While many graduating seniors will leave home to further their education, seniors James McLellan and Rebecca Harbeck will likely stay very close to home as prospective students at the University of Chicago. The NWN sat down with the two students to discuss their college decisions.
NWN: What clubs and activities have you been involved in?
McLellan: Although I have not engaged in as many activities as some of my classmates, I have been developing my membership role in the activities I have been a part of over the years. I will say this, however, I was definitely involved with more things my Freshman Year than other years. I was on the Football Team (and went out with a ‘bang’ my last game), I was trained as an official Peer Mediator, I became a member of the German Club, and I joined the debate team – to which I am most noted for being a part of. Although after freshman year I did not advance my career as a prime athlete on the football team and did not continue my membership with the Peer Mediation Club, I stuck with debating and embracing my German identity. In the end, my decisions paid off. This year, I was one of the co-captains of the debate team- a role for which I am extremely grateful- a member of the National Honor Society, the German Club, the German Honor Society, and an active participant in the 2015 GCSI Project Pool. I am so appreciative of the extracurricular opportunities Niles West has given me over the years, and will always remember the activities with which I was involved.
Harbeck: I was involved in XC (fresh/soph), track (soph), lit center (all four years), debate (soph-senior), yearbook (soph-senior), and Relay for Life.
NWN: How did you narrow down your options to UChicago?
McLellan: I pretty much knew I wanted to go to the University of Chicago as soon as I started the application process. Thinking it to be an incompatible choice for me at first, I had a change of heart by the time I submitted my first application in August. As opposed to seeming like a long shot, the University stood out to me as a haven for obscure individuals such as myself. I applied Early Action to the University of Chicago, receiving my decision on Wednesday, December the 17th. By that point, I submitted an application to thirteen other schools. It was a very painful experience writing all the essays, fighting over and over again with my parents about my future, and waiting- in suspense – to receive news about my fate.The wait was finally over on that Wednesday. In all honesty, I expected to not get in at all, and instead anticipated my school of choice to be the University of Wisconsin – Madison, a place I would have seen myself being happy with as well. In terms of my top choice, however, I am so fortunate to have received the opportunity to go to my dream school.
Harbeck: Honestly, I’m still choosing between UChicago and University of Southern California. However, why UChicago? It’s one of the top schools in the nation, has great diversity, their sociology and political science programs are some of the best, and the intellectual curiosity has made it extremely attractive and relate-able. I’ve never been to a school as intellectually curious, and I love that. The people that are unique. The professors and classes there are the best. A lot of people think it’s where “fun goes to die,” but I just don’t think that’s true.
NWN: Did you visit the campus prior to your admission? If so, what’d you like the most?
McLellan: Despite the fact that I have visited the U of C on many occasions, I have found my experience to be different every time. From visiting the Oriental Institute in the 6th Grade, to passing through the campus on my way home from the Museum of Science and Industry, to visiting the University on an official Columbus Day Tour my Junior year, something new spoke to me every time I visited the campus. I don’t think I have an absolute favorite part of the campus yet, but I will say that among my top 5 favorite places at the University is the Court Theater. It is a remarkable institution that not only puts on beautiful performances, but also stands in the name of a just ideal.
Harbeck: I visited multiple times before my admission. My first official visit was last August, and I did the general tour. The campus is gorgeous (it resembles Hogwarts!), and the tour showcased the diverse nature of the school, its people, and the community. I fell in love with the campus after these visits.
NWN: What are you most excited for next year?
McLellan: I am excited to be myself. Although I am, for the most part, indifferent to what my current classmates think of me, I know that I am about to get one of the best educations an American scholar can possibly get, while being surrounded by a diverse variety of weird, awesome, and truly intellectual students. I already know that I will not be among the smartest and most exceptional of students in my Class next year. I know that I am going to be school-mates with some of the most top-notch students in the country – students who can probably lap me in almost every task that will be given. That factor doesn’t scare me, though. I know that although I will probably not be the top of my class, I will be in an environment where I can be the best person I can be. And that is something that will change my life for an eternity. Oh, also I know that my current understanding of fun is going to be reborn.
Harbeck: I’m really excited for the opportunities U Chicago has to offer. I plan to study abroad (either in Paris or China), join the Model UN, Student Government, sorority, and community service related groups.
NWN: What advice do you have for students hoping to also attend UChicago in the future?
McLellan: I am not going to lie, I have definitely worked hard for the result that I have received. Although I am not among the top five students here, although I am not the best at taking standardized tests, I still managed to figure out a way to broadcast my strengths. My grades, my dedication to my extra-curriculars, my relationships with my teachers, and my ability to articulate my thoughts were ways I used to offset the flaws in my application. I think, at the end of the day, the biggest reason why I am so content with my decision to go to UChicago is because I genuinely enjoy learning. The ability for human beings to master something – or even understand something at its most basic level – is truly unique. Although I don’t enjoy studying every subject, I definitely appreciate what my high school has taught me and acknowledge that I still have a long way to go. That is the kind of student the University of Chicago is looking for.
Harbeck: I advise students to visit during the summer. I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to even apply to the University of Chicago pre-visit, and after, I was sure I wanted to attend college there. I would also advise students to definitely interview with the college, and take the essays very seriously. The essays are extremely important to the University.