Top of the Class

#1 How I Got In - UChicago Admit, Sylvia, Reflects on Her Essays, Extracurriculars and Why UChicago

April 21, 2021 Crimson Education Season 3 Episode 1
Top of the Class
#1 How I Got In - UChicago Admit, Sylvia, Reflects on Her Essays, Extracurriculars and Why UChicago
Chapters
Top of the Class
#1 How I Got In - UChicago Admit, Sylvia, Reflects on Her Essays, Extracurriculars and Why UChicago
Apr 21, 2021 Season 3 Episode 1
Crimson Education

In the first episode of our new 'How I Got In' series, UChicago admit, Sylvia, reflects on her application journey including the essays she wrote, the scores she got and the extracurriculars she was involved in.

Sylvia also gives fantastic advice for other students aiming to apply to US colleges.




Show Notes Transcript

In the first episode of our new 'How I Got In' series, UChicago admit, Sylvia, reflects on her application journey including the essays she wrote, the scores she got and the extracurriculars she was involved in.

Sylvia also gives fantastic advice for other students aiming to apply to US colleges.




Podcast Host  00:00

Hey, Sylvia, welcome to the Top of the Class podcast, it is an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?


Sylvia  00:26

Hi, everyone. My name is Sylvia, I'm currently studying in Singapore. Although I'm not from Singapore. I'm Korean American actually. And I've been attending school here for the past five years. And in the fall, I'll be attending the University of Chicago.


Podcast Host  00:41

Wow, UChicago admits. And it's awesome to be chatting all about the application, how you chose UChicago, the essays that you did the extracurriculars that you did. But take us back, I guess, a couple of years. When did you think that you wanted to be attending like a top us college?


Sylvia  00:59

Right? Yes. So actually, I think there isn't really anyone out there that would decline a spot at a good university if they weren't offered to. But I think when I really started thinking about University, and like, what I wanted to get out of university was quite recently. So when I was approaching the application process, I had to look at things beyond like the quote unquote, name value or like the prestige because our school has a limit of 10 schools that I could apply to, unlike many other applicants, or friends across in different countries that I know that could apply to many more than 10. And it seems like usually people apply to more than 10. So for me to kind of narrow down my list to 10, I really have to think about do I really want to go to school, if I were to be admitted, instead of I'll just try and send an application and kind of thing. So I think the reason I first chose the US in general is because I was never sure of what I wanted to do. That was the first step I took a narrowing down my list. And then I thought about the people I wanted to be around. And I thought that I don't want to stereotype a certain group of students and say these students go to end up at these colleges, because that is often not true, because there's way too many factors that go into attending a college or choosing one. But I've decided that I wanted to be a part of a student body that was motivated not only like in terms of like work or whatever else, but really intellectually motivated in terms of I want to learn and gain new knowledge. Instead of I want grades I want like this, I want this out of this college, like, I want to get connections, like I wanted something really genuine and not something that could be achieved on a surface level. And I think that's when I really started looking at. Okay, so what kind of schools like tend to have these genuinely intellectually motivated students? And I think that's one of the reasons I started considering, quote, unquote, top universities in the US.


Podcast Host  02:54

Yeah, and UChicago certainly fits a lot of those factors that you listed just there. It's really interesting that you were, I guess, looking for a university based on the experience that you'd be having there. When you're doing that research. How did you land on UChicago as a good opportunity for you? Did you know anybody who had been to UChicago or is currently there? Did you get a chance to speak to anybody through an Open Daylight virtually, I guess, because of COVID.


Sylvia  03:21

Actually, I had an admissions representative have like an info session at my school. But that wasn't the time when I was like, drawn into the school. I was like, okay, I've known about UChicago for a long time. Like, it's a famous school. I've known about it, but it just never really like had a place in my heart until like, I want to say the beginning of the application season. So when I was like really researching schools and like, thinking about which schools would fit me, I think, Okay, the first thing that really stood out or like the first thing that really like caught my eye was the essay prompts, because when I was looking through all the essay prompts, I was like, Oh, my gosh, I have so many essays to write, like, Oh, my gosh, I have so much work to do, I was doing all that. And then I came across essay prompts that were literally unlike any other that I've ever seen. And I think the school itself is already quite famous for its unique prompts. It's also known as the uncommon essay. It's not the only supplementary essay, you have to write for the college application to UChicago, but it is a very significant and valued part of it. So when I looked at the questions, that's when I kind of got a feel of like, Who could have ever thought of these questions like who are the people that are going who are willing to go the lengths to answer these questions like these other people who would end up at the school so that's when I kind of gravitated towards Okay, I think this these essay questions already give me a feel of what the student body would be like and what the community would be like at the school. And I would say that's when it really like kick started my love for college.


