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UChicago vs. Northwestern: Which College is Right for You?

University of Chicago vs. Northwestern? This is a common dilemma for high-achieving high schoolers looking to attend school in the Midwest. While the two schools share many commonalities—they’re located roughly 30 minutes from each other and both appear in the top 10 of U.S. News’ rankings of national universities—there are also some differences that can help you decide which school is right for you. 


Learn more about the University of Chicago and Northwestern University and see your chances of acceptance.


UChicago vs. Northwestern: A Quick Overview


UChicago  Northwestern 
Location Chicago, IL  Evanston, IL
Campus Type Urban  Suburban 
Undergraduate Enrollment 6,734 8,327
Acceptance Rate 6% 9%
U.S. News Ranking 6 9
Middle 50% SAT 1500-1560 1440–1550
Middle 50% ACT 33-35 32–35
Sticker Price $80,277 $79,342
Need-blind, no-loan, or meets 100% demonstrated need? Need-blind


Meets 100% need 


No-loan for Pell Grant recipients

Meets 100% need


UChicago vs. Northwestern: A Closer Look




UChicago is located in the residential neighborhood of Hyde Park, which is just outside of downtown Chicago. Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S., and UChicago students reap the rewards of living in a major metropolis—the city offers exceptional dining and endless cultural and recreational opportunities. The campus itself is a beautiful blend of old and new, with both Gothic buildings (adorned with gargoyles and grotesques) and gleaming, glass-encased modern buildings. 


Evanston, Illinois, home to Northwestern, offers a more suburban feel when compared to UChicago. Numerous fun, quirky shops and a wide variety of restaurants are found in Evanston, many of which are within walking distance of Northwestern’s campus—Evanston is consistently rated one the most walkable college towns. For students who feel the pull of the big city, Chicago is less than 30 minutes away. 




6,801 undergraduate students and an additional 10,222 graduate students are enrolled at UChicago. The school has an impressive 5:1 student-faculty ratio and 78.9% of its classes have 20 students or fewer in them. 


Northwestern has similar enrollment and class-size numbers as UChicago. The total enrollment at Northwestern is 18,191 students, of which 8,327 are undergraduates. The student-to-faculty ratio is 6:1 and 77.1% of classes have fewer than 20 students in them. 




UChicago offers 52 majors and 45 minors ranging from Anthropology to Visual Arts through its five collegiate divisions. Those divisions are: 


  • Biological Sciences
  • Humanities
  • New Collegiate Division
  • Physical Sciences
  • Social Sciences


Northwestern is divided into nine colleges and schools offering a wide range of majors, ranging from Applied Mathematics to Sociology. Those nine colleges and schools are: 


  • Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • School of Communication
  • School of Education & Social Policy
  • McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science
  • Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Bienen School of Music
  • Kellogg School of Management
  • Bienen School of Music
  • Northwestern in Qatar


When comparing UChicago vs. Northwestern, one noticeable similarity is that both schools operate on a quarter system, something only about 5% of colleges do. Some advantages of the quarter system include increased flexibility and an opportunity to take more classes from more professors. 


Both schools also have campuses abroad. Northwestern has a campus in Qatar, while UChicago offers faculty-led civilization courses, language immersion, and year-long exchanges at their four international centers and campus, which are: 


  • Center in Paris 
  • Center in Beijing 
  • Center in New Delhi 
  • Campus in Hong Kong 

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First-year students at UChicago are required to live on campus in a residence hall or house, and gender-inclusive housing is available for students who request it. The “houses” where students are placed play an integral role in campus life—they provide social and academic support, have their own unique traditions, and compete against one another in intramural sports. Overall, about half of enrolled undergraduates live on campus at UChicago. 


Northwestern requires both first- and second-year students to live on campus in housing ranging from traditional residence halls to special interest houses (All Gender Housing, GREEN House, and Substance-Free Housing). Overall, roughly 60% of undergraduates at Northwestern live on campus. 


