Illini-ans unite. The pride at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and strength in community is super strong here. Which means students get not only the traditional college feel and major campus spirit, but also a friendly hello from basically anyone you walk past.
For a large campus, about 33,000 undergrads, I do not get the feeling that a student would get lost in the shuffle here. Maybe it’s the charm of Urbana and Champaign, the two cities surrounding with small-town vibes, or maybe it’s the professors and students joining in on the fun. Either way I can see how a student from really anywhere would feel welcomed here.
A part of the Big 10, Illinois has massive spirit. Buses run throughout campus and the surrounding cities so students can easily get around, there are cultural events, festivals and shows that come through the State Farm center.
What I did enjoy on this campus were two big themes. 1. Community and 2. Career. I’ve mentioned the community feel, which is super important to get to know. But career is important and often a support service not a lot of families consider as much. Career programming should be a question on every college you visit.
Ultimately you want to not only graduate, but be ready to present yourself in the professional world, wherever that may be for you. Networking, interning, experiences abroad, co-ops, resume building, career services within your specific department. THESE are the things that make a difference on your return on investment in a college
80% of students are employed or in continuing education within 6 months of graduation. Two career fairs held annually with each department hosting their own networking event with alumni specific to the major. It’s pretty impressive for a larger institution.
The university is comprised of 10 academic communities consisting of over 150 majors. I would recommend starting at their program explore page where you can search majors by title, by your interest and even explore two majors side by side which give you an idea of the classes that overlap and curriculum that differs (which may help you REALLY understand just what Chemical Engineering means??) Even if you know wha you’d want to study, I would recommend it. Check it out here: https://myillini.illinois.edu/Programs
There is tutoring support built in within the university and accessible office hours. Note, you will need to advocate for yourself. Professors are readily accessible, but it’s up to you to head to office hours and ask the questions. Advising support is also strong here.
A note about Women in Engineering. The WIE program for women in the engineering program is INCREDIBLY STRONG. They connect students to alumni within their specific field AND deliver seminars and curriculum not only tied to the content but tying in the types of scenarios a woman in STEM might face in the professional setting. It’s honestly AMAZING. Check it out here: https://wie.engineering.illinois.edu/
LIVING ON CAMPUS
There are 11 living learning communities and 38 residence halls. You can live in various types of communities and sometimes the meal plan differs so do some research and check it out online, chat with current students and get a sense of where you’d prefer to live. Check it out here: https://housing.illinois.edu/
TIP: CHECK FOR SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS WITHIN YOUR DISCIPLINE. FOR EXAMPLE, THE WOMEN IN ENGINEERING (WIE) HAVE AN ORIENTATION SPECIFIC TO WIE STUDENTS WHERE THEY MOVE IN EARLY AND GO THROUGH ORIENTATION ACTIVITIES THAT FOSTER A PRETTY STRONG BOND BEFORE SCHOOL EVEN STARTS.
The surrounding cities offer some charm with restaurants, shops and festivals. It happened to snow overnight when I was there, which for a Californian is quite a treat! Note, you WILL get seasons here.
ADMISSIONS AND THE APPLICATION PROCESS
When you apply to Illinois (you can apply Early Action or Regular Decision by the way) you do need to choose a major. You can apply either Coalition or the MyIllini app (doesn’t matter just your preference) and here’s what they’ll review:
- Grades and course rigor (you’ll self report your grades in the app)
- SAT or ACT (again you can self-report here initially so save the fees to send official scores)
- Essay (geared more towards your major interest unless you choose undeclared)
- Extracurricular involvement
You can choose a second-choice major and it’s perfectly okay. You’ll get reviewed for your first choice and if you’re not deemed admissible then they will consider you for your second.
TIP: YOU CAN SEE ACADEMIC AVERAGES FOR SPECIFIC PROGRAMS ON THE WEBSITE SO IF YOU’RE APPLYING TO SAY ENGINEERING OR BUSINESS, CHECK IT OUT AND SEE WHERE YOU LAND.
SECOND TIP: GET TO KNOW YOUR ADMISSION COUNSELOR. THEY CAN HELP ANSWER MORE SPECIFIC QUESTIONS AND GET YOU CONNECTED TO FURTHER RESOURCES!
TIPS FOR FRESHMAN TRANSITIONING INTO COLLEGE
We were able to meet with Illini students and by and large the message was get involved. Actively participate and dive into activities to make new friends and find your thing. There’s a bajillion clubs and interests and although Greek life is strong, it really only comprises a little less than 30% of the campus.
Another word of advice is to move on from Seniorities. Study skills can be tough, so get back into a studying groove that works for you and know your strengths and weaknesses.
Overall I was thoroughly impressed with Illinois. Primarily because of the depth they specialize their disciplines, meaning once you get settled into your major you’ve got a lot of opportunity to connect on a deeper, more individual level AND build a solid resume throughout your time. And of course, because of the community. I really enjoyed the people, the students and the campus charm. It was welcoming, academic but not competitive and just a good vibe.
It is LARGE and I had to take a connecting flight to get there. Not a negative, but for some it may be. All the more reason why visiting is SO important. If you can’t fly out at least visit a local college with a similar size to get a sense.