A Student Review of The University of Chicago

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Kandice received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and her Master of Arts in Teaching from The University of Chicago. She is currently a tutor in Houston specializing in ISEE tutoringSSAT prep tutoring, Reading tutoring, Writing tutoring, and several other subjects. See what she had to say about her experience at The University of Chicago:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Kandice: The University of Chicago is a beautiful, urban campus on the South Side of Chicago (in the Hyde Park neighborhood). The quads are beautiful, with a mixture of modern and gothic architecture. The campus was relatively safe. I never had any concerns about my safety, but I practiced common sense, especially at night. You do not necessarily need a car or a bike because the neighborhood is easily walkable and pretty small in size. There are plenty of buses that take you through the campus and to other parts of Chicago in very little time.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Kandice: Academic advisers were always available when I needed them. We had quarterly check-ins, but I would often schedule other appointments with no problem. The University of Chicago is a smaller school, which made it especially great for meeting with professors and teaching assistants. In my larger courses, the professors were not as available because of the number of students and their busy research schedules. In those larger classes, however, teaching assistants were easily available each week. For smaller classes, professors were regularly available to me and my classmates.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Kandice: The University of Chicago dorms were like The University of Chicago; they were proudly quirky. I lived in two dorms, so I had two experiences. During my freshman year, I was in a newer dorm (Max Palevsky Residential Commons) that was directly across from the main quad. There were dining halls next door, and it was very social. The Resident Heads hosted lots of events in the dorm, including social outings. The annual campus scavenger hunt was a big deal too. When I moved to the Shoreland (which no longer exists) the next year, I was a mile off campus. We had apartments with kitchens, so it felt more independent, and there were more upperclassmen in these dorms. There were still resident events, but they were not attended as regularly because people were hosting their own gatherings. There are a variety of dorms that range from quiet to very social. Each dorm is either connected to or right next door to a dining hall. I think that socially, it will be whatever you make of it. There are lots of opportunities to socialize if you want to!

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Kandice: I think that the sciences are best represented and supported at The University of Chicago. I was on the pre-medicine track when I first started college, and with the hospital on campus, as well as top professors and researchers, there was plenty of support for students who were interested in science and medicine.

I studied Psychology because I love learning about how the mind works and how it develops in social settings. I think The University of Chicago did a great job of supporting my studies and letting me explore different areas of my field, as well as cross-listing courses in Sociology, Neuroscience, and Human Development that involved psychological research.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Kandice: It was pretty easy for me to meet new people because I am an outgoing person. My dorm had lots of events, so I got to know people, and I became close friends with my roommates. Also, The University of Chicago has a ton of clubs that you can join. I think that during my first year I was in ten clubs! Greek life is not as big here as it is at other schools, but it is present on campus. I actually joined a historically black sorority that was not on campus (they had a citywide chapter), and that also provided a place for me to meet people off-campus in the Chicagoland area.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Kandice: I did not really utilize the Career Center that much, since I knew I was going to graduate school, but I do know that they had some awesome internship programs. They also had frequent recruitment efforts. I did utilize student supports for students of color, and I got lots of great information, connections, and support for my experience there.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Kandice: This is what I love most about The University of Chicago. There are so many unique spots to study. You can go to the library, the most popular being the Joseph Regenstein Library. It is very quiet on most levels, except for B level in the basement. This has become the one place where people hang out, study, and are generally louder. John Crerar Library is a science library, but even if I was not studying for my science classes, I would go there if I needed lots of space and quiet. I love the design, with its glass windows and wooden and chrome tables. There are some older libraries that make you feel like you are in a Harry Potter movie. If you are more social, many people study at Reynolds Club, the student union. Of course, this is much louder and becomes easily crowded, especially after large groups of classes dismiss. The dorms also had many private and public study spaces available to students. I never had a problem finding places to study.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Kandice: I am going to be honest, the surrounding area of The University of Chicago is not the nicest place. This is due in large part to economic disparity, racism, and a lack of community resources. With that being said, these areas have a lot of history and hidden gems that should not be ignored. It adds to the tapestry of the university and the history of the city. Hyde Park, the neighborhood that the university is situated in, is a great, diverse area that has lots of museums and shops. It is a great place to be. Chicago is an amazing city as a whole. If you go off-campus, you will find so many different neighborhoods full of culture and rich history.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Kandice: The University of Chicago has lots of students, but undergraduates comprise a small portion of the student body. My class (the Class of 2006) was a little over 1,000 people, and I do not think there were more than 5,000-6,000 undergraduates on campus while I was there. Other than my first year classes (i.e. requirements like calculus and English), my classes were usually under 25 people, which I was absolutely pleased with. I like smaller classes, as well as engaging in discussion with intimate groups of people.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Kandice: My most memorable class was my chemistry lab in my first year. Every Friday, I had lab for four hours, even though we were usually done in three hours. On this particular day, we were given a mystery liquid and had to figure out its chemical makeup through a variety of litmus tests, flame tests, crystallizing, etc. We could not leave until we figured it out. There were about 15 different substances given to the class in total, and there were a few that our professor said would take a long time to figure out. We were randomly given a substance, and we went on our way to solve the mystery and get our final lab grade. It took me six hours to figure it out, and I did not leave lab until 7:00 p.m. on Friday night. I remember the teaching assistant who was supervising the lab. He would give me a very wary look when I would come to him with a guess that was not correct. I figured it out, but that was definitely a memorable experience for me!

Check out Kandice’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.