Why I Chose Statistics at Illinois

Check out ambassador Alex Predescu’s reasons for choosing to study Statistics here at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign!

I feel as though my story is a little unconventional in comparison to other Statistics students. I came into UIUC as an Economics major – and I still am an Economics major – but what drew me to Statistics was the fact that I wanted more math/data in my curriculum. My dream career is a career in some sort of data analytics or data science field, and just Economics alone was not giving me enough. I started looking at other majors that I could pair with Economics in order to gain more relevant knowledge in the career I wanted to pursue. I ended up at Statistics.

What I really appreciated with Statistics at Illinois is just how versatile and diverse the Statistics classes are.

I found several course descriptions to be interesting and several others that would give me a lot of technical skills that I would need in the real world. What I really appreciated with Statistics at Illinois is just how versatile and diverse the Statistics classes are, there are classes ranging from Baseball Analytics to Machine Learning. There is something for everyone, and I knew that pursing a second major in Statistics was something that I wanted to do. Looking back, I am very pleased with my decision and I would highly encourage anyone on the fence about studying Statistics at Illinois to take a look at the classes and talk to the Statistics Advisors, since doing that helped me make one of the best decisions that I made during my college career!

If you would like to read more about our courses offered in the Statistics department, you can do so here: https://stat.illinois.edu/academics/courses-registration-information/course-offerings

Preparing for the new semester – setting up for success

Check out the advice from Shannon Ooi, senior in Statistics and Actuarial Science. Shannon writes about getting organized for the start of the new term.

The first week is the grace period for us to stop the holiday mood and start getting ready for the new semester. So, what can we do to adapt to the new semester? 

  1. Mark your calendars! Important deadlines including homework, exams, and quizzes are usually stated in the Syllabus of each course. Plan early so that you can use your time wisely. 
  1. Set your goals! Use sticky notes to jot down the short-term goals you aim to achieve this semester.  
  1. Save course websites to your bookmark bar! Moodle, Compass, Canvas. Sometimes, we might be confused about which platform each course is using. Hence, it’s best for us to save them at the start, saving us an ample amount of time. 
  1. Do not hesitate to ask for help. Professors, academic advisors, peers, and the school facility are here to help you be the best version of yourselves. Just reach out and you will find the support you need.  

Work smart, play hard. Stay happy and healthy and a bright future awaits you! Have a great semester! 

Navigating internships

By Alex Predescu

Having good grades and doing well in the academic realm is always important when it comes down to finding a job after you graduate. However, making sure you also have relevant hands- on experience is just as important. An amazing way to get this experience is through internships. Every internship opportunity that I have had has been very fulfilling and worthwhile. It is one thing sitting down and learning in a classroom versus actually applying what you have learned in the real world. It is always great to see that connection because it’s not always obvious, and it eliminates the discouraging “when am I going to use this outside of school?” question.

Unfortunately, finding these internships are not always easy and it can become very discouraging at times. There may be hundreds of other students that are interested in the same job opportunity as you, so it is important to do adequate research and have plenty of options in addition to not rushing the internship hunting process. Being patient with yourself and doing this process right is much more valuable than cutting corners and rushing. The way I found mine are from job board websites like LinkedIn and Handshake. The reason why I like them is because it is like a social media and job search hybrid website. Both websites allow you to make your own profile and highlight your professional experience, essentially putting a face to your resume. On top of that, it lets you interact with recruiters and companies, in addition to filtering for jobs in your desired industry and location. These are great websites that allow you to find and apply to the internships that would best help you fuel your future career. It is important to leverage these platforms in order to set yourself apart from other candidates and help you stand out once a company/position you like sees your resume.

Overcoming Challenges as a Statistics Student

By Shannon Ooi

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” –Zig Ziglar 

“Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Hope for tomorrow.” –Albert Einstein 

One challenge that I overcame is about finding an internship last summer (during my Junior year). Due to the pandemic, the previous academic year was my first year on campus. As an international transfer student, everything in the states was still very new to me at that time. Hence, my focus was to meet new friends, get good grades and find an internship in the insurance field. Since the process of finding an internship is very different from my hometown, I was physically prepared but not mentally, making this whole process difficult. Throughout the process, I got many rejections and soon my confidence level went down. Am I not good enough? That was the one question that keeps swirling in my mind. Up until one point, the stress took over me and I gave up looking for more opportunities. This happened during Fall and when Spring came, I did try but not to the fullest. In the end, I managed to secure an internship back in my hometown but was not something related to my field.  

Although this might not be the “happy” ending people would expect, it did give me some thoughts.  

First, believe in yourself. 

Don’t give up. 

Have hope. 

Have faith. 

These lines are easy to understand, easy to say, but hard to accomplish when walking on the journey to one’s goals. Right now, I’m still applying for jobs and still getting some rejections. However, I’m positive that I will get the job that I want in a matter of time. Don’t give up and don’t forget to keep improving yourself along the way. To those of you who are struggling, I hope you could gain some strength and positivity from this short story. You are not alone and good luck! 

