PREP at Illinois

The struggle is real! Many current and former students have grappled with being admitted into an alternative program at Illinois and later unsuccessfully attempting to transfer between programs (called intercollegiate transfer, or ICT) to some of our most competitive majors in the College of Engineering.

Beginning in Fall 2017, we hope to add to the clarity of the ICT process with the creation of a new Pre-Engineering Program (PREP for short). PREP provides a guaranteed path into the College of Engineering if a student follows a prescribed curriculum and achieves at least a 3.0 overall and technical GPA.

I’ve talked to several incoming students who were admitted into PREP. They have numerous questions about the purpose of the program, their chances of successfully transferring into a specific major, and what exactly all of this means. I’ve also heard from students who were not admitted into the College of Engineering or PREP but still want to get an engineering degree from Illinois. I hope to address several of these questions in this post.


PREP was created to address the frustration several students expressed with being admitted into the Division of General Studies or other colleges when they really wanted to be in the College of Engineering. Too many students were retaking introductory courses multiple times well into sophomore year in the hopes of improving on C grades. Many of these students were never successful in their applications to transfer to the College of Engineering, so we wanted to provide a clearer cutoff for who will get in and who won’t.

Who was considered for PREP?

Students were only considered for PREP if they applied directly to the College of Engineering as freshmen and had the academic performance in high school and competitive test scores to suggest placement into Calculus I or higher. Priority consideration for the program was given to Illinois residents.

How does PREP work?

PREP students will have access to specialized pre-engineering academic advising as well as introductory engineering courses their freshman year. They will be required to pay the engineering tuition differential.

Only PREP students will be eligible for ICT into the College of Engineering. Students who were admitted into non-PREP majors such as the Undecided major in the Division of General Studies will not be eligible for ICT into the College of Engineering and will be restricted from introductory engineering courses.

It is important to note that successful performance in PREP only guarantees admission into the College of Engineering, not necessarily into specific programs. The better a student does in PREP, the more programs become available to the student. Here are the specific program requirements:

Restricted Capacity Majors (minimum 3.75 overall and technical GPAs with competitive review based on space available)

  • Bioengineering
  • Computer Science
  • Mechanical Engineering

Limited Capacity Majors (3.5 overall and technical GPAs)

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Engineering

Moderate Capacity Majors (3.25 overall and technical GPAs)

  • Electrical Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering

Open Capacity Majors (3.0 overall and technical GPAs)

  • Agricultural & Biological Engineering
  • Engineering Mechanics
  • Engineering Physics
  • Materials Science & Engineering
  • Nuclear, Plasma & Radiological Engineering
  • Systems Engineering & Design (formerly General Engineering)

A student should only choose to enroll in PREP at Illinois if he or she is open to exploring all of the majors offered by the College of Engineering. As much as I hate to write this, if a student admitted to PREP only wants to pursue a degree in Bioengineering, Computer Science, or Mechanical Engineering without considering any of our other highly regarded programs, I would strongly encourage that student to enroll at another university.

Given the high demand, competitive applicant pool, and space limitations of these three programs, we cannot guarantee ICT for them. Even if a student meets the minimum 3.75 overall and technical GPA requirement, we estimate that the chances of successfully transferring into one of these three majors is less than 20 percent. In contrast, if a student has a minimum 3.5 overall and technical GPA and has followed the prescribed curriculum (which is not easy, by the way!), the chances of that student being admitted to a non-restricted major is 100 percent.

Can you apply to PREP later on?

Illinois students wishing to ICT into PREP from another non-engineering major will need to meet the following requirements:

  • Completion of MATH 220/221 with a grade of B or higher
  • Completion of CHEM 102/103 with a grade of B or higher
  • Completion of PHYS 100 or higher with a grade of B or higher
  • Overall GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Technical GPA of 3.0 or higher

They must submit an online application in late April and will be notified in early June after spring semester grades are reviewed. Students who fail to apply at the end of their freshman year or who are denied admission to PREP may not apply after the completion of their first year on campus.

As a new program at Illinois, PREP still has several unknowns that we won’t be able to address until at least one cohort goes through it. For more information about PREP, I would encourage you to visit our PREP webpage.

Best of luck!


Please note that comments close after 90 days.

Gautami Nerurkar

March 26, 2017, 5:23 pm

My daughter has been studying the PREP program process and it appears that the process is cumbersome, complicated and has uncertainty of outcome.

I have noticed, anecdotally, that local students are being encouraged to enroll in PREP program while international students are awarded seats in Engineering school.

As a tax paying citizen of Illinois, I wanted to request you to publish statistics around the percentage of international students and local students admitted to the top three programs in Engineering school along with their GPAs and SAT cut-off scores.


Dr. Andy Borst, Director of Undergraduate Admissions

March 31, 2017, 1:16 pm

Thank you for your comment, Gautami. It’s true that as a new program, there are still several unknowns about PREP that we will need to work through with this first cohort of students. Our hope is that PREP will be a better option than in the past when students who were not admitted into Engineering were admitted to General Studies without a guarantee of future admission.

We are currently working on sharing more detailed information about selectivity at the University of Illinois. However, in order to answer your request for more information, the acceptance rates of the restricted majors for Fall 2017 by residency were as follows:

Resident: 26.3%
Non-Resident: 28.6%
International: 9.8%

The average test score across all three groups was a 34 ACT. In our holistic review process, we do not have objective test score cutoffs. In fact, for our most selective programs, subjective criteria such as the essay and activities were more important in the admission decision than test scores and high school GPA.

We unfortunately did not have space to accommodate several very talented and accomplished applicants this year, which is a big reason why PREP will be so important in the clarity of helping students to find a major that best matches their interest and future career aspirations.

