2023 Accept/Decline Survey, First-Year Students

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

Full survey results are also available to the R&Y Network. To view first-year results only, make sure to select “first-year” under “Student Type.” Results can be filtered several other ways, including by decision, college, and major.

Survey Participation

  • 2,822 accepts
    • 1,999 Illinois residents
    • 423 domestic non-residents
    • 394 international
    • 601 underrepresented
  • 1,261 declines
    • 480 Illinois residents
    • 573 domestic non-residents
    • 208 international
    • 162 underrepresented

Main Takeaways

  • Cost remains the number-one reason why students decline their offer. 27% of all declines, 31% of underrepresented declines, and 33% of African American declines say cost “extremely” influenced their decision not to attend UIUC.
  • The reputation of our individual majors is critical. “Major Reputation” is ranked the second-highest decision factor for both accepts and declines, behind only “Outcomes/Success” for accepts and “Cost” for declines.
  • Decision factor rankings differ by audience. For example, cost was more of a factor for underrepresented students when accepting their offer (41% vs. 22% “extremely”). Campus life, diversity, and location were also more important for this group.
  • Brand building across multiple audiences should be a top priority. 81% of accepts and 71% of declines say they first heard of UIUC from a friend/family member or counselor/teacher. These numbers are even higher for underrepresented students (83% and 76%, respectively).
  • Overall perception of UIUC improves throughout the college search process. 88% of all accepts and 89% of underrepresented accepts say their opinion of UIUC is slightly better or significantly better than it was last year. 66% of all declines and 60% of underrepresented declines feel the same.
  • Students are seeing and remembering our ads. 76% of all respondents and 82% of underrepresented respondents recall seeing an ad about UIUC in the past 12 months (a majority being through social media, web, and search).
  • In-person campus visits are back. As COVID concerns have waned, campus visits have returned to their previous levels, with 75% of accepts and 67% of declines attending an in-person program with OUA.

Brand Awareness & Exposure

Most respondents (62%) report first hearing about UIUC from a friend or family member. Counselors or teachers played a larger role for underrepresented students (21%), especially African American students (27%), and international students (36%) than other populations. This underscores the importance of brand building beyond just high school students. Additionally, a large majority or respondents (76%) 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, 88.3% 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. 88% of accepts and 60% 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. 77% of accepts say UIUC’s campus life is better than other universities and 40% of declines agree, but 38% of declines say it’s about the same. When comparing UIUC to other universities, it’s notable that underrepresented students view UIUC’s campus life more favorably, with 81% of accepts and 45% of declines saying it’s better than other universities, and 32% of declines saying 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 with UIUC? Overall, yes, we are. 92% of accepts and 69% of declines are satisfied or very satisfied with UIUC. Those same percentages hold true for underrepresented students.

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 (82%). 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