I use this exercise for two reasons: first, to guide students to realizing that they too have particular ideas about the university; and second, because the exercise reminds students that the U of I is a very different destination, person-to-person: for some a dream come true, for others a disappointing safety school.
I give them these instructions:
Write one page describing your U of I story. You might decide to write about how and when the U of I came onto your personal/cognitive map, about how you ended up coming here, or about your sense of what sort of university this is and where you fit in it.
I have also had students interview one another (or other students) with this same question. I find this effective because typically this simple question elicits a long chain of events, actions, and ideas.see all exercises