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University of Chicago: Where Fun Goes to Die?

UChicago's acceptance rate has continuously trended down

July 30, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | University of Chicago, Admissions, Chances

“Where fun goes to die”

When The New Yorker refers to your college that way, you know your school has got to be selective.

UChicago, currently the 6th most selective university in the world, has earned this tongue-in-cheek moniker for good reason — it had a 6.2% acceptance rate in 2020, lower than half of the Ivy League. ( Source )

The University of Chicago has achieved this by dramatically outpacing all other elite colleges at reducing acceptance rates over the past decade .

The reasons for this are too long for this answer, so I’ll point you to this article if you want to learn more about what’s driving this race. But the below chart captures this trend perfectly — UChicago is the very negative line at the very bottom.

Regardless of why it’s doing it, UChicago’s methods have clearly paid off.

The college has reduced its acceptance rate 6-fold over the past decade, from an astronomical 38% in 2006 to a microscopic 6.2% in 2020.

UChicago now rubs shoulders with the most elite institutions in the world, as the below chart from US News & World Report shows clearly:

UCs v. the Ivy League

What Makes UC Berkeley, UCLA, and the UCs Unique

July 30, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | UC, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Ivy League, Admission, Chances

The University of California schools (UCs) are a collection of public universities and institutions located in California, comprised of 10 campuses, 5 medical centers, and 3 national labs.

The Ivy League, on the other hand, is a collection of 8 private universities in the Northeast . They receive far fewer applicants per year — UC Berkeley and UCLA receive 88,000 and 110,000, respectively, while <40,000 apply to Ivy League colleges on average.

However, the Ivies also have much lower acceptance rates , all at <11% versus 16% and 17% for UCLA and UC Berkeley, respectively .

The distinction between the University of California schools and the Ivy League colleges can be most clearly seen by comparing the UC system’s two most famous members UC Berkeley and UCLA — to the Ivy League.

With its close ties to Hollywood and Los Angeles, it’s no wonder that UCLA has a long list of prominent alumni who’ve made strong contributions to music , theatre , and the arts .

The Ivy League has much weaker connections to industry than UCLA, which is why UCLA has the #4 ranked film program and #1 ranked theatre program in the nation.

UC Berkeley is the engineering powerhouse of the group. It is the oldest of the UC schools, having been founded in 1868, and has had a total of 107 Nobel laureates pass through its gates, the 3rd most of any university in the world.

UC Berkeley is mainly known for its strength in engineering and CS , counting Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) and Eric Schmidt (ex-CEO of Google) among its alumni.

If you graphed the performance of students as a bell curve, the “ tail ” of weak performers at Berkeley and UCLA is probably longer than the tail of such students at a school like Harvard or Yale.

However, at the top of that curve, students at both schools will be virtually indistinguishable , and the faculty at UCLA and UC Berkeley is similarly top-notch (if not substantially better in certain fields).

Both are fantastic schools; just because they aren’t “Ivy League” does not mean they aren’t as good, if not significantly better in some fields, than schools like Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, etc.

How to Set Yourself Apart from the Crowd

July 20, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | How To, Admissions, Chances, Early Decision, ECs

1. Be a bridge-builder between fields. The way to set yourself apart is to do something no one else is doing. But how do you do that in a field like “History” or “Computer Science?”

The answer is simple: Don’t .

The easiest way to distinguish yourself as a senior in high school is to showcase an interdisciplinary interest that bridges multiple, disparate subjects.

“Oh, you’re interested in Computer Science and built an iOS game, just like 30,000 other applicants? Yawn.”


“Oh, you’re interested in Computer Science AND want to combine it with your love of Shakespeare to do Natural Language Processing analyses on historic texts? That’s different. That’s memorable.”

MIT researchers used a neural network in 2019 to estimate which parts of Shakespeare’s plays were written by another famous playwright, John Fletcher.

2. Apply Early . Ivy League colleges and other top universities have an almost 2–3x higher early acceptance rate than regular acceptance rate, a gap that continues to widen every year.

According to a survey of US colleges by the National Associate for College Admissions Counseling ,

Among all colleges with early decision, their regular admit rate was 50.7 percent, but the rate for early decision was 62.3 percent.

