What is it Like to Attend University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Ryan is a Chicago tutor who specializes in College Essay prep tutoring, World History tutoring, Geometry, and more. He graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008 with a degree in Political Science and History. See what he had to say about his alma mater:

VT:  Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Ryan: The setting is downstate away from the hustle and bustle of the Chicago area in the quiet towns of Champaign and Urbana. It is a safe campus and the bus system is very reliable. The campus is quite large but not so spread out so that you may walk, bike, or bus around campus in a timely manner. I would not recommend a car unless you live off campus, as on-campus parking is expensive and it is difficult to find a parking spot.

VT:  How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Ryan: For such a large university, U of I is very personable. I found that I was able to talk to professors, AA’s, and TA’s whenever I needed to do so. 

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Ryan: U of I has the largest Greek (fraternity/sorority) system in the country. Socialization opportunities are widespread. The dorms are O.K., and they are large so that you will find that you have an increased opportunity to find your “niche’ of friends. Many restaurants on campus, and many places deliver very late. 

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Ryan: I would have to say that U of I is best known for its Engineering and Computer Science programs. If this is your interest, a job after graduation is guaranteed. I studied Political Science and History in the Liberal Arts and Sciences College. Renowned scholars are in this area, and U of I has a world-class reputation in its LAS programs. I entered graduate school with the tools to succeed because of U of I, and am rapidly approaching attaining my PhD.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Ryan: As mentioned above, U of I has a large Greek system. I myself did not join a fraternity, as I had many friends from high school also attending U of I. I also befriended many people on my dorm floor. As U of I is a large school, I would say making friends as a freshman is easier than other schools.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Ryan: U of I is Illinois’ flagship university. I can’t think of a company that does not come to campus looking for employees.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges?  Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Ryan: Libraries can get overcrowded at night, so get there early. There are plenty of them, however, so you can find your favorite! There are enough places to study. I would recommend staying away from dorm lounges, as they usually end up being social forums and you can’t get much studying done. Libraries, coffee shops, and the student union are where I went to study. 

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Ryan: Champaign-Urbana is a small dual-city area of about 100,000 people. It is compact and small and easy to navigate. The town offers everything that a Chicago suburb may, but other than that there is not anything that really stands out about the area. Campus is the best part of town, so I recommend staying close. Besides, you are there to study anyway, right?

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes? 

Ryan: Lectures can be huge. My biggest class had nearly 800 students. However, you are also assigned a discussion section with a TA for each large class so that you can have the personal and small class setting as well. These are usually about 30 students per class. The upper-tier classes when you are a junior and senior are smaller and more personalized.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most. 

Ryan: My favorite class was a political science class with Professor Scott Althaus. It was on the science of campaigning. We did real-world statistics and marketing strategies to learn how campaign managers do what they do and win elections; a very interesting and very real-world applicable class. 


Check out Ryan’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.