Around 3,555 students will participate in Commencement this weekend, and many have advice they’re eager to share with the next generation of Illinois State Redbirds.

So we reached out to a handful of Class of 2013 grads and asked them to share some wisdom and favorite memories from their time at Illinois State. Here are some of their best responses:

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to an incoming freshman?

“Be open to meeting new people and finding yourself, you only get this experience once so make the most of it!”

“Avoid morning classes.”

“Try! Don’t think college is just an extension of high school. If you coasted through high school, you are in for a challenge in college!”

“Go. To. Class. Everyone thinks, ‘It’s college, I’m gonna sleep in, party, etc.’ Truth is, going to class helps. Shocking.”

“Get involved! Engage yourself in the community as well as the university. Reach outside of your comfort zone and create a diverse and global experience for yourself.”

“Make sure you enjoy your major and don’t just go for the money.”

“ALWAYS finish your work before going out to party. It makes life so much easier and less stressful.”

Which professor made the biggest impression on your life?

“Dr. David Gresham, the School of Music clarinet professor. He’s a humble guy who always pushed me to do my best, but made sure I cared most about the important things in life.”
—Lauren Willis

Julie Jung from the Department of English. She pushes her students to the brink of intellectual exhaustion, but does so while standing right beside you for the challenge. She truly values each and every one of her students, and you can see her passion for wanting students to succeed by way of her teaching and one-on-one student interactions.”
—Rebecca Sack

Maria Schmeeckle from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Maria has the kindest heart I have ever known. She cares for her students as she would for children of her own. This woman is absolutely the perfect professor in every way. Every freshman should take her course. It’s a great transition from high school to college!”
—Olivia Hook

“Dr. Richard Ringer from the Department of Management and Quantitative Methods has made the biggest impression on my life. He inspires his students to excellence and expects nothing less.”
—Phillip Shaw

“Dr. Michael Plantholt, who was one of my Mathematics professors. He is absolutely amazing and helps no matter what. He helped me with finding a career path. He encouraged me to keep pulling through regardless of how I was doing in a course. I know I will stay in contact with him throughout my years after graduation.”
—Sarah Matousek

What’s the one thing you wished you had done before you graduated?

Most popular answers:

1. Study abroad
2. Went to more football games
3. Went to and/or joined the Gamma Phi Circus
4. Made a documentary of my college career
5. No regrets

In one word, how does it feel to be graduating from Illinois State?

Class of 2013 wordle

Why did you give to the Senior Campaign?

“I’m honored to be a Redbird, and giving back is my way of encouraging other Redbirds to be fearless and persistent.”
—Tricia Sommerfeld

“I gave to the Senior Campaign to acknowledge everything that professors and friends in the School of Communication have done for me. I started working towards my future as a young freshman, and the people I met chose to believe in me before I knew my own capabilities. I’ll be forever grateful for that.”
—Kristi Wilken

“I wanted to give back to the college that gave me my degree.”
—Ryan Wakefield

“I gave to the Senior Campaign because I spent the past four years of my life here, and ISU gave me so many memories I will bring with me. I feel like I owed this University a little piece of me, just like I have a piece of ISU in my heart as I leave.”
—Sarah Matousek

“I believe it is important to provide other students with the same quality or better experience that I have had at ISU.”
—Phillip Shaw

Ryan Denham can be reached at