Virtual Impressions: Northeastern University (MA)
Northeastern University was to be my last stop next month. So I’ve also made it my last stop on my virtual Boston area college tour. I’ve collected some photos on Pinterest to help you check out the campus.
Northeastern University has risen quickly up the US News rankings, as well as the Poets and Quants ratings of undergraduate business schools. Less than a fifth of the students who wanted to join the 2018 freshman class got in. Northeastern now ranks equal to Boston University (BU) in the recent US News rankings, which makes cross-shopping more interesting. Both schools have lots of alumni in major cities. But it’s not likely that you’ll meet up for hockey watch parties outside of Boston.
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. 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 between similar career-oriented majors. 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 a social science major, for example, pay, on average only $12 to $15/hour. 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’m 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. I can understand if you go to the University of Cincinnati, a public school that’s big on co-op, entering with a semester’s worth of AP credits. There you can earn a master’s degree in the fifth year at a reasonable cost while meeting all of your requirements. This is not so at Northeastern, one of the more expensive private universities in the country.
Northeastern has over 400 clubs and organizations, much like a larger state school. With sophomores, middlers and juniors on co-op, this school does not bond around many campus-wide events. 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.” This past season, according to US College Hockey Online,Northeastern ranked 34th in home attendance, attracting 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.
I watched several YouTubes produced by Northeastern students. I realize that Boston is a more popular college town than Philadelphia. 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, but 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. Philadelphia has a larger health care sector than Boston, if your career interests lie there. 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.
Some will still argue that Boston is a better college town than Philadelphia. There are points in the Hub City’s favor. It’s a state capital and a global business center, great for finding co-ops. There’s more arts, entertainment and sports than a college student could ever explore in five years. Walk around Faneuil Hall and trek the Freedom Trail, and you’ll be impressed by Boston’s culture and history. But the Northeastern campus is not immediately near the business or cultural centers of Boston, nor by Harvard Square. I would have felt safer on Drexel’s campus. Its right next door to Penn and 15 minutes from the Amtrak 30th Street station. Location matters for feeling safe and getting around safely.
Northeastern is a contiguous campus, like Boston University. You know when you’re entering campus 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. However, last fall Forbes gave BU a B+ for financial health, Northeastern got a C+.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder when comparing these two schools. 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. If you can visit both, don’t do it on the same day. Give yourself time to talk to students and ask them why they chose their school.
If I was to choose between Northeastern and BU, presuming that I was accepted to both, my decision comes down to costs and the value of going co-op. If costs are a serious concern I would look for other options outside of Boston. There are less expensive options in other major cities, and some of them offer co-op.
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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