What is Northwestern Known For? Is Northwestern a Good School?

Northwestern University is a leading research university with a focus on interdisciplinary education. 

Like Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, Northwestern is considered an “Ivy of the Midwest,” and typically enrolls fewer than 10,000 undergraduate students at any one time.

It may come as a surprise to learn that Northwestern’s endowment of $16.1 billion is one of the largest university endowments in the world. 

A large portion of the school’s endowment is dedicated to supporting interdisciplinary research conducted on-campus.

Northwestern boasts a long list of prestigious alumni with accolades in a broad range of disciplines. Jay Robert Pritzker – the current governor of Illinois – is the wealthiest politician in the United States and one of Northwestern’s ten living billionaire alumni. 

The Pritzker Legal Research Center at the Northwestern Law School was established in his namesake.

Athletes at Northwestern also experience global success. Northwestern swimmers competed in the most recent Summer Olympics in Tokyo – Federico Burdisso won a bronze medal in the men’s 200-meter butterfly race and the men’s 4 x 100-meter relay.

Northwestern students are known for being well-rounded in their dedication to academics, athletics, and extracurricular pursuits. 

Up next, we will delve into the most popular majors at Northwestern, then share some of the school’s most exciting traditions, student organizations, and sports teams.

What Majors & Academics Are Northwestern Known For?

Northwestern University
Lacrossewi, Deering Library – Northwestern University, CC BY-SA 4.0

The most popular majors at Northwestern are journalism, communication, and computer science. 

Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism ranks among the best of its kind in the nation, and at least 40 Pulitzer Prize winners have emerged from Northwestern’s journalism program.

Undergraduate journalism majors have the opportunity to complete journalism residencies at over 120 media outlets in the United States, preparing them for fast-paced careers in news broadcasting and marketing. 

All journalism majors are eligible to pursue an additional certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications — a five-course sequence designed to deepen their knowledge and experience in digital strategy, analytics reporting, and social media marketing.

While other institutions may categorize marketing courses within their communications departments, the Northwestern School of Communication course offerings are more oriented to the performing arts (like music, dance, and theatre). 

Alternatively, undergraduates can obtain a BA in Human Communication Sciences, where they explore how to help youth and adults overcome challenges in speech and language processing.

Unsurprisingly, the computer science program attracts a large group of Northwestern undergraduates. Computer science majors have countless opportunities for research collaboration at their disposal. 

Within the robotics field, for example, student/faculty teams build robots, study their interactions with people and the environment, and adjust design elements to help robots improve society as a whole.

Is Northwestern a Good School?

Northwestern is an outstanding institution for students interested in innovating new products and societal improvements. 

Researchers at the school disclose hundreds of inventions and patent applications annually and generate millions of dollars in licensing revenue. 

One of its most recent patents called pregabalin is marketed by Pfizer to fight against disorders like epilepsy and fibromyalgia.

Another reason why students flock to Northwestern is its commitment to interdisciplinary studies. 

Part of Northwestern’s mission is to help students develop the Northwestern Mindset, which they define as a “flexible, adaptable view of the world that seeks to understand the pressing issues of today and transform them into the promising new opportunities of tomorrow.” 70% of undergraduates combine two or more areas of study in their degrees.

Northwestern students take advantage of many opportunities to learn outside of the traditional classroom setting. 

Half of the undergraduate student body participates in a study abroad excursion and many gain experience from internships in the greater Chicago area. 

Thanks in large part to these kinds of programs, 95% of the graduating class of 2020 was employed within a year of matriculation.

Perhaps the most significant asset at Northwestern is the energy of the student body. Northwestern is known for its ambitious students who display a healthy level of competition in the classroom, the research setting, and the community. Overachievers will fit right in at Northwestern!

Northwestern Traditions

Northwestern University
Smandlso, The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, CC BY-SA 4.0

Many of Northwestern’s traditions involve annual events that have been held for decades. Armadillo Day first started in 1972 and is now the largest student-organized music festival in the United States! 

The festival features an abundance of food vendors, activities, and nationally recognized artists. Over 12,000 students and community members show up each year!

The primal scream is among Northwestern students’ favorite traditions. At 9:00 PM on the dot on Sunday evening before finals week, all undergraduates pause their studying routines to let out a bloodcurdling scream! 

