Getting to Know: Northeastern University (MA)
Northeastern University was my second stop during my trip to Boston. I’ve collected some photos on Pinterest to help you check out the campus. Co-op, global opportunities and the vast choice of majors , combined majors and special programs are the real reasons to seriously consider this school versus Boston University or other city schools.
Northeastern has become an increasingly popular option with New Jersey’s college-bound students, likely due to its rise in published rankings, location in Boston, aka America’s College Town, and access to rewarding career opportunities. Northeastern is also a growing institution that wants to be taken more seriously as a research university. This science building (photo up top and below) is one effort in that direction.
People who get into Northeastern tend to stay and finish.
Northeastern retains 97 percent of a freshman class. Most students stay five years to build their resumes through cooperative education, aka ‘co-op’ , and graduate with 18 months or more of full-time work experience. Eighty-eight percent of the students who entered in 2014, the last year I could find data, graduated in five years. That’s excellent for any college of any size.
If you are in love with Northeastern it really helps to apply Early Decision.
Over half of the students who applied Early Decision to enter in Fall, 2021 were accepted. But these students made up less than a quarter of the class. Overall, the university accepted 18 percent of all applicants. While Northeastern is test optional, the typical freshman will have excellent grades within a rigorous course load.
One piece of advice: don’t submit scores below 700 on both sections of the SAT or below 30 on each section of the ACT. Northeastern considered test scores to be Very Important, if they are submitted.
Northeastern has promised to help hold cost increases down.
This year direct charges (tuition and fees, room and board) are approaching $79,000.
If costs will be a concern, read about the Northeastern Promise before applying for admission. Students who receive scholarships will not see their aid decrease because tuition and fees increased. The university also commits to meeting 100 percent of need. However, a college decides if you qualify for need after you complete the FAFSA and the CSS Profile..
According to the university’s most recent Common Data Set, over three quarters of the 2021 freshman class applied for need-based aid. However, only half of the class received need-based scholarships. Just over a quarter of the class received merit based awards.
Good news: the average need-based scholarship exceeded $50,000. The average merit-based award was just under $19,000. Just under half of the Class of 2021 had to take out loans. Those borrowers owed, on average, $30,600. That’s a little less than the maximum a student would borrow to go to college for five years under the Federal Student Loan program–and many students try to do three co-ops over five years.
One down side: you will need to take some summer classes. Northeastern considers only fall and spring to be semesters on co-op. Students are allowed to work for their co-op employer, but those arrangements are between the employer and student. They are not part of the co-op calendar.
There’s a lot crowded into a 73 acre campus
Visually, it does not look like a place that has direct charges close to $79,000 for the current academic year. Northeastern feels quite crowded. That’s easy to understand for a school that is less than one-third the size of NYU’s campus in Washington Square–within the center of Boston. But anyone can get anywhere in the city from Northeastern via mass transit.
Like Boston University Northeastern has a contiguous campus. You know when you’re entering and when you’re leaving. It’s visually two campuses. The university went on a building boom that helped raise their rankings and lower their acceptance rate. BU has a “beach,” Northeastern has Centennial Common, a central green space. The campus is considered an arboretum. BU has Commonwealth Avenue, Northeastern has Huntington Avenue both great for dining off campus, both dangerous streets to cross. Both campuses have sleek, modern buildings as well as equally forgettable architecture. Matthews Arena, for example, is a century-old facility that was once home to the Bruins and the Celtics. It’s the oldest indoor hockey venue in continuous use in America today.
Northeastern University has risen quickly up the US News rankings, but it slipped a little since my pandemic period post.
While Northeastern ranked tied for 40th with crosstown rival Boston University (BU). This year Northeastern ranks 44th and BU ranks 41st.
But there’s some good news for the rankings conscious among prospective students and the Northeastern community: Northeastern is tied with Brandeis, Case Western, Georgia Tech and Tulane. Interestingly, those four schools are members of the research-driven Association of American Universities. Northeastern is not, but I’m sure that it wants to be. With over 20,000 undergrads and more than 13,000 graduate students, this university is educating more people than UMass-Amherst.
It’s hard for Northeastern to move further up in a US News ranking
Becoming more selective helps, since selectivity comprises seven percent of a ranking for a National Research University. Northeastern is winning on that score, attracting a statistically stronger student body, while committing to remain test optional for the next four years. It’s also possible to send out good marketing materials before academic peers have to complete the reputation surveys. But it’s hard to gain faculty resources from one year to the next.
However, Northeastern is definitely trying to continue on an upward trajectory. The university acquired campuses in London and Northern California and is constructing an impressive science complex. Forbes gave Northeastern a ‘B” financial grade, up from a C+ two years ago. That’s also good news from a fairly large university that’s still growing. Large introductory classes are usually a price for growth at a school this size, but only seven percent of all undergraduate classes taught in 2020-21 had over 50 students.
