Campus Life at Northwestern

Anyone able to give me some info on what life is like at Northwestern? Trying to get a perspective other than the school website and admissions office.

Have you checked some of the good college guide books such as Fiske, Princeton Review, Insiders Guide etc.?

Varies by school & whether or not one is a member of a Greek organization.

North Campus (engineers) differs from South Campus (Theater and Liberal Arts).

Serious students. Gorgeous lake front campus & gym.

Chicago is a better city than NYC for many. Really beautiful & fun.

Northwestern University is a wealthy school (top 10 endowment) with very strong academics. But theater kids have a different experience than engineering students & SESP students have the ultimate sophisticated LAC experience.

Easy to double or triple major.

Northwestern’s overlaps are Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Michigan, UPenn, Princeton, WashUStL, & Duke–and it shows.

Quarter system is demanding, fast paced, and rewarding. Students & families get their money’s worth.

For a more relaxed atmosphere, try Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Michigan or Duke.

Northwestern students are similar to Cornell, Penn, Harvard, Princeton & WashUStL students in terms of academic culture, but South Campus theatre kids add a relaxed & entertaining element. Big 10 athletics. Spectacular Lake Michigan setting.

Great reputation in the professional communities of the real world–especially in the Midwest, Southwest, & West. Stellar reputation among management consulting firms–only surpassed by Harvard.

Worth every penny & more professionally.

I’ve looked at Fiske and Princeton Review and those were both helpful. Since I can’t go on visits right now, I’m hoping to find a more insightful look at life on campus from someone who has experience there. The guides give good information but it only goes so far. A student or employee’s view on campus life would add to that information and help a ton

Biggest difference is quarter system versus semester system. Northwestern University is on the quarter system. No wasted time. Opportunities to take more courses & to double or triple major.

Semester systems allow for more free time.

Northwestern is for serious, hard-working, ambitious students. Really depends upon the individual and what one wants from a higher education experience.

Hi, I have 4 family members who went there with success. The only challenge seems to be the weather which can be brutal from January through March. Other than that, a great great school with a strong rep and perhaps the most beautiful campus (not too big) one could ask for.

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Northwestern has for the most part well met our expectations.Staff beyond expectations. Ongoing problem with activities/satisfaction of many kids (yes, they are kids)

Many clubs interview students and pick who they want to include, Often kids who party - for instance the sailing club. It is not at all about teaching/developing skills - however, info and tours of the campus highlight it for all . I’ve heard six not nice stories on sororities, in which girls leave and take any other housing offered. Similar stories for business clubs/ arts organizations - WaaMu SHow, MeeOw Improv, Dillo Day, etc… are all hyped by admissions and yet only accept a few students. Aside from a potential “we like you or we don’t aspect” there is also the question of experience. Not all students will have direct experience at this point, but they all will have some thing to offer - that’s why they are here. The kids interviewing them don’t have the experience/want to understand this - an adult will. Leads to next point. Adult staff of the school state that “while organizations used to be able to select who they want to join, this is not allowed any more - unless if it is for an acapella group (of course!), instrumental. etc…”) When I spoke to older undergrads and grad students they all said, exclusion goes on all the time and the problem is that faculty/admin are not /barely involved. So - let staff take a more active part - yes a few students will be upset by this - but more will be happy. Oh, yeah, it’s more fair.

Greek life and some clubs are all about keeping people out. It is great that there are multicultural, etc…clubs gaining traction , but that only does so much. If a kid wants to develop skills in an area or be exposed to something new, they should be able to do so at college with nothing in their way. Northwestern limits much. Even research opportunities and jobs - for almost all of them, especially the meaningful ones, you have to have work-study. The school provides funds for (all?) the organizations I mentioned - that means the parents pay for these club, etc… even the ones our kids cannot participate in.

