Northwestern vs USC: A Look at the Rivalry

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Group of students walking in the campus.

Northwestern vs USC: A Look at the Rivalry

When it comes to the Northwestern vs USC rivalry, there are plenty of factors to consider. Both schools have a long and storied history, with plenty of traditions and accolades to their name.

In this article, we’ll compare Northwestern vs USC in terms of academics, sports programs, campus life, affordability, admissions, alumni networks, and more. So if you’re trying to decide whether to attend Northwestern or USC, keep reading.

Northwestern vs USC: A Historical Perspective

Northwestern University was founded in 1851, while the University of Southern California (USC) was founded in 1880. Despite being established nearly 30 years apart, both schools have had their fair share of notable achievements and milestones over the years.

Northwestern has 12 schools and colleges, including the renowned Medill School of Journalism, while USC boasts 22 schools and colleges, including the prestigious Gould School of Law and the highly ranked Marshall School of Business.

One interesting fact about Northwestern is that it was the first university in the United States to offer a degree in journalism. The Medill School of Journalism, which was founded in 1921, has produced many notable journalists, including Pulitzer Prize winners and Emmy Award winners. USC, on the other hand, has a strong tradition in film and television production.

A Comprehensive Comparison of Northwestern and USC

When comparing Northwestern and USC, it’s important to look at both schools holistically. The academic programs, sports programs, campus life, and affordability factors all play a significant role in the decision-making process.

One of the key differences between Northwestern and USC is their location. Northwestern is located in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, while USC is located in the heart of Los Angeles.

This difference in location can greatly impact the overall college experience, as students at Northwestern may have more access to cultural events and opportunities in Chicago, while USC students may have more access to the entertainment industry and networking opportunities in LA.

Another important factor to consider when comparing Northwestern and USC is the size of the student body. Northwestern has a smaller student body of around 8,000 undergraduate students, while USC has a larger student body of around 20,000 undergraduate students. This difference in size can impact the sense of community and the availability of resources on campus.

Academic Programs at Northwestern and USC Compared

Northwestern and USC are both research-intensive universities with a large array of academic programs. The most popular majors at Northwestern include journalism, engineering, and psychology, while USC students tend to major in business, communication, and engineering. Both schools have top-notch faculty and provide ample research opportunities for students.

However, Northwestern has a stronger focus on the humanities and social sciences, with highly ranked programs in history, political science, and sociology. USC, on the other hand, has a renowned film school and a strong emphasis on the arts, with programs in theatre, music, and visual arts.

Additionally, Northwestern has a larger international student population, with students from over 100 countries, while USC has a higher percentage of students from California. Both universities offer study abroad programs and opportunities for students to gain global perspectives, but Northwestern’s diverse student body may provide a more immersive international experience.

Sports Programs at Northwestern and USC Compared

Northwestern and USC have successful athletic programs. Northwestern is a member of the Big Ten Conference, while USC is a member of the PAC-12 Conference. Both schools have produced successful athletes and have passionate fan bases.

USC has a more storied history in football, while Northwestern has been gaining more recognition in football, basketball, and other sports in recent years.

One major difference between the sports programs at Northwestern and USC is the level of funding. USC has a larger athletic budget and is able to offer more scholarships to athletes. This has allowed USC to attract top talent from around the country and maintain a high level of competitiveness in many sports.

On the other hand, Northwestern has a strong focus on academics and student-athlete well-being. The school has implemented programs to support the mental health of its athletes and has a high graduation rate for its student-athletes. This emphasis on academics has also led to success in sports such as fencing, where Northwestern has won multiple national championships.

Campus Life at Northwestern vs USC: Which is Better?

Campus life is an important aspect to consider when choosing a university. Northwestern is located in the peaceful suburb of Evanston, Illinois, while USC is situated in bustling Los Angeles, California. Both schools offer a range of extracurricular activities, with Northwestern having a more residential campus and USC offering a vibrant big-city experience.

One of the unique aspects of campus life at Northwestern is the strong sense of community. With a smaller student body, it’s easier to get to know your peers and form close relationships.

Group of students working together and talking.

The residential campus also fosters a sense of belonging, with students often participating in dorm events and activities. Additionally, Northwestern has a strong focus on wellness, with resources such as the Health Promotion and Wellness center and a variety of fitness classes.

On the other hand, USC offers a diverse range of opportunities for students to get involved in the city of Los Angeles. From internships at major companies to volunteering at local non-profits, USC students have access to a wealth of experiences beyond the campus.

The university also has a strong sports culture, with the Trojans being a major part of the LA community. USC also has a large international student population, providing a unique cultural experience for students.

Affordability: Comparing Tuition Fees at Northwestern and USC

Attending either Northwestern or USC comes with a significant financial cost. Northwestern’s tuition fees for 2023-2024 is $63,468, while USC is at $49,318. However, both schools offer significant financial aid packages to support students paying for their education.

