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New Student FAQ

Campus Questions

  • When can I get my Redbird Card?

On the Monday of Orientation Week, there will be a scheduled trip to the Redbird Card Office.  Please see the Orientation Schedule for complete details.

If you want to get your Redbird Card at a different time, you can visit the Redbird Card Office. The office is located on the first floor of the Bone Student Center.

Remember to bring your passport as a form of identification and be ready to have your photo taken!

  • Is there a deadline for registering for classes?

There is no deadline before classes begin, but we highly recommend that you register with your advisor via email before you arrive on campus. The later you register, the less courses will be available. You can view your Enrollment Appointment date and time in your MyIllinoisState account.

  • Graduate Students: Details about course registration can be found in the Course Registration section of the Illinois State University website.
  • First-time Undergraduate Students: You will be working with an advisor in University College to register for courses. To find your assigned advisor, contact
  • Transfer Students: Details about course registration can be found in the Course Registration section of the Illinois State University website. If you are unable to attend Transfer Days, email with questions or visit the Transfer Day FAQ site.
  • Exchange Students: You will be working with an advisor in University College to register for courses. You can reach your advisor, Nora Atkins, by emailing
  • How do I contact ISSS?

Please see the Advising Services section of the ISSS website for full details on all of the services we offer and the ways we can be contacted.

  • Where can I find information about my program?

Information regarding undergraduate programs
Information regarding graduate programs

Students should contact their department directly with program-related questions.

  • What are the on-campus dining options?

There are many options for dining on campus including dining halls and restaurants. Details about Campus Dining Services can be found on their website along with meal plan options available to all students (even those living off campus).

Please note that students living in the residence halls MUST purchase a meal plan.

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Community and Travel Questions

  • How do I get to Bloomington-Normal from O’Hare International Airport (ORD)?

Illinois State University is located in the central part of the United States, in the town of Normal within the state of Illinois. Our community is generally referred to as “Bloomington-Normal” because the town of Normal and the city of Bloomington are located directly next to each other.

We generally recommend that students arrange their international flight plans so they land in Chicago, Illinois, at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Since Bloomington-Normal is about 3 hours south of Chicago, you will need to make additional arrangements to travel from Chicago to Bloomington-Normal.

  • Bus - Peoria Charter Bus offers service to Illinois State University from Chicago O'Hare and Midway International Airports. The trip from Chicago to Normal takes approximately 3 hours and costs about $35. Students can buy their tickets on the bus. It arrives at the Uptown Normal transportation center (Uptown Station).
  • Air - There are direct flights from Chicago to our local Bloomington airport, Central Illinois Regional Airport (BMI). The trip from Chicago takes only about 30 minutes. CIRA is very conveniently located in the Bloomington-Normal community and is only 3 miles from the university. Students will need to buy their tickets in advance.
  • Train - Students may also take the train from Chicago to Normal on Amtrak. Students arriving at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport can take a taxi or other transportation to Union Station in Downtown Chicago. The Amtrak station is located about 45 minutes away from the airport. The trip takes 2.5 hours and takes students to the Uptown Normal transportation center (Uptown Station), right next to the University. It is best if students buy their tickets in advance at the Amtrak website. This is a good option for students who will arrive early and want to spend time in Chicago before continuing on to Illinois State.

*Please avoid taking a taxi, Uber, or Lyft from O’Hare to campus, as it can be very expensive.

  • How can I travel from Central Illinois Regional Airport (BMI) to Illinois State University?

The Connect Transit bus system picks up from BMI Airport and can take you to Uptown Station which is within walking distance of campus. You can also take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft from the BMI Airport to campus. In addition to these options, there are community groups who offer free rides upon arrival to new international students. Students must request a ride in advance – see the Help Upon Arrival section of our website for details. Alternatively, please email Matt Schwab, Coordinator of International House, at to make in-town travel arrangements.

  • Will there be someone to meet me when I arrive? Even on the weekend?

Once you have finalized your travel and accommodation plans, you MUST fill out the following form:

ULID and password, please refer to the instructions here.

This will help the Office of International Engagement (OIE) team coordinate the necessary services and resources(including in-town transportation assistance) to help you get you started upon arrival.

  • What are the most convenient methods of transportation in Bloomington-Normal?

Students are able to make use of the local bus system, Connect Transit, for free with their Redbird Card. There are also several local taxi companies, and Uber/Lyft drivers are available in the area.

Further details can be found under the Life at Illinois State section of the ISSS website.

  • Is there shopping near campus? How do I get there?

Bloomington-Normal has two shopping malls:

Eastland Mall – 1615 E Empire St, Bloomington

Shoppes at College Hills – 314 Towanda Ave, Normal

There are also several superstores in the area, including Walmart, Target, and Meijer. An OISP staff member will take international students on a shopping trip the Monday before Orientation.  Please see the Orientation Schedule for further details.

All of the above stores are accessible via the local Connect Transit bus system. You can also plan your trip on their website by clicking on the “Plan My Trip” button from the homepage.

Uptown Normal, within walking distance from campus, features several shops and restaurants, including CVS Pharmacy, where you can get prescriptions filled and purchase essential items like toilet paper, toothpaste, and snacks.

