The Biology, Experience, Scholarship, and Training (BEST) Scholar Program serves to attract exceptionally talented students to majors in integrative biology and molecular and cellular biology.

Incoming BEST Scholars receive a $5,000 scholarship for tuition and fees during their first year as well as mentorship for the entirety of their undergraduate collegiate experience from our school directors, faculty, academic advisors, career coaches, and continuing BEST Scholar students.

Mentorship includes:

  • Weekly class meetings during your first semester at UIUC with discussions on course requirements, career options and preparations, extra-curricular activities like research, study abroad, student organizations, and volunteer opportunities.
  • After the first semester, you will meet for check-ins two to three times per semester. These are typically optional informal events with food and fun.
  • Specific guidance on course requirements and sequences
  • Engagement with a cohort of past BEST Scholars who will share tips and tricks for success in our majors.
  • Advantage for placement in research labs


"Being a BEST Scholar gave me the confidence to become involved in research as a freshman. At first, the idea of participating in research was intimidating, but the guidance I received from the BEST mentors and peers allowed me to feel prepared and excited about becoming involved."
— Hannah McGee BEST Scholar 2022 - present


"BEST Scholars is an amazing program that set me up for success in biology immediately, offering lots of support and resources, and has tremendously helped me get into undergraduate research my first year at UIUC. The mentorship is incomparable and it is so helpful to be able to have that connection to advisors, department heads, as well as other biology students!"
— Julia Ciura, BEST Scholar 2022 - present


The BEST Scholar Program has offered unparalleled opportunities throughout my college experience at UIUC. Through invaluable mentorship from Dr. Bagchi and Dr. Cáceres, as well as a roundtable-style discussion with like-minded biology students, this program has truly allowed me to experience the biology curriculum to its fullest extent as well as explore potential career paths for after graduation.”
—Will Reiser, BEST Scholar 2019-2020



Our highest achieving admitted students, who are Illinois Residents and chose biology as their first choice major are invited to apply via an online application. Eligible students will receive an email in late February/early March encouraging them to apply for a BEST scholarship. We are dedicated to increasing the participation of underrepresented populations in biology and encourage students from these groups, who are invited, to apply.