I just graduated from Harper College in Palatine, IL ....from my experience with the whole process....how it works, is you will need to work on any prerequisites that are required before you are even looked at by the school. Once you have this all done, then you can submit an application and wait to see if you are accepted.
As you mentioned with Uic, it is true for nursing programs
in the suburbs as well....there are a far greater number of applicants than there are actual spots. Your grades on your prerequisites need to be very good as well as any Act or entrance exams scores. You will either be accepted into the program, put on a waiting list, or rejected. But note, that IF you are put onto a waiting list, this is just a waiting list if spots open up of people who were accepted but choose now not to take the spot. Once all spots are full, then you are no longer on that waiting list and would need to reapply the next time around and go through the entire process again. This is how the waiting list at Harper worked. If you were lucky enough to get onto the waiting list in the first place but then unlucky enough for none of the accepted applicants to not take their spot, this is where it ends for you.....you are not just automatically rolled over onto the waiting list when the application process starts over for the next session.
Another thing, is to not put all your eggs in one basket. Apply to more than one school. But, yes if you are not indistrict this makes it even more difficult. Schools will always accept students that are indistrict before they look at students who are not.
Hope this helps