Podcast Host  04:51

Well, I'm sure UChicago, we'd love to hear that that they're partly doing their marketing through their essay prompts, because you're right Very unusual, unique set of questions that they pose to students through the supplementary essays. Which essay did you end up answering?


Sylvia  05:08

Yeah, so there's kind of like a light backstory to this. But I was looking through the prompts. And being me, I like to go kind of like, the unconventional way with anything. If someone does, it's like a group of people does something, I'd purposely do the alternative, just so I could experience what everyone else is not doing. So I was looking at the prompts. And I was like, Okay, I don't like any of the prompts from this year. And I feel like everyone else is going to answer it. So I'm going to go backtrack and do something else from another year. And I ended up like choosing this question about, like, comparing oranges and apples. And I started writing the essay. I wanted to go creative. And like, I read through so many of the uncommon essays before I started writing mine, and I was just amazed that everyone, because they were just so unimaginable, it was it was about things that I've never come across before. So I was like, Okay, I got to do that, like this is this is the creativity that the college wants. So I'm going to do that too. But I realized, kind of midway, that a my essay was not going very well, I was out of words, almost every paragraph, so I had to stop, think, stop think with any other essay, I guess. But this essay was particularly difficult. And then on top of that, I felt like I was trying to be someone or like, talk about something in a certain way that wasn't really me. So I was trying to present myself as this unique, quirky candidate, as people like to say about UChicago students, when I'm maybe unique and quirky in my own way, I was trying to present myself in a way that I wasn't unique. So I was like, Okay, this prompt is not for me, I'm trying to squeeze out something from my brain that isn't me. So that's why I can't write it. And that's why I can't go forward. And I'm not satisfied with anything I've written so far. So I looked at the prompts again, and thought first about like a topic I want to write about, instead of trying to find an essay topic I liked, and then try to fit whatever I wanted to talk about within it. So I ended up choosing find x. But I kind of took that in a non mathematical angle, because nature of the title itself is x is commonly known as like the mathematical variable and all but I wanted to talk about my personal story. And I want to talk about psychology and specific. And basically, my essay was kind of about like, my parents, and how, when I was younger, whenever I noticed conflicts between them, and I would, you know, feel a certain way about the way they were talking about something or like, they were severely arguing about something like, there was a point where my family dynamic was, like terribly bad, even to like to a point where a younger me would easily be able to tell like, okay, there's something wrong with my parents right now, like, something isn't going well in their relationship. And every time I've noticed that, I kind of like thought about how I can help resolve it, like realistically, instead of just being sad about it, or like, oh, they're fighting or something like that, you know? So I actually ended up like presenting to them like a speech about like, I think I've read up some research about like human communication, and like, I think this is what you're doing wrong. And I think this is what you should do instead, going forward. And it was actually like a psychology research that I referred to, was his very famous research by like, Professor Gottman. He's like a really famous, like, social psychologist. Yes. And so yeah, I refer to that research actually presented to my parents, like what I found, through this research and what I learned, and then I actually think I kind of helped them solve some conflicts in their relationships, but who knows, they're there, they're much better now. I think they love each other a little more than before. But that's not the point I kind of talked about, like, that process, that whole like process were presented my learning and like, how I applied my learning to like, you know, help them do whatever. And then I realized stuff about their role. I don't want to go like to details it's quite personal. But I kind of related like the variable x to something I realized along the process in a human relationship that I didn't know before, and that I would have never known if it wasn't my parents. Now, so that's what I wrote about but I think you could really, anyone could go by with like, going either pathway like choosing a really attractive essay topic and then trying to think about it and ask yourself questions like, what what can I write or you could go my way and say, like, okay, I want to talk about this. This is what I want to express. What could ish fit this and then kind of twist it But either way, I think it's most important to know that like, even though UChicago is famous for like the quirkiness, uniqueness, or whatever else, you need to know that you can't be unique or quirky if you try to be like somebody else or if you try to be something that you're not because that's not unique record. You're trying to be something else, literally. So yes. It's really important to be authentic and like, genuinely feel like you want to write about what you're writing about.


