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Northwestern Alumni and Students: Did/do you enjoy NU?

EcstaticSeniorEcstaticSenior Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
Hey Wildcats! I'll be applying ED to Northwestern this fall. I've toured twice and absolutely loved it both times. I loved the vibrant atmosphere, the seeming camaraderie between students, and yes, even the idea of the Quarter System. From the perspective of a student at Northwestern, did you notice/enjoy these aspects?

Thanks in advance!

Replies to: Northwestern Alumni and Students: Did/do you enjoy NU?

  • moooopmoooop Registered User Posts: 1,657 Senior Member
    Looks like you aren't getting any responses. I didn't go there, but my kid did. Was very pleased with classes & professors. Administration seems concerned & effective. Financial aid office generous, efficient, & responsive. Several new buildings are beautiful. Some older dorms not that great, but new ones are on the way. Food was fine.

    2 biggest complaints are: (1) students a bit apathetic about attending sports events compared to, say, Michigan or Wisconsin. And (2) downtown Evanston is really nice but doesn't have many bars & restaurants geared towards students
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 2,034 Senior Member
    I graduated many, many years ago but enjoyed my time there. Now that we are looking for a school for our S19, we're finding things about NU that are keeping it off of his list.

    (1) The social life - I was in a sorority and that was terrific. Great housing, lots of friends and social events. Since graduating, though, I've met many adults who were at NU at the same time who did not pledge. They felt the social life was lacking. Many moved off campus by junior year. We are all looking for schools for our kids now tend to agree that, if you're not in the music school, or Medill, or a theater major, it might be hard to find your people unless you go Greek.

    (2) Not a lot of advising compared to the schools our son is currently targeting. He's on a hunt for a school where he will find mentors from the get-go, so we are looking at liberal arts schools. I entered NU as an engineering major and did not do well first quarter. While I went to my TA's for help, it wasn't enough. I didn't know where to turn. Even after my poor grades came out, I never heard from an advisor. I understand (now) that it was up to me to seek out as much help as I needed but, for what my parents were paying for NU, I could have used a little direction. I've asked about advising at NU currently and it sounds the same. They are there but you need to reach out.

    (3) First year classes are still big. My chem class had 200 plus kids. My calc class was taught by a grad student. Same thing today. Once you get a little older, the classes definitely get smaller, but our S19 wants small classes from the beginning.

    (4) As @moooop stated above, if you're looking for high-stats university with big rah rah, then NU isn't your place. A friend of mine just visited NU with her daughter. They spend the whole day with a student and met her friends for lunch. They said they've never been to a football game...or a basketball game. Some people go, I'm sure. I went to most football games when I was there and we continue to go as alums. But it is not Michigan or Wisconsin by a long shot. (My friend and her daughter had a terrific time with their guest. Thought she and her friends were welcoming and super helpful.)

    This all being said, if our son was sure he wanted to be an econ, or journalism, or theater major, I'm sure we would be considering it more. He's completely undecided and will be still as a freshman. It's just not a great fit for a student who wants to take philosophy, chemistry, political science, geology, etc. He's thinking seriously about environmental science and other schools have better programs. He needs some time to explore and to talk over different paths with a close advisor.

    NU is obviously very highly ranked. The quarter system is just fine but it can be stressful. I liked that I could take so many different classes and that's a plus. The weather isn't terrific but the lake is gorgeous and the train to Chicago and all it offers is a cinch. Campus is beautiful and you'll meet tons of interesting and bright students. That was probably my favorite part. I met so many friends from all over the country. Having some of the best and brightest in music, theater, journalism, engineering and the liberal arts is what makes NU special. Many, many of the people I graduated with are super successful in their chosen field. (And I know quite a few famous actors now too!)

    I would do an overnight before you ED. That's my advice to anyone planning to ED...not just to NU. Good luck!
  • nugraddadnugraddad Registered User Posts: 1,290 Senior Member
    @EcstaticSenior - I am a parent of 2 NU recent grads, and I have the following perspective and feedback:

    1. The Social Life - Neither of my kids went Greek at NU - and they were both plenty busy with parties, studying and club sports. Both moved off campus, one for study abroad and one for a summer research position - and both went back to their Res College ASAP! They found it was much easier to stay on campus, and bask in the warm glow of the Sodexo Goodness, than fight sloppy roommies and cooking their own food. :) Neither were active in HS Student Council, but both held positions with their res college.

