Each year, 30-40% of the Uni High graduating class commits to the University of Illinois for the next four years of their education. Many more apply than actually end up attending. Out of 36 responses from current Uni seniors, 28 reported that they were planning to apply. Though over 70% of the represented students are applying, many say that they are not really considering attending the UIUC, but are using it as a “safety net” in case they don’t get into their dream college.
Many seniors cite financial convenience and parents’ wishes as reasons for applying to the UIUC. One Uni senior says that they “do not want to attend [UIUC]. However, it makes sense to attend.” Another says they would be “happy but a bit disappointed” to go to the UIUC due to their familiarity with the campus. Others plan to attend UIUC for a specific program for its prestige, such as Engineering or Computer Science, though even some of these students express regrets that the college is so close to home.
Younger students who are starting to consider college are also divided in their opinions. “I’d never go to UIUC. I’m applying to Duke and other Ivy Leagues.” says freshman Reed Broaders. Her classmate, Raneem Saadah, feels differently, “I want to stay with my family, so UIUC would be high on my list. I also have a lot of connections here.”
Contrary to some Uni students’ preconceptions, Uni alumni say that going to college on the UIUC campus is completely different from attending high school here. “I was surprised how different it was,” says Sam LeRoy, a senior in the department of business. Leroy adds that there were advantages to being a “townie,” like knowing his way around CU. Hailan Shanbhag, a freshman in electrical and computer engineering, says she was also taken aback at how much more autonomous she can be in college. “Uni is pretty free,” Shanbhag says, “College is so much more free. I can go wherever I want whenever I want.”
Both LeRoy and Shanbhag say they get support from their families, but don’t feel that going to school in their hometown has caused their parents to “hang over” them. LeRoy adds that this was an important family discussion to have before he started freshman year.
Matthew Reeder, a freshman in the music department, says there are many things that set UIUC apart when he was making his decision. He said UIUC was “The place that had the most active and genuine faculty (who) cared about the students and were generous with their time.” Both Sam Guo, freshman in Computer Science, and Shanbhag say that their education is in their hands as far as time is concerned, but it is helpful to visit professors during office hours.
LeRoy also gave stellar reviews of the teachers and community at the UIUC, commenting that the upperclassmen are very supportive and helpful when you are a freshman or sophomore, and that the teachers are interested in talking to you and getting to know you. LeRoy says the community in his college is one of his favorite things about the UIUC. LeRoy also mentioned that the UIUC is much more diverse than many of its “Big Ten” counterparts, enabling him to connect with students from all over the world and across the country.
Shanbhag, LeRoy and Guo agree that the financial benefits Illinois residents receive to attend the UIUC also make it very attractive, “especially considering how good a school the UIUC is,” says Shanbhag. Additionally, students whose parents are employed by Illinois state schools receive half-priced tuition, says LeRoy.
While all of the alumni interviewed gave very positive reviews of the UIUC, LeRoy and Guo concur with the advice of admissions counselors: it’s all about fit, and what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. Guo advises that Uni students use concurrent enrollment as a way to test the waters with UIUC and potentially form connections with departments. LeRoy reiterates the importance of talking to people from departments in which you have interests. He encourages students to look earnestly at the UIUC as an option and adds that he is always willing to talk to potential UIUC applicants about the school or to take them to a class with him.
“Whatever preconceptions you have,” says LeRoy, “it’s not what you expect.”