Our Favorite Classes Outside of STAT

Registration season is upon us, and there are lots of fun options out there that might satisfy your general elective requirements. Here, two Ambassadors share classes that they have enjoyed:

Libo Xu

KIN 104 – Skating Activities

The University of Illinois has many outstanding courses either inside or outside the STAT department which prepare students in various ways. While talking about a MATH or CS course that is close to STAT seems to be relatively boring in this case, I would like to talk about my favorite course in the university so far: Kin 104. Kin 104 is an entry-level kinesiology course that teaches skills and knowledge essential for skating activities. One of the biggest reasons I recommend this course is that students can actually practice their skating skills in the ice arena and the course itself is very “beginner friendly”. I used to do roller skating when I was little, so I was able to master skating very quickly. However, some of my friends I met in this course did not know anything about skating before. Kin 104 is structured easily for beginners to get started and will teach basic techniques with an increasing level of difficulty. More importantly, the TAs who lead the discussion are very passionate and patient so they would help students out with any obstacles about skating. Therefore, although Kin 104 does not offer opportunities for learning professional skills for your career like other major courses, it is still a wonderful course to take for students to learn new skating skills or any other things from the process.

Shannon Ooi

CLCV 114: Introduction to Ancient Greek Culture 

This course is one of my favorite courses outside of statistics as it gives me an understanding of the ancient Greek world. In this class, you will not only learn the history, architecture, and culture behind the society in ancient Greek, but you will also see the big picture of it and how it affects the modern world today. Unlike CLCV 115: Mythology of Greece and Rome, this class studies the literature of the ancient Greek world and sees how some movies are like some of the ancient Greek characters. I think the fun part of this class is connecting the pieces of knowledge one by one and forming the big picture of the ancient Greek world.  

Our Favorite Statistics Courses

There is something for everyone in our Statistics electives offerings. Here, three of our ambassadors share the classes that have most piqued their interest.

Shannon Ooi 

STAT 440: Statistical Data Management  

Interested in R, SQL, and other data wrangling methods? This is a valuable course for you to learn the basics of data cleaning, data wrangling, and data management. I would say that this course prepares you with the most basic steps needed for in-depth data analysis. The fun part of this course is that you’ll learn different methods to come up with the same output. The challenging part of it is to produce the output using the most time-efficient way. If you’re into R and into coding, this will be a very fun course. 

STAT 432: Basics of Statistical Learning 

If you are into research projects, this course is an interesting and challenging one! You’ll gain some deep understanding on different models, applications of it in real life, and performing it in R. The supervised and unsupervised learning included in the course is often used in many basic research projects and are the basics of more advanced models. I find this course my favorite as I get to learn some useful research methods which is applicable in the real world! 

Xiaoting Tang

STAT 385: Statistical Programming Methods

It was my favorite and one of the most useful major elective classes. It is a programming class, but the instructor teaches R from the beginning. This was my first class using R, and I highly recommend statistics students take this class as early as possible. After I took this class, I found it was much easier for taking other classes that use R, like STAT 425. 

STAT 443: Professional Statistics

Other than most statistics courses, it is a project-based with written and oral communication statistical consulting project. I would recommend seniors take it in the fall semester. The class would talk about graduate school applications and job search process. It would be beneficial to future careers. 

Pragati Salunke

Throughout the 3+ years I have attended UIUC, my love for statistics has only grown stronger. A few courses that helped me grow my love included:

STAT 440: Statistical Data Management

This course utilizes R in a variety of ways. R can be used for many data analysis tasks. These tasks include data cleaning, aggregation, selection, and many more! We worked with real world data to answer real life questions about certain situations. STAT 440 was one of my favorites because it allowed me to explore data wrangling, something I, personally, was very interested in.

STAT 447: Data Science Programming Methods

This course does the best job of giving students a well rounded baseline for working with data. It gives students an introduction to many data tools such as Git, R, and SQL. This is a great opportunity for students to find a tool that they love and expand their knowledge based on their data-specific interests. This is a valuable course because it will help students become well rounded in tools that are used throughout the data world.

STAT 448: Advanced Data Analysis

This course is great for students who want to explore tools outside of the norm. SAS is a great tool for data analysis as well as regression. SAS uses data imaging to display outliers and statistical significance. STAT 448 has great course content that is not very difficult to pick up while remaining a course that helps students analyze data for significance.

While these are the courses that stood out to me, there are plenty of other Statistics courses that are helpful in expanding one’s knowledge in the subject, and I strongly believe that students should explore the courses that would help them the most. Every person’s goals and passions are different from one another, and each statistics course caters to different passions and goals.

Useful Study Tips, Academic Resources, and Productivity Tools

By Mingli Xu

Whether you are an inexperienced freshman or a hardened senior, the school year always has its way of sneaking up on all of us. One second you might be skimming through course syllabi, and the next moment you will find yourself buried in messy notes as you prepare for exams. Luckily, it’s never harmful to learn a few valuable strategies for surviving the semester. Today I will be sharing some study tips, academic resources, and productivity tools that I find useful along my academic journey.

