Illinois graduates dress in cap and gown, ready to commemorate their time on campus with preparing for the University-wide Commencement in the days ahead.

Student Success at UIUC

Ah, success. Something you’ve probably heard about before, and something everybody talks about. Maybe the idea of it motivates you. Maybe you already have a goal you’re working towards. Or maybe trying to figure out what exactly it looks like and how to achieve it stresses you out.

Here’s the thing about success: There’s no universal definition. How you measure it depends on your personal goals, values, and priorities. With endless possibilities, we’re here to share just some of the ways success can come from a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign experience. Let’s go!

Current Student Success

It may feel like a lofty goal, something that only becomes a possibility after you graduate, when you wake up one day suddenly living in a NYC high-rise, 13 Going on 30 style. But success is something you can start cultivating as soon as you step on campus!

One way our current students find success is through research. They assist professors at the top of their fields, collaborate with graduate student mentors, and investigate projects of their own. Even as undergraduates, work they do contributes to solving real-world problems and making an impact in a big way.

Growing up in India, Mihir built his own 3-D printer and even a robot that can disinfect entire rooms! He used this experience as a springboard to UIUC, where he now does research on electromagnetically actuated spines.

Another way students find success is through internships. Going through the process—cultivating references and interviewing—is an effort to be proud of no matter what. If you secure the position? Well, that’s just another feather in your cap, as it shows how your past accomplishments have collected and paid off to get you where you are today.

Beyond academic successes, Illini also take on leadership roles. Students gain experience as Resident Advisors (RAs), teaching assistants, and board members of different Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). Using these opportunities, as well as tools from the Leadership Center, students learn what it means to be involved and be great leaders early in their careers.

Kennedy started her own student group on campus—a mentoring program for pre-med students. She saw a need and took the initiative, and now students will benefit for years to come!

And perhaps most importantly, we want to talk about the success that comes from everyday life in college. Passing the big exam, surviving the hardest class in your major, or learning an abundance of new things in classes you enjoy are all reasons to celebrate! There’s something to be said for doing your best each day and coming out the other side with a degree you’re proud of.


Remember what we just talked about, how current students are already finding success in their own ways? Well, the word is out, and employers want to hire Illini. Like, really badly.

Throughout the year, the Career Center, as well as different colleges like Liberal Arts and Sciences, Grainger Engineering, Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, and Gies Business, host career fairs for students to connect with top employers. Bust out your best blazer, dust off that resume, and be amazed that 92 Fortune 100 companies want to recruit you. (That’s how many Fortune 100 companies recruited Illini last year!)

Hoping to gain hands-on experience, Chase took advantage of ACES career fairs. He landed a marketing internship and spent two summers with John Deere before being offered a full-time position.

And whether or not you land a job at the career fair or from an internship, don’t sweat! Last year, a whopping 95% of Illini graduates had secured a first destination of employment, additional education, or volunteer/service work within six months of graduation. To see some of the great places students end up, check out our Illini success report.

Long-Term Success

Being an Illini sets you up for more than just a great first job upon graduation—it also sets you up for success in the long term.

Take, for example, Eli Murray, a 2015 graduate from the College of Media. His reporting on toxic hazards at a battery recycling plant in Florida with his team earned him the esteemed Pulitzer Prize only seven years after graduating UIUC. Or Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, two of the three co-founders of a little website we’re guessing you may have heard of before, YouTube.

Now, let’s be perfectly clear: You don’t need to rack up awards like Pulitzers and Nobels or create a life-changing technology to consider yourself a successful UIUC alumni. Taking what you learn as a student and putting it toward something you’re passionate about sounds like a pretty good definition of success to us.

Recent alumni Megan used her kinesiology degree as a springboard to medical school—something that had always been her goal. Karidia’s children motivated her to continue her education, which led her to obtain her bachelor’s in communications and kickstart her dream career.

Everyone has their own path to graduation, and although Karidia’s was one less traveled, her perseverance, dedication, and the knowledge that she belonged at UIUC have helped her thrive. Now Karidia looks forward to everything still to come!

Jonathan took on the challenge of being a first-generation student and turned it into a job at Boeing, where he has ample opportunity for personal growth and research according to his interests. Mackenzie didn’t listen when people doubted her as a computer science major. Instead, she worked hard, made the most of the opportunities in front of her, and ended up landing a full-time position with Microsoft.

When she first came to UIUC, Mackenzie felt unsure of whether or not she belonged in computer science as a woman. But after competing in HackIllinois with her friends, she realized she was in the right place.

So there it is, a story of success told in many parts and many different ways by Illini students past and present. If there’s anything to take away from this, it’s that the keys to success are in your hands the moment you step on campus, no matter how you choose to define it. With hard work, passion, and the entire UIUC family behind you, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. We can’t wait to see it!

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  • Success at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is about discovering your passions, gaining knowledge, building meaningful connections, and becoming a well-rounded individual ready to make a positive impact on the world. Go Illini! 🎓🔶🔷

  • Wow, those are all truly amazing, inspiring stories. I hope I will hold a candle to them one day!