14 members of Northwestern's mellophone section in band uniforms or NU t-shirts

College Spotlight – Northwestern University

Freshman Update

by Lorien Zhao
April, 2022

College Expert Counselor: Sue Luse

Greetings from Evanston, IL!

My name is Lorien Zhao, and I am currently a freshman planning to major in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS), Economics, and Data Science with a Managerial Analytics Certificate. I know that was a lot, but Northwestern University’s quarter system makes it possible.

What initially drew me to Northwestern was the flexibility in having multiple majors. At most universities, I would have had to make the difficult choice in pursuing just one major. But at Northwestern, over 75% of students study more than two majors because the quarter system allows students to take more classes in a year. Instead of two 15-week semesters, Northwestern has three 10-week quarters (with a summer quarter).

14 members and former members of Northwestern's mellophone section in band uniforms or NU t-shirts
The mellophone section with alumni before the MSU football game.
(I’m in center behind alumni.)

While I’m incredibly thankful for the ability to pursue multiple of my passions, the quarter system is a hard adjustment. I constantly feel like I’m taking midterms, since professors fit in two midterms weeks and a finals week into 10 weeks. On top of that, my breaks never align with other colleges; we end the school year in the middle of June.

Downtown Chicago sidewalk at night with twinkle lights and lit buildings
Downtown Chicago in December 

As I said above, I am majoring in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS), which is a unique honors program that combines the study of social sciences with mathematical modeling. The program is made up of a small cohort of about 25 students that I take several core classes with throughout freshman and sophomore year, so I was able to make so many close friends through MMSS. When you start college in a new environment, it’s important to find your community, and MMSS was perfect for that.

We may not always have the best sports teams, but Northwestern University is Chicago’s B1G Ten Team! I did marching band in high school, and I love that Northwestern has exciting sporting events to participate in. In fact, next year, I will be visiting Ireland for free with the marching band since Northwestern is playing a football game there. Few other private universities in the United States can say the same in regards to athletics.

Rocky Lake Michigan shoreline with painted rocks
Lakefill view of Chicago

Lastly, I love that Northwestern is so close to Chicago. I go to Chinatown and concerts with my friends every so often. As a warning, compared to other B1G Ten schools, Northwestern would not be considered a party school, and there is a lack of nightlife in Evanston. Chicago is close by, but if having a bigger social scene is important to you, Northwestern may not be the right choice for you.

Overall, Northwestern is an amazing school for academics and has one of the most beautiful campuses since it’s on the Chicago lakefront. I’m so happy that I attend this university and would love to answer any questions that you may have about it. Feel free to contact me at lorzhaomn@gmail.com. Go ‘cats!