College Intel

Northwestern University Admissions

An ivy-covered building with gorgeous windows is featured beyond a well kept lawn at Northwestern University.
Northwestern was the first chartered university in Illinois (photo credit: Lacrossewi).

Northwestern University brings every facet of an elite college experience to the table: an outstanding academic reputation, an active student social life bolstered by the allure of the Chicago cityscape, and a longstanding history of producing incredibly successful alumni in all major fields. While admission to the private R1 university in Evanston, Illinois is highly competitive, those who are admitted go on to find a diverse variety of research, entrepreneurial, artistic, and pre-professional opportunities at their disposal. Alumni include the likes of author George R. R. Martin, comedian Stephen Colbert, TV/film multi-hyphenate Greg Berlanti, and former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Faculty have included Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman, Nobel Prize–winning chemist John Pople, and Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Garry Wills.

The undergraduate college differs from other comparable programs in that it does not have a core curriculum. Instead, students choose from 134 majors across six schools: Arts and Sciences, Communication, Education and Social Policy, Engineering, Journalism and Marketing, and Music. All students fulfill “broad distributional areas that comprise roughly a third of their undergraduate coursework,” but otherwise students are encouraged to take classes from a variety of fields. According to Northwestern’s website, “77% of undergrads combine two or more areas of study.” Additionally, “97% of the Class of 2022 were employed or pursuing further education, service, or career development opportunities within six months of graduation.”

The undergraduate student body of roughly 8,800 is housed in traditional residence halls, but the university also offers residential “colleges” which house students with a shared affinity, such as Chapin Hall for humanities majors, or Slivka Residential College for Science and Engineering for, you guessed it, STEM majors. Around one in five students are affiliated with a fraternity or sorority. Northwestern offers a huge assortment of extracurricular opportunities, including several print magazines, a student film production company, and a fifteen-time national title holding Debate society (the highest number of wins for any university). Northwestern is also the only private university in the Big Ten conference, the oldest Division I athletic conference in America. Willie the Wildcat, the university’s adorable purple-wearing mascot, can be seen at many of the big games of the season.

Established in 1850 by prominent Methodist faith leaders and businessmen in the Chicago area, Northwestern was the first chartered university in Illinois and drew its name from the former name of the Midwestern states, the Northwest Territory. The first woman was admitted in 1869, and shortly thereafter, in 1873, Northwestern merged with the Evanston College for Ladies. In the 20th century, James Gamble Rodger, an architect known for his design of Yale University, planned an integrated Chicago campus as the university was rapidly expanding in scope and enrollment, trailing behind Harvard and UMichigan in the race to be the biggest in the United States. The Great Depression disrupted this progress and forced university leadership to consider a controversial merger with nearby UChicago, but financial windfalls and increased revenue from the newly minted School of Education improved the situation and kept the institutions separate.

In the 21st century, Northwestern has acquired a legacy of educating a large number of celebrity entertainers. In fact, many of these beloved icons never completed their studies, such as actresses Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Zooey Deschanel who both dropped out to pursue their careers. The performing arts scene is just one of many ways Northwestern distinguishes itself as a leader of American higher education, and its competitive admissions process reflects this distinction. 52,225 applied to the Class of 2027, but only 7% of those were admitted, the lowest acceptance rate in the school’s history. The Office of Admissions writes that they evaluate applicants on how well they “fit” with the university, and they list “academic growth and intellectual curiosity,” “involvement and community,” and “personal characteristics” as part of this “fit.” In other words, “fit is a story you tell us about how you see yourself thriving on campus.” Ivy Coach will work with you to demonstrate that your “fit” with Northwestern, like a good pair of jeans, is just right!


If you’re interested in Ivy Coach’s college counseling,
fill out our complimentary consultation form and we’ll be in touch.

Get Started