    2. Excellent advising - https://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/students/undergraduate/advising-registration/
    Son was a Peer Adviser, and then a Family Ambassador (both new programs) - and enjoyed the experience.
    Both S and D talked about their group studies - and met life-long friends while doing so. D flies every year to an East Coast "Res College Reunion" to meet up with her friends. S is still dating a study partner that is "the most brilliant person he's every met". (Parental brag note - and she is cute as a button too)!

    3. Small first year classes. My Son, the most recent grad, did not have any large classes of 200 like homerdog - but he entered as a Freshman with Soph standing because of AP testing, so he didn't take any basic intro courses. D also did not mention any large classes, so hopefully that is a thing of the past too.

    4. Both kids went to football & basketball games when Freshmen, but they both joined club sports teams so they had to stop going due to practice time commitments. NU is not an easy school, so finding time to do all you want is hard to do. But they persevered, and they both loved it. If you have specific questions, you can PM me, and I can always forward to my NU grads.

  • stemmmmstemmmm Registered User Posts: 245 Junior Member
    nugraddad- thank you for posting. I was concerned after reading homerdog's post, but your responses are right in line with what we heard from students when we visited campus. Sounds like NU has done a great job making changes over the years.
  • CaliCashCaliCash Registered User Posts: 2,797 Senior Member
    @homerdog Current NU student here. It's very easy for your son to avoid a large lecture class if he wants a smaller experience. Outside of STEM, most intro level courses here have fewer than 30 students in them. Now, i was once like your son. I wanted a smaller class experience, but that changed real quick after i learned that class attendance would be mandatory lol! I wanted the freedom to be able to be able to miss class without the stress and panic of worrying about my grade dropping. Also, professors at NU are extremely accessible, almost to a fault. I've had professors who require you to visit them before major assignments. If you don't build a relationship with them, it's really based on your own doing.

    My biggest gripe with NU is that students at times can be apathetic to athletics. However, I have seen a significant change in that of late. Now that our basketball team is actually competitive and we are getting brand new athletic facilities, students are way more excited and there is great buzz around athletics. We were also ranked as the 9th happiest fan base in the country according to ESPN!

    But it's also important to pick what matters to you OP. If you want NU caliber academics with a rah rah atmosphere, you aren't gonna have many options. The only other options are Stanford, Duke (only basketball), and Notre Dame.

  • pacepeapacepea Registered User Posts: 71 Junior Member
    @homerdog Who cares if you are taught by a grad student? I took three calc classes in college, and the one taught by a grad student was by far the best-taught. Being a professor doesn't mean that person is a strong teacher.

    Also, what's wrong with large classes? I don't think class size matters for lower level math, science, or Econ (times when you are most likely to have a large class). That stuff is very standardized and you'll be sitting a lecture and how many people are in that room doesn't matter.

    Having small classes may matter for literature and discussion-based classes, but even then do you want to have to participate for your grade? Plus many of these classes come with smaller discussion sections.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 2,034 Senior Member
    edited November 2017
    @pacepea Yikes. Small classes are important for every subject if that's what a student wants. I agree that some grad students are good teachers and some professors are not as good, but the reverse is also true. Some grad students are teaching because it's required that they do so. Same goes for professors. In our case for our son, we are looking for the best chance of getting engaged professors for all classes, so we are focusing on schools where undergraduate teaching is a priority. That means mostly LACs.

    In my experience at NU (and I'm just one person!), my graduate student teachers in Chem and Orgo barely spoke English. Same goes for my Calculus TA. It just was not a good experience. When I switched from engineering to political science, I had some big classes and some small but I would say the only classes I really remember are the small classes where there was a ton of engagement. To each his own...

