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Cornell vs Northwestern: Which University is Right for You?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Female brunette pointing at the screen while discussing something to her classmates.

Cornell vs Northwestern: Which University is Right for You?

As high school students prepare for college, they often find themselves considering multiple options. Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, are two of the most prestigious universities in the United States. Both universities offer excellent academic programs, but each has its unique features. This article will compare and contrast between Cornell University vs Northwestern University to help you decide which institution is right for you.

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Location and Campus Comparison: Cornell vs Northwestern

The location of a university can play a crucial role in your college experience. Cornell University is located in Ithaca, a small town in upstate New York. Ithaca is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, and the town itself has a lively, artsy culture. Northwestern University, on the other hand, is located in Evanston, a beautiful suburban area just outside of Chicago. Evanston offers easy access to all the amenities of a large city while still providing a safe and quiet environment for learning.

Both Cornell and Northwestern have sprawling campuses, with lots of green spaces and impressive architecture. Cornell’s campus, in particular, is known for its stunning gorges and waterfalls, which provide a picturesque backdrop for daily life on campus. Northwestern’s lakeside location is equally beautiful, and the university boasts plenty of green space for its students to enjoy.

When it comes to student life, both Cornell and Northwestern offer a wide range of extracurricular activities and clubs. Cornell has over 1,000 student organizations, including a strong Greek life presence and a variety of sports teams. Northwestern also has a diverse range of student organizations, including a thriving arts scene and a competitive Division I athletic program.

Another important factor to consider is the academic programs offered at each university. Cornell is known for its strong programs in agriculture, engineering, and hotel administration, while Northwestern is renowned for its programs in journalism, theater, and business. Both universities offer a wide range of majors and minors, and students have the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary studies and research projects.

A Look into Cornell University’s Academic Programs

Cornell University offers more than a hundred academic programs across seventeen different colleges. Some of the most popular fields of study at Cornell include engineering, business, and agriculture. The university also has an exceptional veterinary program and is home to the highly acclaimed Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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One unique aspect of Cornell is its commitment to interdisciplinary study. The university’s colleges work together to create programs that combine various fields of study. For example, the college of agriculture and life sciences, and the college of architecture, art, and planning offer a jointly administered program in urban and regional studies. Additionally, Cornell’s commitment to research means that many undergraduates have the opportunity to work on research projects alongside faculty members.

Another notable feature of Cornell’s academic programs is its emphasis on international experiences. The university offers study abroad programs in over 50 countries, allowing students to gain a global perspective and expand their cultural horizons. Additionally, Cornell has a strong commitment to language learning, offering courses in over 50 languages, including less commonly taught languages such as Swahili and Tibetan.

Cornell also has a strong commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. The university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is a leader in sustainable agriculture research, and the university has made significant strides in reducing its carbon footprint through initiatives such as the Climate Action Plan. Cornell also offers a number of sustainability-focused academic programs, including a major in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences and a minor in Climate Change.

A Look into Northwestern University’s Academic Programs

Northwestern University is home to twelve schools and colleges, offering a wide range of academic programs. The university has a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary study and is known for its programs in journalism, theater, and music. Northwestern’s business, engineering, and journalism schools are highly ranked in the United States.

One of Northwestern’s unique features is the “Two-Year Experimental Learning Program.” This program allows undergraduates to work on projects with faculty members for two years. The program is intended to give students hands-on experience in their chosen fields of study and prepare them for postgraduate work. Northwestern is also committed to research, and undergraduates have a vast number of opportunities to work with faculty members on research projects.

Northwestern University also offers a variety of study abroad programs, allowing students to gain international experience and broaden their perspectives. The university has partnerships with over 50 institutions around the world, offering programs in countries such as China, France, and South Africa. Students can choose from semester-long programs, summer programs, or even participate in a full academic year abroad. Studying abroad is a great way for students to immerse themselves in a new culture, learn a new language, and gain valuable skills that will benefit them in their future careers.

Financial Aid and Scholarships Available at Cornell and Northwestern

Cornell University and Northwestern University offer financial aid packages designed to help students cover the cost of tuition. Cornell’s financial aid program is need-based and includes need-blind admission. The university meets 100% of all demonstrated financial need for both in-state and out-of-state students. Northwestern also offers a need-based financial aid program that can cover up to 100% of tuition cost. The university also has merit scholarships and work-study opportunities to help students finance their education.

In addition to financial aid and scholarships, both Cornell and Northwestern have resources available to help students manage their finances. Cornell offers financial literacy workshops and one-on-one counseling sessions to help students understand budgeting, credit, and debt management. Northwestern has a financial wellness program that provides students with tools and resources to make informed financial decisions. These resources can help students make the most of their financial aid and scholarships, and ensure that they are able to successfully manage their finances during and after college.

Campus Life at Cornell vs Northwestern

Campus life is an essential part of any college experience. Cornell University has more than 1,000 student organizations, ranging from academic clubs to sports teams and recreational groups. The university also offers a lively campus scene, with plenty of concerts, shows, and cultural events throughout the year.

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Similarly, Northwestern University has a vibrant campus life, with more than 300 student organizations and a thriving Greek life. The university hosts several cultural and artistic events throughout the year, including concerts, plays, and films. Additionally, Northwestern is home to the Big Ten Conference and offers numerous opportunities for sports fans to cheer on their favorite teams.

One of the unique aspects of campus life at Cornell is the presence of the Cornell Plantations, which is a botanical garden and arboretum that spans over 4,300 acres. The Plantations offer students a chance to explore nature and learn about different plant species. Additionally, Cornell has a strong commitment to sustainability, and students can get involved in various environmental initiatives on campus.

On the other hand, Northwestern has a strong focus on entrepreneurship and innovation. The university has several entrepreneurship centers and programs, such as The Garage and the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which provide students with resources and support to start their own businesses. Northwestern also hosts several hackathons and innovation challenges throughout the year, where students can showcase their skills and ideas.

Student Organizations and Extracurricular Activities Comparison: Cornell vs Northwestern

Cornell University and Northwestern University both offer a variety of extracurricular activities to students. At Cornell University, students can participate in everything from academic clubs to sports teams and recreational activities. Some of the most popular student organizations at Cornell include the Cornell Biosphere Society, the Cornell Daily Sun, and the Cornell Society for Human Resource Management.

Northwestern University similarly offers a range of student organizations to get involved in. From academic organizations like the Association for Computing Machinery to service organizations like Dance Marathon, there’s something for everyone. Northwestern’s Greek life is also active, with twelve fraternities, ten sororities, and four co-ed houses.

Aside from the student organizations and extracurricular activities, Cornell and Northwestern also have unique features that set them apart. Cornell University is known for its beautiful campus, located in Ithaca, New York. The campus is situated on a hill overlooking Cayuga Lake, providing stunning views and a peaceful atmosphere. Northwestern University, on the other hand, is located in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. This gives students access to all the cultural and entertainment opportunities that Chicago has to offer.

Another difference between the two universities is their academic focus. Cornell University is known for its strong programs in agriculture, engineering, and hotel administration, while Northwestern University is known for its programs in journalism, communication, and performing arts. This means that students interested in these fields may find one university more appealing than the other.

Housing Options: Cornell University vs Northwestern University

Cornell University has more than 30 on-campus residence halls, with housing options ranging from single dormitories to shared apartments. Most freshmen at Cornell live in traditional residence halls with communal bathrooms. Northwestern University, on the other hand, has a mix of residence halls and apartment-style housing. First-year students usually live in traditional residence halls, but upperclassmen have the option of living in more private apartment-style housing.

Additionally, Cornell University offers themed housing options, such as language houses and sustainability-focused housing. These options allow students with similar interests to live together and create a more cohesive community. Northwestern University also has themed housing options, including gender-inclusive housing and substance-free housing.

It is important to note that both universities prioritize safety and security in their housing options. Cornell University has a 24/7 on-campus police force and a blue light emergency phone system, while Northwestern University has a similar emergency phone system and a campus-wide shuttle service for safe transportation at night.

Sports and Athletics Programs Comparison: Cornell vs Northwestern

Cornell University has a thriving athletic program, with more than thirty varsity teams. The university is a member of the Ivy League Conference and is known for its strong ice hockey and lacrosse teams. Northwestern University is a member of the Big Ten Conference and offers more than twenty varsity teams in sports ranging from football to volleyball. Northwestern is particularly known for its successful women’s lacrosse team, which has won seven national championships.

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Both universities also offer a variety of intramural and club sports for students who want to participate in athletics at a more casual level. Cornell has a popular intramural program that includes sports such as basketball, soccer, and ultimate frisbee. Northwestern offers a wide range of club sports, including fencing, rugby, and water polo. These programs provide opportunities for students to stay active and engaged in sports, even if they are not competing at the varsity level.

Admission Requirements and Application Process: Cornell vs Northwestern

Cornell University and Northwestern University have slightly different admission requirements. Cornell University requires applicants to submit standardized test scores, high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, and an essay. Northwestern University has a similar application process, with test scores, high school transcripts, and an essay being required, but letters of recommendation are optional. Both universities highly value extracurricular activities, and successful applicants to both schools usually show dedication and excellence in multiple areas beyond their academic work.

One notable difference between the two universities is their approach to interviews. Cornell University offers optional interviews for applicants, which can be conducted in-person or virtually. These interviews are conducted by alumni volunteers and are meant to provide applicants with an opportunity to showcase their personality and interests beyond what is included in their application materials. Northwestern University, on the other hand, does not offer interviews as part of their application process.

Another difference between the two universities is their approach to early decision applications. Cornell University offers an early decision application option, which is binding for students who are accepted. This means that if a student is accepted through early decision, they are required to attend Cornell University and withdraw their applications from all other universities. Northwestern University, on the other hand, offers an early decision application option that is not binding. This means that if a student is accepted through early decision, they are not required to attend Northwestern University and can still consider other universities.

