Admission Difficulty
Very Hard
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5 College Sophomore

Academics: As both a History and Poli Sci major, the course offered are extremely diverse and there are many paths you can take without being confined to specific tracks. The workload is as expected in both major programs and I found it easy to transion to higher level classes without feeling overwhelmed after taking one intro class in each department. The professors are very helpful and willing to speak outside of class, but they also make the courses challenging enough that you're not bored during lectures.

5 College Sophomore

Academics: The academics are top notch, as expected. Its a difficult school, but it's nothing too overwhelming if you're used to taking challenging classes. The quarter system makes everything move more quickly, but in the long run it's nicer to only have four classes each quarter and have new classes every three months.

3 College Freshman

Academics: What they say about undergrads not being a focus at a major research university is super obvious here. Some professors are good and like to teach but a huge number have no interest in teaching and are here because they are good at research. You will have some good teachers but they are all at the level of brilliant that makes it hard to connect to students and explain ideas. Some will be willing to help but if you are in the sciences many won't be and you will mainly rely on TAs who could be great but could be stressed out grad students who could care less about helping you. Being a science kid here is awful because, unlike in humanities where some communication skills are neccessary even if you really are more into research than teaching, some science professors have no ability to explain anything at the level students are at, and come up with tests that are unreasonable for undergrads (the average on my Chem midterm was a 60 something out of 150, as in less than 50%). All professors here are brilliant don't get me wrong, but theres a huge difference in being brilliant and being a good teacher. If you are a science kid at Northwestern expect to spend a huge amount of time learning the material on your own.

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Rankings View more rankings . . .

  • 17th
    Most Flexible Curriculums
  • 20th
    Best Course Variety
  • 70th
    Best Use of Teaching Assistants
  • 76th
    Smartest Professors
  • 116th
    Best Technology in the Classroom

Student Author OverviewWhat's This?

Shayna Starr
Houston, Texas
Grad Year
View all previous student authors

Academics at Northwestern are what you make of them. The key is to take advantage of the multitude of resources available to you. Northwestern is known to have top-rated professors who are experts in their fields. NU chemistry and economics professors are Nobel laureates, the theatre and film departments made up of actors and directors, and the journalism school boasts professors who have written for some of the most prominent publications in the country. No matter what you study, though, you will be learning from the best of the best. Most of the professors do research and teach, so you know that they are very invested in their subjects, and for the most part, in you, as well. Go to office hours and engage with your professors. They will be more than happy to help, and they usually make an effort to know your name, something that can make a 100-plus lecture class feel a bit more personal.

Don’t be fooled, though: Northwestern is an extremely fast-paced academic environment. Because the University operates on the quarter system, students have three sets of classes each year: fall quarter, which is from September to December, winter quarter from January to March, and spring quarter from March to June. Classes are only 10 weeks long, which means that midterms sometimes come around before you even know what the class is about! If you stay on top of your work, though, the quarter system opens up possibilities for you to take more classes each year and have more flexibility for study abroad or internships. And if you just hate a distro (distribution) class, it's over before you know it!