3. Learn how to brag about your Extracurriculars . What matters in college admissions is NOT JUST what you choose to pursue, but also HOW you frame your accomplishments to the admissions office.

The sum of your Extracurriculars is greater than the parts. All of your activities should tell a unified story about yourself, no matter how disparate they are.

A “well-rounded” applicant dabbling in several unconnected things is not nearly as compelling as someone driven by one central passion.

I’ve provided 7 examples here of how the same extracurricular can be framed or pursued in increasingly impressive lights.

5 Tricks to Get Accepted with a Low GPA

Is it possible to get into a top college with a low GPA?

July 10, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | How To, GPA, Admissions, Chances, B Student, Ivy League, AP Exams, SAT, Essays

Can low GPA (i.e. "B" students) get accepted into a top school?

The answer is a bit more nuanced than a hard "yes" or "no."

Are you a "B" student, or have you gotten B's?

Though these questions sound the same, their answers have very different consequences for the purposes of college admissions.

I went through every top university that reported the distribution of unweighted GPAs for its admitted students, and plotted them below.


The small black sliver at the top represents students with a “ B ” average or worse (3.0 GPA).

These are students with extremely extra-ordinary circumstances, so unless you have a building named after you or can throw a 95mph fastball, a “B” average is likely disqualifying. Thus, averaging a straight “B” is likely a death knell for top colleges.

All is not lost, however, if you generally do well in school but have a handful of B’s (e.g. a GPA between 3.6–3.8).

Having a lower GPA will require you to play your cards more thoughtfully, but you are still very much in contention for a spot at a top university.

Here are 5 tricks for making your application stand out despite a lower GPA.

1. Take more APs

Since they are graded on a 5-point scale, you can raise your weighted GPA to appear more in-line with a college’s admissions standards. The average weighted GPAs of Ivy League admits, shown in the USA Today chart below, is quite attainable:


2. Ace your standardized tests.

A high SAT or ACT score can help offset a lower GPA by demonstrating that you have the intellectual ability to perform at a high level.

3. Shine elsewhere in your application.

Your essays, for example, are a fantastic place to explain or indirectly shed light on personal circumstances that may have caused your lower GPA.

They also allow you to directly frame your application and convey why you — and only you — can add something uniquely meaningful to the incoming class.

As Logan Powell, Dean of Admissions at Brown University, writes:

“The essay is one of only two places where the student can tell us exactly who they are, in their own words (the other place is the interview).”

And Mitch Warren , Director of Admissions at Purdue University, adds:

"We receive about 54,000 applications from high school students each year, and despite that really large number, [the essay] truly is an individual and holistic review...[it] helps us to better understand the life of the applicant, especially things with grit, humor, motivation. I think also it helps tell stories that we may not have picked up on elsewhere in the application."

This is something that our Ivy League mentors specialize in.

4. Show an upward trajectory

If you got straight B’s freshman year but gradually worked your way up to consecutive semesters of straight A’s as a senior, then colleges will look much more favorably upon your transcript, as it demonstrates growth as a student.

As Dartmouth Assistant Director of Admissions Ariel writes,

[W]hen we review an applicant's transcript, we look at grade trends that will help us understand a student's academic trajectory in his or her secondary school.

We see transcripts that show steady grades throughout a student's high school career or a positive/upward trend from 9th-12th grade. We see transcripts where a student has bounced back from a transition or dip in grades. We also see downward trends in grades.

We use the rest of the application to try to fill in WHY the trend looks the way it does. If you have a particular reason for, say, a dip in grades in your junior year, please let us know about it in the "Additional Information" section of the Common Application.

Keep in mind that we will be looking to see how you have done in your most recent coursework since this will be a good indicator of how ready you are to move into a rigorous academic environment at Dartmouth.

5. Take the hardest classes offered

The negative impact of lower grades can be partially softened if they occurred while taking the hardest classes your school offers.

In the eyes of admissions officers, taking a rigorous course-load and challenging yourself, even if you do get a B or B+, can be equally as important as acing your classes.

An aside: These high GPA cut-offs are largely due to (1) increasingly high numbers of applicants and (2) rising grade inflation at the high school level.