Identical twins Julia and Sophie Baker have been surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Chicago for their entire lives. After having an hourlong commute to their high school, the twins are ready to enjoy the convenience of Illinois State’s campus.

“I’m excited to be in control of my own schedule,” said Julia, a recent graduate of Jones College Prep, a selective enrollment high school located in downtown Chicago. “In high school, I didn’t have a lot of free time to pursue the things I like to do, but I’m excited to have more for that in college.”

Julia has a passion for the circus—an interest that is equally shared by Sophie. Inspired by their cousin, the twins joined a youth circus at 7 years old and became enamored. They spent a decade attending CircEsteem, a social circus for Chicago youth. According to CircEsteem’s website, a social circus aims to provide youth an outlet to improve their social skills and self-esteem through circus arts. “The social aspect of it really helped us come out of our shell, because we were very shy kids,” said Sophie. “It was such an accepting environment.”

It’s not surprising then that Gamma Phi Circus, America’s oldest collegiate circus, was a driving factor behind the twins’ decision to join the Redbird family this fall. “One of the main reasons we chose to go to Illinois State is because they have a circus,” said Sophie. “I’m excited that I get to keep doing circus and get my degree in social work simultaneously.”

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Sophie was first inspired to pursue a career in social work by the social circus environment she grew up in. “I’m hoping once I graduate to take on a leadership role in a circus similar to the one that I was a part of,” said Sophie. CircEsteem also sparked an interest in social work for Julia, but she went on to develop a passion for psychology.

“We both became interested in social work, but I gravitated more toward psychology as time went on,” said Julia. “I’m excited to get involved with the psychology organizations on campus.”

In addition to Gamma Phi Circus, Julia is interested in joining Psi Chi, psychology’s international honor society, and she also hopes to find registered student organizations (RSO) that will provide her a creative outlet. “It seems like there’s a club for just about anything,” said Julia.

Like many twins, Julia and Sophie were compared to each other a lot growing up. “There’s always been a lot of comparison between us,” said Sophie, who is 16 minutes older than Julia. “We have always had similar interests and a lot of pressure on us to either be very much the same, or to be very different. I think a lot of our decisions have been shaped by what people are expecting of us as twins.”

Despite the comparison and pressure that comes with being identical twins, they are thankful to have each other. At the end of the day, they wouldn’t want it to be any other way. “There’s been some experiences that I really value that I don’t think I would have been able to have if I wasn’t a twin,” said Sophie.

Julia and Sophie Baker following their commencement from Jones College Prep in downtown Chicago.

Julia and Sophie Baker after their commencement from Jones College Prep in downtown Chicago.

They are just beginning their undergraduate education, but both sisters already have their sights set on attending graduate school. They both plan to return to Chicago after they graduate, with Julia striving to become a therapist and Sophie eyeing a leadership role in a youth circus.

While Julia and Sophie have their long-term plans mapped out, they are first focused on enjoying all of the opportunities that Illinois State has to offer. “We’re very excited to be in a different environment because we’ve always lived in Chicago,” said Julia. “We’re excited to meet new people and have new experiences.”

Read about all of the students featured in our “Newest Redbirds” series at