Northwestern University Top Questions

What should every freshman at Northwestern University know before they start?


Push ahead. Move forward. I managed to do well in high school but, when it came to the college application process and transition I began second guessing myself and struggled to hold back for as long as possible. There was some time when I refused to think about the college search. My parents never went to college, so the life beyond high school was a mystery to me. Looking back on it all, I want to reach out to my younger self, extend a hand and pull myself forward.You have to think of college, and life in general, as a river. You can stand in the middle of the stream and feel the water push against you or you can lift your feet from the river-bed and let the water guide you forward. Standing still will get you nowhere. The waters will hit your back and sides until you crumble under the pressure. Lifting your feet and accepting that you know nothing, can be terrifying but will get you further than you could ever dream. So take the chance. Push ahead. Move forward. The journey is worth it.


Dear Nadia Murray, I want you to focus on school. Put your head in those books and don't look up until graduation. I want you to apply to several colleges, including the local community college. I want you to spend your summers, visiting colleges and getting a feel for the college life. Now I know what you are going to say, "You will have time for that later." However if you get it out the way now, you could have many doors opened in your favor. College is hard, but worth the work. Think about all the new people you are going to meet and all the new experiences you will have. I know things seem scary, but trust me you are not alone in this feeling. There have been and will be many more people questioning this step. I want you to have the best and college is the way to obtain that. Things have been hard in the past, but you can recover from all that and begin to build yourself a brighter and stronger future. I know friends seem fun, but an education will last you forever. Always be you and strive for the best.


Throw away those purple overalls. Do not let your parents drive you to college in Uncle Frank’s school bus, even if it has enough room for all your stuff. On the first day of class, do not tell that joke about the dog and the umbrella. I know, I know, it’s hilarious, but I’m telling you, people just do not get it. Sit on the left towards the front in lecture hall—that way you have a good view, but you don’t look like you’re trying too hard. Make sure to get the bunk farthest from the door so that if a kidnapper comes in the middle of the night you’re not the one he takes. It is not possible to memorize a semester’s worth of material the night before an exam. Student loans do not equal free money. Do not make glittery posters for the soccer captain—even if you do have a crush on him. Guard your quarters with your life, because come laundry day, they are worth a whole lot more than twenty-five cents. Lastly, forget everything you just read. Relax. Be yourself.


“Isn’t it boring to see all A’s on your grades?” In response to the question, I retorted, “No, I like it that way." Honestly, that’s how I liked my whole life – controlled and free of failure. That is why the wait to hear Northwestern's admission response was agonizing. The questions rolled in my head: “How will I tell so-and-so if I don’t get in?” “What will people think if I fail?” Fortunately, I learned that I would be on my way to my dream school, and as the pieces for my dream life increased, I was determined to juggle them. I would study chemistry and marry a doctor. We would have beautiful children and put our fluffy dog in the picket fence around our house. My plan was thwarted when I received my chemistry grade. My mind reeled, “C+? I’ve never gotten grades like this.” The even shook me, but it also prompted a realization I wish I’d known in high school: my successes don’t define me. I realized that I would never be everything I was created to be without running toward my passions and falling down and recovering.


There are a few things I'd say you should keep in mind before starting as a freshman: First, the quarter system moves quickly. You come back to school later than almost all your friends and its often hard to snap out of that prolonged summer lethargy. If you fall behind on the quarter system, it will always feel like torture to try and catch up. The first couple of weeks might fool you into a false sense of pace, only to find that you've amassed an insane amount of work come the start of midterms. Second, you're not going to go into Chicago as often as you think, so don't rely upon it for your social life. With the heightened pace of the quarter system, odds are you're not going to want to spend your free time commuting all the way into the city. As such, don't write off the activities on campus or in Evanston. Finally, resist the urge to brag about your late start date to your friends on semesters. It'll come to haunt you when spring quarter finals roll around and all your high school friends are already enjoying summer.


Definitely come to college (regardless of whether it's NU or somewhere else) with an open mind about what you like and who you want to be. People show up on campus thinking they've got everything all figured out, but one weekend with some new people can change your whole model of what you thought you were going to be. It's not a bad thing; it's the most empowering feeling in the world to realize that this truly is your life and you can do whatever you want with it, but it's important not to let your preconceived notions of yourself get in the way of opportunity. I think this is especially important to keep in mind at NU, because there is just so much going on, and it would be a tragedy not to try something (or many things), because it's not consistent with your previous interests. ps. It's NU, not NW. People make that mistake a lot, and it's annoying.


Given the opportunity, I would let my high school self know that college won't be as terrifying as I thought. I never knew that making friends would be so easy, people would share my interests, and that I would make some of the best friendships and most important acquaintances of my life. I found that it is important to enjoy the little things and to pace myself academically so as to avoid stress. Don't put things off to the last minute! Also, half of the things I packed to bring to the dorm I did not use or have room for, so consider that while packing.


Take advantage of the fleeting moments. You will never regret the time you spend with your family, before heading off to school. Those moments are precious, and your family makes you who you are. Your identity in college is shaped by your hometown, and you will identify with it strongly. For the transition, know that you can't plan for everything. Lists matter less than focusing on personal health. So eat, sleep, laugh every day, and let yourself cry. College is a chance to improve on who you are now, and you want to be up for the task. Read the news-- your peers will value your voice and input in their discussions. Learn how to boil water, at least. Find a few songs that lift up your spirit, as there will be days when you just need to hear a familiar melody. And, tell your mother you love her.


Sometimes my friends tell me that they aren't getting enough value out of their college education. I used to be sympathetic to this opinion, but recently, I have felt differently disposed. I was cleaning out my room over winter break and I found some essays that I wrote in my senior year of high school. I distinctly remember working my butt off on these assignments and recieving very high grades.. Those essays that I recall slaving over look like the rough drafts I produce every week. When I reflect on how much better my writing and critical thinking has gotten in such a short people of time, I realize how the true value of higher education is often hidden beneath the surface. The difficult tasks we are expected to complete can leave us frustrated, but their benefits are invaluable. In that respect, going to college is sort of like getting older. When I se relatives over the holidays, they always comment on how much older I look. Since we see ourselves in the mirror every morning, it is easy to lose track of how we age, but when you compare in retrospect, the difference is clear.


My college years were the best of my life. I was exposed to a variety of cultures, religions, and economic statuses which opened my eyes to the larger world. When I walked onto that beautiful campus, I was no longer the top of my class; instead, I was just another straight-A student. I had to work for what I achieved, and I grew immensely through my experience. I now have a higher sense of work ethic and a lesser feeling of entitlement. The wonderful thing about Northwestern is that while it is impressive academically, it also offers the Big Ten school feel, complete with football games, parties, and late nights. As I look toward my future schooling, I believe that my experience at Northwestern has prepared me for study groups and all-nighters as well as social outings and lasting friendships.