2022 First-Year Accept/Decline Survey

Each year we send a survey to all admitted undergraduate students who accept or decline their offer of admission. Our goal is to understand why students choose to come to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign or choose to go elsewhere, and what matters most when making that decision. We also try to assess how UIUC performs when it comes to counseling, communications, customer service, and more. Full accept survey results and full decline survey results are available to the R&Y Network and can be filtered several ways, including by college. This report provides an overview of key insights, takeaways, and recommendations.

Survey Participation

  • 3,222 accepts
    • 2,133 Illinois residents
    • 462 domestic non-residents
    • 627 international
    • 654 underrepresented
  • 1,544 declines
    • 606 Illinois residents
    • 693 domestic non-residents
    • 245 international
    • 280 underrepresented

Main Takeaways

  • Cost remains the number-one reason why students decline their offer. 26% of all declines, 35% of underrepresented declines, and 45% of African American declines (the highest percentage in the past five years) say cost “extremely” influenced their decision not to attend UIUC.
  • The reputation of our individual majors is critical. “Major Reputation” is ranked as a top decision factor for both accepts and declines, outranked only by “Outcomes” for accepts and “Cost” for declines.
  • Brand building across multiple audiences should be a top priority. 82% of accepts and 74% of declines say they first heard of UIUC from a friend or family member.
  • Overall perception of UIUC improves throughout the college search process. 85% of all accepts and 86% of underrepresented accepts say their opinion of UIUC is slightly better or significantly better than it was last year. 67% of all declines and 66% of underrepresented declines feel the same.
  • Students are seeing and remembering our ads. 77% of all respondents recall seeing an ad about UIUC in the past 12 months (a majority being on social media or search).
  • COVID did not impact students’ decisions, but it did impact their well-being. 81% of accepts and 83% of declines reported that the way universities responded to COVID did not impact their decision. 81% of all respondents reported that the pandemic impacted their mental and emotional health.

Brand Awareness and Exposure

Most respondents, including non-residents and international students, report first hearing about UIUC from a friend or family member, which underscores the importance of brand building beyond just high school students. An equally large majority report having seen or heard advertising about UIUC in the past 12 months. Considering most admits already know about us from friends and family, our ads play an important role in reinforcing the brand.

First Exposure to UIUC

Data includes accepts and declines.

Ad Recall, Past 12 Months

Data includes accepts and declines.

Brand Perception

Survey respondents across all demographics have a favorable view of UIUC. This isn’t surprising, since these students applied and were admitted. However, it’s worth noting that a majority of those who decline our offer of admission still report positively across all brand perception questions. In fact, 88.5% of declines indicate a likeliness to recommend UIUC to others. Our brand is strong, but our goal should always be to strengthen it further.

Overall Rating of UIUC

Opinion of UIUC, Past 12 Months

Likelihood of Recommending UIUC

Brand Comparison

When compared to other universities, accepts and declines rank our academics very well. 85% of accepts and 62% of declines say UIUC’s level of education is better than other universities. Other aspects of UIUC such as campus life and safety are viewed as better by accepts but similar to other universities by declines. 73% of accepts say UIUC’s campus life is better than other universities and 38% of declines agree, but 38% of declines say it’s about the same.

Level of Education at UIUC vs. Other Universities

Graduate Success at UIUC vs. Other Universities

UIUC Campus Life vs. Other Universities

UIUC Campus Safety vs. Other Universities


Are we meeting the expectations of our admits? Are they satisfied? Overall, yes, we are. 92% of accepts and 70.5% of declines are satisfied or very satisfied with UIUC. That number is even higher for underrepresented accepts (93%), but slightly lower for underrepresented declines (66%). These numbers make sense based on everything else we know from the survey. UIUC is highly rated by a vast majority of our respondents across all demographics, and the number-one reason why students decline is cost. Cost is more of a factor for underrepresented students; therefore, we should not be surprised when underrepresented accepts are the most satisfied and underrepresented declines are the least. Some underrepresented students are getting what they need to attend, while others are not.

UIUC Meeting Expectations

Overall Satisfaction with UIUC

Application Experience

Students who decline our offer of admission tend to apply to more schools than our accepts and report that UIUC was not their top choice. When asked to rate various aspects of their application experience, students show us what is most applicable to them. The notice of admission, myIllini, and access to major information are at the top of the list, while social media, direct mail, and communication with staff from their major are at the bottom. Items at the bottom aren’t necessarily performing poorly; they simply aren’t applicable to many students.

Number of Other Universities Considered

UIUC as Top Choice

Satisfaction of Application Experience, Accepts

Satisfaction of Application Experience, Declines