Visits revisited

Prospective students get a new perspective on campus and the city.

By Jake Grubman, ’11
Photography by Dan Dry

Three prospective students and their families gather around a Rosenwald Hall conference-room table for a springtime campus visit. At the hourlong information session, Assistant Director of Admissions Shoshi Krieger shares stories about life in Breckinridge Hall and in the biology department, Edwin Hubble’s basketball career at Chicago, and the nuclear reactor students built for Scav Hunt in 1999.

Visits revisited
Prospective students experience the city from the downtown Hilton to Hyde Park.

A year ago, before the admissions office revamped its prospective-student visits, Krieger would have focused almost exclusively on the application process and financial aid. The session used to follow a campus tour, which meant that families would ask most questions to student tour guides instead of admissions officers. Today the order has been switched, part of the University’s broader goal to streamline the visits. “It puts less pressure on the tour guides and allows them to relax more,” Krieger says. “And the tour guides like it because they don’t have to be back by any certain time.”

Shifting the information-tour order is one of several ways that Vice President and Dean of Admissions Jim Nondorf, who arrived from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute last July, has worked to revamp the College admissions process. “He hit the ground running,” says Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president for public affairs in the University’s Office of Communications. “He recognizes, like a lot of people recognize, that this is one of the world’s great institutions of education, and we’re a little late in telling [that] story.”

To help tell the University’s story, Nondorf developed a new campus tour. It now includes a stop at the Ratner Athletics Center, built in 2003; the lobby of the Max Palevsky dorms, completed in 2002; and a trip through the quad in front of Crerar Library.

“We show prospective families that, while we still have all those great little things that make UChicago UChicago,” says one student tour guide, “we also offer all of the things that other universities and colleges can.” Even the tour guides’ titles have changed to “student visiting coordinators,” and they now play a larger role in organizing prospective-student visits. With more undergraduates working in Rosenwald Hall and chatting with prospective students at any given time, the admissions office hopes to create a better sense of campus life. “The idea is more current students interacting with the families to give more of an idea of what it’s like to be a student,” Krieger says. “There’s always someone available to talk to.”

Other changes occur off campus. Families now have access to package deals at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue, including discounted museum and theater tickets to encourage more interaction with the city. A shuttle service brings prospects from the hotel to campus for the admissions office’s scheduled events.

So far the office has received only anecdotal feedback about the visits from parents and students, but Rosenberg points to one key statistic: “I think the fact that our admissions numbers are up [42] percent [from last year] speaks well to what the University has been doing in a variety of contexts.”

With a range of academic and student-life improvements over the past several years, new construction, and a switch to the Common Application, the University saw the largest increase in applications in the nation this year: while the Class of 2013 had about 13,600 applicants, the Class of 2014 attracted 19,370.

“Remember, 15 years ago this was an institution that had a total of 3,200 undergrads,” compared to more than 5,000 today, Rosenberg says. “This is very much a new campus. The College experience is quite a bit different than it was ten years ago, and painting that picture is something we’re behind the curve in doing.”


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University of Chicago Admissions