Northwestern sense of community?

Hi guys! I love NU but I have a concern that is preventing me from committing. I have heard that Northwestern is lacking in terms of sense of community compared to other universities of its caliber. I am wondering if this is true and if the divide between North and South campus makes the students feel un-united? Can someone speak to this?

What is Northwestern’s sense of community like and is the student body truly united as is in most peer institutions.

There is a division between the north & south campuses at NU.

To which school were you admitted ? Some schools form a tight community.

@Publisher I was admitted to SESP (school of education and social policy) but am thinking about transferring to Medill. Can you explain the division and what it means for the students?

SESP is a tight group. Medill as well.

Since you will be in either SESP or Medill, you will be able to double or triple major or a couple of minors is Weinberg.

North campus is engineers, South campus tends to be quite social.

P.S. If torn between SESP & Medill, consider earning a masters in journalism at Columbia if you select SESP–although both Medill & SESP are exceptional programs.

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The North/South divide does exist, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a sense of community in the student body. It’s more about the vibe of each end of campus than a real social divide. North Campus has Tech, the main engineering building, plus the frat houses, so a lot of STEM majors live North and some of the dorms have more of a party vibe. South campus is home to Medill, Bienen, and most of School of Comm, so it has more of an “artsy” reputation. But there are a lot of fun, social dorms on both sides of campus, and people of all majors live all around campus and socialize with each other. It only takes about 10 minutes to get across campus, and you’ll end up having classes on both sides no matter what you study, so it’s not like people just stay on one side of campus. I’m a senior in Medill, and I’ve had close friends that live all across campus across all six schools.

So, I wouldn’t worry about the North/South campus divide. There’s still a strong sense of community in the overall student body, and Medill and SESP both have their own tight knit communities as well.


@Collegegirl10134 Check out “Live from Northwestern” series on YouTube. I think you’d get a pretty good feel from watching the videos.

Hi - just chiming in here as a recent alum I think there’s something to be said about reframing this question. A lot of people have gone to the north v south debate and have already articulated the pros and cons.

Regarding community as a whole, I think NU is a great school but does have a ~different~ community structure than most. As an easy to pick on example, Big Ten Sports. To some, it’s life or death importance. To others, it’s a form of nonsense - and those views are stark and loud.

It’s that contrast that makes the school what it is. A marketing pitch says that diversity of opinion is invaluable. A sophomore in his/her winter quarter says I just want to go to a basketball game. Neither is wrong, but it is worth noting.

The OP asked the forum to compare NU community to those at other schools of its caliber - I assume OP was referring to UChicago and some of the Ivys. My family members and close friends have attended all of them, and I’d say that NU has the strongest school pride over all, thanks mainly to the Big Ten sports scene and the Greek life. Students are cohesive, diverse and smart, and truly care about one another. This old-school, midwestern value is difficult to find on the East Coast, where I worked for many years.

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Do you think someone who is pretty social and well-liked but does not necessarily want to join a fraternity would still be okay there? Or does that sense of community drop off if you’re not involved in greek life?

Definitely not an issue at all. Only 1/3 of NU students belong to a Greek club, and the other 2/3 get to choose whatever parties/activities they like, without being tied down to just one house. If you are social and popular, you’d get lots of invites. My family members (multiple Wildcats in the family) had lots of fun at tailgate parties, concerts, performances, etc. Go purple!

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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.

Arguments will be that they allow a few students because SO many will join who just want to put the club/ org on their resume and do not plan on participating. So? If a student doesn’t show up to say 3 commitments - bye bye - try next year.

Another argument is that this helps kids develop skills, build resiliency, etc… No - only some. All should have equal opportunities to join. Those with leadership skills will become leaders no matter what.

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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So… incredibly basic question here. Are the kids… nice? Students who are admitted are by definition extraordinarily bright etc, but this thread worries me that it’s all ultra competitive and fierce. Are they able to make kind, safe, loyal, genuine real deal friends?

No, they are not “ultra competitive and fierce”. NU doesn’t have a business degree program for undergrads and isn’t as premed oriented as JHU. The most popular clubs are going to be competitive to get in. 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 that poster 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 you to check them out.

Regarding research opportunities, most (if not all) undergrad research are NOT work-study, contrary to what that other poster claimed. There are plenty of that at NU. I got mine simply by approaching profs and asking if they got projects that could accomodate me. Mine was registered as independent study and not funded (I will touch on the funded ones next). I was merely an average student, not academic superstar or anything. Work-study I knew about/heard of were mostly things like working in libraries or administrative tasks such as conducting surveys for some research projects. So it’s a completely different animal.

NU dedicates over $3M just for undergrad research. During the academic year, anyone who wants to get grants for independent research can submit proposal. Never did a grant proposal before? No worries, the office of undergrad research provides coaching and guidance. The grant approval is solely based on the merit of one’s proposal. The candidate is not competing against other undergrads. The success rate is around 60-70%. There’s also funded research assistant programs; those opportunities are capped and so it’s tougher to get with the success rates of around 20-30%. Funded research assistant are competitive everywhere; so that’s not unique to NU. There’s a video just on undergrad research in Northwestern Admissions channcel on YouTube if you want more info. Check out the Office of Undergraduate Research too. You can pull the Annual Report there.

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…

also from 2017 – nothing changed

The Daily Northwestern – 15 Nov 17

In Focus: Student leaders struggle with University’s barrier-free initiative…

A self-described “overachiever,” Weinberg junior Danielle Hojnicki thrived in her high school social scene. As a leader and member of several organizations — National Honor Society, choir, an art club, among others — she always felt eager to pursue…

Est. reading time: 18 minutes

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.

The 16 positions were for the entire undergrad population - social sciences, etc…

Honestly, my opinion is that she should start her own club.

A big issue is that (like nearly all top schools), the academics are demanding so it may be difficult to find time, but that would be true for all EC’s.

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BTW, competitive entry to popular clubs seems to be a fact of life at top colleges these days. I’ve heard the same complaint at Yale, for instance.

Upperclass classes? Are you talking about the limited admission majors? Outside of those, I’ve never heard of registration for classes being dependent in any way on ECs.

To add to this, Yale, Princeton, Columbia as well as many other top universities (as well as many other universities in general) have competitive admissions/exclusionary majors/academic programs/clubs/organizations.

It seems that if they want to avoid this, parents and prospective students may want to look at LACs, which generally are so small that they’re begging for man/womanpower.

Though LACs have the opposite problem of being so small that the number of clubs and majors (and advanced courses within majors) may be pretty limited.