At the undergrad level, NU is most known for its school of journalism. The school of communication (theater, comm. studies, comm. sciences/disorder, tv/film, performance studies) is also one of the best in the nation. School of music is very good. For schools of arts/sciences, engineering, and education, the US News gives the following ratings (keep in mind they are graduate rankings, however, and no undergrad ranking is available; the US News ranks only limited number of departments; for example, classics and foreign languages are not included):
US News Rankings:
Applied Math 14th
Biological sciences 36th
Poli Sci 21st
Graduate Professional Schools:
As far as sciences go, NU is one of the best places for studying chemistry. There are ample opportunies for undergrad research. Among the four students that just won Gates Scholarships, two of them are chemistry majors. http://www.northwestern.edu/newscent.../02/gates.html The chemsitry and material sciences departments also lead the nanotechnology research and NU has one of the premier nanotech research centers in the nation.
Having applied to both NU and UChicago and am awaiting nervously an acceptance/rejection letter, I can say that both have their own attractions.
Firstly, NU is 12 miles NORTH of Chicago, not IN Chicago. So there is the added bonus that your college is in the middle of a fitzy suburb. But, UChicago has a very beautiful campus and has been said to look like Hogwarts, which is what attracted me to researching UChicago in the first place--silly admission, I know.
Secondly, NU has a better Film major. The School of Communications is excellent and lets me slide past a lot of general education requirements that I might otherwise find completely unnecessary. But, UChicago has a really nice Humanities major that seems to have most of their "School of Communications" type courses such as "Writing for Television" or "Theatre Design," etc. And, UChicago has a good film society that makes its own movies. I don't know of any recognized film societies at NU--but if there is one, let me know!! I wanna join if I get in there!
Thirdly, NU is supposed to be known as a "preppy" school, one that has beautiful smart people. UChicago is supposed to have stodgy nerdy folk who never stop studying and have zero fun. NU is notorious for actually having three groups: jocks who study a lot; artsy theatre/film/writing majors who never stop studying or going to the movies/theatre in Chicago; and then the people who join very little because they never leave their room to stop studying. NU is a nerdy place because people are dedicated. And it's difficult. It just so happens that more people who apply to NU don't have a hygiene deficiency. UChicago people are not stodgy, in fact they have the silliest thing known: the Scavenger Hunt. Between the residential houses, like Harry Potter (which is supposed to be the school's overall favorite book [series]), students compete to find everything listed, and they have some real crazy stuff listed. If you look online, you'll find old lists. One time they wanted a print out of the Google homepage where its Google sign in the top left corner had a specific picture (how the heck do you get that changed?!).
Point is, UChicago isn't entirely boring; although they do have some of the most rigorous courses among the colleges in the US, so I've been told, they do get crazy. And not everyone is "ugly" as someone put it. Not everyone at NU is going to be "socal"!
NU is my Numero Uno choice--oh crap, i should have used that in my application--NU = Numero Uno. Drat.
both universities are excellent--in my opinion, better than a few ivies. they seem to be about even in all respects except name recognition. having grown up in the south (new orleans), i can say with confidence that northwestern is more recognized here. i considered u chicago seriously before deciding to apply ED to W&L; a major turn off was that many people down here either had not heard of u chicago or knew very little about it. haha i guess it's fair to call the south 'stupid' for not being fully familiar with one of the nation's leading national universities; nevertheless, northwestern seems to be more high profile. (perhaps if for no other reason becuase northwestern consistently has athletics that are decent in a few sports).
yeah, in all honesty, both institutions have their strengths and weaknesses and I respect them both (I go to NU though so I'm still biased...) mwbashful18 had a pretty good description of both...I wish our school looked more like Hogwarts, that'd be cool, but NU still has a BEAUTIFUL campus, especially in the spring and summer. NU's chemistry department is one of the best and most rigorous...people are recommended to take Organic Chem at Harvard because it's easier there (I don't blame them). NU's definitely more of a preppy school, which gets somewhat annoying when people show up to class in designer clothing, all made up, with ridiculously expensive accessories...when students at other schools just show up in pajamas and a sweatshirt. Overall, NU is a very well rounded school which excels in academics, athletics, and the social scene.
Well, I will state my bias at the outset and say that last week I sent in my class deposit to the University of Chicago.
When it comes to name recognition, its all very relative. First of all, it does not surprise me that, as a general rule, Northwestern is more recognized than the University of Chicago in some parts of the country. However, what one needs to realize is that when you consider people who know about both universities, you will see that very often they tend to consider Chicago as a better Univeristy. I would certainly be remiss in not saying that Northwestern has several internationally famous departments, and that many of those are far better than departments at the University of Chicago. However, one will find that in departments which exist at both institutions, that more often than not Chicago will have the edge. One example, which happens to be my concentration, is the economics department, who has MIT and Chicago sharing the first place in the US News ranking.
Also, I will concede that both schools have very different social atmosphere. In my view, Northwestern aligns heavily with a social atmosphere of several big state schools, whereas Chicago is more in line with MIT-like parties. To some one scenario is preferable than the other, but it has to be reinforced that they are indeed incredibly different.
Also, one item to consider is international recognition. In that case, one certainly has to concede that Chicago sharply outranks Northwestern. The university has, amongst students, professors, and researchers, more Nobel prize winners than any other school in the country, and second in the world to Cambridge. Lastly, Shiang-Tao universities world university ranking, the most widely known in the world, has the University of Chicago in 8th, and Northwestern at 31. Being an international student, I'd say that on the global scene that probably does indeed reflect their international recognition
U.S. News and World Report rank Northwestern at 12 and Chicago at 15 for top national universities. Northwestern is not only a top school in academics, but are in the D-1 Big Ten Athletic Conference where Chicago's sports are weak and virtually unknown.
But, when you look at how many Rhodes Scholars UChicago posts and how many advancements they make, UChicago comes out on top with being very progressive. But, Northwestern does put out highly qualified graduates. Journalism there is amazing, and UChicago has nothing on that department. The same goes for Theater and Film. You have to weigh each side and see where one fits. I fit more at Northwestern strictly because I want the better film program. If I don't get in at NU, I'm going to UMichigan. If I can't afford UMich, I'll look UChicago then. After that I'll be peeved if I have no where else.
As a side note, I will be one of the few going to class at Northwestern in a NU hoodie with active/pajama pants on. I am not dressing up ever for a class in college. Not unless there is a reason.