Northeastern University (visited 3/24/14)
While waiting to be taken to the info session, I chatted with a freshman Computer Science major from Brooklyn. He was wonderfully enthusiastic about Northeastern, saying he picked the school because “unlike the school across town that has a long street of ugly buildings,” Northeastern combines an urban campus with big green spaces. I didn’t have time to take the full tour and therefore couldn’t verify this; there were some grassy areas, but definitely not the large quads that people might associate with a traditional college campus.
Normally, the info sessions are held in the beautiful new Welcome Center. However, they were throwing a dinner in that building for a Marine Biology professor who had been named as a Nobel Laureate. They moved us to a church that the university has converted to a large open stage space. There were over 100 people who fit in comfortably for the presentation. Unfortunately, it was a canned speech with very little originality from the rep, who also spoke so fast that we could barely understand what she was saying, and she moved through slides too quickly to take many notes. The good news is that much of the information was the type of stuff we could get from the website.
Northeastern pushes their global, experiential education. They are looking for “students who are willing to engage the world and are willing to pursue their passions. We have energetic, creative, focused students. They have a fire in the belly” (according to the admissions video). The Co-op program is highly popular, and they spend a great deal of time talking about it. Students can spend 6 months completing a job placement at a company in their major area; companies such as HSBC, Vogue, Apple, Google, Patriots, White House, Hose, EMC, PWC, and Pixar regularly employ Northeastern students. This is not a guaranteed program and students do have to interview for the jobs, but they boast a 90% placement rate for students seeking co-ops. Those seeking to participate in this program complete a pre co-op class in the semester just before going in order to help prepare them for interviews, resume writing, job skills, etc. Co-ops can be done all over the world, but if they do one in Boston, they can still live on campus and only pay room and board to the university. No one ever pays tuition during their co-op, and in fact, they often get paid. The student I spoke to said that the Computer Science people often get paid up to $22 an hour. There are some places like DC, NY, and LA where Northeastern has some properties where students can live. More than 50% of students get a job offer from a previous co-op employer.
Northeastern is located on a residential campus in an urban environment. All first and second year students must live on campus, and Living-Learning Centers are an option for any interested student. They just built a new dorm, and housing is available for anyone who wants it. Boston is a great college town with 250,000 college students in the metro area. 16,000 of those are NEU undergraduates (5,000 more are full-time graduate and law students). They keep a 13:1 student-to-teacher ratio allowing for “lively discussion and debate” in the classroom. The average class size is 24; the freshman I talked to had classes ranging from 9 (Intro to Linguistics) to 70 (Computer Science 1). There are 140 majors and concentrations across 8 schools, making it easy to create a major, double major, and more. There’s a PlusOne Accelerated Master’s Program as well as a 3+3 Social Sciences and Humanities + Law degree, but it sounds like that’s only for people majoring in History, Sociology, and Philosophy. The school attracts big name faculty, including Michael Dukakis in the Political Science Department.
This year, they had a new record number of applications (49,700), and they admitted 32% of those. In addition to good grades, they’re looking for personal traits of adaptability, diversity, engagement, experiential learning, and global perspective. They judge these through letters of rec, activities, and essays. Placement in the Honors College was offered to the top 10% of admitted students.