    And do I want to have to participate for my grade? Is that question for real? Yes. I would want participation to be a big part of my grade and I would expect that to be the case for both of our kids as well.
  • stemmmmstemmmm Registered User Posts: 245 Junior Member
    edited November 2017
    I'm with homerdog on the advantage of small classes. I went to a LAC and we had 10 students in my intro econ class taught by a reknown professor and it was awesome. Larger schools have different benefits that LACs cannot compete with, but you are not going to convince me that sitting in the back of a large lecture hall is a better education than a 10 person classroom engaged in discussion. It does seem however that NU does a pretty good job with managing class sizes these days. That 7-1 faculty student ratio is impressive, and we asked all the students we met about their intro classes and it really sounded manageable. I don't believe that graduate students are teaching the main classes any more - just the smaller sections. And they have put in more advising options over the years. Engineering is something that is just done better in large universities and if that is what you want to study, there really is no work around.
  • soontobecollegersoontobecolleger Registered User Posts: 442 Member
    edited November 2017
    Freshman at NU here who has to participate for grade in 3 out of 4 classes and hate it in most cases. But to each his own. I participate just as much in the 4th class but without the added pressure.
  • WilburigWilburig Registered User Posts: 24 New Member
    I was on a business trip in Chicago and stopped by NU for campus tour and information session for my son. I fell in love with the school. The view of the lake was absolutely stunning looking out of the window of the new music building. The information session was actually fun. We got to select which tour person for the tour who seemed truely enjoys the school. My son is interested in STEM but also likes to continue his music. It seems like doing a minor in music and joining some orchestra are very doable and common in NU. I will take my son to visit again to get his feel, but I am surprised by how much I love this school. Was the beautiful Lake view that somehow colored lmy eyes?

  • 2xPurplePride2xPurplePride Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    @Wilburig The beautiful lake view has not colored your eyes. Northwestern's is full of an amazing mixture of architecture, beautiful lake views, and fantastic people.

    I was accepted to NU and enrolled without every visiting. A month before school started, I decided I should probably check out campus considering I had committed to this place in May. I went to one of the NU campus tours that you mentioned, and I had a great experience with my guide. He was enthusiastic, smart, and helpful. It was comforting to see that I had made a leap of faith and that it was the right decision in retrospect.

    The new music building, newly-renovated Kresge, the Kellogg Global Hub, and so many more facilities are state of the art (and there are many more to come). The university is currently investing ~$400 million in renovations to its basketball stadium and building the most expensive field house in the Big Ten. NU opened a mega-dorm named 560 Lincoln that offers suite-style living, amazing amenities, and those fantastic views of the lake you saw. It also reopened three last year (Goodrich, 1838 Chicago, and Shepard) and more are either under renovation now or about to go under renovation. Almost all the dining halls got new furniture this year it seems, which was really nice to see as a visiting alumnus. On the academic end, Tech is getting another expansion, the Jacobs center is getting completely renovated into a social sciences hub, and the Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research center is being built downtown (when both phase A and B are completed it will be one of the ten tallest university buildings in the world). The university is also about to kick off the silent phase for funding a new $180 million student center. At some point, NU is going to run out of things to renovate and places to build! Campus has become incredible over the past 5-10 years and is only improving.

    If your son is interested in STEM, Tech is going to be a fantastic place for your son. The ISP program is incredibly respected and probably more intense than almost any other STEM program in the nation. We have some top notch engineering specialties, and our biology/physics/math programs are pretty good too. The university also announced a $100 million commitment to computer science a couple years ago, so you can expect NU to see some serious growth there too. As for chemistry, it's one of NU's crown jewels and competes with the likes of Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, and many other top schools. The STEM community is pretty tight, and they definitely bond over a sort of "shared struggle." Many of my friends had boundless opportunities to work in labs, do research projects in the classroom, and explore their STEM interests in general.

    The music (and dance)(and theater) scene at NU is just too good. It was probably my favorite part of NU. From Jazz to classical to a cappella, you'll never run out of events to go to or organizations to participate in. I don't know too much about the music curriculum, but I do know many people who minored in Bienen or dual-degreed, and they found it occasionally stressful but worth it. As I alluded to, the dance and theater scenes are definitely worth checking out as a student, even if you don't want to participate. I have a feeling that if your son can appreciate and likes playing music that he'll love both scenes.

    As you can tell, I had a fantastic time at NU (even got 2 degrees and thinking about a 3rd), and I'm a very active alumnus that tries to keep up to date on all the happenings on campus. I'd be more than happy to answer any questions that you have.
  • CaliCashCaliCash Registered User Posts: 2,797 Senior Member
    @pacepea @soontobecolleger @homerdog I agree lol. TBH, I don't know a single college student (Northwestern and beyond) that prefers classes that demand participation or mandate attendance. It might be a sad indictment of what college is now, but most students aim for the highest grade that can be achieved with the least amount of effort involved. The same will be true for the next class and beyond.
  • homerdoghomerdog Registered User Posts: 2,034 Senior Member
    @CaliCash that's pathetic. Our high school is full of kids who want to participate.
  • CaliCashCaliCash Registered User Posts: 2,797 Senior Member
    @homerdog Lol high school. Those were the good ole days.
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