Podcast Host  10:05

Yeah, I really love that self reflection that you did, where through that process of writing the first time, the oranges versus apples, like by comparing the two, that you were able to step back and say, This is me trying to be what I think the university wants, rather than what I really want to present through the application. And I've always liked that about the US application process that it really does give students the opportunity to self reflect and to try and put themselves in an application in a way that virtually no other country demands of you, right, where it's like, we want to know more than just your school, we want to know who you are. And it's an amazing process that you went through, I mean, I find that most people would jump to the conclusion that it's a math based essay, you took it in a completely different direction. And I think that example that gives students a bit of an insight into just where they can go with an essay like that, and how flexible the essays can be. When you first started tackling that find x essay, was that the first idea that came to mind? Or was it like a long process of discussing things, thinking things through to kind of land on that idea of psychology and exploring your your parents relationship a little bit more?


Sylvia  11:24

I would definitely say that, even though I did point out previously that I kind of decided first, what if I wanted to discuss before choosing the prompt afterwards to kind of fit it. If you listen to what I explained about what I actually wrote about the essay, versus the prompt, like, those two seem like, there's no way you could connect the two, right. And I think that was the biggest part that I had to like, really overcome. Like, that was one of the biggest obstacles. And I think with any other topic, not just the fine decks that I chose, or what I talked about, in my final essay, the prompts are set and very, very specific in terms of like, what the color of the university is, and like, what kind of vibe it gives off, like it's very creative, but at the same time, it's really, really open and you could take it in any any direction like, of course find x gives off that mathematical feel like are you are you meant to talk about some kind of variable, like, you might think that but realistically, if you take a step back and look at the prompt, like, you can try to find x in so many different ways. And you don't even know like, you could define what find means in your own way, you could define what x means in your own way. Like, you can reinterpret it in your own unique way, like all the prompts. And I think that's one of the easiest and hardest parts about it because you want it to be your own thing. But also, it gives you too much of a freedom to choose from. And you want to distinguish yourself and present yourself that to the committee that this is you This is me, and this is my story. So yeah, I think with regard to the essay topics, especially the uncommon essay, I think the most important thing is like reflect, reflect, reflect, it's not going to just pop out of nowhere, like, it's not a conventional essay topic either. So I I doubt it's gonna overlap with any of the previous essays you've written for other schools. So yeah, that's honestly, the most like realistically helpful advice that I'd like to give to anyone applying to the University of Chicago, like, please take a step back, think about who you really are, like, they don't necessarily want to hear about your accomplishments, or what you've done or what your extracurriculars are about, like, they want to hear about who you are. And if your extracurricular or your awards or whatever indicates your passion for something, then Sure, go ahead, but they want to learn about you as a person, you as a character and what your identity is composed of. Instead of you talking about something external, like it has to be, it has to come from you. innately. You know what I mean?


Podcast Host  13:56

Yeah, I think that's such a challenge for a lot of students who further majority of their life may have identified themselves by their accomplishments. And by their awards, and by the scores they getting, they would have been like, this is who I am, I am a violinist who gets, you know, these kinds of awards, or I'm a sports person, I guess, these kinds of awards. Whereas the like, No, we want to know, like your values and your ethics and how you think in the way you see the world, which in that kind of scope of just like your accomplishments is quite narrow. So they're really challenging you to expand that view to go a bit deeper and ask who you really are. So I think that's a huge task, and must be quite a challenge when you're 17-18. to kind of get out of that mindset when you have been striving for great scores. I'm sure we'll we'll chat about your academics and extracurriculars in a moment. But you know, it must be a bit of a mindset shift to get away from that way of thinking and then saying okay, will me presenting my true self get into a top ranked University. I think a lot People would be fighting with that and be like, Oh, I could just talk about this achievement. And that is safe. And it feels great to just talk about something that I'm proud of. But, you know, realistically, they probably should be talking about a more personal side of their story. So the admissions officer reading, it can get to know you a little bit better, right?