So many of the kids are lonely and unable to meet people because they cannot get into the clubs and organizations. Yes, there are things that kids can join - but it may have no interest to them, very few of the kids join (because they think no one else will join - vicious circle), and many disappear or don’t do anything. These clubs could also benefit from staff involvement. Many more robust. interesting, well-funded activities needed for kids who don’t drink, but are social, outgoing, and like to have fun. All dorms should have many ongoing activities - put RDs in all the buildings- even the small ones. Kids do not want to go to another dorm in their neighborhood to participate - it is awkward

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Most research opportunities are not tied to work-study. I was an international student and all I did was to approach professors if they got any projects that could accomodate me. I knew many people who did the same. The kind of work-study I knew/heard about was more like working in libraries or administrative tasks like doing surveys and something tedious that research team wouldn’t mind paying someone else to do. I can’t speak for all professors since I did not appraoch every one of them. But common sense tells me most professors don’t need to pay anyone with their limited grants and deal with the extra paperwork. Plenty of undergrads, including myself, come to them for free. Professors want people who are genuinely interested and even better, if they are talented. They don’t want someone to approach them because they need to get paid! NU also allocates over $3M for undergrad/independent research for which you write your own proposal. The typical success rate for that is 60-70%, based solely on the merit of that proposal, not competition from peers.

The most popular clubs/shows are going to be competitive. That’s just the nature of limited supply not meeting the demand. That happens everywhere, not just NU. Same thing for frats/sororities. I did not hear people getting shut out of most other clubs. If anything, many people may be involved in too many things. I don’t want to get into debate with you in accordance with the CC rules. People on here should take each post with a grain of salt. Also, on YouTube, there are many videos on Northwestern Admissions channel in which people can find a lot of info about the school from current students; I encourage people to check them out.

You seem to love Northwestern. So do we! But I really do think the school can do better. Just want to point out a few things.

  1. Northwestern joins Harvard in urging exclusive clubs to open up their membership.

As shown in this 2016 insidehighered article, it shows that Northwestern has been aware of the exclusivity problem for years. As I stated above, the school’s go-to view is that “Everything is open” for the most part. When you speak with students, particular upperclassmen and grad students, read places like reddit, etc… you will quickly see that this is not the case. When you refer to places like reedit, etc… you will also see how many unhappy and/or disappointed students are. Quick searches in these places and even Northwestern news articles will show there is a big problem with the Sororities - Frats don’t seem as bad.
2.Many posted jobs/research require work-study. Many kids need to be paid - we are all not wealthy. Work study money comes form the government - that’s why the school tends to promote work study jobs=doesn’t come out of the school’s war-chest. You look at work-study positions and they are ongoing. Non-work study students are often suggested to look off-campus.
3. Ok, so let’s say this is the way it is and that’s that - limited numbers in select organizations. Again, it should be staff/ faculty to help organize this. Letting kids make decisions on other kids, in this situation, is unfair. My experiences speaking to many, makes it very clear that it is a situation that is based on a variety of things as I stated above. I also refer those reading this to scroll through reddit, etc… Also, if this is the way it is to be, it should be very clear during tours, on website, literature, etc… On the organization information pages that interview/call for petitions. it should say something like -“We invite all Northwestern students to interview/petition for a position. While we know that as a northwestern student you have much to offer, we typically ony accept about 20% of those applying. What we look for is…” Describing what they are looking for will help the school monitor the process to make sure it is fair. Many of the “top” organizations/ groups - even tour guides - are highly and vigorously promoted through admissions, Yet, it is never stated that most students will not be able to participate in the BIG Guns the school promoted.
4. Why is this important? Because the clubs and activities are often part of the college choice decision. Is a student knew that they had a good chance of not being able to take part in the orgs/clus that would not only be fun for them, but part of their educational experience, they may choose to look elsewhere. Also, o many of these A list orgs can have an impact on internships, jobs, admission to upperclass classes, etc… because of the experiences they offer. Thia is one of the reasons why they are so popular. Kids are rightfully upset are right - they were misled about the opportunities. Parents who are working their butts off and driving 15 year old cars to afford the school are disgusted by this.

