I’m unsure of how to review a college, honestly. I’ve written movie reviews, they’re easy – mention the main actors, say “striking images” if it had them, wrap it up with how it made you feel at the end. Be wishy-washy and give it three stars if you want.
Looking back on my time at Northwestern University, it’s hard to be so glib. It’s a chunk of your life, and any high schooler looking on the Internet for advice about how to spend four years of their life may get what they deserve for trusting such a flawed research tool. But I loved Northwestern, and I like to think it loved me. And I think you’ll feel the same.
I was part of Northwestern’s radio-television-film program, and I had the opportunity to work on more student shorts than I’ve ever bothered to count, as well as two directing gigs of my own. I loved working on those films, and frankly I’m surprised more people didn’t take advantage of that. I guess the film program was a chance to be a big fish in a small pond if for no other reason than some of the other fish refused to try and make the pond any bigger. Northwestern has a reputation of being a giant school where you get reduced to a face in the crowd. It’s not true, not unless you want it to be.
The second thing they say about Northwestern is that it’s socially dry and boring. Also untrue. Lots of people get together, drink and party, although the main topic of conversation seems to be that nobody drinks or parties.
The third thing they all say is that Chcago’s cold. This is entirely true.
And then there are all the typical college student complaints… bad food, mean cops, et cetera. Those are the same wherever you go. I think it’s part of growing up.
NU kids study hard, even in the supposedly soft majors, and there is a sense of competition, albeit friendly. Long hours in the study lounge are treated like a badge of honor. Theatre and music students are lauded for the intensity they must put into their craft; journalism students are reputed to work just as hard as the engineers. There is a sense of constant achievement around the place, and one almost hopes it will hit them like fairy dust.
Don’t fear the workload, don’t fear the pressure. Apply (even with the silly extra essay questions they ask for, so well-deservedly mocked in “American Pie”). Northwestern will help you be the person you want to be without your really noticing. It’s quite surprising how it all works out, really.