Northwestern vs Washington University in St. Louis: A Comprehensive Analysis

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Three students working on a table.

Northwestern vs Washington University in St. Louis: A Comprehensive Analysis

Choosing the right university can be a daunting task, especially when there are so many outstanding institutions to consider. Two notable institutions that stand out in the United States are Northwestern University and Washington University in St. Louis. In this article, we’ll compare Northwestern vs Washington University in St. Louis based on several factors such as location, campus life, student body, academic programs, faculty, and staff, research opportunities, sports and athletics, student organizations, financial aid, and admissions process. Let’s dive in and explore these universities in detail.


When it comes to location, Northwestern University is situated on the shores of Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois. Washington University in St. Louis, on the other hand, is located in St. Louis, Missouri, which is a bustling city with a vibrant nightlife. Both universities are well-placed, with excellent transport links to major cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Kansas City, making them easily accessible for students.

Northwestern University’s location on the shores of Lake Michigan provides students with a beautiful campus environment, with stunning views of the lake and easy access to beaches and water activities.

In contrast, Washington University in St. Louis is located in a more urban setting, with access to a wide range of cultural and entertainment options, including museums, theaters, and music venues. Both universities offer unique location advantages, allowing students to choose the environment that best suits their interests and lifestyle.

Northwestern University vs Washington University in St. Louis: Campus Life

The campus life at both Northwestern University and Washington University is exciting and engaging, with diverse student communities and a variety of extracurricular activities. Campus life at Northwestern is filled with numerous events, and the university offers various student organizations like dance, music, and theater groups. The campus life at Washington University is vibrant, too, with excellent facilities for students to use to unwind, relax, and socialize with one another.

Additionally, both universities have a strong emphasis on community service and volunteerism. Northwestern University has a Center for Civic Engagement that connects students with local organizations and provides opportunities for community service. Washington University has a similar program called the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, which offers a variety of service projects and initiatives for students to get involved in.

Furthermore, both universities have a rich sports culture, with numerous varsity and club sports teams. Northwestern University is a member of the Big Ten Conference and has a strong football program, while Washington University has a successful Division III athletics program with over 20 varsity sports teams. Both universities also offer state-of-the-art fitness facilities for students to use and stay active.

Student Body

Both universities have a diverse student body, with students hailing from different ethnicities, races, and nationalities. Northwestern University has a relatively larger student body compared to Washington University. Both universities accept students with excellent academic profiles who possess incredible potential and leadership abilities.

View of students walking in the campus.

Northwestern University has a higher percentage of international students, with around 10% of the student body coming from outside the United States. In contrast, Washington University has a smaller percentage of international students, with only about 6% of the student body coming from outside the country. However, both universities offer a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, regardless of their background.

Additionally, both universities have a strong commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion on campus. They offer various programs and initiatives to support underrepresented groups and foster a sense of community among all students. From multicultural centers to student organizations, there are many opportunities for students to get involved and make a positive impact on campus.

Academic Programs

Both universities offer a wide range of academic programs, from undergraduate degrees to postgraduate professional degrees. Northwestern University has an excellent reputation for its business, law, medicine, journalism, and engineering programs, to mention a few.

Washington University has a broad range of academic programs too, with top-tier programs in fields such as biomedical engineering, finance, psychology, and social work.

Additionally, both universities offer unique interdisciplinary programs that allow students to combine multiple fields of study. Northwestern University has a highly regarded program in computer science and journalism, which prepares students for careers in data journalism and digital media.

Female student using a laptop while laying down on the grass.

Washington University offers a joint program in social work and public health, which equips students with the skills to address complex social issues from a public health perspective.

Northwestern University vs Washington University in St. Louis: Faculty and Staff

Both universities have earned a reputation for having excellent faculty members who are accomplished scholars in their respective fields. The faculty members at Northwestern University hold multiple awards, including Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel laureates, and National Science Foundation award winners. Washington University has a similar record, with notable faculty members who have been recognized globally for their work.

In addition to their impressive faculty members, both universities also have dedicated and experienced staff members who work tirelessly to support the academic and administrative needs of the institutions.

From admissions counselors to financial aid advisors, from IT support to custodial staff, the universities rely on a diverse team of professionals to ensure that students have the resources and services they need to succeed.

Many of these staff members have been with the universities for years, and their commitment to the institutions is a testament to the strong sense of community and shared values that both Northwestern and Washington University embody.

Northwestern University vs Washington University in St. Louis: Research Opportunities

Both universities are committed to advancing research-based pedagogy with well-established research centers that provide opportunities for students and faculty members to engage in groundbreaking research.

