After hours spent watching Youtube video tours, day-in-the-life vlogs and scouring the website for information on every program Northwestern offers, I decided to pack a suitcase, book a flight, and venture to the outskirts of Chicago. That’s right, I was finally seeing my dream school with my own eyes. Throughout my investigation and, admittedly, slight obsession, with Northwestern, I’d probably read hundreds of heated debates between parents concerning the value of the education, write-ups about the town of Evanston, and stereotypes about the student body. I’d even started to think of myself as an expert on all-things Northwestern.
Yet, no matter the extent of my research, I could not have fully grasped the energy of the NU campus and the vibrancy of the student body until visiting it myself. My biggest surprise was that despite its rank as #10 in Best National Colleges by US News and World Report (2022) and it's highly-selective acceptance rate of 9 percent, when talking to NU community members, the best part of the school surprisingly has little to do with the academic prestige of the so widely-regarded institution.
When speaking to several friends of mine on campus, the general consensus was that Northwestern’s study body has the perfect ratio of artistic souls to analytical minds, and not only that, but that these characteristics are not mutually exclusive. NU’s vibe attracts a certain type of individual that makes students list "the people, the people, the people" as the number one best thing about the school.
It seems that Northwestern’s exceptional study body of multi-dimensional, engaged learners is a result of two main factors: arts and academics.
NU offers a thriving arts scene
When speaking to several NU students, one of whom was a theater major, Northwestern's large emphasis on their various arts programs was evident. Even if people do not major in the arts, many NU students are still stay active in the arts scene by attending peers’ performances, taking classes in the Music and Communication schools, and being part of arts clubs. The University's a capella groups are especially popular. (Fun fact - the movie Pitch Perfect was based off of Northwestern!)
For me, a person who is not particularly interested in the arts, all of this was interesting but not a selling point.
Northwestern runs on a quarters system, which differs from many schools’ semester structure and allows students to take forty-eight classes total before graduation, or about eight classes more than most other universities. This grants students a sort of elasticity when it comes to their majors. Without having to worry about running out of time to check off requirements, students are able to delve deep into courses and topics that are interesting to them “just because.”
As someone who is interested in a multitude of professions, subjects, and topics, the quarter system is very appealing to me. It's also important to me to choose a college where I will be surrounded by like-minded individuals who enjoy pushing themselves academically. The quarter system also would allow me to double major quite easily which is a major bonus!
Yet, this also equates to shorter class terms (only about ten weeks) and therefore quicker-paced content. Though, the effects of this will not be felt the same across majors. For example, an English and Theatre double major friend of mine explained that she does not necessarily feel the intensity of shorter terms. On the other hand, a STEM-focused student mentioned to me that she definitely feels the pressure of fast-paced classes and the expectation to learn much of the content outside of class. Considering that I most likely will go into humanities, I am not necessarily concerned about the quick turnover of the classes. I feel as though the benefits of the quarters program outweigh the possible downsides, for me.
On my personal college scavenger hunt, I am looking for a college where I can find a peer group of well-rounded, interesting students who are both ambitious and fun! Northwestern’s large population of artsy students manifests itself in every aspect of the school. The arts programs' success is a great source of pride for the school and helps NU attract passionate, curious, and multi-talented students. I can see myself being very happy at Northwestern and given that, I plan to apply. I do not, however, think I will early decision to the school.
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