It’s important to note that the cost of attending a university goes beyond just tuition fees. Students also need to consider the cost of living, textbooks, and other expenses.

Admissions Requirements and Acceptance Rates Compared

Both Northwestern and USC have rigorous admissions processes and are highly competitive universities. Northwestern typically accepts 7% of applicants, while USC has an acceptance rate of around 13%. Both universities consider a range of factors when evaluating applicants, including academic achievements, extracurricular involvements, essays, and more.

Two students sitting on the stairs of a building.

However, there are some differences in their admissions requirements. Northwestern requires all applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, while USC offers a test-optional policy. Additionally, Northwestern places a strong emphasis on demonstrated interest, such as campus visits and interviews, while USC does not consider demonstrated interest in their admissions process. It is important for applicants to carefully review the admissions requirements and policies of each university before applying.

Alumni Networks: Which School Offers Better Connections?

The alumni networks of both Northwestern and USC are robust and offer valuable connections for students and graduates. Northwestern boasts a strong global alumni community, with alumni working at top companies and organizations around the world. USC’s alumni network is also well-connected, and graduates can access valuable resources and networking opportunities through the school.

However, there are some key differences between the two alumni networks. Northwestern’s alumni network is known for its strong focus on mentorship and career development. The school offers a variety of programs and events designed to connect students and graduates with alumni who can offer guidance and support in their professional endeavors.

View of students walking in the campus.

On the other hand, USC’s alumni network is known for its strong sense of community and social connections. The school hosts a variety of events and activities throughout the year, including alumni reunions, networking events, and social gatherings. These events provide opportunities for graduates to connect with each other and build lasting relationships.

The Best Places to Hangout as a Student at Northwestern and USC

As mentioned earlier, both Northwestern and USC offer a range of extracurricular activities and experiences. Students at Northwestern can enjoy Evanston’s small-town charm, with plenty of cafes, parks, and restaurants to explore. USC students have access to all that Los Angeles has to offer, from museums to beaches to Hollywood landmarks.

Additionally, Northwestern and USC both have vibrant student communities that offer a variety of social events and clubs. At Northwestern, students can join organizations like the Northwestern University Dance Marathon, which raises money for charity, or the Northwestern University Debate Society. USC students can participate in the Trojan Marching Band, which performs at football games and other events, or join the USC Ski and Snowboard Team. These communities provide opportunities for students to connect with others who share their interests and passions, and to make lasting friendships.

Job Prospects for Graduates of Northwestern and USC

Graduates of both Northwestern and USC have impressive job prospects, thanks to the schools’ rigorous academic programs and strong alumni networks. Northwestern has a strong reputation in the media industry, with many journalism graduates going on to work at top publications and news outlets. USC’s graduates, particularly those from the business and film programs, are highly sought after by top companies and studios.

However, job prospects for graduates of Northwestern and USC extend beyond just the media, business, and film industries. Northwestern’s engineering and computer science programs have produced graduates who have gone on to work at top tech companies such as Google and Microsoft. USC’s School of Social Work has also produced graduates who have gone on to work in various social service organizations and government agencies.

Furthermore, both Northwestern and USC offer extensive career services and resources to their graduates, including job fairs, networking events, and alumni mentorship programs. These resources help graduates from all programs and industries connect with potential employers and advance their careers.

Student Life in Evanston vs Los Angeles: A Comparison

Aside from campus life, the cities of Evanston and Los Angeles offer different lifestyles and experiences. Evanston is a quiet, residential town with a strong sense of community. Los Angeles is a globally recognized city with a diverse population and a range of cultural offerings. Both cities have their own unique charms and drawbacks, depending on your personal preferences.

Group of students smiling at the camera.

One major difference between the two cities is the cost of living. Evanston is generally considered to be more expensive than Los Angeles, particularly in terms of housing and groceries. However, Los Angeles has a higher sales tax rate and transportation costs can add up quickly. It’s important to consider your budget and financial situation when deciding which city is the best fit for you.

Research Opportunities at Northwestern vs USC: Which is Best for You?

Both Northwestern and USC are research-oriented universities with a wealth of research opportunities for students. Northwestern has a number of research centers and institutes, including the Northwestern Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Center for Data and Computing. USC’s research programs span a wide range of fields, including medicine, engineering, and the humanities.

In conclusion, choosing between Northwestern and USC ultimately comes down to personal preferences and priorities. Both schools offer an excellent education, with strong academic programs, athletic programs, and alumni networks. Ultimately, the decision should come down to your individual needs and goals.

One factor to consider when choosing between Northwestern and USC is the location of the university. Northwestern is located in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, while USC is located in Los Angeles, California. This can impact the types of research opportunities available, as well as the overall culture and environment of the university.

Another important consideration is the size of the university and the research community. Northwestern is a smaller university with a more intimate feel, while USC is a larger university with a more diverse student body and research community. Depending on your personal preferences, you may thrive in a smaller, more close-knit community or prefer the opportunities and resources available at a larger university.


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