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One of Northwestern's very best features, apart from its outstanding academics, is its campus and location. The campus is large, spacious, and perfectly groomed in the spring and summer (but watch out for the atrocious winters!), and the administration has even filled in a mile-long stretch of Lake Michigan and created "The Lakefill," an island park of sorts complete with soccer fields, walking trails, and incredible views of downtown Chicago across the lake. Additionally, the rest of Evanston is a boon for students. Filled with an astoundingly varied set of restaurants and bars, Evanston offers the perfect tool for college students, and the 30 minute El ride to downtown Chicago provides a great buffer against distraction. Unfortunately, Evanston is one of those college towns that pretends it is not; while it is not readily apparent in day-to-day life, the City of Evanston and Northwestern University's administration fight constantly over taxes, student jaywalking, and other typical college town transgressions that they would be better off merely accepting. An interesting thing about Northwestern is that the diversity and polarization of the student body, combined with a consistently terrible athletics program, leads to a large lack of school pride. Attendance at the football games is good, but not representative of that of other Big Ten schools, and why should it be? Defeat is generally promised even before the game has begun, so the atmosphere is often less than invigorating. The same goes for basketball, Northwestern's other Big Ten sport.
A great thing about Northwestern is its size. I feel like I am always seeing people I know, but it never feels confining. Another thing about Northwestern is that while it is a good academic school, its name doesn't have the same cache as the Ivies or Stanford, Duke etc. When I tell someone I go to Northwestern, there is a strong chance they haven't heard of it, and many of my classmates report similar experiences, especially those from the East Coast or the South. I don't see this as a positive or a negative quality. In a typical day, I'm liable to bounce all over campus, hitting classes, the library, the gym, the student union, my dorm and my fraternity house all in one day. Evanston is an interesting college town. Its got tons of great restraunts like Buffalo Joes, Flattop Grill, and staples like Chipotle and Chilis, but it only has a handful of bars frequented by students. Its not all about the college in the way places like Lawrence, KS, Athens, GA, or Ann Arbor, MI are. Many normal residents call Evanston home and some of it is quite upscale. Also, Northwestern makes a concerted effort to reach out into the community and provide services to its youth and other citizens. Its proximity to Chicago is convienent. While Evanston is relatively safe, its not completely isolated either. There have been some instances of crime, but its nothing to worry about as long you are aware. Northwestern's administration is fairly aloof. I never have contact with them, but the academic advisors and some other services offered by the university are fantastic. Unfortunately, school pride is not too prevalent at Northwestern. I think that while most people are happy here, a lot of minor griping goes on and our lack of success in the revenue sports hurts our ability to create school spirit. While we have been tremendously sucessful in some of the other sports, it doesn't generate much student interest.
Evanston is definitely one of the greatest assets about Northwestern. Though the suburb is a bit snooty, it has a large variety of fantastic ethnic restaurants and an excellent survey of stores that you don't have to travel to Chicago for. CVS and Whole Foods are the closest grocery stores because Jewel-Osco is a bit of a hike away, which can be a pain, but CVS has many of the typical student grocery items needed. The El is also a very convenient and close connection that can take you to Chicago in only about 30-45 minutes, depending on where you want to go. Most students tend not to take advantage of Chicago's proximity as often as they would like to because there are so many things to do on campus. There are always plays, a capella showings, dance group performances, or skit comedy acts occurring during any weekend of the year, and they are great for a weekend night event with friends. In addition, there are tons of student groups to get involved with, especially socially-active ones. Dance Marathon (DM) is probably the hugest event on campus, with hundreds of students participating in a 30-hour dance to philanthropically benefit a different organization each year. Nearly everyone on campus gets caught up in the excitement of helping out DM each year. The atmosphere of involved people is another one of the great things about Northwestern, although it does present a problem for many students in that they want to be involved in more things than they can be involved in. Though football games tend to be farely well-attended and well-tailgated, there seems to be a critical awareness of Northwestern's susceptibility to sports failures, which leads to a lack of school pride at athletic events. No one is ever exactly diehard about Northwestern sports, though there are a few very committed fans. When Northwestern plays well, the student body becomes much more fervent about its school's athletics. Additionally, no one attends as many basketball games as they do football games.
