University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College Experience

Kathryn earned her bachelor’s degree in molecular and integrative physiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She specializes in science tutoring, Algebra 2 tutoring, and a number of other subjects. Below, she shares her experience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options. 

Kathryn: I loved the University of Illinois’ campus. While there were some departments that had buildings that were farther away, almost everything was centrally located and easy to get to. Plus, the campus and the surrounding area were charming, with lots of tree-lined streets and beautiful buildings.

I always felt safe on campus. Everything was well-lit and there were always people around. Of course, you should be careful when walking alone late at night, but honestly I never felt unsafe on campus.

Most of the time you could walk wherever you needed to go, but there is a free campus bus system. I also had a bike that I sometimes took to class, but it certainly wasn’t a necessity. The campus had an extensive system of bike paths, which was convenient. A car was not necessary on campus and I didn’t have one until I moved into an apartment my junior year. It was really only useful for heading off campus or to drive back to Chicago. I never drove on campus and, in fact, it was discouraged because of limited parking.

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

Kathryn: Many professors and TAs offered office hours so that you could get help if you needed it. I probably didn’t take advantage of this as much as I should have, but it was definitely available. Every department had academic advisers and I never had a problem getting an appointment if I needed one. I didn’t meet with them that often, but I always had a good experience.

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

Kathryn: I loved living in the dorms for two years. The dorms themselves varied quite a lot. Some had large rooms, some were in beautiful buildings, and some were a little more institutional. I lived in two different dorms, PAR and LAR. PAR was nice, but it was plain. LAR was much nicer and also much closer to campus; I definitely preferred living there.

The dining rooms were what you would expect for dorm food. It was fine, but not great. They did have rotating specialty food nights in the different dorms that provided some alternative options.

I think all the dorms provide good opportunities for socialization. People often left their doors open when they were home so you could walk around and meet others. This encouraged you to get to know your neighbors.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Kathryn: I can’t speak to all of the departments in the school, but most of my friends were in various STEM departments. Those all seemed to be well-supported, especially engineering and computer science.

I studied molecular and integrative physiology, which was a part of the biology department. I chose to study this because I had always loved science, and after taking the intro biology classes, I found that physiology was my favorite part. I had a great experience in the physiology department; I found the professors to be friendly and interested in the success of the students.

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?

Kathryn: I found it fairly easy to make friends as a freshman. I met people in the dorms, in class, in the cafeteria, and through mutual friends. Almost everyone is looking to increase their social circle and make new friends. This helps take the pressure off of you because everyone has the same goal and is interested in meeting new people.

Greek life did play a fairly large role in campus life, but I did not participate and I don’t feel that negatively impacted my experience. I had some friends who were in the Greek system and they enjoyed it.

How helpful are the Career Center and other student support services? 

Kathryn: I cannot really comment on the Career Center because my plan was to continue my education after graduating, so I was more focused on services that helped prepare me for applying to institutions, such as medical and graduate school. There were advisers to help with both of those processes and I found them to be friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful.

I do know several of my friends, especially those in engineering or computer science, had success finding jobs though on-campus job fairs.

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?

Kathryn: The University of Illinois has one of the largest university libraries in the country. There are several large main libraries, as well as many smaller departmental libraries located all over campus. I was always able to find a place to study whenever I needed to. Since there are so many libraries, all with different atmospheres, you could be sure to find a library that worked for you.

The student union was a great place to spend time between classes or to meet up with friends. There were several large rooms with comfortable couches and chairs, a library, a coffee shop, a food court, and a bowling alley. The union also hosted events, such as concerts.

Describe the surrounding town.  

Kathryn: I loved that U of I was located in a smaller town. It’s a bit different than going to a university with an urban campus. Personally, I liked the feeling of campus being its own separate place. It kind of made me stay focused on the college experience and feel like I was immersed in it. It also made me more involved in campus life and in meeting people.

When I was at U of I, I felt like students tended to stay more on campus, but there were definitely areas of the surrounding town where students would go to see concerts, movies, dine out, or shop.

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

Kathryn: The university had a very large student population, including both undergraduate and graduate students. I loved that the university was so large, because it meant that you got to meet a diverse group of people, all of whom had different experiences and points of view. I was generally pleased with the class sizes. I had some classes that took place in large lecture halls and some that had less than 10 students. Even the larger lectures, though, usually had an accompanying study section that was a smaller class led by a TA, so you could get more individualized attention.

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

Kathryn: My favorite professor was Dr. Esmail Meisami, who was in the physiology department. He was so enthusiastic and friendly, and had such a passion for helping students become as excited about science as he was. I always loved his class because he didn’t just stand up and lecture, he made you want to be involved in the class. He always appeared so happy and I found him to be one of the most approachable professors. Part of the reason I chose to major in physiology was because I enjoyed his classes so much.


Check out Kathryn’s tutoring profile.

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