There are good and bad sides to UIC. In general, as I came in with a 3.96/4.00 GPA and have been knocked down from that due to the poor teaching styles of the UIC system, I consider UIC poor in education. Furthermore, I consider UIC poor as a research university. If you do come here during orientation, they have those flags on East campus near the SELs in order to create ethic. Trust me, there is a serious lack of research and research equipment at UIC. As a person who loves biology, I found UIC to be an insult to my intelligence on many grounds. I think even if you think you can work the system here (oh, I thought that coming in, too, because I'm damn smart), you need to be aware that research funding has been greatly cut.
I have spoken to graduate students (biochem, engineering, whatnot) where they complain that the resources at UIC are "inferior." And that really means they aren't very good and there isn't enough. Some have said research funding has been cut into a third. Yes, UIUC and UIC put in the same amount of money in building their biology departments.
However, the amount of money put toward actual research is radically different (UIUC is the winner). As such, UIC end up being a very inferior school. It's very difficult if not impractical to obtain undergraduate research at UIC. And if you want to go to graduate school, you're going to be very annoyed by the fact that you're not getting that research you wanted. Your best bet is actually getting the degree first and then in your spare time attempting research. The fact that money is poured into West campus and that you'll spend the majority of your time over at East campus means you are restricted from attempting to access West campus's research resources. Not only that, but if you could get to West campus, the chances are nobody is going to be a nighthawk and be doing research past 4 p.m..
Your ability to obtain undergraduate research here is almost zero. Sure, some people do it, some people get paid, but for the majority of those who actively look for research and are willing to put in the time (even seniors like me). I've met plenty of decently intelligent people. We aren't able to get research. UIC tries to make it look like research is available (especially various UIC websites).
However, if you try using them and emailing the professors who put up their listings, you'll notice that those research positions are no longer available. For the most part, DO NOT think you will easily get research here, as most people do not.
Now onto the bit about education.
Yes, there are foreign or first-gen American TAs and professors who found a way to speak in English and work their way into the educational system. Despite that many can speak English, their inability to have mastered it or efficiently discuss topics in the English language so that they are understood causes problems for people who are learning the material. It's a real pain. If you have your wits about you, you shouldn't have too much trouble studying the material and understanding it.
However, and this is a critical point in UIC education, understanding something is not enough. You will tend to need to memorize the large amount of information (at least for bio students) that you are taught. In organic (which is poorly taught for who knows what reason) you need to constantly practice and recall the "rxn mechs" (you need to know them by heart; and not only the ones in boxes). Another critical point is that the professors and TAs don't attempt to prepare you for exams. I have had TAs help prepare me for quizzes, but the TAs don't do a great job at preparing students for exams. This may be a language boundary, but I am unsure.
And if they attempt to help you prepare for an exam, they lack the knowledge of educational and cognitive psychology in order to adequately help you adequately study for an exam. It could be that they easily aced their courses and never had trouble studying the material, as such couldn't explain how people could learn the material. It could be that they are the kind of autistic individual that can soak up everything yet never explain how he/she learned something. Trust me, there is a way to study for the majority of UIC classes. I have learned how to describe how to study for these classes, too. It's not simply studying THAT PARTICULAR MATERIAL, but there is a skill set you obtain from that class, such as better critical reading or organizing your knowledge better (not mixing up one cell-signal pathway for another, for example). The majority of the classes want you to prove your understanding, and they want you to prove A LOT. In general, kiss your free time goodbye, as you will have to be working on understanding and recall. Things would be a little, and I mean a little, easier if the TAs helped you; but you'll still have to spend a ridiculous amount of time studying. You can tell things are bad when you have someone like a cognitive psychology professor teaching a class yet the majority of students still get a C in the class. Does that make sense to you? Shouldn't the professor have the skills to ensure that there are more students with Bs than Cs? There are serious ethics issues around this place, and it's difficult to call anyone out. And I've done it before, and I put them into a stalemate (afterward they considered me as harassing them).
I would not have gone to UIC knowing what I know now. Matter of fact, I even considered the idea of simply going to NIU to double major (because I know an accounting degree would do me some good). I would have waited around my hometown for a year and gone to UIUC. UIUC had some serious admit problems (there was a scandal in 2008/2009). And if UIUC didn't accept me, I would have tried somewhere out of state or taken some courses at NIU and then applied to UIUC or UW or Northwestern. And if you have frugal parents that complain the cost of sending out applications to top universities when you have the credentials and grades to get in, tell them they don't care enough about you having the potential of a good future. Don't simply accept UIC as your school. Do not do that. You find a way to wait around until something better comes your way.
Now, for those who may want to compare UIC and NIU? I would have chosen NIU because it's affordable. That's the most simple reason. Not only that, but because I have yet to obtain undergrad research at UIC (research is why I was willing to relocate from a dif. city and live in Chicago) I find that attending this school was a waste of money. I would have rather had studied at NIU, attempted to find research in Chicago after graduating NIU with a B.S. in biology and a B.A. in Accounting (or something else), and make money in Chicago while being a research assistant. That would have been the most practical situation for myself. I'm sure there are a lot of people who hate NIU, and it's a damn shame to accept a pathetic school in any scenario when a person really does deserve better for having put in hard work.
What do I think of the social life at UIC? I could care less. I have people skills, I use to live a social life, but I'm more of an adult and don't associate myself with too many people. I gained a dislike for the human race and the human condition and the general narrow-minded selfishness most people have. I've been over 21 for a few years. I've been to a few bars, but I could care less about the bar scene. If you're interested in a particular drink and trying it, you'll find a bar in Chicago to serve you it. Furthermore, you will find an awesome dating scene in Chicago if you are in decent shape (not very obsese and a slob) and have some people skills. There are many decent single women in Chicago. I like that aspect of this place. I would not suggest bother messing with any of the social scene for at least a year or you feel extremely comfortable in your schoolwork. DON'T DO IT, FOOL!
UIC has also changed some policies as of Fall 2009. Before fall of 2009, many students had poor GPAs. The new policy is that you can F a course, do some paperwork, retake the class, and if you get a C or higher, have the F removed from your transcript. YOU MUST talk with an advisor first. So, because of this, you might have a lot of gunners or veterans retaking some science classes, such as Organic Chem, Calculus, Cell bio, or more. Things will more than likely become more difficult and tricky in classes that are curved. And professors who use a curve use it to make up for poor teaching practices or to ensure (or enforce) a particular grading distribution. If you're curious when the gunners go away, they don't. Some classes, such as the 300s and 400s are easier than the 200s. 200s are often a serious pain and require more intense effort than 300s and 400s.As a final note, if you're a good student (above 3.5), I suggest you don't go to UIC. If you're below 3.5 and still want to go to graduate school, such as a masters program, I suggest you seriously consider your options and perhaps attempt for something better than UIC. Actually, I'd probably suggest you go to a smaller school so they can help you with your academic skills set. You're more than likely need that in order to do well. If you're below 3.0, does it really matter? Not really.