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‘Dive in, connect, bond and grow’

President Michael Schill and University leaders offer words of wisdom and encouragement to new students as the new school year begins
new student convocation
The more than 2,000 new and transfer students gathered Monday at Ryan Fieldhouse on the eve of a new academic year on the Evanston campus. Photo by Shane Collins

Northwestern’s newest students gathered Monday for a final Wildcat Welcome sendoff — the president’s convocation, where a host of speakers offered words of support and encouragement on the eve of the first day of classes.

“It is normal to feel overwhelmed or lonely sometimes. But you are never alone,” said faculty-in-residence and music theater professor Melissa Foster.

The role of the faculty-in-residence is to help students make connections with their professors, find their way to campus resources and to feel at home on campus. They also dole out sound advice such as Foster’s reminder, “You can’t live on Cap’n Crunch alone. Winter is coming, so eat your vegetables.”

Foster energized the 2,100 undergraduates and 200 transfer students for the event in Ryan Fieldhouse with a lively residence area pride competition before handing the microphone to President Michael Schill.

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Your journey was not intended to be a solo endeavor.”

Susan Davis
VP for Student Affairs

Schill spoke about his experience as an undergraduate and a first-generation student who felt nervous and out of place. Discovering his academic passion helped him find his niche and thrive, and he urged students to connect with their fellow classmates, professors, advisors and roommates to find their place as well.

“As you begin your classes, you may find the pace or material challenging,” he said. “Some of you may even do poorly on a test or get some grades that you have never seen before. Don’t panic. One bad paper does not mean you have failed. It’s your reaction to that bad paper that will determine how you do. The only failure you could encounter is your failure to seek help.

“Success at Northwestern involves taking advantage of the astonishing range of opportunities and services here. We have more than 400 student organizations on campus, spanning a huge variety of interests, from a solar car design team to a culinary arts group to sports clubs. I encourage you: Dive in, connect, bond, and grow.”

Northwestern’s most diverse undergraduate class ever

The Class of 2027 is Northwestern’s most diverse class ever, and one of the most international.

“Here we transform one another by sharing knowledge and perspectives. We talk to and learn from people who are different from us,” Schill said.

  • The Class of 2027 includes record numbers of students who identify as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino/a/x, Native or Indigenous. For the second year in a row, more than half of new students identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
  • More than 10% of incoming students come from one of almost 70 countries outside the U.S., nearly twice the international student population of 10 years ago.
  • Approximately 6% are Chicago Public School graduates.
  • More than 20% received Federal Pell Grants.
  • Black-identifying students make up 14.2% of the class, up more than 4% from five years ago and nearly twice the number from 10 years ago.
  • Hispanic/Latino/a/x representation is at 17.2%, up by 5% over the past decade.
  • This year, 2% identify as Native or Indigenous.
  • More than 300 students — 15% of the incoming class — will be the first in their family to graduate from college.
  • The first-year applicant pool was just over 52,000, up almost 2% more than last year, with a 7.2% admit rate that is roughly half of what it was a decade ago.
  • The percentage of students who choose Northwestern upon admission has steadily increased over the years; Northwestern’s yield this year was almost 57%. It first topped 50% in 2017 following the University’s shift to a loan-free financial aid policy.
  • This year’s new class — more than 2,300 first-year and transfer students — is a diverse group, hailing from every corner of Chicago, the U.S. and the globe. New students come from 40 Chicago neighborhoods, almost all 50 states (except Wyoming) and more than 70 countries. They hold almost 80 different citizenships and speak over 60 languages. More than one-third speak a language other than English at home.
  • Northwestern welcomes its 11th cohort of Los Angeles Posse Scholars and its largest-ever cohort of Quest Scholars.
  • This is our 8th year welcoming a cohort of Stars Scholars, students who transfer to Northwestern from one of the City Colleges of Chicago.

Get a head start

Schill encouraged students to seek out opportunities at Northwestern to be exposed to other points of view and cultures.

“When you get out of college, you will need to interact with, work for, do business with and understand people who are not like you,” he said. “Get a head start here.

“This flow of ideas is essential on our campus. We value robust discussion and debate. We encourage peaceful, nonviolent expression of our views… Hate speech and speech intended to impede other people’s speech, like shouting down speakers, is not acceptable.

“It is my personal priority to make sure that, at Northwestern, all of you not only feel safe, but that you feel you also belong. Because only then can you be transformed by the power of higher education.”

The rewards of failure

“Tomorrow you will fill our labs, classrooms, studios and stages with research and learning,” said Provost Kathleen Hagerty. “It’s OK if you don’t know what you want to study. The search for your academic path begins tomorrow. The quality of your education and exposure is second to none.”

She also reminded students of the rewards of failure.

“As a finance person, we have an expression, ‘High risk, high return.’ Having things go wrong is where you learn,” she said.

Remember your roots

“Like you, I’m new here,” said Susan Davis, vice president for Student Affairs, who started at Northwestern in April.

And like many new students, she still got advice from her parents at March Through the Arch. Her father, who did not attend college, advised her to remember where she came from.

“For a long time, I thought that meant to be humble and remember the community that supported you,” she said. “But now I understand he also meant, ‘You’ve seen the power of community. Now go out and build it and help others to find it.’”

Holding a whiffle ball that reminded her of her hometown Sheldon, Connecticut, where it was invented, Davis said, “You will undoubtedly face curveballs at Northwestern. But our deep bench of support will help this place feel small. Your journey was not intended to be a solo endeavor.”

Although convocation marks the beginning of Fall Quarter on the Evanston campus, Northwestern hosted orientation activities earlier in August and September at Northwestern Qatar, the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Pritzker School of Law.