Students, Alumni of UChicago and Northwestern ‘Lucky to Have Learned and Grown’ at Both Schools
So the old fable goes: Northwestern University and the University of Chicago are undisputed rivals.
But closer examination reveals the schools have more uniting than dividing them: school size, academic rigor, club involvement, Greek life, and even alumni.
The Daily and The Maroon sat down with five alumni who have attended or are attending both institutions—for their undergraduate or graduate degrees—to learn more about the differences and similarities they observed between the schools.
Gustavo Bolívar (University of Chicago ’17, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management ’24)
Gustavo Bolívar grew up in Venezuela, leaving at 18 years old when he decided to take a gap year between high school and college. After working multiple jobs and traveling to England, he started as an undergraduate at UChicago in 2013.
Bolívar said he learned invaluable life lessons during his time at UChicago, from which he graduated in 2017 with an A.B.. in economics.
“[UChicago] delivered on the promise of a great education,” Bolívar said. “It allowed me to meet some of the most amazing people I still have with me in my life, which are my best friends. Plus, the Core was a really good way of exposing yourself to building a life philosophy that you’re happy with.”
After graduating, Bolívar worked at consulting firm Charles River Associates’ Chicago office until 2021. During the pandemic, however, he decided to move to Spain to be closer to family, where he began to think about “what’s next.” Bolívar thought about pursuing an MBA and strategy consulting, which he found both interesting and intimidating.
“But I figured, ‘Why not? Let’s try it out,’” he said. “The Kellogg culture, it really drew me in.… The people there are good people: smart, but at the same time kind and empathetic. Everyone’s trying to root for each other and help each other succeed. And I feel like that’s such a comforting environment to be in.”
Jake Holland (Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism ’20, University of Chicago Law School ’25)
Jake Holland, a law student at the University of Chicago, said he thought there was a rivalry between the two universities but little difference between the undergraduate experiences they offered.
After working in Washington, D.C., as a journalist at Bloomberg Law, among other outlets, following his graduation, Holland decided he wanted to be one of the attorneys he read about in legal publications and media articles.
Alongside a career change, he wanted to return to Chicago, and UChicago Law offered the best of both worlds.
“Having that experience at Northwestern and getting to know the Chicago area was a big draw,” he said. “It’s nice to be back and reconnect with friends from college who stayed out here.”
Experiencing both academic environments, Holland said NU was “a little more balanced than UChicago” given the former’s emphasis on constructing schedules with equal time devoted to courses and extracurriculars. Holland held several editorial positions at The Daily.
Though Northwestern offers more pre-professional programs, Holland emphasized that both schools “have a similar vibe.”
“Students at both institutions are fortunate to receive an academic education and the social and professional connections both schools offer,” Holland said. “I am lucky to have learned and grown at these schools.”
Jasmine Guerrier (University of Chicago ’21, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law ’24)
Jasmine Guerrier, who grew up in California but has family from Chicago, said she always wanted to experience the Midwestern city for herself. At the University of Chicago, she competed for the varsity track and field team, worked as lab clerk for the Biological Sciences Learning Center, and participated in various student organizations.
Guerrier completed her undergraduate career with a major in Public Policy and two minors—one in Education and Society and one in Inequality, Social problems, and Change—in 2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. That same year, she was admitted to the Pritzker School of Law, where she enrolled the fall after graduating from UChicago. Guerrier said her Humanities and Social Science core classes well prepared her for law school.
“Since I went straight through, the workload from UChicago to Northwestern was not any different, in my opinion,” she said. “It’s a lot of reading, yes, but Public Policy was a very reading-heavy major anyway, so that wasn’t a big shock to me.”
Guerrier’s immediate family has moved back to Chicago, where she plans to stay for some time. She has built connections at both institutions that she said would enable her to thrive in Chicago as well as other major cities should she decide to move in the future.
“A nice thing about the UChicago-Northwestern deal is that my network is very Chicago-based,” Guerrier said. “[But] they are such big institutions. So if I wanted to go to another city, it’s not impossible, which is nice.”
John Mitchell (Northwestern University Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences ’22, University of Chicago Masters Program in Computer Science ’23)
John Mitchell said he never felt a sense of competition between the two universities. In fact, during graduate school, he noticed a strong sense of collaboration while working with Northwestern’s Center for Fundamental Physics, a research institute studying the universe’s particles, fundamental forces, and symmetries.
“Our CFP group worked closely in laboratories with a corresponding research group in UChicago’s physics program,” Mitchell said. “At the graduate level, when some level of research is involved, Northwestern and UChicago collaborate quite closely, often to people’s surprise.”
Mitchell initially enrolled at NU to earn his Ph.D. in physics. After earning the degree, he decided he wanted a career change. He felt UChicago’s MPCS program would equip him with the tools necessary to thrive in the tech workforce.
He said he liked that UChicago advertised the program as “one where you don’t necessarily need a strict computer science background.”
“After experiencing both schools, I can say at UChicago, there’s more focus on the theoretical. But at Northwestern, the graduate programs are very professionally oriented,” Mitchell said.
Set to graduate from the MPCS program at the end of this year, Mitchell said he appreciated the strong foundation NU provided him for his later stint at UChicago.
“I couldn’t have been happier at Northwestern in the Center for Fundamental Physics,” Mitchell said. “It’s a really unique place, and I lucked out that the center was being formed as I was a student there.”
Marius Malkevicius (Northwestern University ’13, University of Chicago Booth School of Business ’20)
At Northwestern, Marius Malkevicius studied mathematical methods in the social sciences (MMSS) and economics. While attending high school in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, Malkevicius felt that NU was always his top choice.
Malkevicius said his access to the MMSS alumni network greatly influenced the start of his career. Shortly after earning his bachelor’s degree, Malkevicius worked at Quantitative Risk Management, where he met many UChicago graduates.
“A lot of people in that company went to UChicago, so they were very pro-UChicago,” Malkevicius said. “They were incredibly supportive of me doing a part-time MBA, were very flexible with my work commitments and gave me a lot of freedom to do that.”
After graduating from UChicago’s Booth School of Business in 2020, Malkevicius and his wife moved to California. He now works at Tesla, while his wife is pursuing a graduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley.
“It matters so much the people that you surround yourself with,” Malkevicius said. “I really found the value of the student body [at Northwestern]. I’ve always applied that to my career and personal lif—just being really selective of the teams I put myself on, the people I hire, the social circles that I build for myself.… And well, UChicago’s UChicago. I just was like, ‘If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.’”