An early welcome to the Class of 2017

Congratulations, admitted students to the Class of 2017, on your admission to the University of Illinois! Many of you may have already signed, sealed and delivered your decision to join us on campus next fall. Others are likely waiting to hear back from a few schools before making a decision. In any situation, you have accomplished something that thousands of students did not and millions around the world will never even consider. By that I mean you have earned acceptance into a world-class University.

At a glance, the University has given you a bevy of appealing numbers that might help to convince you to move to Champaign-Urbana in the fall. Thirteenth best public university in the country. Third most recruited undergrads in the country, 14th most students who study abroad. 1,000-plus registered student organizations to join. The list could go on and the numbers are just as impressive. 

However, I realize that most high school seniors cannot and will not be persuaded by a list of numbers. There are so many factors to consider when making a decision as monumental as going to college.

In fact, when I was applying during my senior year of high school, I applied to an excessive number of colleges. I believe the grand total ended up at 13. Some were Big Ten schools. Others were colleges located in urban meccas. Others I applied to because the application was free and I thought I might as well just apply. The main reason I applied to so many schools, though, was to give myself as many options that were not the University of Illinois. 

You see, I am the youngest of four children, and all three of my older sisters attended the University. After six years of moving my sisters in and out of dorms, apartments and sorority houses, I thought it was time to break the pattern and be different. My visits brought me to three different cities and a total of eight schools. After each school I thought to myself, “This is it,” and would subsequently purchase a T-shirt or sweatshirt at the school’s bookstore. After avoiding it for as long as I possibly could, my parents forced me to take one last visit to Champaign for the College of Media’s Mediapalooza event. 

That day changed my life, and I saw Illinois with a different set of eyes. I was no longer a little brother or a prospective high school student — I was an admitted freshman being courted to attend a world-class university. As I walked the Quad, I felt as though I was in a movie. Students were reading under trees, playing Frisbee and soaking in the sun.

As you might guess, I saw some variation of this at each school I visited. On that day, though, something was different about Illinois. And, as I now know, something is different about Illinois.

While many universities may hope to woo you with flashy amenities and brand-new buildings, Illinois is most proud of its people. The typical Illinois student is unlike those at any other college. We are one of the most eclectic student bodies in every way possible. Aside from being diverse racially, economically and geographically, we are most diverse in our interests. You might find an engineering student who manages to go out four nights a week despite endless homework. You might find an English major who has always loved building computers on the side. You might even find a student athlete who happens to love fashion.

This culture of diversity is made possible by the endless opportunities on this campus. I recently overheard someone say, “If you don’t find your place at Illinois, you might not be able to anywhere else.” While this sounds harsh, it is also completely accurate, as there is, quite literally, an outlet for any interest you might imagine. More importantly, though, it is through these opportunities that you build friendships that will last a lifetime.

I realize that my opinion and those stats may not be enough to persuade you to attend the University. However, I can promise you that if you attend Illinois with an open heart and mind, you will grow intellectually, thrive socially and expand your horizons beyond anything you might think is possible now.

If that’s not enough, we also have some outstanding amenities and even more new buildings.

Congratulations again and welcome home.

John is a junior in Media. He can be reached at jbuyss2@dailyillini.com.