  1. I write this so families know. Would we have made a different decision - I honestly don’t know. The academics are great, the ability to explore academically is great, the professors are great, the administration I have spoken with has been great (well - there was one exception!), but the activities - not so much, bad enough to make me write this. As many say it is a pre-professional school - so there emphasis is not on student engagement and overall happiness. Hopefully, they are actively and quickly working on that. Also, and do not want to go into this too much, because I am not sure, but I am getting the idea that they are not that great on advising - whether how to gain opportunities on campus, pursue careers, etc…

  2. And, yes, grains of salt with everything…

sorry for grammatical - spelling errors - writing after an operation and hard to see!

also from 2017 – nothing changed

Additionally, they just posted URAP (beginner research positions) - for undergrads - there were 16 positions! 16! Yet another case where they market something that has no substance behind it.

URAP is just one of the undergrad research grants programs. There are others! I don’t know where you pulled the 16; it could just be for the summer. The total grants last year was 114. Last year, the total number of awarded students for undergrad research was 532. That’s almost one out of ten freshmen/sophomores/juniors (most applicants were probably sophomores or juniors) and many people did not even apply for grants. Good luck finding another school with better grant success rates. The 532 doesn’t even include unpaid research opportunities that are even more common. NU allocated more than $3M to undergrad research per year. As far as I know, only Stanford beat that number.


My online friend here thinks I am trying to badmouth what is in many ways a wonderful school. That is not the case at all, as I pointed out above. But when we were researching schools, I promised myself that I would provide feedback once I was able to. Most here have probably come across the same write-ups I did and the question - pay for the top schools, or take a different approach and look for aid (the northwestern versus univ of pittsburgh article) for example). This is a very expensive school. Before anyone starts saying - they give great aid - that is not true. Many of us who fall int the middle class range who just make " a little too much" or have "saved a little too much’ have had aid taken away from us collectively over the last decade to be put towards other groups This school is very expensive for us. As I have shown above (with links showing that I am not the only one who thinks so) - clubs are a problem. If you don’t get in the popular ones Freshman year, yeah, it is pretty much over. I think it was said above, there are kids who are super busy. That is because for many of them keep themselves in these clubs and others out - it is the same kids in the clubs with leadership positions. I think part of the issue is that there is a very different experience for kids who come knowing what they are going to do and those exploring. If you are in the sciences, computers, etc… the clubs and research may be more available and open. My friend above may be such a person (or it could be someone in administration). If you are in other areas of the school, it is not so easy. Academically, it is an amazing place to explore - can’t be beat. But, I’ll refer back to URAP It starts off with Lots of faculty mentors are running job searches for students with no prior research experience! -* again 16 positions for the summer. This is often aimed at kids who are not sure (or at all) what they want to do and it is meant to give them ideas. My friend above discusses research - 1 in 10 - I don’t think that’s great, but whatever. But that is based on having some idea of what you want to do. Urap is meant to stimulate ideas. It is not necessarily meant for kids who don’t know their direction. So, I will leave it with this. It is a great place for kids who come in knowing what they want to do. It can be a great place for students who did lots and lots in high school and come in running full blast freshman year. For others, while academically being amazing, the difficulty with access to top clubs and organizations, especially after Freshman year (Morty says in one of the articles “It makes me cry” - you had the power to do something about it Morty), advising not being great, and research/jobs not being as great as advertised (at least outside of the sciences, should be considered. Just considered. Read (reddit ) with a grain of salt) to get a sense of what kids are saying. All I have said has been based on the experiences of a bunch of kids over there last few years. I think the feel is that this is based on the experiences of nerdy or unpopular kids. Not at all Some have been nerdy, but I wouldn’t say unpopular. Actually, a girl we know has had one of the toughest experiences. At school, we met her parents and her mom was saying she petitioned for about 13 clubs - she got into none. Me met her at some point and she was absolutely beautiful -there was another mom there who whispered to me - well,of course she didn’t get in to anything - she is too pretty. I have no idea if that is true, but as I said in the beginning, leaving admissions decisions to children for these top organizations is ridiculous.

This is my last post - I have healed from surgery - going back to my regular life. I wish you all well.

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