Student Stories

‘I feel like this is a dream’: Student becomes first member of UChicago’s Class of 2025

Surprise ceremony welcomes first-generation college student with full scholarship

On Friday morning, Daniel Olmo headed to Whitney M. Young Magnet High School with his family, ready to discuss financial aid and scholarships. But when he arrived, he saw a group of people surrounded by balloons and TV cameras, waiting to deliver even more exciting news: Olmo had been accepted into the University of Chicago.

“I feel like this is a dream,” Olmo said. “[UChicago] is my number one choice, and it has been for a while. And I really appreciate the opportunity to study there.”

A portrait of Daniel Olmo
(Photo by Eddie Quinones)

In addition to being a first-generation college student, Olmo became the first student admitted to the undergraduate College’s Class of 2025. While most students won’t begin hearing their admissions decisions until winter break, Olmo applied early through a new UChicago Promise program aimed at supporting students in the city of Chicago.

Called Moving Online, Virtually Empowered, Unlimited Potential, the MOVE UP program expands UChicago Promise’s work to support public and charter school students and families as they navigate the college search, application, admissions and financial aid processes virtually. The program is part of the University’s Stand Together initiative, which aims to increase educational access and career success for underrepresented students.

Through free college advising and college preparation programs, MOVE UP focuses on high school students at Chicago Public Schools, nearly 90% of whom are students of color. MOVE UP also offers the new, rolling early-decision option that Olmo used. It allows CPS students to apply to UChicago anytime during the year and receive a decision quickly.

“Students who commit to UChicago can apply under a new binding early-decision agreement,” said Veronica Hauad, deputy director of admissions at UChicago. “They’ll receive their decision from us just two weeks later, which gives them plenty of time to prepare before classes begin in September of next year.”

Olmo said it was a relief to know he was admitted to UChicago this early. The University also awarded Olmo a CPS Scholarship—a full-tuition, four-year scholarship for outstanding CPS graduates who show the greatest potential for making contributions to the academic, extracurricular and community life of the College.

An academic star who has participated in programming at UChicago for several years, Olmo’s potential is obvious. During his senior year at Whitney Young, he’s interning at GE Healthcare focusing on software engineering, and he’s also a talented pianist who’s earned “superior” ratings from the Illinois High School Association.

At UChicago, he hopes to study ways to combat infectious diseases.

“I’m thinking I want to be a software engineer, a data scientist or do something with epidemiology because that’s something that’s always interested me,” Olmo said. “The current COVID-19 situation has sparked my interest, and I’d like to be part of planning solutions for the future.”

MOVE UP’s new early-decision option, Hauad said, provides students like Olmo with help in choosing colleges that will be a good fit, writing their application essays, and filling out financial aid forms. They also can connect with free academic support such as tutoring and mentoring.

"We’re honored to have Daniel as a member of the Class of 2025. His academic achievements combined with his quality of character will enhance our community," Hauad said.

UChicago Stand Together’s comprehensive programs also include support for more than a hundred community-based organizations around the country that work to boost college access; scholarships for student leaders and scholars who serve groups underrepresented in higher education; initiatives that connect UChicago students, employers and the University; and programs that pave the way for veterans to enroll at UChicago. Learn more about the program here.

— A version of this story also appeared on the Office of Civic Engagement and UChicago News websites.