Sylvia  15:20

Yeah. And like on that, I just want to like, add on something just slightly. So with regards to the things that you feel like, make up your identity, I feel like including myself, and a lot of other people of my age, or even older, think that certain things about them as in like, the job that they might be working, or like, the university that they attend, or the high school, they attend, or, you know, they're like, whatever background makes up who they are, and they do it, it does contribute a lot to your identity, and like how you think or whatever, but I think like really reflecting upon who I am truly inside, intrinsically, instead of like, the things that make up who I am out on the outside, the process of that reflection to write this essay also kind of helped me realize that the name of the university is really, really, really sincerely not as important as I thought it was, of course, UChicago's a really, really prestigious name in itself. But that isn't the reason I chose the college. And the more I've experienced this process, the more I've realized that at the end of the day, the thing that really, really matters most to a person is what kind of person they become out of that university or that institution instead of what that institution could do for them in terms of like their identity, or like how you feel about yourself, like it's the person you become out of whatever process learning process or working experience that leads you on for the rest of your life. You know, that's something that stays with you. And I think that's one thing that I really realized was reflecting upon what makes me me while writing these essays,


Podcast Host  16:54

what an amazing process. And thank you for sharing it so openly as well. It really appreciate that. And I'm sure our listeners will as well. Let's get into I guess the other less interesting, perhaps, but no less important side of things, which is the academics and extracurriculars because I know that a lot of students are interested in that side of things. So did you do the national Singapore curriculum there? Which curriculum did you end up doing?


Sylvia  17:18

So I currently take the IB curriculum. So I've been doing the IB through my junior and senior year, and before that, I took what's called the I GCSE, which is like a British board curriculum thing.


Podcast Host  17:31

Yeah I'm not going to push you to flex your score. But out of out of 45, do we have a rough estimate as to what you got for the IB?


Sylvia  17:40

Oh, I haven't taken the exams yet. I'm soon to be taking them. And the only thing I've received for from high school regarding the exams are my predicted scores. So I was predicted 44 points out of 45. And I just got a side note. I've seen people get in with like 40 threes in high school. So I don't know what the baseline is for the IB score to be considered, like, in range or anything, but I would say a 40 for my school is probably like, top five ish of the class.


Podcast Host  18:11

Yeah, no, it's a very, very good score. So yeah, the IB is obviously a challenging curriculum. 44 predicted score, you know, fantastic thing to show admission officers there. Did you end up sitting the SAT as well or ACT?


Sylvia  18:22

Yes, I took the SAT, I took it three times. Oh my gosh, three times. And I ended up I had to Super score because my math I got something wrong. I was really sad. Um, so I got an 800 for the math, a 750 for the English section, and a 21 on the essay section.


Podcast Host  18:43

Wow, smashed the SAT. And was UChicago? Is it required? Or is it became optional as a result of COVID?


Sylvia  18:51

I believe UChicago has become test optional. Even before the COVID season. It's one of the few schools that don't necessarily require applicants to submit their SAT, ACT scores. So people could still apply without test scores.


Podcast Host  19:05

Right, right. But when you're getting a 1550 Super scored SAT. That's probably something that you want to include in the application there. So obviously, they saw the academic rigor, which is great. Now let's talk about your extracurriculars. Because I think when I went to the US, I went to a lot of different colleges. I was on a tour, I wasn't a student sadface But yeah, let's chat about your extracurricular profile. Or I guess the way I like to think about it, and perhaps this is a completely wrong, but it's like the card that you're playing through the admissions process, like the person that you are trying to convey to the admissions office. So they're like, Oh, yeah, Sylvia is so and so and so and so like, they know you by your extracurricular profile. What kind of profile was that for you?


