I doubt I’ll be the first to say it, and I certainly won’t be the last: Congratulations! You’ve worked so hard for this, and it’s safe to say that you deserve it.
The next four years of your life, whether you choose to spend them at Illinois or not, are sure to be some of the most exciting. There will be a lot of changes—both good and bad. You’re going to get a lot of cliche advice over the next couple of months (which you should listen to, because it is true), but I’ll spare you the repetition. Instead, here are four things to look forward to if you choose to spend your next four years at Illinois.
1. Freshman Year: The Classroom
I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of classes I had to choose from my first year. Because I got to take a mix of general education courses and major courses, I could choose nearly anything from the 7,000+ classes Illinois offers. I went all in for things I was incredibly interested in: neurolinguistics, media, political philosophy, sign language, and more!
I learned so much that semester, one of those things being: your interests will change over time. Guess what? That’s okay. At Illinois, there’s usually (aka, don’t quote me on this) a lot of flexibility within your first year to change your major. I ended up changing my major FIVE times.
Want to take classes you’re interested in? Check. Want to be at a great school no matter what your major is? Double check.
2. Sophomore Year: The Friends
I met so many amazing people freshman year, but my group of friends really solidified my sophomore year.
I decided to live off-campus in an apartment with a couple of girls I barely knew who ended up becoming some of my best friends by the end of the year. With over 1,800 student groups on campus, I threw myself into the ones I found most interesting and met some amazing people. I also got a job on campus as a student tour guide, and met a bunch of great people there!
Getting to know so many people scaled down the size of the university and made it so every day I would see someone I knew walking across the Quad.
3. Junior Year: The Experiences
The summer before my junior year I had the opportunity to spend a month in Vienna, Austria studying governance of the European Union. I travelled with 16 other Illinois students and an Illinois professor.
This experience gave me a huge opportunity to practice independence and explore other cultures while still continuing my education. I met the most amazing people (hint: you make new friends every few months in college!) and learned so much about myself (and the efficacy of disability policy in the European Union, but I digress).
While you’re in college, so many doors will open with so many different opportunities. Walk through as many as you can, because they won’t be open for long.
4. Senior Year: Just About Everything Else
My last semester has been filled with the best and worst parts of college. A few all-nighters, a couple great assignments, and an acceptance letter to the graduate program of my dreams (hint: it’s Illinois!). I’ve had an awesome internship that has made me a better writer, worker, and person, and I’ve formed relationships that will last long after I graduate. I’ve been able to find balance between classes, work, and extracurriculars, and I’ve learned how to take time for myself.
College wasn’t always what I was expecting it to be, but I’ve learned that it’s okay. Most of the time, things turn out to be better than whatever you were expecting anyway.
While I still have a year and a half left (yay, grad school!), I am immensely proud of what I’ve accomplished during my time at Illinois.
I know you’ll be proud of the time you spend here too. Welcome to our family.