Northwestern University has a robust research program, with research centers in areas like nanotechnology, biotechnology, and healthcare innovation. Washington University, on the other hand, boasts research centers that focus on policy studies, social sciences, and engineering.

Additionally, both universities offer undergraduate research programs that allow students to work alongside faculty members on research projects. These programs provide students with hands-on experience in their field of study and the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge research.

Group of students walking in the campus.

Students can also present their research findings at conferences and publish their work in academic journals, which can be a valuable asset when applying to graduate school or pursuing a career in research.

Northwestern University vs Washington University in St. Louis: Sports and Athletics

Both universities offer a rich sporting and athletic tradition that spans a broad spectrum of intercollegiate sports. Northwestern University is mostly known for its football program, but it also has highly competitive teams in basketball, soccer, and volleyball. Washington University has an excellent athletics program, too, with successful teams in soccer, swimming, and tennis, among others.

In addition to intercollegiate sports, both universities also offer a wide range of intramural sports and recreational activities for students who want to stay active and healthy.

Northwestern University has a state-of-the-art fitness center that is open to all students, with a variety of exercise equipment and fitness classes. Washington University has a similar facility, with a focus on promoting wellness and healthy living among its students.

Student Organizations and Activities

Northwestern University provides numerous opportunities for students to get involved in extracurricular activities, with over 500 registered student organizations on campus. The majority of these organizations are overseen by students, providing an immersive and engaging experience for all involved.

Washington University also has a broad range of student organizations, offering over 280 registered groups, including philanthropic organizations, arts and music groups, theater, and debate clubs, among others.

Additionally, both universities offer a variety of activities and events throughout the year to enhance the student experience. These can range from guest speakers and workshops to cultural festivals and sporting events.

Group of students walking in the school campus.

Students can also participate in community service projects and volunteer opportunities through various organizations on campus. With so many options available, students are sure to find something that interests them and allows them to connect with their peers and the broader community.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Both universities offer a range of financial aid and scholarship options to eligible students. Northwestern University provides over $200 million annually to students through merit-based scholarships and financial aid. Washington University offers both merit and need-based grants and scholarships, making it easier for students to access the financial support they need to complete their degrees.

Additionally, Northwestern University offers a work-study program that allows students to earn money while gaining valuable work experience. This program is available to both undergraduate and graduate students and provides opportunities to work on campus or in the local community.

Washington University also offers a variety of loan options for students who need additional financial assistance. These loans have low interest rates and flexible repayment options, making them a viable option for students who need to borrow money to pay for their education.

Admissions Process

The admissions process at both universities is selective, and entry into these outstanding institutions is highly competitive. Northwestern University accepts students based on their academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and leadership capabilities.

Washington University also provides an admission process that looks at both academic achievements and non-academic factors, ensuring that students who demonstrate considerable potential are given the opportunity.

It is important to note that both universities also consider diversity and inclusivity in their admissions process. Northwestern University values a diverse student body and actively seeks to admit students from a variety of backgrounds.

Similarly, Washington University is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive community, and considers factors such as socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and geographic location in their admissions decisions.

Alumni Network

Both universities have well-established alumni networks that offer support and resources to their graduates. Northwestern University boasts an alumni network of over 285,000 individuals who contribute significantly to various industries globally. Washington University has an alumni network that spans across the country.

Northwestern University’s alumni network is not only vast but also highly engaged. The university hosts numerous events and programs throughout the year to connect alumni with each other and with current students. These events range from career fairs and networking events to social gatherings and cultural activities. The alumni network also offers mentorship opportunities, where alumni can provide guidance and support to current students and recent graduates.

a sociologist interviewing a couple

Washington University’s alumni network is known for its strong sense of community and loyalty. The university has a dedicated alumni association that works to keep alumni connected and engaged with the university. The association offers a range of benefits and services to its members, including access to career resources, discounts on events and programs, and opportunities to volunteer and give back to the university. The alumni network also hosts regional events and reunions, allowing alumni to stay connected no matter where they are in the world.

Campus Safety and Security

Both universities take campus safety and security seriously, with well-structured safety protocols and facilities that prioritize student safety. Northwestern University has a Campus Safety Council that provides security measures like emergency phones, security cameras, and extensive security patrols.

Washington University has a similar program, with its Campus Safety Department providing security, parking services, and emergency response facilities.

In addition to these measures, both universities also offer safety education programs to students, faculty, and staff. These programs include self-defense classes, safety workshops, and emergency preparedness training.

Northwestern University also has a SafeRide program that provides free transportation to students who feel unsafe walking alone on campus at night.

Washington University has a similar program called Bear Patrol, which offers walking escorts to students and staff who need to travel on campus after dark.

