Top Multimedia Schools in Illinois: Where to Begin Your Creative Journey

Looking for the best multimedia schools in Illinois? This article highlights top institutions offering comprehensive programs in media arts, film, and communication. Discover unique features, facilities, and opportunities each school provides to help you choose the best fit for your creative journey.

  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign boasts top-ranked programs in Media Studies and Advertising, state-of-the-art facilities, and a rich history dating back to 1902, emphasizing hands-on learning and robust advisory support.
  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in its College of Arts and Media, offering global community education, cultural exchanges, and a strong focus on embracing diverse perspectives.
  • DePaul University’s School of Cinematic Arts features diverse film and television concentrations, cutting-edge facilities including a virtual production stage and DePaul Cinespace Studios, and offers immersive programs like the LA Quarter for firsthand industry experience.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Top-ranked programs in Media Studies and Advertising distinguish the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Department of Advertising is consistently recognized among the best in the country, reflecting the university’s commitment to academic excellence. The College of Media offers a wide array of undergraduate and graduate degrees, including:

  • Bachelor of Science degrees in Advertising
  • Bachelor of Science degrees in Computer Science + Advertising
  • Bachelor of Science degrees in Journalism
  • Bachelor of Science degrees in Media & Cinema Studies

Students benefit from state-of-the-art facilities such as Gregory Hall and the Richmond Journalism Teaching Studio, which serve as working newsrooms, providing hands-on learning experiences. The College of Media has a rich history, tracing its roots back to 1902 and evolving through various stages to become what it is today. This long-standing tradition of excellence is supported by robust advising resources, helping students navigate both academic and career paths.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign draws students passionate about media and communications due to its state-of-the-art facilities, rich history, and robust advisory support.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

At Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the College of Arts and Media is celebrated for its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This college promotes cultural competence by supporting its faculty, staff, and students in understanding and navigating differences in:

  • race
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • religion
  • social class
  • culture
  • place of origin
  • abilities

The university’s inclusive approach extends to its hiring, recruitment, and retention practices, emphasizing the value of diverse perspectives.

The College of Arts & Media offers:

  • A global community educational experience
  • Cultural and academic exchanges with institutions both domestically and internationally
  • The CAMtastic Newsletter, which showcases significant events and student achievements within the college

These initiatives highlight the college’s commitment to embracing cultural, thought, and methodological differences as collective strengths that foster new possibilities.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s rich and supportive educational experience is achieved through fostering inclusivity and promoting global engagement.

Columbia College Chicago

Columbia College Chicago is renowned for its comprehensive range of programs in media arts. This includes:

  • Audio arts and acoustics
  • Cinema and television arts
  • Communication
  • Interactive arts and media

Among these, the cinema and television arts program, with a focus on public relations, stands out, offering students extensive hands-on learning opportunities that prepare them for careers in the media industry.

The college emphasizes a creative community, encouraging collaboration among students from different disciplines. This collaborative spirit is evident in the numerous campus events and spaces dedicated to enhancing the educational experience of its students. Columbia College Chicago’s vibrant and interactive learning environment prepares students well for the ever-changing world of media arts.

For aspiring media professionals looking for a diverse and engaging academic experience, Columbia College Chicago offers an ideal platform to develop their skills and network with like-minded peers.

DePaul University

DePaul University’s School of Cinematic Arts offers a BA and BFA in Film and Television, with various concentrations such as:

  • Cinematography
  • Comedy Filmmaking
  • Directing
  • Screenwriting

This diversity in program offerings allows students to tailor their education to their specific interests and career goals. The School of Cinematic Arts provides students with access to DePaul Cinespace Studios, a nearly 60,000 square foot production facility equipped with professional soundstages, green screen cycloramas, and high-end editing suites.

One of the unique features of DePaul’s program is its virtual production stage, the first of its kind in the Midwest. This innovative technology allows students to gain experience with the latest advancements in film production. Additionally, the LA Quarter program offers a ten-week immersion in Hollywood, providing classes on a historic studio lot and internships at high-profile companies. The Indie Studio initiative also finances micro-budget projects, giving students hands-on experience in all phases of film creation, from development to distribution.

DePaul University students are prepared to make their mark in the film and television industry, graduating with practical experience and a well-built portfolio thanks to these opportunities.

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication offers:

  • Cutting-edge communication theory and communications research
  • Hands-on practice with real-world projects
  • State-of-the-art facilities, including an LED wall for visual communication learning
  • Five labs, studios, and creative suites dedicated to broadcast journalism and radio

Students at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication have the opportunity to engage in real-world projects, such as crafting ads for well-known brands like Stan’s Donuts. The school features state-of-the-art facilities, including an LED wall to enhance visual communication learning, and offers five labs, studios, and creative suites dedicated to broadcast journalism and radio.

