Whether you are a high school sophomore just exploring your options or a high school senior in the midst of the admissions process, visiting the University of Illinois on a prospective student day will really help you decide whether you want to attend school here or not. I visited once, during my senior year (on Halloween actually) on a Scholar’s Visit and met with MCB faculty and a Dean of LAS. That was all it took for me to realize that I belonged here. However, I do wish that I came back in the winter and was able to visit again, seeing how the campus looks covered in snow and under a gray sky. Most students are like me and only come to campus once, usually early in the fall or late in the spring. It is truly beautiful here, and lovely to see the excitement of the students in fall and eagerness to spend time outdoors in spring. Yet, by neglecting the winter time due to “bad” weather, how can you get a taste of what student life is actually like here? Read on for reasons why I believe every student considering Illinois seriously should visit campus twice:
- Know Your Way Around – As a high school student thinking about applying to college, you’re probably tossing around the names of a couple of schools, not just the University of Illinois. I was the same way, and ended up applying to nine schools! I do think that was too much, and looking back to reflect I see that I could have eliminated several of those options immediately. However, I wanted to keep my options open and hoped to pick from a wide range of places. I visited a lot of those schools, but never went back twice to really get a feel for the establishment. When I visited U of I, I was astounded by how large the campus was, and how many students crossed the Quad during the ten minute passing period between classes. However, I didn’t remember almost anything from my campus tour except for the Quad and the sample student room set up in Illinois Street Residence Halls. If I visited campus again, I would have remembered more from my previous tour, and even used the tour as a reference point when I arrived on campus for my freshman fall semester. The tour is fantastic, and the I*Star student guides are highly trained and excellent representatives of our student spirit, but unfortunately the tour I took the day I visited was lost on me.
- Picture Yourself Here – The University of Illinois is a world-renowned academic institution, with leading research in every single field and hundreds of accolades to be proud of. But, if you cannot picture yourself living and learning here, perhaps you should rethink your acceptance. Back in high school, I could really see myself on the Quad, living in the residence halls, and studying in places like the Illini Union. I just wish I could have seen myself doing all of those things in the snow. Our campus transforms as soon as the precipitation hits, and becomes a magical winter wonderland. However, if you are not a cold/snow person, or don’t like wearing winter jackets or something, that could severely dampen your college experience. I really wanted to go to school in a place where I could experience all four seasons, especially my favorite snowy winter. Also, as someone who grew up in Wisconsin and Illinois, I have previous knowledge of how to dress for below-freezing temperatures and walk on black ice. I understand that for students who are from far away in the United States and even for our International students, it may be difficult to visit campus twice (or even once for many students), but I highly recommend doing some research on what the weather is like here and how to dress safely.
- More personalized – The heavy visiting seasons tend to be in warmer conditions, so you may be part of a massive group of students or filled to capacity in the opening visit session. This may lead to difficulty getting your questions answered and having your voice heard. When I participate in MCB sessions as an MCB leader, I’ve noticed that the smaller visit groups (usually early in February) are more vocal about their questions and opinions than the larger groups. Having a more tailored visit can help improve your impression of a school, and although the University of Illinois is classified as a large state school, the quality of your visit can definitely be custom-tailored to you and your questions! Visiting twice lets your see both sides of Illinois – the lecture halls and the personal discussion sessions, essentially!
I hope to see many of you braving our Champaign-Urbana winters and coming to visit! You won’t regret your experience, so dress warm, drive safe, and welcome to the University of Illinois!