What Does it Take to Get Into the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign?

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One of the country’s top public research universities, the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, also knowns as U of I or simply Illinois, is alma mater to more than 450,000 living alumni, including:


  • Nick Offerman
  • Suze Orman
  • Temple Grandin
  • Jesse Jackson


In-state students with an annual family income of $61,000 or less enjoy free tuition, and the university offers competitive programs and tuition to all students.


What does it take to get into this prestigious public university? Read on to find out.


Applying to the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign: A Quick Review


Notably, Illinois does not accept the Common App but does accept Coalition Application. Applicants may also complete the Illinois-specific application through myIllini. Along with their applications, students should submit:


  • Essays
  • Test scores (SAT/ACT; does not require SAT writing and recommends the ACT writing portion only for teaching licensure program)


Students apply to one of nine colleges or schools within Illinois:


  • College of Agricultural, Consumer, & Environmental Sciences
  • College of Applied Health Sciences
  • Gies College of Business
  • College of Education
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Fine & Applied Arts
  • College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • College of Media
  • Division of General Studies
  • School of Social Work


The university has certain high school curriculum requirements and recommendations. These include:



You should follow the recommendations for coursework since it will increase your odds of acceptance. There are also additional requirements for some majors.


University of Illinois – Urbana-ChampaignAcceptance Rate: How Difficult Is It to Get In?


With an admissions rate of 62%, Illinois is moderately selective. Do keep in mind that most students are in-state, however.


  • Standardized Test Scores (middle 50% range):
  • ACT Score: 27-33
  • SAT Score (no writing): 1270-1480
  • TOEFL: 102-110
  • GPA (unweighted): 3.38-3.90


Some colleges within U of I have more competitive admissions statistics. For example, consider the College of Engineering:


  • ACT Score: 32-35
  • SAT Score (no writing): 1430-1530
  • TOEFL: 106-113
  • GPA: 3.70-4.00


You can see how your scores compare to those of the freshmen class within specific schools here.

So, How Does One Get Into the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign?


1. Have a clearly defined goal and path.


When you apply to Illinois, you will need to give a first- and second-choice major and explain why you’ve selected them, as well as the activities you’ve done that correlate to your chosen major and demonstrate your skills and intellectual curiosity. Also, keep in mind that the adcom will consider your application in the context of the school to which you apply, and each one has different criteria for admission. For example, Gies College of Business wants to see strong math coursework, including Calculus, and leadership.


Remember: Your major is not set in stone; you are not declaring it now. However, you should be applying to the school that best correlates to your strengths.


2. Take the most rigorous curriculum available to you.


This is true of most competitive colleges, and Illinois specifically states that it considers the AP and honors courses that are available to you. This also means if you performed worse in a challenging class, it won’t necessarily be a strike against you (however, performing well in a regular class is preferential to performing very poorly in an advanced class).


Academic strength is one of the most important admissions factors at many colleges, and that includes both high school transcript and standardized test scores; in fact, these factors can also help you earn scholarships and automatic admission into the Honors Program without having to submit a separate application.


3. Express individuality.


Illinois considers diversity, veteran status, geographic location, and first-generation status, among other characteristics. Be sure to describe any unique experiences that may have impacted your performance, since they could bolster your application or explain any weaknesses in it. For example, if you struggled academically for a semester because you had to care for a sick parent, you should be sure to let the adcom know.


What If You Get Rejected?


Being denied admission to any college, particularly one of your top choices, is disappointing. Still, it’s important to take a step back and regroup. If you get rejected from Illinois, here’s what you can do:


Take a gap year or transfer in. If you had your heart set on Illinois or received bad news from the other colleges on your list, one option is to take a gap year and reapply next admissions cycle. If you do decide to go this route, make sure you have a productive plan for the year. You might undertake a research project, volunteer, study to improve your SAT scores, or take classes at a local college. Do know, however, that this path is risky, as taking a gap year won’t ensure your acceptance the second time around.


You could also begin your studies at another institution with the hopes of transferring. U of I has around 1,350 transfer students annually, some of whom transfer from other universities within the Illinois system. Keep in mind the minimum GPA requirements for transferring to a program.


Keep it in perspective. Even if Illinois was your top choice, chances are, you’ll find a way to make a college that did accept you work. College really is what you make of it, and if you put effort into adjusting to another school by joining clubs, working hard in your classes, and cultivating a social life, you’ll likely find that you can make a fulfilling college experience for yourself, even if you end up at a college that wasn’t your top choice.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.