UChicago launches test-optional admissions process with expanded financial aid, scholarships

Undergraduate initiative to increase accessibility for first-generation, low-income students

The University of Chicago on June 14 launched the UChicago Empower Initiative, a test-optional admissions process to enhance the accessibility of its undergraduate College for first-generation and low-income students. The first top-ranked college to institute a test-optional policy, along with increased financial aid and programmatic resources, UChicago will enable more students to pursue higher education, regardless of background, geographic location or ability to pay.

A strategic initiative to address key barriers encountered by underserved and underrepresented students, the UChicago Empower Initiative has three areas of focus: the use of technology for greater flexibility in the admissions process, including making submissions of standardized test scores optional; increased financial support, on-campus programming and online resources for first-generation, rural and underrepresented students, with full tuition aid for students whose families earn less than $125,000; and new scholarships and access programs to recognize those who serve our country and local communities. Each aims to empower historically underrepresented communities in the highly selective admissions process by increasing equity and access.

“Today, many under-resourced and underrepresented students, families and school advisers perceive top-ranked colleges as inaccessible if students do not have the means to help them stand out in the application process,” said James G. Nondorf, vice president and dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago. “The UChicago Empower Initiative levels the playing field, allowing first-generation and low-income students to use technology and other resources to present themselves as well as any other college applicant. We want students to understand the application does not define you—you define the application.”

“The UChicago Empower Initiative continues the University and College’s unwavering commitment to access and inclusion,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “Throughout the past century, UChicago has considered a broad diversity of cultural perspectives and academic merit without regard to socio-economic class to be fundamental—as exemplified by our Odyssey Scholarship Program, Jeff Metcalf Internship Program and No Barriers offerings that enable outstanding students of all backgrounds to enjoy a UChicago education. We are delighted to now also provide an admissions process that makes UChicago even more accessible by enabling students to present their best, most authentic selves.”

Rollout of the UChicago Empower Initiative will begin with the Class of 2023. Specific offerings will include:

Free tools and new flexibility in the application process

  • New test-optional policy that allows students to decide what information best represents their skills and college readiness.
  • New optional two-minute video introduction opportunity open to all students (replacing the optional alumni and on-campus interviews).
  • New opportunities to submit non-standard materials and accomplishments as supplements to the application.
  • New option for domestic students to self-submit transcripts to eliminate fees and simplify the application process.
  • New and expanding partnerships with MyinTuition, RaiseMe, The College Board, Making Caring Common, Nudge for College, Turning the Tide, and the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.

New scholarships, support, and programming for underserved students and families

  • UChicago will guarantee free tuition for families with incomes under $125,000 per year (with typical assets).
  • Families earning less than $60,000 (with typical assets) will have tuition, fees, room and board covered by financial aid.
  • Students who are the first in their families to attend college will receive a $20,000 scholarship over four years and a guaranteed paid internship for their first summer.
  • New, free mentoring technology provided by Wisr to further alumni mentorship and support for first-generation and low-income students.
  • Following the success of the Neubauer Adelante Summer Scholars program for students engaged in Latino/Hispanic communities, UChicago will launch the Allison Davis Jr. Education Summit and the UChicago Women’s Board sponsorship of Summer Scholars Program for African-American Students—fully funded summer opportunities for talented high school students seeking to explore a highly selective college experience at UChicago.
  • New funding for professional development programming for counselors from rural high schools
  • Expanded Student Opportunities and Aspirations Roadmap for Success program, which provides admissions workshops through partnerships with school districts in Illinois.
  • Membership in the American Talent Initiative, a coalition of colleges and universities committed to engaging and enrolling outstanding students from low- and moderate-income households.

Recognizing those who serve our country and our communities

  • New full-tuition scholarships nationwide for select children of police officers and firefighters, expanding on the current Police & Fire Scholarships for the City of Chicago.
  • New partnership with the Posse Foundation’s Veterans Program, with an undergraduate Veterans Posse cohort entering UChicago in Autumn 2020.
  • Expanded outreach activities to help veterans and families learn more about UChicago’s Yellow Ribbon partnership and GI Bill funding for all veterans.
  • New and expanded partnerships with Warrior-Scholars Project and College Recon.

For more information, visit: https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/empower.