University of Chicago Creates Greater Admissions Access for Low Income Students


University of Chicago

UChicago Empower, the First Test-Optional Admissions Process by a Leading College, Increases Access to Higher Education for First-Generation, Low-Income Students

The initiative includes expanded financial aid, new scholarships, and programs for under-represented communities

A strategic initiative to address key barriers encountered by underserved and under-represented students, the UChicago Empower Initiative has three areas of focus: (1) the use of technology for greater flexibility in the admissions process, including making submissions of standardized test scores optional; (2) increased financial support, on-campus programming, and online resources for first-generation, rural, and under-represented students, with full tuition aid for students whose families earn less than $125,000, and (3) new scholarships and access programs to recognize those who serve our country and local communities. Each aims to empower historically under-represented communities in the highly selective admissions process by increasing equity and access.

“Today, many under-resourced and under-represented 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, dean of Admissions, 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.”

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

Flexibility in the Application Process

  • Self-submission of transcripts, to eliminate fees and simplify the application process.
  • The ability to apply without submitting either SAT or ACT scores, and additional ways to exemplify strong academic work and demonstrate intellectual abilities.
  • The ability to submit a two-minute video introduction, to embrace technology in communicating merit.

Expanded Financial Aid

  • Full tuition aid for students whose families earn less than $125,000, to build on the College’s history of ensuring access to all.
  • Scholarships of $20,000 over four years, and a guaranteed paid summer internship, for all first-generation College students.
  • Expanded funding for veterans and the children of veterans, police officers and firefighters at state and local departments across the U.S., in addition to covering all education costs for eligible Yellow Ribbon participants (veterans and their eligible children).

New Programming

  • New mentoring technology for first-generation and low-income students, to expand the ways in which engaged alumni can offer mentorship and support.
  • Partnership with the Posse Foundation’s Veterans Program, to build an undergraduate veterans cohort.
  • Allison Davis Jr. Education Summit and the UChicago Summer Scholars Program for African American students sponsored by UChicago’s Women’s Board.
  • Partnerships and experiential learning opportunities that will be announced in 2019.

“The UChicago Empower Initiative continues the University and College’s unwavering commitment to access and inclusion,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College, University of Chicago. “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.”

For more information on UChicago Empower or College Admissions at the University of Chicago, please visit: