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This is for you, the 7,000 survivors from the record 33,178 applicants at the University of Illinois.

It’s an unusually large campus, sprawling nearly 3 miles from the Beckman Institute on University Avenue to the south end of the Research Park, so that’s a lot of ground to cover. This annual column is geared to be advisory and explanatory.

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— Being a sports guy, let me remind you that season tickets for UI varsity sports won’t destroy your budget. For students, 16 of the 19 sports are free — you can walk into volleyball at Huff with just a student ID — and end-zone seats for seven home football games can be acquired for $99.

— Learn the bus routes. You’ve already paid $56 as part of your $1,712 per-semester fee, so you can ride free. Like I said, it’s a huge campus. Take the "yellow" from Wright Street to the former Assembly Hall, now State Farm Center, and beyond. Learn the rest.

— It’s expensive, so take advantage of it. For those taking at least 12 hours, a year’s tuition for business or engineering is $16,754, and roughly $13,000 for most other colleges ($12,614 for journalism). Throw in fees, room and board, books and extras, and we’re talking $26,900 annually for an in-stater ($34,500 for engineering). Only good news is that tuition, for you, doesn’t change for your four years.

— More on your investment, just so you know. Your general fee this semester is $262 and is like a mortgage ... a facility-related fee. Paying back bonds on past Memorial Stadium upgrades comes to $34. Two early student-backed initiatives to accommodate entertainment at the former Assembly Hall amount to $38.88 and don’t yet include $25 for the 30-year State Farm Center undertaking.

— Aaah, Blue Waters! Take pride in the largest, most powerful super-computer on any campus in the world. It is used by researchers from all over the country. Blue Waters recently has been upgraded to 13 petaflops — a gazillion calculations per second — and you’d get dizzy counting the zeroes. If you hear about a tour, take it. You’re not authorized to get in otherwise.

— They say this is the No. 3 "party school" in the nation. That’s not true. The reputation stems from a single event — the guzzling that transpires on Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day — a happening so outrageous that it draws national attention. My advice: Watch the fools but don’t take part.

— The tall guy finding his way around campus with you is Wes Lunt. He’s new, too, having transferred from Oklahoma State. With an arm like Jeff George (who transferred from Purdue in the late 1980s), he’s the football team’s hope for the future ... and joins key basketball transfers Darius Paul and Aaron Cosby in sitting out this school year.

— Join up. Expand your horizons and follow your inclinations. This university has 1,200 registered student organizations (RSOs) for people with similar interests. If you see yourself as a Blackbeard, join "Aarg I’m a Pirate." A conservative, latch onto "Young Republicans." Choose your favorite music. Whatever. It’s the largest list of RSOs in the country, and there’ll be booths to tell you more on Quad Day.

— Chief Illiniwek was banned in 2007. NCAA hirelings announced that the UI symbol for eight decades was "hostile and abusive." For thousands here who were uplifted spiritually by the Chief, this conclusion still draws ire. You’ll see how the majority of fans feel during halftime of the SIU game.

— Football wins won’t come easy. These are tough times. If you’re hesitant about committing to a season ticket, how’s this for the SIU game coming up in nine days: four tickets, four hot dogs, four soft drinks, and all for $49. Take three friends and it’s about $12 apiece. Can’t beat it.

— Bob Easter is your president. He’s a down-to-earth guy, formerly an international expert in pig nutrition. He moved over as president-designate in 2012 and is the fifth UI president in a 10-year span. He has provided stable leadership for an institution that had struggles at the top in recent years.

— Two warnings: (1) Don’t get lost in your earphones at campus crosswalks because some of us aren’t accustomed to stopping in mid-block and (2) be careful walking home after 1 a.m.; ruffians who’ve had too much to drink may be about.

— The Assembly Hall is now the State Farm Center. The Bloomington insurance company promised $60 million over 30 years for naming rights. It’s more than a basketball arena. You’ll graduate there someday, assuming no construction tie-ups. Next show is Blue Man Group on Sept. 19-20. You like ’em or you don’t.

— When you walk through hallowed Lincoln Hall, take note of the historic integrity mixed with modern computer-aided projectors that helped upgrade the UI’s central teaching structure. It cost $58 million or $64 million, depending on the source. Respect it.

— Dick Butkus will return with the 1963 Big Ten football champions, and the 1953 title team also will be honored on Dad’s Day on Sept. 28. Make sure you remind your old man to make arrangements to attend. Think ahead. Get the laundry done and clean your room.

— Kevin Hambly’s volleyball team hosts its alumni match Saturday night at Huff Hall. Attend and you’ll be hooked. Hambly’s women took second in the nation two years ago, and they’ll be strong again after an off year. Start Saturday with a legendary fish sandwich at the former DeLuxe (now Legends), come on over to Huff, and there’ll still be plenty of time to hit Kam’s or Joe’s Brewery after the match.

— Krannert is heavily subsidized by contributors and offers excellent shows at cheap rates. It’d cost several times the amount to see the same events in Chicago.

— For the record, this is a "basketball school." For you, now’s the time to join the Orange Krush because you’ll have a favored seating location in a couple of years when the State Farm Center is finished. And John Groce’s rebuilding effort with the team is likely to run ahead of construction.

— Make it to downtown Champaign on a weekend before the weather breaks ... bands on street corners, folks packed into outside tables at the Esquire, Cowboy Monkey, everywhere ... it’s a happening. I don’t know who got

this ball rolling, but it’s working.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at

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