Technology Resources

Both universities offer cutting-edge technological resources that aid in enhancing student learning opportunities. Northwestern University provides a range of modern facilities such as its Cyberinfrastructure for Digital Humanities and Arts, which supports digital research initiatives.

Washington University has a similar program called the Digital Gateway, which supports digital scholarship and research projects.

In addition to these programs, Northwestern University also offers a state-of-the-art Virtual Reality Lab, which allows students to explore and create immersive virtual environments.

Washington University has a 3D Printing Lab, where students can design and print their own prototypes and models. These resources provide students with hands-on experience in emerging technologies and prepare them for careers in fields such as engineering, design, and computer science.

Campus Infrastructure and Facilities

Both universities boast modern infrastructure and facilities that enhance the overall student experience. Northwestern University has state-of-the-art libraries, student centers, and lecture halls. Washington University also has modern resources like laboratories, study spaces, and excellent dining options.

In addition to these facilities, both universities also offer extensive sports and fitness facilities. Northwestern University has a large sports complex that includes a gymnasium, swimming pool, and multiple sports fields. Washington University has a similar sports complex that includes a fitness center, indoor track, and tennis courts. These facilities provide students with ample opportunities to stay active and healthy while on campus.

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

Both universities have a strong commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion on campus, ensuring that all students feel included and valued within the learning environment.

Northwestern University has various initiatives in place, such as the Multicultural Center, which provides support for underrepresented students and cultural understanding groups. Washington University has a similar program, with its First Year Center providing multicultural programming and cultural competency training.

In addition to these programs, Northwestern University also has a Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program, which is designed to help students develop the skills and knowledge necessary to create inclusive environments in their future careers. The program includes courses on topics such as cultural competency, social justice, and diversity in the workplace.

Washington University also has a strong commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion beyond its campus. The university partners with local organizations to provide mentorship and support to underrepresented students in the St. Louis community.

Additionally, the university hosts an annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit, which brings together students, faculty, and community members to discuss strategies for creating more inclusive environments in all aspects of society.

International Programs and Study Abroad Opportunities

Both universities provide ample opportunities for students to engage in international programs and study abroad opportunities. Northwestern University has Study Abroad Programs that allow students to learn and study in different countries and cultures worldwide.

Washington University’s International Center provides various opportunities for students to engage in study abroad programs, study tours, and global internships. Additionally, both universities offer language immersion programs for students who want to improve their language skills.

Sustainability Efforts

Both universities have robust sustainability programs in place, promoting responsible environmental practices and reducing their carbon footprint. Northwestern University has numerous initiatives in place, like its sustainability curriculum and investment in green buildings. Washington University has a similar program, with its Office of Sustainability providing resources and facilities that promote responsible environmental practices.

In addition to these initiatives, Northwestern University has also implemented a bike-sharing program for students and staff, encouraging alternative modes of transportation that reduce carbon emissions. The university also has a composting program in place, diverting food waste from landfills and turning it into nutrient-rich soil for campus gardens.

Similarly, Washington University has made significant strides in reducing its energy consumption, with a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040.

The university has installed solar panels on several buildings, reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. Additionally, the Office of Sustainability has partnered with local organizations to promote sustainable practices in the surrounding community.

Rankings and Recognitions

Both universities have excellent reputations and have earned various global awards and accolades, which are a testament to their high academic standards and achievements. Northwestern University has been consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the world by several prominent global rankings, including the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education Rankings. Washington University has a similar record, with recognition from organizations like U.S. News and World Report, Times Higher Education, and Forbes Magazine.

In addition to their global rankings and recognitions, both universities have also received numerous awards and accolades for their research and innovation. Northwestern University has been recognized for its groundbreaking research in fields such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, and materials science. Washington University has also made significant contributions to research, particularly in the areas of medicine, engineering, and social sciences.

Furthermore, both universities have strong partnerships with industry leaders and government agencies, providing students with unique opportunities for internships, research collaborations, and career development.


In conclusion, Northwestern University and Washington University in St. Louis are both outstanding universities that offer students excellent learning opportunities and experiences. While they have similar resources in terms of student life, academics, research, each institution has unique programs and initiatives that make them stand out. Ultimately, the choice between these institutions will depend on the student’s goals, aspirations, and preferences.

It is worth noting that both universities have strong alumni networks that can provide valuable connections and opportunities for students after graduation.

Northwestern University has a particularly active alumni community in the entertainment industry, while Washington University in St. Louis has a strong presence in the fields of business and entrepreneurship. These networks can be a valuable resource for students as they navigate their post-graduation career paths.


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