One study tip that I would like to put up front is to always keep up with your reviewing process. Make sure you take some time out of the week to go over your notes/lecture videos. Only in doing this will you gain a deeper understanding of the class materials and get yourself prepared for the upcoming content. If you wait and pile all your review work before the weekend or even the day of the exam, we all know how that will end for ourselves.

Another study tip I find particularly useful is to create a study schedule. At the start of every week, sit down and block out time on your weekly calendar for the assignments throughout the week. Be sure to prioritize your work from most important to least important on your schedule. Then, try your best to stick with that schedule and not miss any deadlines.

The last study tip, which I consider a crucial key to succeeding in academics, is to comprehend rather than memorize. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that memorizing the textbook counts as studying. But in college, memorization will only get you so far. Always make sure you completely understand either the derivation of a formula or the thought process of a particular problem before you memorize anything.

There are all sorts of academic resources available within the Department of Statistics. Here I will recommend two of them. The first one is the Statistics advising available five days a week via email and in-person. If you have any confusion about course registration, course selection, or graduation requirements, you can email stat-undergrad@illinois.edu with your questions. Additional information can be found at https://stat.illinois.edu/academics/advising.

The second one is the Math/Statistics Student Support Center (SSC). SSC offers walk-in academic support and tutoring for students with additional academic needs. Information can be found at https://stat.illinois.edu/academics/academic-supporttutoring.

Apart from study tips and academic resources, there are also productivity tools that can assist you with studying more effectively. One tool that I use the most often is Google Docs. I compile all my notes from a course within a document, so I can always navigate course materials easily. I also create a separate document of shortened notes when I study exams. In doing this, I not only go over the original notes, but also study them a second time when I organize the concepts/formulas in another document.

    These are the study tips, academic resources, and productivity tools that I have used before, and I hope other students can benefit from them as well. I hope you all succeed in your semester, Illini!

Five Things I Wish I Knew As a First-Year Student

By Bella Cruz

Starting your first year of college can feel terrifying, exhilarating, and overwhelming. You are placed into a whole new environment of students, professors, parties, clubs, classes, and relationships. Starting out, it is normal to feel scared and unsure about all these changes; on the flip side, it’s also normal to want to experience everything all at once. In my first year of college, I lived, laughed, cried, got drunk, and questioned all my life choices. Now that I’m a junior and have learned how to navigate the joys and stressors that come with college life, here are 5 tips I have for you:

  • Friendships and relationships are never permanent, so enjoy all the connections you make with people while they last, and learn to roll with the punches. The beauty of college is that things will always be changing, and you as an individual transforming. Friendships and relationships that used to work may not work now, and you will meet people you never thought you could connect with. Learn how to relax in the uncertainty of this growth period, and don’t miss out on joy because you are holding onto the past.
  • Partying and going out all the time are awesome; that’s part of being an adult and having the freedom to do so. But remember why you are in college in the first place: to get a degree and ensure your future. The choices you make now will influence the degree you’re in, if you successfully get that degree, and potential internships/first job offers. Have fun and destress, but don’t get blinded by the lights, and remember why you are in college in the first place.
  • Sometimes, in the middle of the day, you just need a nap. Or a Netflix marathon. Or a break. It’s okay to not constantly be working. Don’t trap yourself into a never-ending cycle of working the whole day because it will burn you out. Instead, work when you feel prepared mentally and emotionally to do so (while still making sure that you meet your class assignment deadlines). There are times where I have found myself working at 11:30 at night because in the afternoon I just wanted to have a ranting session with a friend or walk around campus because the weather was gorgeous that day. When you are distracted, upset, and mentally unprepared to take on course challenges, comprehension and application will take a longer amount of time. By taking care of yourself and allowing breaks in your day, you can improve your productivity.
  • Find friends who are in the same classes as you (having friends in the same degree is also a beneficial thing). When you leave your comfort zone and befriend other students in your classes, you have the chance to connect with people you may not have connected with outside of the class and form a great study group. 2 heads (or more) are better than one, and oftentimes homework assignments and conceptual comprehension will be exponentially quicker with a group who is serious about learning the material like you are. I will be the first to admit that there are projects I know would’ve taken me 4 hours longer to finish without a study group at my side. With these friends, you have the power to bounce ideas off each other and build upon them, as well as learn how other people think and solve problems. This skill of communicating, collaborating, and community learning will be HUGE in your future career, no matter what job or career path you decide to pursue. I am still friends with people I have met through study groups and classes.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. I’ll tell you a secret: everyone is focused on themselves. That trip where you almost fell while walking to a desk in your discussion section? No one will care, so don’t be upset or embarrassed. The question you want to ask your professor, but you are scared will look stupid? Ask it, I guarantee you at least 10 other students have the same question. Don’t be embarrassed and sweat the small stuff because I promise you no one is going out of their way to focus on you because they are all worried about their own things. Just be yourself and learn when to laugh at a serious situation. It is a process to learn when to laugh and let things go, but I promise if you work on this every day, life will feel easier. You are working towards self-compassion and resiliency, not self-criticism and fear.

These are 5 things I wish I knew in my first year at college, and hopefully this advice will be beneficial for other students as well. Have a great rest of the day, Illini!