Co-op is Northeastern’s special sauce.
Many schools offer co-op only for engineering and/or business, but Northeastern offers it for every major. That’s remarkable at a school that offers majors in eight undergraduate colleges. The career development office is quite aggressive at helping students—sophomores, middlers and juniors—find co-ops. That office attracts over 2,900 employers to campus or by virtual contacts each year. There’s also a co-op prep course to get you ready to connect and interview with prospective employers. Students pay no tuition while on co-op, though they will still need to pay for housing and some fees if they live on campus.
But co-op employers, like those seeking interns or new hires, expect to find motivated students with good grades, especially in the major. Struggling with Business, Computer Science or Engineering courses? Few employers want someone who might struggle on the job.
Co-op is great when you have some idea of your major.
You can enter Northeastern undecided on a major. But unlike some large universities that have a formal exploratory program to help a first-year student to explore options among different schools, Northeastern asks applicants to choose one of the undergraduate colleges as an undeclared major. Co-op starts in the second year, so it really helps to have two or three similar majors in mind before you start your education.
But it’s going to be tough to switch schools, then have the right credits to get into the first co-op you want. Co-ops in Accounting, Computer Science, Engineering and Information Systems pay quite well, and help to build a strong resume. They might make enough money to cover housing costs in Boston for the year. Walk in with a semester or more of AP credits? You can walk out with a nice resume and a masters degree.
But co-ops in other majors might pay closer to summer intern wages, even no wage at all. I’d imagine that many non-profits and entertainment businesses pay even less, possibly nothing. The lower the entry-level pay, and the more competitive the field, the less value gained from co-op. A liberal arts or communications major might benefit more from internships at a school where s/he can finish in four years. I am not in love with co-op for education and health-related majors.These have mandatory practicums or clinical requirements. A good education or nursing school will get you placements. But they are degree requirements—and unpaid. I cannot see why a school system, private school, or hospital would pay for a co-op student when they can get someone for nothing.
Global education has become more important for admitted and continuing students.
Accepted students might be asked to take part in NUBound and begin the first year of their education in Northern California or London where the university owns and operates its own campuses. Or they might be asked to take part in N.U. in begin their first semester in either place or one of seven other locations. Another option is to take the second semester abroad through the university’s Global Quest program. The first-year programs are just the tip of the iceberg of the list of global opportunities for academics and/or co-op employment.
Northeastern requires all students to live on campus for two years, regardless of where they begin their education. Unfortunately, the university can house less than half of its undergraduate student body in Boston. The study abroad programs alleviate some of the shortage, but Boston is one of the most expensive rental housing markets in the America. Not only will students compete with peers attending other colleges in the city; they also need to compete with working people for housing. BostonPads.com has some tips for college students seeking to live off campus. The transit authority also offers discounted student semester passes, to get around the city, especially if you commute from another neighborhood. However, you need to get a new pass every semester.
With sophomores, middlers and juniors on co-op, this school does not bond around many campus-wide events.
Northeastern has over 400 clubs and organizations, much like a larger state school. You must find your groups freshman year, then prepare to leave them when you go on co-op. Northeastern is touted as a “hockey school,” though the Huskies have won the Beanpot Trophy fewer times than their Boston-area rivals: Boston College, Boston University and Harvard. This past season, according to US College Hockey Online, Northeastern ranked 33rd in home attendance, attracting fewer than 2,100 fans a game. Click that link. You’ll see that four colleges in rural Minnesota drew better. I have to believe that it’s easier for Northeastern fans to get to the games. I’m also left to guess that they’re more likely to look for cheap tickets to see the Bruins.
If you want to stay in Boston, the alumni base is strong.
There are over 120,000 Boston-area Northeastern alumni registered in LinkedIn.com and there are over 21,000 in and around New York City. Northeastern is also well represented in the San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Chicago metro areas.
I watched several YouTubes produced by Northeastern students.
I realize that Boston is a more popular college town than Philadelphia, and there are more colleges in the city as well as immediate suburbs. But I don’t believe that Northeastern students got more for their money than their peers who choose Drexel for co-op. Drexel is less selective, and offers co-op in virtually every majors, but also offers more generous scholarships to bring costs closer to Temple or your home state school. Northeastern is more residential, but Philadelphia is a less expensive city to find an off- campus apartment. Northeastern’s major advantage over Drexel: your classes and co-op run on semesters instead of quarters. Semesters give you more time to master difficult material.
If you want to work in Boston while pursuing a college degree, or you want a truly global educational experience, Northeastern might be your school. However, if you are looking for a big school that has a social life with spirit and sports there are better options available–and some also offer co-op.
Report Card: Northeastern University
- Five Year Graduation Rate (Co-op school): A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: B
- Curriculum: A
- Community: A
- Comforts: B
- Connections: A
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