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University of Chicago Student Spotlight Interview with Student of Color, Sydney Cook


young woman wearing a pink knit sweater and leaning against a granite slab
Sydney is studying Global Studies, Race, Diaspora, and Indignity @ UChicago. She intends to graduate in 2026.
  1. What led to your decision to attend the University of Chicago?


I chose the University of Chicago for a couple of reasons. One of the main elements that factored into my decision was finances – I didn’t want to go into immense debt to go to college, and I didn’t want my mother (who is a single parent who also cares for my disabled grandmother) to have to stress over my academic future. UChicago was the school that offered me the best shot at a low financial stress college experience, which I am eternally grateful for. UChicago was one of my top schools regardless of the money though. When I got here, I found the school checking the boxes that I had set for my ideal school in my senior year.


In high school, I was in the International Baccalaureate program, where I learned two main things about my preferences for education. The first was that I enjoyed small class sizes and being able to have a good rapport and connection with my peers and teachers. I had taken classes with the same teachers and professors for two consecutive years, so by the time I graduated I had a very strong connection with each of my teachers, and as a class cohort, we were all very close. The second was that I valued and enjoyed learning in different disciplines. One of the requirements for the program was taking a class called ‘Theory of Knowledge’, where we explored multiple different subjects and essentially learned how to learn in those disciplines. When I was reflecting on my experience in IB, these two factors were elements that I desperately wanted to see in the University.


When I came for admitted students’ weekend, everything that I experienced proved that UChicago was a good fit for me, and what convinced me, even more, was two conversations that were held in one of the lounges of South (the dorm I got the chance to stay the night in) at around 2:15 AM. One was about the NBA playoffs and predicting who was going to win the NBA Finals (luckily my pick did win). The second was about Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, and what it means to be good and an ethical person. I thought that the dichotomy between those two conversations was so intriguing, and I wanted to come and have similar moments where we’re talking about both intellectual and non-academic things, which I am happy to say have been the majority of my conversations here!


2. Can you describe what kind of support/communities exist for minority students at UChicago?


...In what ways can a student of Color find her niche at UChicago? Feel supported?


The University makes a good effort for minority students to feel comfortable and supported on campus. We have the Center for Identity and Inclusion, which a lot of students go to, that has so many resources for us to use, whether it be a lending library for your class books, free printing, or multiple support staff workers who can listen to anything you want to talk about or offer advice/help.


We also have identity-based organizations like the Organization of Black Students (OBS), the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), the African and Caribbean Students Association (ACSA), and the Taiwanese American Student Association (TASA) where students can convene and participate in many different cultural events. I love getting buns from TASA fundraisers or checking out ACSA’s Annual Culture Show.


3. What advice do you have for Juniors and Seniors in high school who want to attend UChicago and…


… want their application to stand out?


One of the biggest pieces of advice that I give students is to show multiple aspects of yourself in each of the writing samples that you have to submit. In the application, you get three different essays to show off your identity and make it known that you are both academically a great fit and a great fit out of the classroom. In my application, I talked about my love for music, my dry wit, how an unfortunate circumstance changed my outlook on life, and my intellectual aspirations using all three different essays. While our application review is holistic, I think putting a lot of emphasis on all your essays makes for a standout application.


4. What are some of UChicago’s most notable programs? (Programs of study, extracurriculars, etc).


Some of the more notable programs of study here at UChicago are our Economics department, our pre-med track, and our Computer Science department. While I am not specializing in any of these departments, I have many friends who are and who love their experience in these majors.


As a member of the team, I also have to shout out the Chicago Debate Society, our travel debate team, which is currently the Club of the Year. A couple of other notable extracurriculars (which we call Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs) are Pareto Consulting, Cadenza and Medusa (two acapella groups), the Maroon, and Firebird Magazine (two of our publications on campus). These are just a few though, we have over 400 RSOs currently on campus.


5. What advice would you offer a student who is considering attending UChicago but is on the fence about it?


I think that reaching out is the way to go! Finding students who currently attend, asking any pressing questions to askastudent@uchicago.edu, or exploring our many pages on the official website are great ways to answer any super specific questions that you have about the University, its culture, and what it offers.


6. One word to describe a UChicago student?


Unconventional.

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