Facts & Statistics

Student-Faculty Ratio
Full-Time Instructional Faculty
Part-Time Instructional Faculty
Total FT Faculty
Faculty with Terminal Degree
Average Faculty Salary
Full-Time Retention Rate
Graduation Rate
Programs/Majors Offered
Academic/Career Counseling?
Remedial Services?
Class Sizes
  • Fewer than 20 students: 73%
  • 20 to 49 students: 20%
  • 50 or more students: 7%
Instructional Programs
Occupational: No
Academic: Yes
Continuing Professional: No
Recreational/Avocational: No
Adult Basic Remedial: No
Secondary (High School): No
Special Credit Opportunities
Advanced Placement (AP) Credits: Yes
Dual Credit: Yes
Life Experience Credits: No
Undergraduate Schools/Divisions
  • Bienen School of Music
  • Kellogg School of Management
  • McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications
  • School of Communication
  • School of Continuing Studies
  • School of Education and Social Policy
  • Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
Degrees Awarded
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Certificate
  • Doctorate - Professional practice
  • Doctorate - Research/scholarship
  • Master's degree
  • Post-bachelor's certificate
  • Post-master's certificate
Most Popular Majors
  • Business Administration and Management: 2%
  • Finance, General: 3%
  • Management Science: 3%
  • Marketing/Marketing Management, General: 3%
Graduation Requirements
  • Arts/fine arts
  • English (including composition)
  • Foreign languages
  • Humanities
  • Mathematics
  • Sciences (biological or physical)
  • Social science
Special Study Options
  • Study abroad
  • Teacher certification (below the postsecondary level)
  • Weekend/evening college
Other Academic Offerings
  • Accelerated program
  • Cooperative education program
  • Double major
  • Honors program
  • Independent study
  • Internships
  • Liberal arts/career combination
  • Student-designed major
Online Courses
Northwestern offers a few online master's programs through its School of Continuing Studies.
Best Places to Study
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Deering Library
  • The Lakefill (when it's nice out)
  • Norris University Center
  • University Library
Tips to Succeed
  • Buy a warm winter coat, unless you want to freeze during the winter.
  • Diversify, but don't get overinvolved in activities. Remember that college is also for fun-not just networking!
  • Don't drink too much.
  • Get to know your fellow students.
  • Make friends quickly-cliques form fast and are rigid.
  • Talk to your professors.
Did You Know?
  • Chemistry professor Chad Mirkin was named the most cited chemist in the world by "Science Watch" in 2009.
  • Professor Dale Mortensen won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2010.
  • "Primal Scream," where students all over campus scream their lungs out to relieve stress, occurs at 9 p.m., the Sunday of finals week each quarter. You don't know how crazy this is until your studying is interrupted by people bursting into shrieks all around you, whether you're in the library or in your dorm's lounge.

Student Polls

Who are the most notable alumni from this school?    Based on 8 responses

  • 25% Stephen Colbert - comedian, actor, TV host
  • 21% George R. R. Martin - author, "Game of Thrones"
  • 11% Joe Girardi - manager of the New York Yankees
  • 11% Rod Blagojevich - former Illinois governor
  • 7% Jeff Jarvis - creator of "Entertainment Weekly"
  • 7% Rachel Nichols - ESPN reporter
  • 7% Michael Wilbon - ESPN analyst
  • 4% Gordon Segal - co-founder of Crate & Barrel
  • 4% Marg Helgenberger - actress
  • 4% Seth Myers
  • 0% Ben Burns - founder of "Ebony" and "Jet" magazines
  • 0% Saul Bellow - award-winning writer
  • 0% Joshua Radin - singer-songwriter
  • 0% Mike Greenberg - ESPN host
  • 0% Cloris Leachman - actress
  • 0% Samantha Harris - TV host
  • 0% Charlton Heston - actor
  • 0% David Schwimmer - actor
  • 0% Seth Meyers - comedian
  • 0% Zach Braff - actor

How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?    Based on 55 responses

Strongly disagree
Strongly agree
  • The academic advisers are helpful.
  • It is easy to get the classes you want.
  • Grading is generally consistent and fair.
  • There are a variety of interesting courses to take.
  • Students are encouraged to explore a wide range of courses and topics.
  • My Gen-Ed requirements are worthwhile and meaningful.
  • The workload is easy to manage.
  • There are plenty of good online course options.
  • Teaching assistants (TAs) are used effectively.
  • The course scheduling/registration process is efficient and student-friendly.
  • Classrooms/labs are up-to-date and incorporate new technologies effectively.

How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements regarding the professors at this school?    Based on 53 responses

Strongly disagree
Strongly agree
  • Professors are approachable and helpful when needed
  • Professors are engaging and easy to understand.
  • Professors are experts in their field.
  • Professors are passionate about the topics they teach.
  • Professors care about their students' success.
  • Professors put a lot of effort into teaching their classes.
  • Professors use teaching assistants (TAs) effectively.



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