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. This report provides an overview of key insights, takeaways, and recommendations.

Survey Participation

  • 601 accepts
  • 57 declines

Main Takeaways

  • Cost remains the number-one reason why students decline their offer. 58% of declines said cost was very much a reason why they chose to decline their offer of admission and 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 “University Reputation” for accepts and “Cost” for declines.
  • Brand building across multiple audiences should be a top priority. 83% of accepts and 67% of declines say they first heard of UIUC from a friend or family member.
  • Students are seeing and remembering our ads. 76% of all respondents recall seeing an ad about UIUC in the past 12 months (a majority being on social media or search).
  • COVID impacted transfers more than first-years. Roughly one in three transfer students indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their college choice, which is twice as much as first-year students.
  • Decline data is less reliable. Keep in mind that the vast majority of admitted transfers accept their offer, so the decline data is sparse and therefore less reliable.

Brand Awareness and Exposure

Most respondents report first hearing about UIUC from a friend or family member, which underscores the importance of brand building beyond just potential 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

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, 79% 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. 86% of accepts and 69% of declines say UIUC’s level of education is better than other universities. Campus life and graduate preparedness are also viewed as better by accepts and declines, while safety is viewed better by accepts and about the same as other universities by declines.

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? Nearly half of transfer accepts indicate the highest satisfaction rating possible, but on the flip side, nearly half of declines indicate some level of dissatisfaction. It’s important to note that only 57 students responded to the decline survey, so it’s a small sample size. The narrative is similar when it comes to meeting expectations. 86% of accepts say UIUC is meeting their expectations either well or very well. Declines are evenly distributed across the board, indicating UIUC is meeting their expectations as much as they are not.

UIUC Meeting Expectations

Overall Satisfaction with UIUC

Application Experience

A majority of transfer students (69% of accepts and 64% of declines) apply to only a few other schools (1-3), and 88% of accepts and 51% of declines report that UIUC was 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 as many students.

Number of Other Universities Considered

UIUC as Top Choice

Satisfaction of Application Experience, Accepts

Satisfaction of Application Experience, Declines