My Experience at 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. Michael received his Bachelor’s degree in Earth Systems, Environment and Society from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently a tutor in Portland specializing in ACT Science tutoring, Earth Science tutoring, Environmental Science tutoring, and several other subjects. See what he had to say about his experience at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

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?

Michael: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is in a classic college town setting, about three hours south of Chicago. Although relatively urban, the campus itself is typically safe. The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District provides free buses to students. The buses go all over campus, and it is very easy to get around without a car or bike. Most buildings are within walking distance of the on-campus housing options.

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

Michael: Though it depends on the size of the class and a student’s given major, the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants all typically make themselves available to students on a regular basis. It may be difficult to receive a lot of one-on-one attention from a professor in a larger class, but these courses often have smaller lab or discussion sections in which teaching assistants are available. It will be easier to access your academic adviser if you are enrolled in a smaller, newer major.

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

Michael: There are a variety of dorms all across campus. They all offer good dining options and plenty of opportunities to socialize with other students – including access to different clubs, intramural sports, etc. Depending on the dorm you choose, rooms can range from a rudimentary summer camp feel to a plush hotel (including private bathrooms).

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?

Michael: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is known mostly for its Business (specifically Accounting) and Engineering programs, which are both considered top-tier. I majored in Earth Systems, Environment and Society (ESES) and minored in History during my time there. ESES was a brand new major when I was there, and I chose to study it because the coursework in Environmental Science, Geology, Geography, and other fields appealed to me. Since the major was brand new, the program went through some growing pains during my time on campus, but I think the university did a good job overall.

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?

Michael: I met many individuals around the dorms that I still stay in contact with to this day. It was pretty easy for me to meet people and make new friends as a freshman, in part because I made the decision to join a social fraternity. Greek life plays a significant role in campus social life, but it is by no means necessary. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has the largest Greek system in the country, but there are so many other options for meeting people.

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

Michael: Once again, this would depend on the major, but University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign seemed to have great student support services, and there were always different career fairs to attend. Many reputable companies do recruit on campus, specifically in the areas of Finance and Business.

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

Michael: At any big school like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, crowding can be an issue in libraries and other study areas. This is especially the case at the Undergraduate Library. However, there are many other areas that are open to all students – including the Grainger Engineering Library – that frequently have ample space.

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? 

Michael: The total population of the Champaign-Urbana area is just around 230,000, which makes it more than just a small, quaint college town. As such, it has many of the amenities and nightlife options that larger towns offer. Since there are great bars and concert venues right on campus, many students stay near campus.

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

Michael: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a large public school, and its undergraduate enrollment is close to 33,000. Personally, I enjoyed being at a larger school, and I took the opportunity to meet many individuals. However, large class sizes are an unavoidable reality at a larger school. Having said that, I was generally pleased with my class sizes, and I was still able to enroll in plenty of classes with a smaller number of students.

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

Michael: One of my favorite courses was Geology 103 with Dr. Michael Stewart. I thoroughly enjoyed his teaching style and the content of the course. One day, he decided to take half of a class session to talk about ESES, a new major that I eventually decided to enroll in based upon my experience in his class. I do not regret that decision at all!

Check out Michael’s tutoring profile.

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