With campuses closed to visits from prospective college students, The Indian SCENE is bringing the college experience to you.
This time, The Indian SCENE spoke with Julie Jaipati of Farmington Hills, Michigan, who is a budding freshman at the University of Chicago. Jaipati is presently double majoring in Economics and Environmental and Urban Studies. She plans to graduate in the year 2023.
University of Chicago is a prestigious private research university located in Chicago, Illinois’ Hyde Park neighborhood. Listed among some of the top universities in the world, it boasts of a notable alumni record, including—national political figure, Bernie Sanders—legal analyst, former lawyer, television producer and founder of celebrity news website, TMZ, Harvey Levin, etc. The undergraduate enrollment at the university is 6,286, the estimated cost of attendance before financial aid is about $80,000 for students living on-campus, while its acceptance rate is stated to be 7.3%.
The Indian SCENE: Tell us about your high school experience (what clubs you were involved in, awards received, etc.)
Julie Jaipati: I went to Detroit Country Day for high-school and was involved in a lot of clubs and took three-four AP or Honor level classes from sophomore to senior year.
I received the National Merit Commended Scholar, Blue & Gold Club Scholar-Athlete, AP Scholar with Honor, and the Scholastic Arts and Writing award for my photography; and I graduated magna cum laude.
I was a cheerleader for three years, and the team’s captain during my senior year. I spent my summers, even after my first-year in college, with Summer in the City, a Detroit non-profit volunteering with children as a camp counselor.
I was the class board treasurer throughout high-school, multiple awards recognized Model United Nations delegate, and was the co-president of the diversity council as a junior and senior.
I kept myself busy during lunch periods by being a member of various clubs like the Red Cross Club, Detroit Entrepreneurship Network (DEN), Peer Tutor Board, Democratic Socialists, and my favorite, Philosophy club!
IS: When did you begin your college search? What aspects of a college were important to you?
JJ: I wanted to be somewhat close to home, but I also wanted to go somewhere I knew I would be challenged as a student and as an active citizen. I discovered University of Chicago as a sophomore during a Model UN conference and really considered it a top choice. As a senior, I decided that UChicago was definitely my top choice, based on my major, academic rigor, student body diversity, and campus lifestyle!
IS: Did you visit campuses? If so, when did you start? What were your takeaways from these visits?
JJ: I started visiting around sophomore year very casually. I visited Yale, Georgetown, University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern and University of Chicago. I realized I like being near cities and places with population, over a ‘gated’ college town like Georgetown or remote college like Carnegie Mellon. University of Chicago is super close to downtown Chicago, 10 minutes walk to Lake Michigan from my first-year dorm, and public transit makes all the Chicago neighborhoods accessible. Although I will say I love how cute Ann Arbor is, I just preferred Hyde Park, Chicago over it.
IS: Tell us about the application process. Did you apply for an early decision or early action anywhere? How many schools did you apply to?
JJ: I applied to four schools, the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, James Madison College at Michigan State University, Ross School of Business at University of Michigan , and University of Chicago. I tried to apply to schools where I genuinely saw myself live for four years, so naturally I applied to a smaller amount. I definitely wanted to have the flexibility to be able to drive home if needed, so by that factor it also limited a lot of the colleges I applied to. I did research into these schools and majors to even see what a potential course load would look like at these schools.
IS: How did you eventually decide to attend your college? Name a few things you enjoy about the setting of your school.
JJ: Location, quality of education, passionate student body, opportunities for research and clubs, curriculum are the most important factors I used to determine my decision. It is important to say that UChicago does have a core curriculum – similar to liberal arts schools – where regardless of your major you are required to take biology, physical sciences, humanities, civilizations, social sciences, language, and arts throughout your four years, which end up being 15 of your 40 classes needed to graduate. Curriculum wise, UChicago is on the quarter system, meaning, we have three 10-week terms in comparison to a traditional two 15-week terms, this allows me to take more classes and keeps classes fast paced. UChicago begins their classes around Oct. 1 until June 10, which I agree is not the best but it does give me a longer summer to go visit my friends at their campuses.
IS: Tell us about campus life (e.g. ease of joining clubs/greek life, diverse population, ease of meeting with professors, workload, getting registered for classes, anything else you’d like to include).
JJ: There are a lot of clubs on campus, some are selective and some aren’t. I think it’s very easy to join a diverse range of clubs, for example, I am in the Phoenix Farms and I get to harvest honey and also participate in a business fraternity, where I can moderate professional events. Joining Greek Life is fairly easy at UChicago, if you want to do it, I’d estimate that 30% of my class is Greek-affiliated. One of the best parts of UChicago is the small class sizes, so meeting my professors has never been difficult either through office hours or just emailing them. Further, every professor I’ve had so far has been extremely passionate about what they study and teach, and generally are doing incredible research within their field. Regardless of major, the research opportunities are plentiful here and rewarding. With the exception of first year, you can get into most of the classes you choose. However, because of how small our university is compared to others, it’s not as easy getting the exact class or professor you want as it can be. Campus life is really for everyone. I believe you can participate as little or as much as you want and there will definitely be people for you.
IS: Give us an overview on housing as a freshman and how you found your roommate.
JJ: UChicago’s first-year housing is joked as being Harry Potter like, because as a first-year you are sorted into ‘houses’ of 70-120 people that you really get to know. This ‘house culture’ makes it really easy to make friends with the people you are near. The resident assistants plan trips around Chicago, bi-weekly study breaks, movie nights, and many other social events to make the transition easy. I went in blind and filled out a form housing gives for those who go in blind, and it went really well! My roommate and I got along perfectly and are still best friends. I even kept a lot of friends from my house even after I moved to an off-campus apartment.
IS: What’s some advice you wish you got when you were going through the college application process?
JJ: Start early! I know everyone says it, but it is true. I did procrastinate on my applications and the all-nighter isn’t healthy! At least read all the prompts in the early summer so you can keep those essays in the back of your head.
On the common application, UChicago accepts PDF submissions over a word processor so I highly recommend taking advantage of the freedom a PDF submission gives to let the applicant use graphs, colors, drawings, etc. Many other schools do this as well so keep an eye out on the submission/upload page.
IS: Tell us about your major/planned field of study and what you hope to do with it.
JJ: I am an Economics and Environmental and Urban studies double major and I hope to work in an intersection of business and sustainability after graduation.
IS: What advice would you give parents of high school students when it comes to the college process?
JJ: I’d say stay hands-off and let your child remain as independent as possible during this process. College applications are just the beginning of the hard choices 18-year-olds have to make for themselves and you’re not going to be there with them at college, so keep guidance to a minimum. Trust your children, it will work out.
Avoid any website that ranks programs, there is room for success at any university.
IS: Add anything else you feel would be important (diversity on campus, traditions, etc.)
JJ: UChicago has many quirky traditions, like jumping in the Lake Michigan on the morning of the first day of classes, Scav (a very intense team-based scavenger hunt which has led to a building of a nuclear reactor decades ago), Kuvia (gets all students active at 6 a.m. for the second week in January), and various study breaks that build a unique student life culture.
I’d like to emphasize that UChicago’s diversity makes campus life much more enjoyable and the diversity of thought and background literally has literally improved the quality of education and life I am getting here.
…favorite thing to do with your family? Vacation!
…favorite type of food? Cuisine: Indian/Thai
Dish: Pesto Pasta
…favorite artist (actor, singer, author, painter, etc.)? Any Shonda Rhime’s show!
…favorite vacation spot? Switzerland