The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Transfer students enhance UI’s spirit

James Hoeck
The sun shines on the Office of Undergraduate Admissions building located at 901 W. Illinois St, Urbana on Monday afternoon shortly after the fountain turns on.

From participating in school spirit to starting a registered student organization, transfer students are recognized as an integral part of the University’s infrastructure. Despite making up only 4% of the University’s population, many transfer students have not shied away from getting involved.

With the Oct. 15 deadline for the Spring 2024 transfer applications approaching, current transfer students have spent time reflecting on their experiences at the University thus far.

Jada Allen, senior in LAS, spends her time as an I STAR tour guide and working as the founder of The Commu.n.i.ty — a networking RSO aimed toward spreading cultural awareness and fostering the Black community at the University.

“This school was top 10 for their psychology program, so that really stuck out to me,” Allen said. “I got my associate’s at (Malcolm X) College in Chicago, so it was time for me to transfer out. I got enough credits there, and I’ve always wanted to come to U of I.”

Illinois ranked number eight in the nation for undergraduate psychology programs, according to the Social Psychology Network.

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Allen’s passion for the University shines through on her tours to prospective students. She said she was inspired by the tour guides she saw in action before she joined I STAR. 

“They’re advocating for the school because they actually care and actually had a good experience,” Allen said. “I saw them and I was like, ‘They look happy to do that. I can make someone happy. I want to make other people happy.’”

The University accepted 47.1% of its Fall 2021 applicants, with just over 63% choosing to enroll. As the competitiveness for admission increases with each semester, the number of transfer applicants continues to increase from year to year.

“I just applied, and when I got accepted I just took a leap of faith and I’m so glad I did,” said Gwen Bottom, sophomore in Social Work.

The School of Social work requires a GPA of 2.50 in order to apply for transfer admission. Every college within the University has different GPA requirements for their transfer students, ranging from a minimum of 2.25 for admission to the College of Fine and Applied Arts to a GPA of 3.50 for prospective Grainger College of Engineering students.

Owen Skarbalus and Abigail Estrada-Hernandez, juniors in LAS, spoke highly of their transfer experiences, having experienced their first semester at a state university after two years at different institutions.

“I’m currently involved in the Society of Women in Public Affairs,” Estrada-Hernandez said. “It’s essentially assisting women gain more experience with the governmental policy lens, which I really like. I think these RSOs are giving me an insight to the bigger community at U of I.”

SWPA’s Linkedin page outlines its goals as a professional and social organization to help women flourish in public affairs endeavors through professionalism, diversity, public relations, sisterhood and service.

Owen Skarbalus is pursuing a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language and has enjoyed working with the Station Theatre in his free time since arriving in Champaign-Urbana. 

“I went to help out at one of their light calls on Sunday, and then I’m auditioning for them too,” Skarbalus said. “It’s a nice found space theater. It’s built out of a train station.”

Skarbalus said he was excited to find a piano in the basement of the Illini Union and often goes there to play in his free time. He also expressed gratitude for the walkability and accessibility of campus, along with its proximity to many local eateries where he explores between classes.

From football games to sporting orange and blue outside of the stadium, these students shared a sense of school spirit as they compared their experiences at their previous institutions with their current time at the University.

“At first for me, I was like, ‘This is cringey,’” Allen said. “It’s overwhelmingly real how much spirit people have here. At first, I thought there was no way I was going to be like that, but I’m definitely like that now. I’m super involved with the athletics and just wearing that orange and blue.”

Beyond school spirit, Estrada-Hernandez observed what she found many Illinois students have in common. 

“One thing I noticed in comparison to other institutions is that the students really have deep passions,” Estrada-Hernandez said. “I noticed that a lot of students are really passionate about any endeavors they want to take on and that they’re really ambitious.”

When examining local transfer opportunities, the Parkland Pathway to Illinois program could stand out for many C-U residents. 

The Parkland Pathway program is a program at the local community college that enables Illinois high school graduates or GED recipients to enroll at Parkland College and smoothly transfer to the University of Illinois after receiving their associate’s degree.

Ellen Elghammer, an admissions advisor at Parkland College, works specifically with the program.

“It is a very unique and interesting program where students are basically a dual enrollment student at both institutions,” Elghammer explained. “They’re gonna take most of their hours here at Parkland, whether that be online or in person that’s up to them, and then they’re allowed to take one class per semester … at the University.”

As a transfer student herself, Elghammer said she is able to empathize with her students and create a supportive environment that encourages their academic success. 

“Honestly, there’s a lot of conceptions about community college and transferring,” she said. “Just look at what you want out of the college process.”

Whether it be from community college, another state school or a small private institution, most transfer students have unique stories to tell that contribute to the colorful spirit of the University.

“I came because it gave me that college feel you see in the movies,” Allen said. “It really is like that. People are jogging through campus or sitting on the grass talking to their friends. It’s so lovely.”


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About the Contributors
Sam Gregerman
Sam Gregerman, Senior Feature Reporter
Hi! My name is Sam, and I’m a sophomore majoring in English with a minor in creative writing. I was hired as a features writer in Fall 2023 after transferring to Illinois, and I began writing for buzz at the beginning of Spring 2024. I’m very excited to step into the role of Senior Feature Reporter and continue my contributions to The Daily Illini! If I’m not in the office, I’m probably next door at the Pi Phi house where I live, reading or watching reality TV. If you have any Champaign-Urbana events or topics you’d like covered, please send me an email using the button below! It is my goal to amplify community voices to the best of my ability.
James Hoeck
James Hoeck, Photo Editor
Heyo! I am James Hoeck, a third-year undergraduate student in photography with a minor in media. I have been a part of Illini Media for two years, starting back in fall 2021. I hold the position of Photo Editor here at The Daily Illini. I also work as Photo Editor for Illini Media’s Illio Yearbook. There is a good chance you will see me out and about on campus taking photos for my personal work or for The DI and/or Illio! If you want to check out more of my work, visit my socials linked below.
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