So you’re from central Illinois? This is for you!

The University of Illinois has name recognition worldwide. But if you’re like me and grew up in central Illinois, Illinois connections likely run deep within your family and community. While you may be an expert in navigating Champaign-Urbana or traditions at Illinois, you now have the opportunity to join the community as a student!

College is an incredible time for exploring new ideas, learning new ways of thinking, and meeting people (and lifelong) friends from around the world. As someone from the area, you have the opportunity to do all of this just down the road. I had a great conversation with some of our local ISTARs (tour guides): Rachel and Jonlyn from Champaign, Gabe from Mattoon, and Sai from Bloomington. Here are some of the highlights!

Why did you choose Illinois?

Gabe: Three major characteristics brought me to Illinois. First, the area of study I was looking at (agricultural engineering) was ranked #1 in the country at the time I was a senior in high school. Second, I have several family members who are alumni of the university, and in seeing their passion for this university along with seeing where they are today with their own careers, I wanted to follow in their footsteps. Last, I liked the thought of staying somewhat closer to home while still being able to form my own community that wasn’t already my hometown.

So even though you are close to home, what was it like transitioning from high school to college?

Sai: I’m not going to lie, transitioning from high school to college wasn’t the smoothest of transitions. I think going from a high school of 2,000 to a college of 40,000 was a drastic change. Also, going from having a tight-knit group of friends to initially having none was upsetting. But the beauty of college is the freedom to explore and figure out your niche. It is very easy to find your role and your people in such a big school like Illinois. And if you are ever feeling a little homesick, you can always go back home for a weekend just because you live so close and have a small break from the campus life!

Rachel: I don’t think my transition from high school to college was much different from other students at Illinois. I still moved away from my home and parents to a college campus residence hall, so it still felt like a whole new experience.

What is one thing you didn’t know about Illinois until you were a student?

Sai: I didn’t know how diverse this campus was. There are people here from all over the world, and getting to know their stories and where they have been has been an experience in itself. They have such unique perspectives!

What advice would you give a local students and their families when they are considering Illinois?

Rachel: The advice I would give to other local students is to take advantage of all the opportunities to experience campus life on your own. You can walk on the Quad during Quad Day, study for your high school classes at the Union, or just talk to students at the university. It’s a great way to get a better idea of what it is like as a student on campus.

Jonlyn: Don’t let the proximity affect your decision. Focus on the things that really matter: the quality of the education, opportunities offered on campus, etc. Think about what you want out of your college experience, and remember that even if your mom, dad, sister, uncle, and great-great-great grandmother came to Illinois, your college search process is about YOU.

Sai: Advice that I would give to local families and students is that the distance from home is such a convenience and an advantage. Students who are from other states don’t have the convenience of going home for a quick break on a weekend. Getting forgotten items from home when you live an hour away is much easier than packaging and mailing things halfway across the country. And believe it or not, you will get homesick!

Gabe: One of the recent slogans that was used by the Athletics Department to help with player recruiting and building the fan base was “Our State. Our Team.” Really, I think this slogan works well with general student recruitment, too.  I take a lot of pride in representing my hometown of Mattoon and even central Illinois with any activity I do on this campus, whether it be in the classroom, on a committee, or in a student club.  This campus features individuals all across the country and world, and to be able to represent my roots here has been a pretty incredible experience. Upon graduation, our campus has historically offered job opportunities to its graduates all across the country, so if you are looking to stay in Illinois or move to a different part of the country, either option could be available. So if you are looking to go to a place where you can proudly represent your roots while still having the luxury of being close to home and family when needed, the University of Illinois is a great place to choose.

So are you ready to join the community as a student? Apply now!

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