Speaking of loud noise, first-year students are granted the honor of leading the team onto the football field, along with the school marching band, prior to the first home football game. 

Students, faculty members, and alumni parade through Weber Arch to mark the start of the season; naturally, graduating students march back through the arch during Northwestern University Senior Week.

One of Northwestern’s other popular traditions – painting the rock – originated after a prank in the 1940s. Almost every evening, a different group of students waits their turn to paint a large rock situated in the middle of campus. The rock serves as a kind of free speech vessel upon which different clubs or groups advertise events, causes, or messages.

Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at Northwestern

Northwestern undergraduates are heavily invested in extracurricular activities, and there are diverse club offerings for students to explore.

Cookology is a newer club on campus. This student-run culinary arts club organizes booking and baking lessons to help students learn different culinary techniques. 

They also showcase international cuisine through various food festivals and pop-up restaurant experiences.

Several on-campus groups are devoted to merging performing arts with activism and community service. The Academy of Music and Arts for Special Education (AMASE) offers music and art education programs for youth living with disabilities. 

Lipstick Theater puts on performances written by female playwrights that focus on women’s issues and feature strong female protagonists.

Boomshaka is one of the most exciting groups on campus. They can often be seen performing hip hop and contemporary dance routines, freestyle rap ciphers, and breakdancing competitions. 

Joining the Northwestern Crew team is a great way to get involved with a group of active enthusiasts. 

In fact, 84% of Northwestern’s crew team has no previous rowing experience, and many of their award-winning teammates had no experience before they joined the team.

Those interested in sustainability will gravitate to groups like NUsolar, a student-run group committed to designing, building, and racing the next breed of solar-powered electric cars. 

Since the club’s inception in 1997, they have built seven custom vehicles and competed in various solar car tournaments.

What Sports Are Northwestern Known For?

Northwestern is the smallest school in the Big Ten Conference, and they have been the only private university in the conference since 1946. 

Northwestern’s most successful teams in recent history include women’s basketball, field hockey, and lacrosse.

The Northwestern women’s basketball team recently advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in almost 20 years. 

Their senior point guard Lindsey Pulliam passed 2,000 career points in that game – the third player in the program to achieve that record.

The women’s field hockey team recently won their first NCAA championship in Northwestern’s history! To do so, they defeated the three-time defending first-place team in the first round. 

This win proved to be an exciting moment for the Northwestern community, who had not celebrated a national championship in almost a decade.

When it comes to athletic titans at Northwestern, the women’s lacrosse team instantly comes to mind. Not only did they win the NCAA Championship on five consecutive occasions (from 2005 to 2009), but they won again in 2011 and 2012 – that’s seven championships in eight years! 

The success of the women’s lacrosse team has helped cultivate massive school spirit at Northwestern; after all, the school had not brought home a national championship title in any varsity sport since 1941.

The men’s football team has also enjoyed considerable success over the last few decades. They have won three Big Ten championship games in the last 25 years, and their teams typically maintain some of the highest graduation rates among their conference peers.

Why Northwestern?

After learning about Northwestern’s top academic programs and athletic teams, it is easy to see why the admissions process is so competitive (Northwestern currently maintains a 7% acceptance rate for first-year applicants). 

Northwestern attracts students who are driven to achieve in the classroom, on the field, and in research settings. 

An education at one of the top-ranked universities in the country doesn’t have to break the bank. Northwestern offers various scholarships, grants, and work-study placements for undergraduates based on demonstrated financial need

For example, Northwestern awarded $200 million in scholarships to undergraduate students in the 2020-2021 academic year, with approximately 50% of undergraduates receiving a Northwestern University Scholarship.

Northwestern’s setting of Evanston, Illinois, is close to Chicago and known for its stunning architecture and lakefront homes. 

Baseball fans can cheer on the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, aquatic adventurers can go sailing on Lake Michigan, and environmental admirers can take a stroll through Shakespeare Garden, among many other popular outdoor pastimes.

Students looking to attend a school with a flexible approach to designing a course pathway, ample opportunities for extracurricular involvement, and proximity to some of the nation’s best cultural attractions should look no further than Northwestern University – a gem of the midwest.

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