<p>Because of geographical considerations and other similarities, so many kids year after year face exactly this same dilemma. And so many suffer the proverbial "paralysis through over-analysis" by trying to objectively distinguish between two fine institutions.</p>
<p>NU is an excellent school. Always has been. Do well there and most jobs of your choice, professional schools, and grad schools are open to you. NU has long been a favorite of the East Coast'ers, when they want/need to get away from their own schools, and accordingly NU has always received respect from the largely East Coast biased rankings.</p>
<p>WU? The prevailing "Wash-U is a sham because it manipulates the ranking" sentiment is so amusing to those who know Wash-U well. Since at least the late 1960's, this school has been an unknown gem, particularly in the sciences, and was favored by many academics when sending their own kids to school. After years of being known as one of the best "lesser-known schools," Wash-U clearly devised an entire marketing scheme to become better known. Say what you will about the mass-mailing practices of their office, they have shot up through the rankings. But, here's the key point -- the school is fundamentally the same outstanding school it's always been -- only better as the higher profile has brought in even more money for better teachers, better facilities, not to mention that the higher selectivity has taken an already impressive student body and made it truly (or nearly) elite.
Like NU, do well at WU and options open for you to the same extent as with NU (perhaps one exception might be for those interested in the heavy business arenas like investment banking, where WU will simply not generate the same foot-traffic for recruiters in those arenas).</p>
<p>My advice would be to spend less time agonizing over which school is "better" on any kind of objective measure (because there IS no answer here -- they are similar enough that somebody can always make a good contrary point), and spend more time truly considering which school FEELS better for you. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least six kids I know well (including my son) who have made this choice in the last 3-5 years. Of these six, three chose NU, three chose WU. Each seems happy with their choice. But, ultimately they chose on entirely subjective factors.</p>
<p>For my son, the reasons he chose WU included: he liked the idea of semesters more than quarters; he liked less frats and less sports emphasis over more; and he simply felt that WU seemed "happier" and "sunnier" than NU. There are many who believe that a very high percentage of students who attend WU are simply delighted to be going there. This is a "feel" issue of course, but I've been a life-long Chicago area resident and know hundreds of people who have NU connections, as undergrad students, grad students, professional students, faculty, and administrators. This can be debated, of course, but I believe that NU is afflicted with a greater percentage of kids who are attending NU as a "second-choice" to somewhere they didn't get in. I'm purposely not using the term "Ivy reject" because NU is a world-class institution and no kid going there is a reject in any sense. But, some people do believe that a campus simply "feels" different when a higher percentage of kids are there by default rather than by choice.</p>
<p>Having said all of that, my son was debating this decision until the 11th hour. Then, WU chimed in with another difference between the schools -- merit aid. It's funny how a hefty merit package can act as a tie-breaker.</p>
<p>Best of luck with your choice. In my opinion, you can't go wrong.</p>