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Collage of TRIO students at various events.


What is TRIO?

Going to college is a big step. We’ll help you finish what you start. We’ll also make sure you thrive along the way and discover life after Illinois State. TRIO is a nationwide program that offers you the best chance to enter and graduate from college. And while you’re in college, TRIO provides the resources and academic advising you need to succeed.

Be Part of Our Strong Community

Illinois State’s TRIO/SSS program recognizes the wealth that first-generation students bring to the campus community and walks with them as they use their social and cultural capital to achieve personal and academic success.

Some people have been part of TRIO since middle school. Others join us when they get here. We’re open to underrepresented students, including:

  • First-generation.

    This means neither of your parents graduated from a four-year school.

  • Financial status.

    We welcome those who have a demonstrated financial need according to federal guidelines.

  • Persons with a disability.

    Our programs and services are designed to help those with a documented disability.

We build the foundation that helps you thrive.

You don’t have to navigate college alone. We’ll be by your side from the start. Here’s what you can expect when you’re part of TRIO.

  • Personal and academic growth.

    We take a holistic approach that goes beyond grades. Success in TRIO means you’ll flourish academically and personally.

  • A community of supportive people.

    TRIO is made up of trained professionals who understand your hopes, fears, and challenges. We’re a bunch of advisors, coaches, counselors, peers, and friends who want nothing but the best for you.

  • Unique opportunities.

    Our partnerships and programs help you make connections that help you seize the future you want. From financial literacy to cultural enrichment, everything is designed with your success in mind.

  • A blueprint for the future.

    Your possibilities are endless. It’s exciting, but also a little overwhelming. We prepare you for life beyond Illinois State, like career planning and graduate school.

  • A space just for you.

    Our spot on campus is always open for you to hang out, study, relax, or whatever you need. It’s comfortable and stocked with snacks, because you can’t thrive on an empty stomach.

  • Tons of fun.

    We work hard and play hard, too. Whether we're studying or out in the community, we're always having a good time.

Connect With Us on Social Media

Stay up to date with what's happening in TRIO.

TRIO students pose in front of a backdrop.
TRIO student poses for a photo during Umoja Graduation.
TRIO student poses in front of a light display.
TRIO student poses for a photo on a bench.
The TRIO group takes notes during a meeting.
The TRIO group meets in a conference room.
Two TRIO students pose in front of a backdrop.
TRIO group poses around a table at an event.
TRIO students work on a project around a table.
The TRIO group pose for a photo at a dining table.

The end result is huge.

At TRIO, we lead with your strengths and nurture your areas for growth. When you take advantage of our services, you can expect to see big changes in yourself.

  • Advocate for yourself.

    Start using your voice to build your identity and be your number one champion.

  • Break the cycle.

    Our crucial (and sometimes uncomfortable) conversations will help you stop the negative behaviors and habits that hold you back.

  • Destroy barriers.

    It’s not an easy journey, but it’s worth it. When something stands in your way of success, you’ll have the confidence and tools to crush it.

  • Accomplish your goals.

    When times get tough, you won’t quit. TRIO students come back to school each semester and finish what they started.

TRIO at Illinois State

  • 96%

    96% Retention

  • 99%

    99% Accepted Into Major

  • 94%

    94% Completion

I was always told I had to go to college, but I was never told what to expect. While in college I faced a lot of challenges like deaths, being in a car accident, dealing with depression, and being on academic probation. At that point, I was ready to give up and go home. Then one conversation with my advisor changed everything, from my view on life to my view on college. I began to gain my voice and become the woman I am today.

Nakiya '22

Early Childhood Education


[TRIO] was very diverse and created a lot of opportunities for me to explore different opportunities that were beneficial to my overall college experience. It was also beneficial because it celebrated my unique experiences and perspective among the other students.

Harold '22

Political Science

TRIO gave me the resources not only to get through college but to excel at it. The guidance provided to me by my TRIO advisors helped me approach each semester with a plan to succeed, and the TRIO lounge provided a quiet and inviting space for me to get stuff done.

Levi '22

Software Engineering


TRIO held me accountable. They also provided many opportunities for me to better myself as a leader and as a person. All of the experiences set up by TRIO have been both fun and educational, and there were many opportunities to learn new things.

Tawnya '22


Remember that your journey is what makes you who you are. All the struggles and adversity is what creates an unbreakable person. Always continue to progress and overcome each obstacle as the radiance that comes at the end is incomparable.

Jamiya '22



Triumph: A podcast that elevates first generation voices

The TRIO community does incredible things in their majors, careers, and communities. We’re making their stories known so you can get inspired and imagine your possibilities.

  • The success in uncertainty

    Diana Bender ‘20

    Criminal Justice and Corrections

    Diana shares her experience of not knowing what would become of her academic journey as a First-Gen student. Diana Triumphantly trailblazed a path she could not foresee.

    Listen to Diana’s podcast interview

  • Success has no age limit

    Jeffrey Walsh ‘23

    Politics and Government

    Jeffrey shares what it’s like to be the first in his family to attend and graduate from college, and return for a master’s degree at age 60.

    Listen to Jeffrey’s podcast interview

  • Raising the bar of legacy

    Nadine Khoury ‘22

    Human Development and Family Consumer Sciences

    First in her family to pursue a second degree, Nadine shares how her love of academia and navigational capital helped her immigrant family collectively progress through foreign societal and institutionalized barriers.

    Listen to Nadine’s podcast interview

Find more podcast episodes on:
Facebook Spotify
Sign up to be a podcast guest

Support TRIO

Whether it's furniture for our space or snacks for students to munch on, there are lots of ways you can show your support for TRIO.

Contact TRIO
Trio t-shirt reading 'TRIO Legacy. A walking success.'
TRIO students gathered outside a theatre holding programs for Disney's Lion King.
TRIO students seated inside theatre holding programs for Disney's Lion King.
TRIO students taking a selfie.
TRIO students posing at Disney World.
TRIO members pose around their booth in the Student Involvement Center.
TRIO students pose in front of a statue of MLK Jr.
TRIO students pose in a courtroom.

Learn More About TRIO

TRIO Student Support Service (SSS) is a federally funded program that began in 1968. It is one of the eight federal “TRIO” programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help first-generation college students access, navigate, and succeed in higher education. The U.S. Department of Education identifies first-generation students as those whose parents did not obtain a four-year college degree. Illinois State’s TRIO/SSS program recognizes the wealth that first-generation students bring to the campus community and walks with them as they use their social and cultural capital to achieve personal and academic success.

TRIO is a strong program with support at the national, state, and local level. TRIO has been part of Illinois State since 1987, but it all started in 1967 with the War on Poverty and a desire to help people access opportunities that were typically denied to them.

Read how TRIO evolved over the years