The Holistic Review Process

As you’re preparing to apply to Illinois this fall, you’re probably wondering, how does the admissions review process work? Well, we use a holistic review process, which means that we look at and consider many factors when making an admission decision. The term “holistic” can be a bit confusing to some, so in this post I am going to discuss different areas of the review process to help you understand what we are looking at when reading applications.

Let’s get started…

First off, we take into account your academic record, which includes your grades and the courses you have taken. At the time of application, you will self-report your grades from years 9 through 11. You will include the name of the course, the grade you received, and the type of course. The type of course could include regular, honors, AP, IB, college prep, or dual enrollment. We want you to take advantage of the opportunities given to you by enrolling in rigorous courses, but we also recognize that each high school offers different levels of opportunity. So you won’t be at a disadvantage if your high school does not offer rigorous courses. You will also include the courses you are enrolled in for your 12th grade year, so it is important to continue to take challenging classes your senior year. We look at grades from all academic courses, so you want to work toward consistently strong grades, especially in required courses.

Send us your test scores!

The next part of the review process includes your test scores—either ACT or SAT. There is no preference given to either test format, so either one will work! We do not combine scores to create a superscore. We will, however, use the highest composite and highest sub-scores, even if they are from different test dates. In other words, if you receive a higher composite the first time you take the test but a higher sub-score the second time you take the test, we will use those higher numbers when we review. It can only benefit you to submit multiple test scores!

When you apply to Illinois, you will apply directly to a program that you want to major in, so we consider why you’re applying to that program. You will submit an essay that discusses your interest in the major you have selected. We want to know why you have chosen that major, and if you have any experience related to it. Take a look at our essay prompt so that you can start drafting it now. Your essay needs to be memorable and professional. If you select a second-choice major, you will also have to write an essay about why you are in interested in that major.

So, what’s a second-choice major?

Speaking of second-choice major, let me explain why we recommend selecting a second-choice major during the application. At Illinois, we have over 150 different majors, so there are many programs that can lead you to the career you want. If you know Illinois is where you want to call home, choosing a second choice will ensure that we consider you for all avenues of admission. We will consider you for your first-choice major, but if you are not admissible to that major, you’ll be considered for your second-choice major. If you are not admissible to either one, you’ll be considered for any other avenue of admission, including the Division of General Studies. You can still be considered for your first choice since you will automatically be waitlisted.

We also look at your achievements outside of the classroom. We want to see that you are involved in activities because we are looking for students who have the personal qualities to succeed. Your involvement can be at school through sports or clubs, volunteer work in the community, or part-time jobs. Anything that you do outside the classroom helps to demonstrate your strengths and skills, and you will be able to tell us the activities, time commitment, and your role. We love to see leadership experience, as we want students to come on campus prepared to take charge of their education and get involved.

We want your story!

At Illinois, we listen and consider you as an individual with unique experiences and opportunities. You will have the chance to tell us your story and provide as much detail as you feel is necessary to make sure we know all about who you are. Remember, the only person who can recommend you to Illinois is YOU!


Please note that comments close after 90 days.

Olawale Abiola

August 27, 2016, 4:20 am

Hello, do you enroll international students?



August 30, 2016, 1:05 pm

Hi Olawale,

Yes, we do enroll international students. International students use the same application, which will also be reviewed holistically. You can find additional information about international student admissions on the admissions website.



September 1, 2016, 9:37 am

I am a parent of a student that would like to go to U of I.
He is currently finishing up his Associates Degree in Science at Joliet Junior College (JJC).

Few questions/comments.

1). His studies at JJC are being geared for the Electrical Engineering field.
How does he apply and how do you transfer his degree from JJC?

2). Do you offer any programs that would reduce his costs at U of I?
What are they?
How do you apply for them?

Thank you.


Shawn Anastasio

September 2, 2016, 10:56 am

Do you have an early admissions process? Also, what is the deadline date for applications and what is the deadline date for early applications?



September 3, 2016, 1:49 am

Do you know what is the requiremen of score on TOEFL test?



September 7, 2016, 9:02 am


He will apply as a transfer student, and when he does so will depend upon which semester he would like to begin. If he is planning on transferring for the Spring 2017 semester, he can apply at any time and the deadline is October 15th. If he is planning to apply for the Fall 2017 semester, the application is currently open; however, he has until March 1st to apply. He can apply online by creating a myIllini account. He can complete the entire application through this account.

We will accept any credits from his current institution that transfer to Illinois. He can check how his credits will transfer on the website Transerfology.

Students can receive scholarships and financial aid to assist with the cost of attending Illinois. When he applies, his application to the university will also be used to consider him for any scholarships he is eligible for. He will be notified at the time he receives his admission decision if he has received any scholarships. He may also be eligible for financial aid, and more information about that process can be found on the Office of Student Financial Aid website.

I hope this information is helpful!



September 7, 2016, 9:14 am

Hi Shawn!

We have an Early Action deadline for freshman applicants of November 1st. The notification date for this deadline is December 16th. The overall deadline to apply is December 1st, and the admission notification date is February 3rd. The Early Action deadline may give you the best chance for admission to programs with limited space; however, it is nonbinding. If admitted, you will have until May 1st to submit a decision.


Chaeeun Lee

September 8, 2016, 11:27 am

I am an international transfer student for 2017 spring.
I knew that the deadline of this is due Oct 15, 2016

However, the problem is my few Toefl scores already passed over 2 yrs.
So I have only 78 now which is below the requirement score 79.
I would plan to use this score to complete application at the first
But I have plan to take Toefl on Oct 15, 2016 again because of my schedule, and send it to school asap it is reported.

If I send it later, it would be arrived around the end of Oct.
Do you accept this late score?



September 8, 2016, 1:03 pm

Hello! If you will be applying as a freshman applicant, you can review the middle 50% TOEFL scores for each college on our Freshman Class Profile. As a transfer applicant, TOEFL score, and other English proficiency requirements, can be reviewed here.



September 15, 2016, 10:05 pm

I am currently applying for freshmen, and you mentioned that U of I reads scores from different dates, but since the application deadline is December 1, are December SAT scores acceptable as they will arrive a few weeks late?
Thank you!



September 16, 2016, 8:56 am

Hi Chaeeun!

If we receive your new TOEFL score prior to your decision being released, we will re-review your application with the new exam results. However, if we do not receive your new scores until after you have received a decision, and if that decision is “denied”, you would have to file an appeal.



September 27, 2016, 2:52 am

Hello! I’m currently applying for international transfer student. However, my toefl score is 87 which I think is quite low, but my gpa is quite ok(3.97 out of 4.0). Therefore, do I still have chance to be accepted by UIUC?



September 30, 2016, 1:28 pm

Hi Genevieve!

If you apply by the Early Action Deadline, the December scores will be too late since they will arrive after you have received your decision. If you apply for the regular admission, we will re-review you with your new scores as long as we receive them prior to the notification date of February 3rd.



September 30, 2016, 1:32 pm

Hi there! Our admissions decisions are made on a variety of factors, and the process is very holistic as described above so we do not have minimum requirements. I encourage you to apply since we will consider test scores, GPA, extracurricular involvement, and your essay in our review process.