With a 90% post-graduation employment rate, Loyola University Chicago alumni find success in various fields, often securing positions at top companies such as Google, Apple, and PepsiCo. This high employment rate underscores the effectiveness of Loyola’s approach to blending theory with practice.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications is known for its prestigious reputation and strong emphasis on media and communication studies. The faculty at Medill is a blend of industry veterans and academic researchers. Faculty members have led major media organizations and won prestigious journalism awards, while also remaining professionally active and contributing to top media outlets.

Notable faculty members include Charles Whitaker, an associate professor and expert in magazine journalism with a background at Ebony magazine, and Beth Bennett, who has over 15 years of experience in broadcast television news. This combination of experience and expertise provides students with a rich learning environment, preparing them for successful careers in journalism and media.

Graduates from the Medill School are well-equipped to navigate the complex media landscape, owing to the school’s steadfast commitment to excellence.

Campus Opportunities

Illinois universities offer a wealth of campus opportunities for students in multimedia programs. Northeastern Illinois University, for example, boasts four student-run media organizations: The Independent, SEEDS, Que Ondee Sola, and WZRD. These organizations provide students with hands-on experience and portfolio development, with The Independent covering campus news and human interest stories, SEEDS focusing on literary and visual arts, Que Ondee Sola being the oldest Puerto Rican and Latinx student-run magazine in the U.S., and WZRD offering a freeform radio station format.

Students at Columbia College Chicago can participate in various campus events and spaces dedicated to enhancing their educational experience. The Illinois College of Media at Illinois provides industry immersions, media production facilities, and film festivals, offering students firsthand experience in their fields.

Graduate Assistantships at SIU Carbondale offer:

  • Hands-on learning experiences
  • Professional mentorship
  • Preparation for careers after graduation
  • Real work environment experiences
  • Enhancement of students’ readiness for the job market.

Campus opportunities not only enhance the academic journey, but they also equip students for successful multimedia careers.

Alumni Success Stories

Graduates from top multimedia schools in Illinois have achieved remarkable success in various fields. Alumni from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, such as:

  • Sarah Min
  • Eli Murray
  • Anneliese Cornejo Garcia
  • Faith Lee
  • Rheanna Lewis

Illinois graduates have made significant contributions to journalism, digital media, and advertising, with their achievements reflecting the impact of their education in public affairs at Illinois.

Loyola University Chicago alumna Kayleigh Hunt has worked with notable brands like Starbucks, Panera, and Coors Light as a Strategy Supervisor at Publicis Media. Additionally, 90% of Loyola’s School of Communication graduates find employment with renowned companies such as Google, Apple, and PepsiCo. Chad Maxwell, a 2014 graduate of Illinois Media School, transitioned from a sports update anchor and producer for Chicago radio stations to a sports reporter for The Comcast Network Chicago, illustrating the school’s strong foundation for a career in sports broadcasting.

These alumni accomplishments testify to the quality of Illinois’ multimedia programs, inspiring students to chase their creative aspirations.

A Welcoming Environment

Creating an inclusive classroom environment is crucial for student success. Encouraging respectful conversations about race, gender, and religion helps foster understanding and collaboration among students of diverse backgrounds and abilities. Using language that respects all identities and celebrating individual contributions are key components of promoting a positive learning environment.

Numerous student organizations and events, such as the Manifest Urban Arts Festival, contribute to a vibrant campus life. Diverse hiring practices also enrich the learning experience, ensuring that students are exposed to a wide range of perspectives and expertise.

Illinois multimedia schools cultivate a welcoming environment that nurtures student success and readies them for a global society by placing a high priority on inclusivity and diversity.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial aid and scholarships play a crucial role in supporting students pursuing multimedia programs in Illinois. The CFA Scholarships in Art & Creative Media, for example, offer up to $5,000 annually based on talent and academic achievement. The priority processing deadline for these scholarships is May 1, though applications are accepted on a rolling basis. At Millikin University, students must be admitted before applying for scholarships within the School of Art & Creative Media, with interviews or portfolio reviews conducted in person, virtually, or via phone.

SIU Graduate School offers numerous scholarships tailored to students’ interests and needs, particularly for those entering the Mass Communication and Media Arts program in the spring semester. These financial resources help alleviate the burden of tuition and provide students with the opportunity to focus on their studies and creative projects.

Illinois multimedia schools contribute to students’ academic and professional success by offering a variety of scholarships and financial aid options.