Financial aid


UChicago has a no-barriers philosophy to funding education and believes in removing financial obstacles and student debt from the college equation. All awards given by UChicago are no-loan. Families earning less than $125,000 annually receive a financial aid award that covers the full cost of tuition, while families earning less than $60,000 a year will receive aid covering tuition, fees, and room and board. 


At Northwestern, 46% of full-time undergraduates receive some form of need-based financial aid, with the average need-based award totaling $52,629. Northwestern also has an admissions goal of accepting 20% Pell Grant-eligible students. The school is no-loan only for Pell Grant recipients. 


Both schools are need-blind and commit to meeting a student’s full demonstrated need.


Sports and Extracurriculars


The UChicago Maroons compete in 20 sports in the Division III University Athletic Association. The college is proud to tout its student athletes; four Rhodes Scholars have competed for the Maroons and the school had 373 All-Academic recipients in 2018-19. In 2018-2019, UChicago placed ninth in the Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup standings, an award given annually to the nation’s best overall collegiate athletics program.


Northwestern, on the other hand, not only plays in but was a founding member of one of the most storied conferences in collegiate sports: the Big Ten. As a member of one of the NCAA’s power five conferences, Northwestern athletes regularly compete against some of the nation’s top athletic programs, such as Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State. While men’s sports like football and basketball steal the headlines, the university’s women’s lacrosse team has won seven titles since 2005.   


Greek life has a growing presence at UChicago; the school has more than 20 organizations including 12 fraternities, 4 sororities, and a handful of co-ed groups (the majority of fraternities have off-campus houses while none of the sororities have a house). At Northwestern, Greek life is an important presence in campus life—fraternities have been on campus since 185, and between 35% and 40% of undergraduates participate in Greek life. 


Culture and Diversity


UChicago provides a diverse and inclusive college campus and has embraced students of all races, genders, and religions since its founding in 1890. By 1943, UChicago had awarded more PhDs to African Americans—45 in all—than any other university. UChicago also has a long history of LGBQT friendliness. In 2010, Newsweek included it as one of the top 25 LGBT-friendly campuses and in 2012, it received a five-star rating from the LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index.


UChicago’s diversity stats are as follows:


Ethnicity Percentage of Student Body
White 40.9% 
Asian  13.5%
Hispanic or Latino 8.6%
Black or African American 4.42% 
Two or More Races 3.65%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0.123%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders 0.0308%


Northwestern fosters a diverse and inclusive campus as well. It enrolls students from all 50 states and from more than 75 different countries. The university receives high marks—four out of five stars—on the Campus Pride Index, earning high marks for LGBTQ Support & Institutional Commitment and LGBTQ Student Life. 


Here are Northwestern’s diversity stats:


Ethnicity Percentage of Student Body
White 53.2%
Asian American 25.5%
Hispanic or Latinx 15.4%
Black or African American 10%
International 10%
American Indian or Alaska Native 1.6%

How to Decide Between UChicago vs. Northwestern 


UChicago is especially strong for students who:


  • Want to attend a tight-knit residential college. 
  • Are prepared for an academically rigorous environment—the school has a well-deserved reputation for expecting excellence from its undergrads.
  • Want a school with both a collegiate-feeling campus but also want to be in a big city. 
  • Want an education with a solid foundation in liberal arts. 
  • Care about reputation—UChicago placed 10th on the Times Higher Education’s rankings of the top 50 universities by reputation 2019


Northwestern is especially strong for students who:


  • Want easy access to a big city but do not want to live in the heart of one.
  • Want to attend a walkable school—Evanston is among the most walkable college towns. 
  • Would like to pursue a career in journalism—the Medill School of Journalism is considered one of the best in the nation.
  • Are interested in a multidisciplinary education—72% of undergrads combine two or more areas of study.
  • Want to do research—there are more than 90 school-based centers and more than 50 university research centers residing at Northwestern. 


Will your odds of admission affect your choice between Northwestern and UChicago? Our free changing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S.—including Northwestern and UChicago. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.