You’re excited to begin college life—especially the new classes and the independence that comes with it. Still, establishing your place in any new environment can be intimidating. Knowing what you and your college can do to help you feel like a part of the campus community can make this transition much easier.

“We definitely expect students to engage—both inside and outside of the classroom—with the campus community,” said Dr. Levester “LJ“ Johnson, vice president for student affairs at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. “We have a very rich tradition of student involvement and student groups, organizations, employment on campus, and giving back to our campus community.”

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

First, to feel like part of a community, you want to attend a school where you don’t feel you’re just another number, whether the school you choose has 2,000 students or 20,000 students. “Even with 20,000 students, our faculty, staff and fellow students are committed to supporting each other, making sure they're uplifting each other and making sure they don't fall through the cracks and are successful during their time here,” said Johnson.  “We are going to know your name and what you're involved in.”

This starts as soon as you come on campus, with events such as the Freshman Induction Ceremony—a networking opportunity for students and faculty—and resources such as Resident Assistants and Community Assistants helping students to interact with others in their living area.

Finding Your Niche

Next, Johnson said it’s important for incoming freshmen to find their niche on campus. That means getting out of the dorm and exploring what the campus has to offer. Are you into financial planning, politics or journalism? Want to chill out with others who love music, Doctor Who or Pokémon as much as you do? Enjoy a good game of Quidditch? Every college campus has clubs, organizations and activities where you can meet other students and become part of a community.

For example, Illinois State University offers something for everyone. According to Johnson, the campus has over 400 different groups and organizations for involvement from student government to sororities and fraternities. “Greek organizations claim fourteen percent of our student population,” said Johnson. “Those are great leadership and service types of opportunities for our students.”

Feeling Appreciated and Accepted

No matter what organizations you join during your time in college, feeling like part of the community isn’t complete without feeling cared about and accepted, especially when you may be struggling or a bit homesick. It’s important to know if your college of choice has resources in place to help you when you need it. “If a student's having some challenges and some issues and it's affecting their ability to perform to their potential in the classroom, we have staff to work with these students to make sure they get the support that they need.”

Johnson also states 25 percent of the student population is made up of under-represented backgrounds. “Illinois State University affirms and encourages community with respect for differences from a diverse campus,” he said. Saying hello to your fellow students and faculty, joining organizations and clubs and feeling like your college cares about you is a great recipe for academic success.

Renowned for both its high graduation rate and its affordability, Illinois State University features a robust campus of 20,000 students while maintaining academic quality and small class sizes. For more information, visit, or call (800) 366-2478.