Fly-In program, I was met with a tour along the lakefront, a tasting of Chicago deep dish pizza, and plenty of free UChicago merchandise—all of which was not a portal into the daily life of a UChicago student. While I, as any other person, would love to have deep dish pizza every day and stroll around the lakefront, I knew this ideal was exactly that: an ideal.
UChicago information sessions do not go into detail about issues concerning campus life—from trivialities like the sometimes questionable food offered at Bartlett to the more insidious and pertinent history of the University’s involvement in the South Side. Considerations beyond $1 milkshakes and stereotypical house cultures must be taken into account when forming an opinion on campus life as a prospective student. Visiting weekends, however, can provide a glimpse of our campus’s feel and allow prospective students to converse not only with one another but with grizzled current students as well. There’s only so much you can learn about UChicago through pamphlets, YouTube videos, and curated presentations by admissions counselors. By acquainting yourself with current students, you won’t need to rely solely on admissions counselors, whose job is to illustrate campus in a positive light and who may have no experience regarding issues afflicting UChicago students.
Indeed, hour-long information sessions with their condensed, superficial presentations weren’t enough for me to know whether I made a correct decision; they only made me feel detached as I became acquainted with preliminary information and statistics about campus life instead of real-life students. It’s easy to feel alienated from campus life when unfamiliar people overload you with statistics on acceptance rates, academics, and financial aid; prospie days, however, humanize the UChicago experience—something that comes from interactions with students who don’t merely make you feel like a single fraction of an abnormally low acceptance rate. Through conversations with your hosts, panels with current students, and attending model classes, prospective students can become acquainted with campus life—albeit to a lesser extent than if they were current students.
Although I may have been a tad bit annoyed with the incessant noise stemming from prospective students wandering into Harper as I attempted to finish a midterm paper, I was no different when I was a prospective student back in 2019. Prospie weekends may not include an endless night of cramming at the Reg or an introduction to the Core, but they’re at least a way for the so-called oblivious prospies to make an informed decision about their college of choice.
Jennifer Rivera is a third-year in the College.