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Housing Questions

  • Will there be accommodations until I am able to move into my residence hall or apartment?

Illinois State University does not provide temporary housing for students arriving early. There are local community organizations that provide temporary housing. Please see the Help Upon Arrival section of our website for details and contact information for these groups. If you need any additional assistance or information, please email International House Coordinator, Matt Schwab at We are happy to help you in any way that we can.

  • When can I move-in?

If you have chosen to live on-campus, either in a residence hall or on the I-House TLLC floors, please refer to the move-in schedule of your building.

If you have chosen to live in a university apartment, please contact University Housing Services at to arrange for a staff member to check you in.

If you are living in a privately owned apartment, please review your lease and contact your Leasing Company with any questions.

  • Where can I find a student apartment?

There are several privately owned leasing companies near ISU that rent apartments to students. Please refer to the Housing section of our website for a list of local leasing companies. There is also an Off-Campus Housing Database where current ISU students can find apartments available for rent or sublease. You will need your ULID and password to login to the database.

It is recommended that you speak to other ISU students for recommendations pertaining to Leasing Companies and apartment locations. One way to do that is to join the ISU Housing, Sublets & Roommates Facebook group. This page is not affiliated with Illinois State University and is only being provided as a convenience in accordance with our mission to serve the international student populations.

For additional, helpful information regarding off-campus housing, please refer to the Dean of Students Office webpage Off-Campus Services.

  • How long of a lease should I sign?

Privately owned Leasing Companies offer a variety of lease lengths. Please refer to the Housing section of our website for a list of local leasing companies.  Your landlord should contact you about whether you want to continue to live in the same apartment for the next school year.  At that time, if you do NOT plan on living in the same apartment, you should begin your apartment search immediately.

Thoroughly review your lease before signing it. The University Student Attorney provides Lease Review services to help you clearly understand the terms of your lease. Once you have signed a lease, you are responsible for paying rent for the entire duration of that lease whether or not you are living at that location.

For additional, helpful information regarding off-campus housing, please refer to the Dean of Students Office webpage Off-Campus Services.

  • Do apartments allow pets?

Some leasing companies allow pets of a certain size at their locations. The best way to find out which leasers allow pets in their locations is to contact the company directly.

ISSS strongly discourages international students from bringing to or adopting pets within the United States given the complications related to caring for an animal during school breaks and while traveling internationally.

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Employment Questions

  • How and where can I find a job?

Many students are able to find jobs on campus. You can find a complete list of job openings at

Click on the “Student” option to view available student positions. International students are generally not eligible for any positions that are federal work-study only or off-campus positions, so check each posting before you apply.

Graduate students are eligible to apply for a Graduate Assistantship. Click on “Graduate Assistant” from the main page to view available Graduate Assistantship positions.

F-1 students are not eligible to work off campus until they have completed two full-time semesters of study. J-1 students must receive authorization before working any job, either on- or off-campus.

You can read more about on-campus and off-campus employment in the Student Employment section of the ISSS website.

  • Can I work off campus?

F-1 students are not eligible to work off campus until they have completed two full-time semesters of study. Once you have completed one academic year of study, you will become eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT). You must apply for CPT authorization through ISSS prior to beginning the internship/job. Any off-campus work must be within your field of study and you will need to earn course credit for the work performed.

J-1 students must receive Academic Training authorization from ISSS before working off campus.

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Insurance Questions

  • If I am travelling with my dependent (spouse/child) who is not a student, how can they get health insurance?

There are several international student-tailored health insurance plans. Listed below are a few of the options listed in alphabetical order.

The cost can vary, but so can the coverage. We recommend that you read the coverage information carefully so you know exactly what the insurance will cover and what it will not.

In addition, some companies will cover dependents only if the primary F-1 is also covered by that company's insurance. Since you already have coverage through ISU, you should make sure to research this question with each company.

There are several other health insurance options out there on the internet and some provided by local companies in Bloomington-Normal as well. You would need to research those on your own.

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Orientation Questions

  • What if I am unable to attend orientation?

You will be required to attend a Late Orientation session. You can view the entire Orientation Schedule online. There will be two Late Orientation sessions listed on the schedule. You must attend one of these sessions.

Late Orientation only covers very limited information and you will miss many of the benefits received by students who attend the full Orientation, such as campus tours, meeting other students, faculty, and staff, talking one-on-one with campus departments, banks, and phone companies, and learning about community and campus groups that you can join.

  • What can I expect at Orientation?

All new international students are expected to attend New International Student Orientation (including students transferring from other U.S. universities).

Orientation begins the week before classes. View Orientation schedule.

Orientation is an important, helpful, and fun way to begin your life at Illinois State. Students check-in with OIE staff, meet other students, become acquainted with places and services on campus and in the community, go on shopping trips, and more! Students will also attend informational sessions on a variety of important topics to help them begin their studies successfully.

  • What documents should I bring to orientation?

You do not need to bring any documents with you to Orientation, but you should wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Breakfast and lunch will be provided on the Tuesday of Orientation.

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