Sylvia  19:48

Um, yeah, so generally speaking, I was involved in I would say, a lot of different strands. I would say the main thing was probably journalism and like, service. And I would say the third one, probably sports to an extent. I'll start off with the journalism part. So for journalism, I was like, involved in my school newspaper. I was like one of the like, editors, I was the vice editor, but like, there wasn't, there wasn't anything grand I do. And I'd say, like, that wasn't like the main part of my extracurriculars. But yeah, there was that was listed as one of my like top ones, because I had like the leadership role in it. And then other than that, okay, I would say serves as the main thing. And it's because I was involved in a lot of like, groups related to refugee and education in school outside of school. So I volunteered at refugee Education Center in Seoul. So yeah, I spent, the summer is there, the long winter is there, and I teach English. And I did a lot of like projects. Within that, like center. I like launched like an English curriculum. And I like gathered people for like a cultural immersion trip and stuff. And oh, and then I also had like service related things with regards to education and like refugee activism at school as well. And I would say, overall, the main focus of that was the fact that like, I wanted to deliver more of a good equitable education experience to socially marginalized groups of people like refugees. And why I felt that I think was more important to the community, I believe. And yeah, that was one of my main service strengths. And then my other service, john was related to mental health. So I did something called peer support for four years at my school. Oh, and all these activities that I've been discussing, I've usually done for three, or all four years of high school. And I haven't really listed any activities that I've done less than that. But yeah, so I did something called chair support. And it was like a group of students. And it's just like a small group of like, 510 people per grade that was selected to help new students settle in, or that's one of our like, roles. But also another thing was we helped, like advocate for mental health or mental like illnesses, or like, we partnered with nonprofit organizations. It's like a suicide prevention nonprofit. And we partnered with them for a while, I think every year we hold an event for them. And yeah, so like, I think I would say those three, so journalism, education, for refugees and activism in regards to that, plus mental health were my three main, like, strands on my application. And then in addition to that, I was in the soccer team for all four years of high school, but I wouldn't say that was like, ranked high up. But I feel that that and yeah, just one thing I like to mention with regards to extracurriculars in general is they don't really care about exactly like, what what is it that you've done like they do to an extent, but the thing that they care more about or pay more attention to is, what kind of person they think you are as a result of pursuing these extracurriculars. And what it says about you. So I think I hope everyone keeps that in mind and chooses things that they really want to do. And that is really them, instead of choosing things that they think will look nice on their application.


Podcast Host  23:14

That is fantastic advice. And I know that having spoken to a couple of the Crimson strategists about different elements of the application, that kind of general theme does come up a bit, you know, their authenticity. And one thing that I want to just dive into a little bit further was you said, you know, with your work in Seoul, how it was the mission, or like the why you were doing it, as opposed to the what? And how you convey that in your application, I'm sure is like the commitment, right, that time that you actually spent there. But for you, what was that mission? Or what was that why you wanted to help that particular community?


Sylvia  23:51

Yeah, so I've been with them for three years, actually. And if I'm not there over the holidays, or if I'm like, back in Singapore for school, and this year, in particular kind of COVID, I wasn't able to visit them every single break. So over times like that, I'm away from them, I teach over zoom, and it would be a weekly thing. So when I first actually stepped into the center in person, I just saw, like, this massive group of people just like sitting around in a room. They seem to be having fun in their own way, but like, it just felt like, especially for the younger ones, because the center is for young women, slash mothers. So especially for the younger ones, like students, oh, and their babies as well. But yeah, the students I want, I want to talk to them. I felt like I was calling to appear. And I felt like I was just talking to someone from my school or my grade or my class, whatever else. But it seemed like they were leading such different lives to who I am and as obvious as this sounds. If the person you're talking to just feels like your friend. It's so weird to imagine them having so That's different lives. And because these were the stories that I was hearing from them in real life, it wasn't something like I was reading from a textbook or like, I wasn't watching a documentary, like from third person's perspective, I was like, engaging in conversation with somebody else that had led such a different life. To me, that was already crazy. And by different I don't mean in like a good or bad way in particular, but obviously, considering that they are refugees in Korea, no matter how well off or like happy they are, now, they have experienced a lot, and they have gone through a lot. So I wanted to offer something more than just like, temporary condolence, or like, oh, okay, sympathizing with them and saying, Okay, I understand you how to report life like, Wow, that is amazing that you've overcome that, like, I wanted to give them some kind of practical help. And I thought that the first step towards that was learning something, and kind of giving them the like, motivation to, like, you know, learn, like literally, and I understand that they've had very different lives than me. And for them, their main priority might not be school like it is for any ordinary student like me, they have gone through so much like discrimination in Korea, I know it's gotten better, but it's still bad. But the reason I wanted to give them the motivation to learn was because some of them were repeating like years in high school, because like, the curriculum they've done before they moved to Korea is different. And they had to, like learn with local Korean high schoolers that were much younger than them. And they were not used to the culture or the people or anything like that they had settled in a couple years ago. But that doesn't mean they're completely integrated and feel like a part of the community. So I thought the first step towards that was to give them joy and like, to allow them to kind of feel the purpose of what learning is, and like, not just view education as something that they need to complete, because they're in this new country, and because they need to get a job. And on the practical side of things, for the older women, like the mothers who are in their mid 20s, or 30s, it was much easier for them if they had some kind of proficiency in English. And that's why I decided to do Okay, let's do an English curriculum. And it really continued outside of the classroom as well, we'd go out for food, or like, you know, dinners, like ice cream, ice cream runs at times, and they've actually gotten a lot lot better English? Well, I think they have. And actually, a couple of them did good jobs as well. And just seeing that growth of another person, because I contributed something I think meant a lot to me. And I didn't want to be someone that just thinks something or feel something or you know, for example, feels bad for what they've experienced. And then just like just leave that be like I want it to give them some kind of help, and leave them some sort of change in their lives, because they've met me. And I think there are a lot of ways one can do that. But for me, at least, it was helping them realize the joy of going to school or learning something new, or actually, you know, getting a job and helping them financially to an extent. So yeah, I think really seeing one person grow or a group of people grow up because of what I've done, I think has been the most meaningful thing to me. And yeah, the connection from that simple, like, I guess act of teaching has been much more than the act of teaching itself. So yeah, I take a lot of meaning and like pride in the small group of people I still teach.


