Back-to-school guide: Northeastern University

We asked current students and recent graduates to give us the inside scoop on their colleges before the school year begins. Here, current student Mary Whitfill tells us the best and worst things about Northeastern, and also gives advice to incoming freshmen.

Click here for a full-sized version of the cheat sheet

Tell us about three things you think are “right’’ with your school:

1. Co-op. There’s a reason Northeastern made its name through its co-op program, and, over the last few decades, the students have mastered the art of full-time employment. Whether it’s finding out what isn’t right for you, or getting a post-graduation job from a co-op employer, the experience is overwhelmingly the best thing about Northeastern.


2. Study Abroad. All students at Northeastern must either study abroad or take classes on campus that equate to a global experience. Through international co-op, study abroad or the Dialogue of Civilizations program, the average Northeastern student has more travel opportunities than most people get in their lifetimes.

3. Extracurriculars. NU Pride, Husky hockey, the Community Service Office and a variety of other clubs and activities make sure an involved student at Northeastern is never bored. Tons of clubs and on-campus activities provide a niche for everyone, and the school is quick to recognize these students’ accomplishments.

Tell us about three things that you think are “wrong’’ with your school:

1. Allocation of funds. Most students will pay more than $200,000 by graduation. A multi-million presidential salary and the many flat-screen TVs on campus sometimes seem to take precedence over making Northeastern a more affordable place. A number of programs help, but those awaiting need-based grants are often left taking out more loans and watching the money go towards unnecessary campus upgrades.

2. Gentrification. Northeastern’s ever-growing campus may provide more opportunities for students as it purchases buildings and expands through Roxbury Crossing and the Fenway, but there is a cost to local residents. Those in the surrounding areas are seeing skyrocketing rents and being forced out of homes – no matter now many parks the school builds in exchange.


3. Sexual assault. Northeastern may not be the worst school in the world when it comes to handling sexual assault, but it is certainly not the best. In 2014, a former student described an extremely mishandled case to BuzzFeed News, and ended up dropping out. Counseling is available but not always easy to find, and a sexual assault trial can take months.

[Editor’s Note: A spokesman for Northeastern said Northeastern declined to comment on the survey results noting that a single quotation cannot capture the sentiment of more than 20,000 students].

What advice, specific to your school and campus, would you lend an incoming freshman?

The world does not hold infinite possibilities for you.

When students leave high school to go into the unknown world of higher education, teachers and family often tell them that they have achieved the ultimate goal. They made it to the Promised Land, and if they can survive their undergraduate educations, their futures are guaranteed to be bright and shiny. College, they say, is the best four years of your life.

This is not true.

Especially at Northeastern, the work does not end when you walk onto Centennial Common and look over the vast campus you can now call home. You have essays to write and job applications to fill out, meetings to attend and tests to study for. You have parties to go to, friends’ birthdays to remember and Skype calls home to schedule. The next four to five years of your life will be busy, and they may not be the best. However, they are building something that will extend far beyond Huntington Avenue.


You will on some great, and not-so-great, dates, you will fail a test and you will get food poisoning. You may not spend every night on the town and every class will not be spent soaking in brilliant and eye-opening information. But every day will teach you something that will make you the person you stand to be for the rest of your life.

So don’t think making it to college makes you a genius, and don’t think that when you spend a Saturday night eating Papa Johns with your roommate that you are wasting the best years of your life. Don’t spend a week studying for finals when Conor Larkin’s has a special on beer. Foster relationships more than you organize notes. Don’t take the opportunities at Northeastern for granted, and understand that nothing comes without a few long nights in Snell. You are not above the hard work, coffee runs for under-appreciative bosses, and tiny double rooms in freshman dorms. You will earn every tiny promotion and GPA point.

You deserve to be here but will have to earn the right to stay.

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