Alumni Network and Career Opportunities Comparison: Cornell vs Northwestern

Cornell University and Northwestern University both have extensive alumni networks, with many graduates going on to successful careers. According to PayScale, Cornell graduates have an average salary of $80,300 per year, while Northwestern graduates have an average salary of $82,000 per year.

Both universities offer strong career resources to help graduates find employment after graduation. Cornell University has a career services office that provides students with career counseling, job listings, and networking opportunities. Northwestern University has a similar career counseling center, as well as numerous fairs, events, and workshops to help students connect with employers and explore career options.

However, there are some differences in the types of career opportunities available to graduates of each university. Cornell University is known for its strong programs in agriculture, engineering, and hospitality, which can lead to careers in fields such as food science, sustainable agriculture, and hotel management. Northwestern University, on the other hand, is known for its strong programs in journalism, business, and law, which can lead to careers in fields such as media, finance, and legal services.

Research Opportunities Available at Cornell University and Northwestern University

Research is an essential part of the academic experience at both Cornell University and Northwestern University. Cornell University receives more than $1 billion in research funding each year, and the university’s faculty members are leading experts in many fields. Northwestern University also offers plenty of research opportunities to undergraduates, and the university’s faculty members are regularly involved in cutting-edge research projects.

Both universities have research centers and institutes that focus on a range of areas, from medicine and engineering to environmental science and policy. Undergraduates at both universities have the opportunity to engage in research projects alongside faculty members.

At Cornell University, undergraduate students can participate in research through the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board, which connects students with faculty members who are seeking research assistants. Additionally, Cornell offers a variety of research-focused programs, such as the Hunter R. Rawlings III Research Scholars Program, which provides funding for students to conduct independent research projects.

Northwestern University also offers unique research opportunities, such as the Global Engagement Studies Institute, which allows students to conduct research abroad in partnership with local organizations. The university also has a strong focus on interdisciplinary research, with centers such as the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems and the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics.

Student-Faculty Ratio, Class Size, and Instruction Quality Comparison: Cornell vs Northwestern

Cornell University and Northwestern University both offer excellent instruction from top faculty members. Cornell University has a student-faculty ratio of 9:1, meaning that students have plenty of individual attention from their professors. The average class size at Cornell is small, with most classes having fewer than twenty students. Northwestern University has a similar student-faculty ratio of 7:1, indicating that students at Northwestern also have ample opportunities to work directly with faculty members.

Young woman interviewing a student in a room.

Northwestern’s average class size is slightly larger than Cornell’s, with most classes having about twenty-five students. However, both universities have a reputation for providing high-quality instruction and opportunities for students to engage in meaningful research projects. Aside from the student-faculty ratio and class size, both Cornell and Northwestern have unique features that contribute to their academic excellence. Cornell University is known for its strong emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, with numerous research centers and institutes that encourage collaboration across different fields. Northwestern University, on the other hand, has a strong focus on experiential learning, with opportunities for students to engage in internships, co-op programs, and service learning projects.

Furthermore, both universities have a diverse student body, with students from all over the world and from a wide range of backgrounds. This diversity adds to the richness of the academic experience, as students are exposed to different perspectives and ideas. Both Cornell and Northwestern also have extensive resources for student support, including academic advising, tutoring services, and career counseling.

Social Scene in Ithaca (Cornell) vs Evanston (Northwestern)

The social scene at a university is an important part of the college experience. Cornell University is located in Ithaca, a small town in upstate New York. Ithaca has a lively arts and music scene, with plenty of local bars and restaurants for students to enjoy. Northwestern University is located in Evanston, just outside Chicago. Evanston is a diverse city with plenty of cultural attractions, nightlife, and dining options.

Both universities have vibrant campus communities, with plenty of social events, clubs, and organizations for students to get involved in. Whether you prefer small town charm or the excitement of a big city, Cornell University and Northwestern University have plenty to offer.

However, there are some differences in the social scenes at these two universities. At Cornell, the social scene is largely centered around campus events and activities, with many students participating in Greek life. In contrast, at Northwestern, there is a stronger emphasis on off-campus activities and exploring the city of Chicago. This can provide a more diverse range of social experiences for students, but may also require more effort to find and participate in activities outside of campus.

Diversity on Campus: Comparing Cornell University to Northwestern University

Cornell University and Northwestern University are committed to diversity and inclusion on campus. Cornell University has a large international student population, with students representing more than 120 countries. The university also has several multicultural centers on campus, including the Asian and Asian American Center and the Latino Living Center.

View of students lounging in the campus.

Northwestern University similarly values diversity and inclusion, with a diverse student body and several multicultural centers on campus. Northwestern understands that diversity is essential to a vibrant and vibrant community and has implemented policies and programs to promote diversity and inclusion.

As you can see, Cornell University and Northwestern University have many similarities and differences. Both universities offer excellent academic programs, financial aid, student organizations, and research opportunities. However, their locations, campus life, and other factors may make one university a better choice for you than the other. Consider your personal preferences and priorities when selecting a university, and you will undoubtedly make the right decision.

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