According to the official University of Chicago (UChicago) website, the school “empowers individuals to challenge conventional thinking in pursuit of original ideas.”
Although this may seem as your average college advertisement, this statement was not wrong to the likes of Michelle Yang, a third year at UChicago, majoring in Anthropology and Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES). Through UChicago, Yang came to realize that her own image and perspective of UChicago was unlike what the college actually represented. Yang pictured a college with a healthy relationship to its neighborhood communities.
However, in contrast, UChicago contributed to a lot of police violence and gentrification in its neighborhood. Although it may not be anyone’s ideal, it can be very eye opening and life changing, especially to one majoring in anthropology.
“Looking back though, UChicago has strongly shaped the way I think through things,” Yang said. “There are a lot of different groups of people coming from very different experiences and circumstances, in different majors and student organizations, so the “UChicago” that everyone is experiencing can be vastly different.”
As an anthropologist, whose focus is on “societal structures that influence and are influenced by the way people make meaning, understand, and act,” the academics are not ones you can learn at a regular high school. Yang’s favorite class was about the ways infrastructure such as buildings, cafes, and highways can influence someone’s relationships and vise versa. Another class was about how race and racism are built into the the state of Chicago in a variety of ways.
According to Yang, unlike other colleges, UChicago’s curriculum, “really stresses the importance of reading fundamental, classic texts in order to understand the context and lineage in which later texts are situated and how knowledge is created.”
However, to Yang, it’s not just the academics she has learned to love, but it is the people at UChicago that has changed her the most. The friends that she has surrounded herself with have not only improved her emotionally, but academically.
“There isn’t the same sense of competition,” Yang said. “We collaborate, we work together, we support each other through hard times, we celebrate during the good times, we fight for each other, we make time for each other.”
When it comes to high school, students are most likely to be peppered with expectations from their parents or society. If high schoolers could find what is important and valuable to them no matter what the expectations are, “you need to stick to them as best as you can.”
However, finding a passion against all odds is only the first half. Supporters are the second half. Yang advises high schoolers to “Find your people, your community, your true homies who will let you know when you’re doing something stupid and cheer you on when you need it.”
Unlike every other college student I’ve interviewed, Yang’s advice for applying to college is one from the other side of the fence. Most other adults would probably tell you to become a unique person, to try hard, and to adopt a new personality if you want to get into the college of your dreams.
Contrastingly, Yang believes in trusting the application system and not worrying about which college you get into. She said, “I think what is most important to applying for colleges is be your full and best self and trust in the process because the school that is best for you is the one that will be a space for you to grow, which is irrelevant to rankings.”
In conclusion, not only does is UChicago interested in those you have individual thinking processes, but may even change their students perspective on the world around them.