Podcast Host  28:17

Fantastic was that a part of your Common App essay?


Sylvia  28:20

No, no, I was not a part of my common app essay. But I did mention it a lot. And it was definitely anything related to that I was it was definitely ranked higher up on my activities list on my common app. And also I Oh, just one thing, I did talk about this, in addition to the short description box I had in the activities list and my additional info section, just to give them like reasons, simple reasons as to like why I've done it, what I've done and what this means to me and things like that.


Podcast Host  28:48

Fantastic. Just for our reference as well. The organization that you are a part of in Korea, or in Seoul, that is an existing organization. You didn't start that from scratch. Is that correct?


Sylvia  29:00

Yeah. No, it was founded by a group of pastors, I believe, like church, people related to that it's run by a husband and a wife and some other children as well. So it was a very, like, it's a very minimal thing. It's not like some grand organization, but and they only recently got like, registered by the government. And I like through donations for that as well. So like, I really grew with them from like, starting small to being registered officially and receiving funding and so on.


Podcast Host  29:30

Yeah. Yeah. Which is, you know, I think a great tip for students or a great example for students really, that they don't need to go out and start their own club or their own organization of their own charity, sometimes joining something small and then staying with it for a number of years and being there for the growth shows a lot of commitment and shows that dedication that admission officers really like to see. Let's get into what the future holds for you. And what you're looking forward to most UChicago, what do you actually aim to study there?


Sylvia  30:00

So like I mentioned at the beginning, I was attracted to the user power, because I was not sure of what I wanted to do. But my current academic interests lie in the avenues of the social sciences. Or like, econ to be more specific, or psych is one of my favorite subjects. And I did write down psych as my intended major for my application. So just as a side note, that was my read on. I actually on that, do you mind if I kind of like sidetrack to like the core?


Podcast Host  30:32

No, go for it. The core is a big part of UChicago.


Sylvia  30:35

Yeah, I really, really, I was dying to mention that because I realized over the past couple months that I'm not a student that set on just one thing, like, there are a lot of people like that at my school, especially those who applied to the UK or like Australia, where they have like six programs they apply to, but I'm not that person personally. And I just have like an area ish of interest. Like, I like learning about people, I like learning about how society works, from like a people's point of view, like studying humans, and their behaviors. But I'm still unsure of what I want to do in the future. So trying to look kind of look ahead, if I were to experience UChicago's Core for the next two years. And while I might be forced to take classes, I don't want to, I think there isn't anything that would motivate me more to do that, then if the college required it. So kind of trying out a lot of different things. And like being forced to do things that I would have never done my foot in, I think would really allow me to discover, okay, this is what I want. And be assured that this is what I really want to do and what I really want to study for the next two years. And most importantly, I've always kind of treated undergraduate education as like a foundation or basis for something I'd like to do in the future instead of, Okay, I'm going to pursue this degree and then go forward with this degree somewhere else. I want to learn like skills, you know, critical thinking, creativity, or writing or whatever foundational skill it may be. So I think that's why the combination of me being unsure but still interested in some things, and having to attend a school that makes me do a lot of things that I might not be doing, if it wasn't for the core was like the perfect combination.


