What is Illinois CS Kickstart?

Applications for the 2021 CS Kickstart Program are now closed.

Illinois CS Kickstart is a four day program for students admitted to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that aims to empower women in Computer Science. Program participants will join a diverse group of their peers for an inclusive and creative learning experience exploring CS. The program strives to foster relationships and build community to strengthen CS enrollment and retention.

Illinois CS Kickstart is dedicated to:

  • Empowering students with the knowledge of CS fundamentals
  • Connecting students with CS students and professionals to serve as role models and mentors
  • Inspiring students by showing the breadth and power of CS and technology
  • Informing students about opportunities to pursue a CS minor or major at the University of Illinois, what resources are available to support them, and how CS can be applicable to their career goals. 
  • Developing a sense of community among participants.
  • Mentoring students by providing near-peer mentors and connections to students, staff, and faculty within the department.

Program Dates

Illinois CS Kickstart 2021 will run from August 15-19, 2021


Up to 30 students will be awarded an on-campus room and board scholarship to attend. Students are responsible for their own transportation to campus.


Participants will stay in their Fall 2021 campus dorms. Housing costs from the evening of Sunday, August 15-August 18 are covered by Illinois CS. All meals starting with breakfast on Monday, August 16 through breakfast on August 19 are provided in the University of Illinois Dining Halls. 

Curriculum and Schedule

Some topics expected to be covered during the week’s activities are technology orientation for first year computing courses, introduction to coding, and professional opportunities in the field. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with CS graduate students, get to know other incoming students interested in CS, and meet professors in the CS department.  A detailed schedule will be posted at a later date.

All activities will take place synchronously on the University of Illinois Campus. If possible, selected participants should plan on being moved into their dorms by 7:00 pm on Sunday, August 15. The program will kick off with a welcome orientation that evening at 7:30 pm. Official program activities will run from approximately 9-5 every day with a few optional but highly encouraged evening social activities. Program activities will conclude by August 19 at 9:00 am.


Applications are open to students of any gender identity who have been admitted to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as a first year student or a transfer student and have an interest in fostering a supportive community for women. No prior computer science experience is necessary.

Who Should Apply

CS KickStart students may:

  • Be curious about what they could do with a CS degree
  • Have little to no experience (or who aren't even really sure what CS is)
  • Be enrolled in an introductory CS course at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (i.e., CS101, CS105, CS124, CS128)

Application Process

Click on each step below to learn more about the CS Kickstart Application Process. Applications are due July 23, 2021.

  • Personal Statement: Please provide a 100-200 word statement of interest describing your interest in the CS Kickstart program, what you hope to gain by participating, what experience you have had with computer science, if any, as well as what interests you about computer science.
  • Diversity Statement: Please provide a 100-200 word statement describing how you have helped foster a welcoming environment or how you would contribute to the development of a diverse and inclusive learning community at CS Kickstart.

Applications for the 2021 CS Kickstart Program are now closed.

  • Deadline to apply: 7/23/2021
  • Decisions emailed to applicants by: 8/1/2021
  • Deadline to accept offer: 8/9/2021

Quintessential Engineer state

CS Kickstart Team

Elsa Gunter
Elsa Gunter
Research Professor and Senior Lecturer
Director of Undergraduate Studies

Colleen Lewis
Colleen Lewis
Associate Professor

Broadening Participation in Computing Graduate Fellows

Kathleen Isenegger, Lead Project Fellow
Max Fowler


For questions about the program, application, or any other inquiries, please email the team at bpc-programs@cs.illinois.edu