Personally my favorite thing about Northwestern is its ability to provide the best of both worlds. It is not so big that one feels lost, insignificant or lacking community, nor is it so small that one feels suffocated and bored. Moreover, it has a beautiful, private and "homey" campus situated right on Lake Michigan, but only minutes away endless adventures and opportunities await you in Chicago. If I could change one thing about NU, I would desegregate the student body. There is a bit of divide between the theater world and the Greek world. Of course, there are some kids who do both - but in general they tend to keep to themselves. Those who don't do either are referred to as "indies" and who knows what happens to them! School pride is not necessarily abundant in the usual sense (aka sports), but in my experience, most students are still extremely satisfied with their experience at Northwestern and love being here. When I tell people I go Northwestern (especially the journalism school) they are generally impressed. That is, if they know what the school is. Back home and on the East coast in general, Northwestern is just not as well-known as the Ivy Leagues and Duke. In the Midwest, however, people are very impressed. At school I spend most of my time in one of three places: my sorority, my boyfriend's off-campus apartment and the library (widely known as campus' number one social scene). I also go to the gym (another place to see people) and the Norris University Center almost every day. Other than that, you can find me at the Keg or the Deuce (two popular local bars)! Two controversies have arisen as of late. First, the dean of Medill was caught by a student in his own school for potentially fabricating quotes. Second, the administration has come down hard on Greek life recently. Several houses have been placed on probation, and the oft-considered "top" frat was kicked off campus. Students complain about many things - school is too expensive (obviously); there is no 24-hour study space; wireless isn't available everywhere.
Northwestern fills a unique niche in the college spectrum. Northwestern rivals the Ivies on an academic level, battles midwestern state schools on the field, and challenges small liberal arts schools with specialized programs like theatre and journalism. There are about 8,000 undergrads at NU. 8,000 = perfect size! There is always someone new to meet but usually there is a familiar face wherever you go. Whenever I say I go to Northwestern, first I have to correct the person and say.. "Nope NorthWESTern, not NorthEASTern.." After we get over that little hurdle, they usually are impressed by the academics and then tell me, "Well you know, its cold in Chicago." Yes, thanks for that information I answer sarcastically. There is even a facebook group called, " Yes, damnit, I KNOW Chicago gets really cold, now shut the hell up about it!" Evanston has what you need for everyday things. It has some nice retail stores, cool coffee shops, great restaurants, and a couple of college bars. It is known on campus that "town-gown" relations are strained but I really don't notice it! It would be nice though to get some more 24 hour places to eat and hang besides the BK Lounge. And if you ever want something more from a city, Chicago is just an El ride away. ( Chicago is really an awesome city.) Out of a 1-10 scale, school pride is at 7.5. People are proud to go to Northwestern and often don purple sweatshirts but don't have crazy "Wildcat fever." It is a nice balance.
The best and worst thing about Northwestern is probably its size. Classes are small enough that professors will remember your name if you introduce yourself. It's relatively easy to make a few good connections within your first few months. But in a school of 8,000, where Greeks dominate the party scene, chances are there's no avoiding the mistake you woke up in bed with last weekend. If you party a lot, you will keep running into the same people over and over, which can be either really fun or really awkward (depending on the cir***stances of previous encounters). Northwestern is located in Evanston, a cute little town often described as a mini-Chicago. There are lots of restaurants and great shopping boutiques. Northwestern students spend a lot of time and money in Evanston. Since living on-campus junior and senior years is so totally uncool, most upperclassmen live in Evanston apartments. Clashes between Evanston residents and Northwestern students are common. We annoy them, but we're the greatest thing this town has, so they can't honestly complain. The biggest recent controversy has been Dean John Lavine's alleged made-up quotes in an article he wrote for an alumni magazine. Upon becoming head of the Medill School of Journalism, Lavine changed the entire program and caused a huge uproar in the Medill community. The accusation of his made-up quotes hasn't exactly earned him popularity points. There's a lot of whining about the heavy workload and the (lack of a)dating scene. One may question whether the two problems are correlated...how can you establish a meaningful connection with another human being with if your life consists of eat-study-sleep-repeat? Needless to say, Northwestern students are more actively pursued by campus squirrels than they are by each other.
Tania FreshmanReviews provided by: Unigo