Podcast Host  32:19

Yeah, well, I can put a link in the show notes as to exactly what the UChicago Core is, because I know that that's a big feature of their university. But if you were to attempt to sum it up in a short amount of time, how would you describe your UChicago core to listeners?


Sylvia  32:38

It's actually common in a lot of universities. But generally speaking, the core is like a general education requirement that you have to complete to graduate a certain like college. But the UChicago core curriculum to be specific, is much more extensive in terms of the requirements, but it holds compared to many other US universities, like most universities have undergraduate requirements, but you spend a small fraction of your time in your college years completing it, whereas in UChicago, you would spend around two years of your four year undergraduate life completing it. And it includes disciplines across like the social sciences, I believe languages, a lot of biological sciences and physical sciences. So that includes not just one part of knowledge, it includes a lot of different subjects, no matter what, what major you are, everyone who comes to UChicago, must complete it to graduate.


Podcast Host  33:34

Now, that sounds fairly intense, but an awesome opportunity, as you said, to kind of like get out of your comfort zone and learn some really cool areas that you may not have otherwise looked at, which is awesome. Now Talk to us a little bit about your Crimson support team. Because obviously, like being at crimson, I know a lot of the people who work with amazing students like yourself, but for you like is there any particular person that stands out as someone who really helped you through this application process? And if so, what exactly did they do?


Sylvia  34:03

So my strategist, Kelly, and my education coordinator is violet. And I genuinely like to give an honorable mention to both of them, because actually, I like to begin with in the application process, I didn't really like the idea of being in the city of Chicago. So I never considered UChicago or you know, nearby college from Northwestern at all when I began, but they really pushed me to think about UChicago for some reason, like they come now to me and tell me like it was their gut feeling that I should apply there. And like that I would be a good fit there based off of their professional knowledge, of course, but they really, really pushed me to apply there and I was like, why are they making me apply? They're like, I'm not even interested in this college. But they kept pushing me and then this push me to, you know, really learn about like, what the university holds. And then I got to like, learn about it. So I think in that aspect, they're really, really helped me choose the right like college, that I'll be ending up at So really, really big shout out to them. And also, in terms of being organized, I am kind of admit like, I'm not a very like, not a super, super organized person. So I do forget thing, like, I do miss things and like, I feel like I lacked detail at times. And I think that's the part where comes in really came in for me because not only is they literally like, help me schedule, okay, this is what you need to do next. And this is ish the timeline you should be looking at throughout the application process, that gave me a lot of time to focus on my essays, and not feel like I'm being rushed upon a lot myself, because that is already really difficult for practically anybody. But also, I think they really helped me to have an open mind towards which college or university will fit me, because there are things out there that I don't know yet, as a high school senior, there's really limited resources, I would say, especially as a student who lives abroad and not in the States. And I think it's really easy for high school seniors to have like these misconceptions in their head about, okay, this is the type of student that ends up at x college or university, and I'm not that student. So I don't think I'll sit there. So for you to have like this, I guess at times dangerous self image, I think having someone who really knows you after, like having this like personal talk with them, and like then really making an effort to get to know you as a person before viewing you as an applicant like an admissions officer would. Or like I would say you get less attention when you're just being taken care of by your like high school college counselor. So really getting that like personal attention and finding out what kind of person you are and then assigning you to a group of colleges or universities that you'd really fit into. I think they've played a big role. And in terms of organizing and giving me enough time to do things and really helping me stay on top of my workload throughout this application process. I would never wish for anything else.


Podcast Host  36:53

Yeah, well, that's a fantastic shout out to both Kelly and Violet. I'm sure that love to hear that from me. So shout out to them just out of interest. At what time did you join Crimson or become a crimson student?


Sylvia  37:06

I joined in the middle of my junior year. So I would say that isn't like the best time to join. And I know people who joined from the beginning of high school or beginning of sophomore year, or at least in the beginning of their junior year. And I strongly recommend anyone to do that. And I think it's or the earlier the better. I don't think there's any situations that this quote applies to more than the college application process. Because the more more time you have to think about yourself, think about where you where you see yourself and think about where where you'll fit. And hearing these professional like, opinions about your college application process really, really helps at least in my case, it clearly did, because I'm going to UChicago. So yeah, I would, although I did join in the middle of junior year, I recommend anyone to join Crimson and get their support as fast as they can.


