A Visit to Northwestern University

After traveling from my home in Michigan to the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) spring conference in Chicago, Illinois and spending a wonderful two and a half days with my counseling colleagues and friends, I would have been remiss to have skipped out on touring one of the nation’s most well-known and prestigious universities – nearby Northwestern University in Evanston.  (The university also has a downtown campus within the city of Chicago, but this campus is home to the medical and law schools, as well as the MBA program.  The undergraduate main campus is outside the city in Evanston.)

The architecture of Northwestern's buildings is reminiscent of famed Ivy League schools and gives a very strong sense of academic tradition.
The architecture of Northwestern’s buildings is reminiscent of famed Ivy League schools and gives a very strong sense of academic tradition.

The first thing that immediately struck me about Northwestern as a few of my counselor friends and I drove into campus (which is a quick run up Lakeshore Drive from downtown) – besides the fantastic view of Lake Michigan – was the age and beauty of the campus buildings themselves.  Northwestern is a university with a substantial history and it shows on campus.

For undergraduates, the university has six distinctive schools for students to study within; the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences is the largest, as it’s the liberal arts arm of the institution.  Students within Weinberg study broadly across six different distribution areas within the liberal arts themselves and also take two first year seminar courses to help get their feet wet when they matriculate.  (Northwestern is on the quarter, rather than the semester system, which fosters this type of scheduling.)  The five other schools are more specific, including the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science (a very popular program) with its twelve majors in engineering, math, and computer science, and the School of Communication, which includes majors like theatre, television, radio, and dance.

More classic university architecture!
More classic university architecture!

The Medill School of Journalism, Media, and IMC allows students to study both digital and traditional media forms and sophomores in the program even do a storefront, hands-on journalism project within the Evanston community where they study local news items in real time.  (As each program at Northwestern was explained to we visitors, it became abundantly clear that this is a university that emphasizes the practical, hands-on application of what students are learning in the classroom – and with the major city of Chicago right in their backyard, students have tremendous access to a large and diverse real-world laboratory!)

The Bienen School of Music offers ten majors in musical studies and performance that requires an audition for admission to the school.  Ironically, however, the music programs are not a traditional conservatory, so even students who are not majoring in music can participate in band and other ensembles if they choose.  (Rumor has it that a lot of engineers participate in the band – which further emphasizes that famed relationship between music and math!)  Also unique to Northwestern’s music program is the fact that, because music pairs so well with other majors, many music students will take a double Bachelors degree courseload over five years and graduate within that time period in possession of two separate undergraduate degrees.

The smallest of the six schools in terms of student population is the School of Education and Social Policy, which offers four interdisciplinary majors that allow students many different career options after graduation.  It was also much emphasized during our visit that students at Northwestern quite often study between two or even three of the separate schools and many will pick up multiple majors and minors to expand both their thinking and their career opportunities in the future.

The library was once described as "a pig lying on its back" - which isn't a description that's too far off the mark when you see the building from a distance.
The library was once described as “a pig lying on its back” – which isn’t a description that’s too far off the mark when you see the building from a distance.

With approximately 8,400 undergraduates in attendance, it’s also impressive and worth noting that 75 percent of all of the university’s classes are made up of less than twenty students, thus enhancing that hands-on, real-world approach to learning.  Students also have great opportunities to study abroad and to participate in a variety of student life activities – including a competitive, IHSA equestrian team.  The team competes in hunt seat for Zone 7, Region 4 and trains at Fields and Fences Equestrian Center in Gurnee, Illinois.

It’s worth noting that Northwestern is a selective university with an acceptance rate of around 14 percent, which means that it may be a reach for some students academically – and the academic rigor of the coursework was frequently mentioned during our time on campus – but for the right student, it offers a tremendous opportunity for a great college experience.

Could Northwestern be a good fit for your college years?  Contact me and we’ll find out!


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