Northwestern University - Comments and Student Experiences|
I started out pre-med, math, and RTVF. At the end of freshman year, I switched to pre-med, bio, and RTVF, because the stress of juggling three entirely separate tracks was just too much for my immature time management abilities. That was another mistake -- I'll now have to make up all that math in grad school.
And social life -- that was a whole series of small mistakes. For three years, I did not socially feel at home at Northwestern. Yes, as others have said, the Greek scene dominates. Yes, you can avoid it and still have a great social life, but it takes some experience, confidence, and initiative. I found myself having to aggressively check in with, almost court people who I thought I clicked with in clubs or classes. The aggressiveness led to some embarrassing situations with people who did not want to reciprocate, but especially in the sciences, I remember student culture being cold enough that no introductions would happen unless someone broke the ice first.(Future NU pre-meds with no intention of going Greek, definitely shake hands with those around you. Without access to a test bank, you will need study buddies.) Being an arts major did help. In fact, I'd argue that the RTVF and theater communities share many qualities with frats with their cliquishness.
I am glad I resisted peer pressure and did not go Greek. However, I was not secure enough to resist other elements of peer pressure. In my experience, there was a big emphasis on drinking and smoking weed to be cool. Waking up with my head throbbing from being so drunk, so cross-faded, missing all my money from my wallet, angry texts on my phone from people I had hurt while in an altered state of consciousness, I am ashamed of those memories. On the academic side, some will brag about being smart enough that they can skip class, party four nights a week, while still landing on the top of the curve, and they will be praised for this. I tried that, and my grades tanked for a little while. Do not listen to those guys. They study while no one is looking.
I did finally find "my circle" as a senior, and while those friendships were cultivated late in the game, they have developed into deeply fulfilling relationships. It is worthwhile to keep in mind that with an undergrad population of 8000+, you will eventually find people who float your boat.
Ultimately, do I regret coming here? No.
A few other random points:
-Quarter system. Very stressful. But you do learn more, and it makes double majoring easier at Northwestern than many other elite schools. I do not regret double majoring -- it allowed me to justify a frivolous major to my parents, and gave me a fallback option that I am beyond grateful for, since I lost interest in a film career.
-On a related note, this may be the best school in terms of getting a hybrid, curricular experience between the arts and sciences. Doubling across schools is incredibly easy.
-As long as you aren't an engineering major or ISP, Northwestern's course load will be more forgiving (read: easier) than that which you would find at say, an MIT, Caltech, or UChicago. If you need intellectual rigor 24/7 all the time, this is a bad thing, but the advantage in having a few more joke classes to balance out the hard ones is that it gives you more leeway for f***ups. You can have that awful night, week, month, and upon realizing how much you've screwed up, study come hell or highwater for three nights straight to get back in the game. My f***ups -- I do bitterly regret them, but they've left me with a better understanding and a better confidence in who I am, what works for me. I'm glad I didn't learn these lessons after college. Social savvy, being a good person, like all other skills, their improvement requires practice.
-For those nights where I could no longer bear the party scene, I would run into Chicago. The city taught me a lot, in addition to my education. Convenient, relative safe access to public transportation is a boon for NU.
-For all the talk about how "normal" NU is, there is some really weird shit that makes this school super fun. Wrestlepocalypse.