I hope this helps. If you or your daughter have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to email us or call us at 217-333-0302.


Hope Park

April 3, 2017, 7:39 am

If the student decides to not want to do PREP but instead wishes to be considered for their second choice major, what would the student have to do? Also, does that mean the student gives up his or her spot in PREP?


Dr. Andy Borst, Director of Undergraduate Admissions

April 3, 2017, 11:41 am

Hope, several students have asked this question, so thank you for bringing it up.

If a student admitted to PREP wants to be considered for their second-choice major, he or she should submit a Program Change Form. If the student is not admissible to the second-choice major, the chair of the review committee will work with the student to determine if PREP or General Studies non-PREP is a better fit.

Our recommendation is for students to remain in PREP unless the student is sure that he or she does not want to pursue a major in the College of Engineering. Students who are not in PREP will need to apply to PREP at the end of their freshman year and spend one semester in PREP before they are considered for a major in the College of Engineering.

The Program Change Form states that students forfeit their admission in submitting the form. However, because PREP is a new program, a student can be considered for his or her second choice without giving up a spot in PREP.

Every student’s situation is different and aspirations change, so we would encourage students to reach out to our staff to talk about available options before making the choice to submit a Program Change Form. Thanks again for a great question!


Cynthia Vaccarella

April 11, 2017, 9:02 am

Am I reading the post by Dr. Borst correctly; only 26.3% of freshman Illinois residents accepted into the top three undergraduate engineering majors at UIUC? Assuming a pool of candidates with qualifying test scores, in what holistic qualities are Illinois students considered deficient? Is it considered a reasonable statistic for a state land grand institution?

Consider the overall Fall 2016 freshman admissions for the most selective Big Ten university: Univeristy of Michigan. In-state students were accepted at a rate of 42.4 %, while out of state/international students were accepted at a rate of 24.5%

What is the formula for reflecting academic diversity while also acknowledging an institution as a state level, public university?


Dylan Borzym

April 12, 2017, 2:28 pm

So if I’m reading the article correctly, If I get a 4.0 GPA in the PREP program I have less than a 20 percent chance of getting into the Computer Science major?


Grace Gibson

April 19, 2017, 9:59 am

Is chemical and biomolecular engineering an option to transfer into from the prep program? And if so, what is the requirements like the minimum GPA to be guaranteed admission into that program?


Dr. Andy Borst, Director of Undergraduate Admissions

April 19, 2017, 4:38 pm

Good afternoon Cynthia,

You are reading the selectivity statistics correctly. Those three engineering majors were our most competitive this year as a first-choice option. I would not describe the holistic qualities of applicants from Illinois as lacking in a consistent way. We simply do not have the capacity to accommodate all of the very talented students who want to enroll in these programs.

As a function of considering students as individuals in the holistic review process, there really is not an appropriate selectivity statistic or diversity formula for us to compare the competitiveness of these majors against other institutions. We do view our role as a land-grant institution as an expectation to identify alternatives for students to demonstrate excellence in the classroom in PREP before transferring into the College of Engineering.

If you would like more information about the breakdown of enrollment by residency, I would encourage you to look at Enrollment Reports on our website at:


Dr. Andy Borst, Director of Undergraduate Admissions

April 19, 2017, 4:39 pm

Good afternoon Dylan,

We really can’t offer a gradient GPA breakdown of chances for later admission into Bioengineering, Computer Science, or Mechanical Engineering, because we honestly don’t know. We won’t know the actual chances until we have a cohort go through the program, and even then, the likelihood of admission will possibly change depending on the future competitiveness of the programs.

It would not be accurate to say that a 4.0 GPA gives you less than a 20 percent chance of future admission. It would be accurate to say that a 3.75 GPA give you less than a 20 percent chance and that your chances improve as your academic performance improves. So a 4.0 GPA should give you better than a 20 percent chance without a guarantee of successful transfer in the future. This is why I wanted to write this blog post and strongly encourage PREP students to only choose Illinois if they are open to exploring all of the majors offered by the College of Engineering.


Dr. Andy Borst, Director of Undergraduate Admissions

April 19, 2017, 4:40 pm

Good afternoon Grace,

PREP is only for majors in the College of Engineering. Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering programs are also highly selective programs and do not offer a guarantee for future transfer. I would encourage you to take a look at the intercollegiate transfer (ICT) guidelines in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences:

For students who enter Illinois as freshmen, students can ICT into Chemical Engineering or Biomolecular Engineering after their first year. Students must maintain a 3.1 GPA or higher, complete two of the three courses in CHBE 221, 321, or 421 with a C or higher in each course, and submit an approved graduation plan, which an academic advisor or faculty member can help you to develop.


Jim Brennan

April 21, 2017, 4:19 pm

My daughter is a junior and interested in Illinois engineering program (Industrial). Her grandfather is a member of the alumni on good standing. We are limited in our ability to visit and wanted to arrange a campus visit in July. Do you do summer visits? Is there a legacy program? Thank you.


Dr. Andy Borst, Director of Undergraduate Admissions

April 23, 2017, 7:52 am

Good morning Jim,

I am thrilled to hear that your daughter is considering our highly regarded Industrial Engineering program. We do host visits throughout the summer, although we will be closing the visit calendar for a week in late May for some office renovations to our visitor center. You can find information about general campus visits as well as tours that focus on the North Engineering Quad at the following website:

While we do always like to hear stories about the children and grandchildren of Illini alumni, we do not offer a legacy program. Out of fairness to all of our applicants, legacy status is not a factor in our admissions review and our readers are not able to view legacy status in applicant files. Best wishes!