Podcast Host  37:56

That is something that I've heard quite a few times and actually from admitted students, they're like, Oh, I wish earlier, right? Because then people don't realize how much there is to do on top of school. And the application is like the end of the day, it's almost like another full time job. And I guess the reason is that, like it is the job of many of the people who work here. So they're looking at this with a lot more intensity than most students have time to do, which is super helpful for you, because it kind of just takes some of the work away and allows you to focus on other elements of whatever else is going on in your life. So yeah, very, very helpful indeed. Now, what other advice or final advice would you give to students looking at either UChicago, or any type of university abroad, if they were to go through this process?


Sylvia  38:43

I would say specifically to UChicago applicants, I think there isn't any other college that would require you to be more yourself, then UChicago. So please do not be afraid to be yourself on your application, and to express original ideas, although they they don't they sound outrageous to you. And so out of the ordinary, like it is who you are, and it is what they will appreciate if that is who you really are and what you want to express to them. So please keep that in mind when you're writing your essays. And I would like to emphasize the importance of essays over basically any anything else other than like the hard factors like your scores and whatever else your activity list might matter less than your essay at one point depends on the person. And it depends on the application. But I would like to say that essays really take a lot of weight, especially the more like I guess higher up or more competitive universities are looking at, it's more difficult to distinguish one application to another because everyone is already so qualified and so amazing in their own ways that you need, like the essays and the space, to voice yourself to really stand out or show say this is who I am. Take me if you want me kind of thing or not. other cases, I really, really want to go to university. And these are the reasons like it is your platform. So try to own it. And if you are looking at the use of the University of Chicago, please don't be intimidated by the quote, like, where fun goes to die because I have personally been intimidated by that quote, and I've just imagined the amount of stress I'd get if I were to be a student there. And that's one of the reasons UChicago was initially not on my list. But the more I learned about the school, it excites me in the sense that actually, it isn't really the place where fun goes to die. And although it might be academically intense, and rigorous, that is, is true. And I think, objectively, it is a very difficult school. But if you think that the process of overcoming academic challenges or any other types of challenges, we're living through a rigorous environment, where everyone else is too, and if you think about process of learning and exchanging ideas with other people and being intellectually stimulated, is your fun, or is your way of, you know, building a social life or being social, you know, being social doesn't have to mean like partying or going out or meeting like 10 different people every day, it could be the exchange of ideas and learning stories or like, receiving people's opinions, like, you know, their their words like that could be your method of socializing, and being social and being happy on campus. So I think it's really important to understand what kind of person you are and what you want, what fun means to you, and will happy news to you, before you apply to any other college. But for UChicago, I know that it's not true. So if you are listening to this, and you're scared of that, I was you too, so please don't be and I'm really excited to go. So. And finally, I love to say that for everyone, the application process really does work out. And even if you end up with, you know, like your quote unquote safeties, as your only options. I think the fact that you even received those options is something to be grateful for, not just for a particular individual, but for anyone, I think an acceptance for college is meaningful in any way. But also, I think, genuinely, you do end up at a place where you really do fit in and the admission committee sees you as like a match instead of I think you and something to really keep in mind, in addition to that, like match system is you're an applicant of a university, not just waiting to get picked, but you've picked out university to apply to. So you need to really understand what you want out of a college experience. Instead of just applying and wanting to be picked by them, you are picking them too. So I think those are the things that you should really keep in mind and try to stay positive throughout the process. Although it is really difficult to and at the end of the day, you'll be very proud of yourself, and you'll be really happy with the outcome. And you'll have fun where we both so yes, I really wish you good luck to whoever is applying in the next application seasons. And yeah, thank you for listening.


Podcast Host  42:56

What a great summary and one amazing advice. It's been awesome having you on the show, and I do look forward to sharing it far and wide. And also have an amazing time at UChicago. Whenever you head over there. I'm sure you will. You're excited to go. So I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time there. And yeah, thanks again for sharing all your amazing insights.


Sylvia  43:18

Thank you.