Welcome to ThinkTank Learning’s “The Inside Scoop” (TiSc) blog series in which admissions officials from colleges and universities across the USA share their perspective on the admissions process at their school.
School: University of Illinois
Fostering a diverse community of creative minds, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is a leading public institution emphasizing innovative thinking, research opportunities, and collaborative work with renowned faculty. Established as a land-grant university in 1867, UIUC offers unlimited opportunities with 150+ majors, 1,000+ student organizations, and 400+ study abroad options, along with countless research and leadership experiences.
1. What are the key features that you seek in an undergraduate candidate?
At UIUC, we use a holistic review process that includes the review of grades, courses/rigor, test scores, involvement, leadership roles, honors/awards, and an essay question related to the program(s) a student is applying to. We look for strengths in all areas, especially in the academics.
2. What would be the biggest or most common mistake that students make on their application?
Students are great about entering their grades, courses, and submitting test scores correctly. Many times we feel that their essays aren’t answering our question. Our question is specifically related to their fit in the program they are applying to. We want to know that the student has a good understanding of their program and how they will fit into that world.
3. What advice do you have for high school students who plan to apply in the future?
Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application and test scores. Not only will you be able to get it done and out of the way, but it will make the process go a lot smoother. With the amount of last minute test scores and other materials being sent to the office, it can delay the processing, which then causes more anxiety for the student. Students should get organized early on so they can complete their applications as soon as possible.
4. What is the most common misconception that people have about your admissions process?
The biggest misconception is that we only care about the test scores. The reality is that we do not even have a minimum test score that we are expecting. We only reveal the middle 50% of test scores from the year before. While test scores are a part of the review process, we still put a large emphasis on the actual grades received and rigor of courses taken. We also do read every essay. Involvement in activities or having a job can make or break a decision as well.
5. There is a trend of rebellion against standardized testing. Some say that standardized tests help make the process faster/easier, but adds bias and inaccuracy when assessing a student’s future potential. What are your thoughts on this subject?
As mentioned above, we do not just rely on the standardized test scores in our process. We also feel that being able to handle rigorous coursework along with staying involved in activities says a lot about a student.
6. What are some of the more popular/selective majors at your college?
Engineering majors, other math and/or science related majors, business, psychology, and special education, are just some examples of programs that tend to be popular and/or selective.
7. How does major selection impact your assessment of an applicant?
We are still reviewing the same criteria for everyone but as more competitive programs tend to have a larger amount of applicants, the grades, rigor, and test scores of those admitted tend to be on the higher end of the averages. Additionally, the essay and types of activities the student has been involved in are often looked at more closely. For competitive programs, every detail counts.
8. How “transfer friendly” is your school?
We enroll about 1400 transfer students each fall and would love to see more on campus! Transfer admission requirements are pretty straightforward and prospective students should be looking at the Transfer Handbook (http://admissions.illinois.edu/apply/Transfer/handbook) as early as possible.
9. Tell us a fun fact, unique story, or piece of insider information most people don’t know about your school.
An UIUC architecture student designed Assembly Hall (now State Farm Center) for a class project. He failed because his professor said it wasn’t feasible!
About The Author
Laura Lavender is Communications Coordinator in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
I’m originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan and I completed my degree in Psychology at Indiana University Bloomington before starting my career at the University of Illinois. I’ve been with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at UIUC for about three years now and I’m still constantly learning about all the interesting facts and fun things to do here in Champaign-Urbana. You will never be bored here! In my spare time, I love traveling, watching Netflix, and spending time with my cat.
Editors: David H. Nguyen, Ph.D., Meilin Obinata, J.D., Derek McArdle, M.A.