What is Northwestern University Known For?

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Located in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University is known as an “Ivy of the Midwest.” The school features prestigious, top-tier programs in academics and performing arts, all while being a member of the Big 10 athletic conference. Students get the best of both worlds with Northwestern’s quality academics and sports culture.

 

Do you dream of attending this highly selective university? Keep reading to find out all about Northwestern’s claims to fame and what it takes to gain admission.

 

Overview of Northwestern Admissions

 

Location: Evanston, Illinois

Undergrad Enrollment: 8,600

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Middle 50% SAT: 1450-1540

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

 

Northwestern is consistently ranked in the top 10 national universities, and its selective admissions reflects that. The school places particular emphasis on the application essay, often more so than your extracurricular profile. It also seeks students who take a multidisciplinary approach to their education, such as by double-majoring or pursuing minors.

 

Unique Aspects of Northwestern

 

Academics

 

Northwestern is divided into schools and colleges, most of which offer undergraduate programs, including:

 

  • 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

 

Particularly notable programs included journalism and music, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In fact, Medill is the top-ranked journalism school in the country. Select journalism students even get the opportunity to report from Northwestern’s Washington, DC newsroom through the program Medill on the Hill.

 

Many undergraduates declare double majors or pursue multiple minors. Double-majoring is possible within any school except the School of Communication. It’s also possible across schools and colleges within Northwestern in some cases. For example, students in the schools of engineering, communication, music, journalism, and education and social policy may pursue any second major in the College of Arts and Science, although the reverse is not true. Students also may not double major between specialized schools, except in special circumstances.

 

Students can, however, take courses in any of the six schools listed above. Additionally, they may pursue minors, as well as certificates and modules, which enable students to dive deeper into niche areas and draw connections between topics.

 

Students may also pursue dual degrees across schools. Possibilities include:

 

  • BA/BS in Liberal Arts and Engineering
  • BA/BMus in Liberal Arts and Music
  • BA/BS or BS/BS in Communication and Engineering
  • BA/BMus, BS/BMus, BA/BAMus, or BS/BAMus in Communication and Music
  • BSED/BMus or BSED/BAMus in Education and Social Policy and in Music
  • BS/BMus or BS/BAMus in Engineering and Music
  • BSJ/BMus in Journalism and Music

 

Another feature of Northwestern is the quarter system, which allows students to explore different courses and interests. 

 

Northwestern is one of the top producers of Fulbright scholars; in the 2019–20 academic year, 23 students and alumni were awardees in the program.

 

Extracurriculars

 

The Northwestern Wildcats are a member of the Big Ten Conference and participate in NCAA Division I for eight men’s and 11 women’s teams. In addition to varsity sports, the university offers intramural and club sports, including the popular crew team. 

 

Aside from athletics, Northwestern is home to many organizations and clubs, including Lipstick Theatre, Boomshaka, Cookology, Mixed Race Student Coalition, and Solar Car Team.

 

Greek life has high participation; 35-40% of undergraduates were affiliated with fraternities or sororities in the 2019–2020 academic year.

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Traditions

 

In its 230-year history, Northwestern has established many traditions. Armadillo “Dillo” Day, for example, began in 1972 in homage to the official mammal of Illinois and today is the largest student-run music festival in the U.S.

 

The Wildcats can be very vocal. In another tradition, students jingle their keys at kickoff at each game. They also hold their hands in the shape of claws and make noise to distract the opponent when Northwestern is on defense.

 

In the 1940s, students began painting “The Rock,” which was originally a fountain donated by the Class of 1902. Today, people continue to share messages, pictures, and symbols on the Rock. There is also a tradition of guarding the Rock before it’s permissible to paint it.

 

As a welcoming tradition, every year, the incoming freshman class participates in the March Through the Arch, led by the marching band through the Weber Arch. In their senior year, they March (Back) Through the Arch prior to Commencement Weekend, celebrating their achievements and time at Northwestern.

 

Dorms

 

Students live on campus in residence halls, residential colleges, or special-interest housing for at least two years. Residential colleges offer more faculty participation and programming than residential halls, although both offer support and programs. 

 

Special-interest housing includes substance-free housing, all-gender housing, the Green House, and fraternities and sororities.

 

Across 26 campus residences, students have internet, cable TV, housekeeping, free laundry, and more.

 

Financial Aid

 

At Northwestern, 61% of students receive financial aid. The university is need-blind for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and is committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need for both domestic and international students.

 

Resources

 

Northwestern students, faculty, and staff can participate in the Wildcard Advantage, a free discount program that offers deals at more than 300 independent businesses — restaurants, clothing stores, healthcare, technology, and more.

 

The Block, a “dynamic, imaginative, and innovative teaching and learning resource for Northwestern and its surrounding communities,” is located right on campus and features exhibitions, lectures, workshops, symposia, and more.

 

A shuttle is available to community members on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses.

 

Location

 

Evanston is ranked as one of the top college towns in the U.S., with shops, restaurants, galleries, theaters, beaches, and much more. For a bigger-city feel, students can make the short trip to Chicago; it’s just half an hour away by car.

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance at Northwestern?

 

Northwestern’s low acceptance rate may be intimidating, but bear in mind that the strength of your profile plays an enormous role in your admissions decision. Remember that the admissions committee seeks students with strengths in multiple academic areas, who could be interested in pursuing double majors or dual degrees. They also weigh the application essay heavily in the process.

 

If you’re curious about your real odds of admission to Northwestern, use CollegeVine’s chancing engine. Not only will it estimate your chances of getting in, but it will also give you tips to improve your profile.

 

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Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.

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