Freshman Guide to the University of Chicago

Freshman Guide to the University of Chicago

Being a freshman is a pretty intimidating experience. Not only are you forced to move to a new environment with few friends and no family, you usually live with a stranger and move to a place you have never lived before. But don’t worry- you’ll survive. Plus, ChiU is here to make that process a little bit easier with our Freshman Guides to each campus in Chicago. Below you’ll find tips, facts and advice from upperclassmen about where to do (or not to do) just about everything. Comment below with your own suggestions!

by Nicole Lee, ChiU Contributor

Welcome to the UofC! We’re really glad to have you join the 5000ish undergrads in our little bubble in the heart of the South Side. Though some students will ramble on about the esteemed intellectualism and quirkiness of the University, you will soon find that the College surpasses its stereotypes. In addition to the classic Sosc (Social Sciences) “that kid”, the invisible recluse in your house that you will never see, and the cutthroat grade-grabbing premed, UChicago offers a wide breadth of unique and talented people. It continues to blend new life and storied tradition within a dynamic and always interesting environment. Enjoy the beautiful gothic architecture mixed in with the brand new glass and steel structures and also get to know the surrounding neighborhood.

North-siders and Loop-residents will say that they have all the hot spots, but Hyde Park has a surprising amount to offer. We can’t wait for you to explore and discover everything about your new home for the next few years. Here are a couple tips and pointers to aid your initial orientation to the UofC.

The Basics

Location: S 57th – 61nd St, between Ellis and University Ave, in the South Side of Chicago

Closest el stop(s)/bus stop(s): Red Line Garfield stop (Garfield and Dan Ryan Expy), Green Line Cottage Grove stop (Cottage Grove & 63rd), Metra stops 51st/53rd, 55th/56th/57th, 59th (named streets & Lake Park Ave)

Neighborhood: Hyde Park. Located about a 40min El ride south from the Loop, Hyde Park and adjoining Kenwood and Woodlawn neighborhoods are an interesting combination of many socioeconomic and ethnic groups, making it a great place experience a large breadth of cultural offerings.


Best place to go for:

  • Campus Area Restaurant: Medici, a Hyde Park classic! Be sure to check out their milkshakes as well!
  • Campus Dining Hall: South Campus Dining Hall
  • Coffee: Robust Coffee Lounge, it’s on 63rd, so it’s a bit far south, but they have great coffee, food, and ambience. Well worth the trek.
  • On-campus Coffee: Hallowed Grounds, good place to hang out and play pool while sipping on your favorite drink.
  • Pizza: Giordano’s or Edwardo’s. Not Domino’s.
  • Asian: Noodles Etc. Or, if you have the time, go to Chinatown.
  • Burgers: Five Guys.
  • Breakfast food: Valois. You should try their French toast! They’re cheap and delicious
  • Cheap Late Night Delivery: De Rice (Chinese), Rajun Cajun (Indian)
  • Deli: Z&H Bakery, their sandwiches are AMAZING
  • Thai: Snail!
  • Groceries: Hyde Park Produce on 53rd and Kimbark. It’s cheaper than Treasure Island, and has many organic and healthy choices


Student haunts and local hot spots:

  • Reynold’s Club: Located on the quad, and offers coffee, bagels, assorted foodstuffs, and a place to study.
  • The Point: This is the beach/picnic area located on Lake Michigan near the Museum of Science and Industry. Great place for a barbecue or tan.
  • Museum of Science and Industry, Smart Museum
  • 53rd Street Restaurants: 53rd Street is home to many restaurants and stores, including Harold’s Chicken, Rajun Cajun, Five Guys, Hyde Park Produce, zBerry, and Dunkin Donuts.
  • Midway Plaisance: The large stretch of grass between 59th and 60th St that separates BJ and South Campus from the rest of the campus proper. My sources tell me that at one point the University considered turning the Midway into a river park to serve as a moat that separated the campus from the community. For obvious reasons, that idea was scrapped, and now it is home to a free skating rink, a creepy Linne statue, and several soccer fields.


  • Best place to study: the brand new Mansueto Library or the Harry Potter-esque Harper Library
  • Best place to get textbooks: Seminary Co-op (a student owned and operated bookstore on campus, or Amazon
  • Best place to relax: Fall or Spring—out on the quad! Winter—House Lounge with your buddies.
  • Best classroom building: Wiebolt. My Sosc class met there, and we were in a beautiful room on the top floor, with original wood panel sidings, engraved ceilings, and a fireplace.
  • Best event: Scav Hunt. The uniquely UChicago event that has brought live tigers and lions on campus and placed googly eyes on the Rockefeller Chapel. The best part is, you get to choose your own level of participation.
  • Best sport to watch: UChicago is not a sports school. Anecdotally, most of the student body has never been to a varsity game. However, IM Sports are big. You must must must MUST check out broomball winter quarter.

Unique to UChicago

  • That kids
  • More hipsters than bros
  • Interesting party dynamic (always inclusive)
  • Using Sosc terms and authors in regular conversations (even dates)
  • “Where the squirrels are cuter than the girls and more aggressive than the guys”
  • Self-deprecating, not entirely true statements—see above
  • Scav Hunt, Kuvia
  • Everyone is secretly, or not so secretly a huge nerd
  • House system

Stay away from…

Walking about by yourself at night or into dark alleys. Personally, I’ve never felt unsafe while walking after dark, but I do know a several people that that have been victims of muggings and robberies. Take SafeRide, the free evening shuttle service, the regularly scheduled UChicago shuttle routes, or UCPD Umbrella Service (a cop will follow you to your destination). If you can’t take a shuttle or can’t find a couple buddies to walk with, and you’re going by yourself, it goes a long way to be aware of your surroundings. Unplug your iPod, and only walk down brightly lit roads. Also, don’t make yourself a target. Don’t pull out your wallet, text someone on your iPhone, etc. if you’re traveling alone.

It’s generally said that the safety gets worse as you go further south, past the Midway Plaisance and South Campus Residence Hall, but there have been plenty incidents farther north that precautions must be taken anywhere you are.

This may sound intimidating to some, and it’s true that student safety is a hot topic on campus, but as long as you’re careful, there’s nothing to worry about.

Some useful phone numbers:

  • SafeRide: 773-702-2022
  • UCPD/Umbrella Service: 773-702-8181


  • Be sure to get out of the campus and explore the neighborhood.
  • House friends are great, but also try to branch out of your comfort zone and make friends from all over.
  • Don’t procrastinate.
  • Make use of transportation services around campus.
  • Feel free to be yourself. There are niches for everyone—quirky and unique is the mainstream.

Still interested?  Check out our Freshman Guides to Loyola University and Columbia College.

Do you have suggestions for the best spots around UChicago?  Freshmen, what do you think?  Is this guide helpful?  Let us know in the comments below.


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    I’m trampled by your contents carry on the wonderful New Zealand

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