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What are the Unique Qualities of Northwestern University?

by Dr. Mary Dowd, studioD

Founded in 1851, Northwestern University is a highly respected private university known for excellence in teaching and research. The main campus is in Evanston, Ill., with satellite campuses in downtown Chicago and Doha, Qatar. Prestige, scholarship and enriching cocurricular activities are among Northwestern’s distinguishing features. Ample opportunities exist for faculty-student interaction.

High-Caliber Students

Northwestern University attracts students seeking an intellectually rigorous curriculum. Admission is selective and competitive. According to Forbes, about 18 percent of applicants are admitted. Each application is carefully reviewed by an admissions committee charged with finding high-ability students who are a good fit for Northwestern. For serious consideration, applicants must show evidence of academic ability, notable high school activities and strong writing skills. Personal essays and strong recommendations from teachers and counselors also factor into admissions decisions.

Intensive Educational Instruction

Northwestern University offers classes on the quarter system, which is intentionally designed to expose students to a wide variety of subjects and courses. The 10-week fall, winter and spring quarters along with the eight-week summer session facilitates participation in field experience, internships and study-abroad trips. Because students on a quarter system typically take fewer classes than students on a semester system, they have more time to immerse themselves in the material. Classes are small to ensure students receive individual attention from instructors. Interested students can work with faculty mentors on research projects.

Intellectually Stimulating Residential Housing

Residential life at Northwestern University offers far more than a typical dorm and extends learning beyond the classroom. Students are free to choose from a number of thematic living quarters called residential colleges. For example, an art major wanting a well-rounded education may opt to live in the science and engineering residential college. Faculty and staff provide academic advising, fireside lectures and social activities. Academic credit may be earned by attending on-site seminars and tutorials.

Varied Student Involvement Opportunities

Student life is fun, vibrant and personally rewarding in many ways. Northwestern University strives to offer something for everyone. With hundreds of campus organizations, students can easily make friends with peers who share common interests. Students are also encouraged to participate in philanthropic endeavors, such as the Northwestern dance marathon, which has raised millions of dollars for Chicago charities. Sports-minded students enjoy the school’s Big Ten athletic competitions and Division 1 teams, known as the Wildcats. In addition to campus concerts and special events, students have easy access to the arts and culture scene of Chicago.

About the Author

Mary Dowd holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master's degree in counseling and student personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato. In her 20 years of higher education experience, she has taught classes, served as interim dean of students, and worked in many areas of student affairs, including student discipline, career advising, orientation and violence prevention.

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