URBANA — A math and science buff, Khalid Mitchell of Oak Forest had only one place in mind when applying to colleges.
"I put all my eggs in one basket. The U of I was the only school I applied to," he said. The senior at Oak Forest High School was offered a spot in the University of Illinois' freshman class, and it didn't take long for him to inform the campus of his decision.
Mitchell's application was one of over 33,000 — a record — submitted to the UI for the coming school year.
After receiving a record 31,454 applications last year, campus officials set their sights on 32,000, but a whopping 33,178 students ended up applying to be part of the Class of 2017.
Applications were up in all categories — among Illinois residents, out-of-state students and those living outside the U.S.
Of those who applied, slightly more than half (17,150) were from Illinois, about 29 percent were from abroad (9,485), and almost 20 percent (6,544) were from states other than Illinois, according to Stacey Kostell, the UI's director of undergraduate admissions.
"We're slightly up in state applicants, which we see as a big success," because due to state demographics, there are fewer high school graduates in Illinois this year, Kostell said.
"Making sure students in Illinois still consider us as a choice and an option is very important to us," she said.
Transfer student Marinel Ferrer from Lisle considered Purdue University and Valpraiso University but ultimately chose the UI.
"I felt the program was the best fit for me," said Ferrer, who plans to study nursing.
On Friday, staff from the admissions office led Ferrer, Mitchell and other admitted students on campus tours and guided them through their next steps. On students' to-do list, if they haven't done it already, is to respond to the university's offer. The deadline is May 1.
Most UI admissions officers are in Urbana, but there are four employees based in the Illini Center in downtown Chicago who recruit students from Chicago schools. At a recent town hall meeting, Chancellor Phyllis Wise highlighted efforts at bringing busloads of top-performing Chicago Public Schools students to campus to meet with admissions officers, students and faculty. That program targets juniors and seniors, but the admissions office this year has started a pilot project targeting 50 top sophomores from four high schools in Chicago.
The sophomores came not just for a tour, but for an "interactive experience with professors to expose them to the larger college experience about what's possible at Illinois," Kostell said. That included, for some students, three-dimensional printing.
As for regional recruiters, the UI has one person based in Boston who recruits students mainly from the Northeast. Wise said the university is considering having admissions officers in places such as Los Angeles, Miami or Texas.
In addition to an uptick in applications from Illinois residents, the number of out-of-state and international students who applied for this fall has increased. Most of the UI's international students come from China, South Korea and India, but Kostell said her office also has a goal of recruiting students from more underrepresented countries, such as Turkey and Brazil.
Of the 31,178 who applied, 20,875 students were admitted and 10,502 were denied admission. On the wait list are 1,531 students.
Like last year, the university is aiming for a freshman class of about 7,000 students.
In terms of academics, "we feel we're certainly bringing in as good if not a better class," Kostell said.
Of the 6,932 freshmen who enrolled in fall 2012, 53.8 percent were in the top 10 percent of their class, and their average ACT score was 28.4.
In recent years, there could be some fluctuation in the class from when students responded in May to when they registered for classes in the summer. It wasn't uncommon for some students to accept in May, only to wait to hear from another school or find out about their status on a wait list at another university.
For the first time this year the university initiated a $150 enrollment fee, which students pay when they accept the UI's offer of admission. It should help the campus get a clearer picture of who will be coming to campus, according to Kostell.
By the numbers
33,178 applications to the University of Illinois for fall 2014:
17,150 from Illinois.
Deadline for students to accept offer of admission: May 1.
Source: UI admissions office