Families & Guardians > Applying to College

Applying to College

What specific documents and materials do colleges and universities require during the application process?

Colleges and universities differ in the specific information and materials they require from students at the time of application. In general, students can expect to submit the following:

Required materials are typically spelled out in a college application, or you can get this information from a college’s admissions office.

What should I know about the application process?

Through the application process, your child should be able to express important details about his or her high school experience, unique talents, and service to the community. Students should convey who they are, in their own voice, not what they—or you, for that matter—think the admissions committee wants to hear.

At UChicago, the College values a holistic reading process for each applicant. The members of the admissions committee consider a candidate’s entire application—academic and extracurricular records, essays, letters of recommendation, and SAT or ACT scores—before making an admission decision. What this means for your student is that there is no one quality that can determine the strength of an application: There are no minimum GPA or test scores, or mandatory course loads, although a standard college prep program is recommended.

The most significant advice is to relax, take a deep breath, and have some fun. The college admissions process should be an enjoyable, cooperative experience between you and your child.

Can we get specific help with the application process?

College access programs support students through the college admissions and application process and often provide mentoring, academic preparation, and assistance in finding scholarship opportunities.

The University of Chicago offers a number of college preparatory programs with workshops and other activities designed to help with the college application process.

In addition, nonprofit college access programs can help with the selection and application process, regardless of what college or universities students plan to attend.

Are campus visits required?

Campus visits are not required for your child to be accepted by or to apply to a college or university. However, visiting a college can give you a better idea about whether the school is a good fit. Many schools designate specific weekends for such visits and will arrange campus tours, visits to classrooms, and meetings with professors and current students.

In addition, some schools may offer free transportation for on–campus visits to the most promising students. If your child is considering a school far away from home, it is definitely worth asking whether he or she might qualify for such a benefit.

It is also useful to keep in mind that if your child plans to major in musical performance or participate in varsity sports, such activities may, in fact, require an on–campus visit for auditions or tryouts.

My family is nervous about taking on excessive debt for college. What are our options?

Do not be intimidated by "sticker shock." Colleges and universities can be expensive, but there are ways to find money to help cover that cost. Help your child fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile, which many colleges and universities use to award student aid funds.

The University of Chicago uses these forms, along with our University of Chicago Aid application, to determine financial aid awards. If your child is a resident of the city of Chicago and attends school in the city, and is accepted to the College, he or she will benefit from UChicago Promise. As part of UChicago Promise the University pledges to meet full demonstrated need with grants that don’t need to be paid back (no loans), thus enabling the student to graduate free of college debt.

No matter where your child applies, check what forms are required and when they are due. It is important to remember that a financial aid package includes a number of different elements. Not only does it present the scholarships and federal financial aid students will receive, but it also indicates an expected family contribution as well as self–help expectations that can be satisfied by the student taking on a part–time job.

It is important to understand fully the information you receive about student loans. Are they federally subsidized loans or loans from a private lender? What is the interest rate? When are you required to begin repaying? Are families or guardians responsible for repaying their children’s loans? These questions are crucial to an accurate understanding of a financial aid package.