Outstanding Student

“Find your one niche. Once you find that base of security you can open up to everything else that is on campus and enjoy all the diversity that is here.”

When she arrived at Illinois, Rebecca Harris was a bit overwhelmed at the size of the campus and the student body. Each year the campus welcomes some 7,000 new students from across the country and around the world, all of whom had excelled in high school. About half of these students had ACT scores between 25 and 30 and graduated in the top 10 percent of their class.

books on a library shelfBut Rebecca quickly became comfortable living at Allen Hall and meeting more new friends through the Campus Honors Program. Her advice: “Find your one niche. Once you find that base of security you can open up to everything else that is on campus and enjoy all the diversity that is here.”

Rebecca’s experience was typical of new Illinois students. Intimidation was quickly followed by fascination as she began to explore the large campus and all it has to offer. For instance, the eight colleges and one institute available to undergraduate students offer 4000 courses and 150 programs of study. During her freshman year, Rebecca took a Campus Honors biology class that was so interesting she changed her major from accounting to biology.

books on a library shelfAfter finding faculty mentors in biology, Rebecca began a research project exploring the relationship between estrogen and breast cancer. Her junior year research was financed by the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which is awarded to 310 students nationally who are planning careers in mathematical, engineering, or scientific research.

Her explorations led to other great activities as well. In her first few days on the campus, Rebecca joined Illini Synchro, a student run synchronized swimming club. She had been a competitive swimmer in high school, and this was a way for her to continue swimming during college.

books on a library shelfShe participates in the “Lunch Bunch,” a group of student leaders who meet monthly with the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs to discuss campus issues from a student perspective, and in her final semesters at Illinois Rebecca got involved in the larger community by coaching kids’ soccer teams with the Champaign Park District.

Outstanding students choose Illinois for its academic excellence, but they discover opportunities that help them transition from great students to great citizens.