Northwestern College - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
Northwestern College
Northwestern College is committed to building students’ minds and faith. This Christian academic community...

Northwestern College

Orange City, Iowa

At Northwestern College, strong academics and a firm Christian faith mean big opportunities to learn and grow. Students benefit from close relationships—with supportive faculty mentors who are leading Christian scholars as well as with peers who become lifelong friends.


More than 80 academic programs lead to a bachelor’s degree, and a growing online program leads to five options for a Master’s of Education. Highly ranked study abroad programs, extensive internship opportunities, and impactful research experiences with professors help expand students’ learning and prepare them for their careers. Faith is integrated into the whole Northwestern experience, so students are empowered to follow Christ and pursue God’s redeeming work in the world.



Student Profile

Fall 2016 Enrollment
1,076 undergraduate students
97% of undergrad students are full-time
44% male — 56% female
52% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2016-2017 Academic Year
82 full-time faculty
59 part-time faculty
11 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2016
98% of first-year students live on campus
89% of all students live on campus

School Location

Orange City, Iowa, is only an hour away from Sioux City, Iowa, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It is also within an easy drive of Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; and Kansas City, Missouri.

High-Impact Practices

Read more about the importance of High-Impact Practices

First-Year Seminars and Experiences X
Common Intellectual Experiences  
Learning Communities  
Writing-Intensive Courses X
Collaborative Assignments and Projects X
Undergraduate Research X
Diversity/Global Learning X
Service-Learning, Community-Based Learning X
Internships/Coops/Practicums X
Capstone Courses and Projects/Senior Experience X


82% of students began in Fall 2015 and returned in Fall 2016 (full-time, first-time freshmen)


64% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 4%
Hispanic/Latino 5%
Black or African American 2%
White 82%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 1%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 2%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 5%


NAIA, Great Plains Athletic Conference

18 varsity sports
8 men’s: baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, track, wrestling
8 women’s: basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track, volleyball
2 co-ed: competitive cheer and dance

Nine team national championships, outstanding facilities, and great fan support. Students also participate in an active intramural program and rugby club.

Other Information

Founded in 1882, Northwestern College is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The athletic training, business, education, nursing, and social work programs also have departmental accreditation.

Academic Programs

Accounting; Actuarial Science; Art; Art/Graphic Design; Athletic Training; Biochemistry; Biology; Biology–Ecological Science; Biology–Genetics, Molecular Biology, and Cellular Biology; Biology–Health Professions; Business Administration; Business Administration–Agri-Business; Business Administration–Finance; Business Administration–International Business; Business Administration–Management; Business Administration–Marketing; Business Education; Chemistry; Computer Science; Criminal Justice; Economics; Education–Elementary; Education–Secondary; English Literature; English Teaching; English–Writing and Rhetoric; Exercise Science; History; Humanities; Mathematics; Medical Laboratory Science; Music; Music and Worship Leadership; Music–Modified with Elementary Education; Nursing (BSN); Philosophy; Physical Education; Political Science; Psychology; Public Relations; Religion; Social Work; Sociology; Spanish; Spanish-English Translation and Interpretation; Sport Management; Theatre; Theatre Education; Worship Arts Youth Ministry and Christian Education


More Distinctions

  • 85% of Northwestern accounting graduates taking the CPA exam for the first time in 2016 passed, the fifth best pass rate among all institutions with at least 10 candidates.

  • Northwestern’s athletic training, actuarial science, nursing, and medical students also have high test pass rates and acceptance rates.

  • Northwestern is 1 of just 6 schools in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities recognized by the Society of Actuaries on their exclusive list of Universities & Colleges with Actuarial Programs - Advanced Curriculum.

  • Northwestern's business students consistently score in at least the 94th percentile on standardized tests for accounting, economics, and finance.

  • The exceptional volunteerism of Northwestern’s students is recognized by NWC being consistently named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

  • Northwestern is listed as a Groundwater Guardian Green Site in honor of its care for the environment.

  • U.S. News ranks Northwestern College 10th among 80 Midwestern regional colleges.

  • Northwestern is ranked among America’s top 650 colleges by Forbes.

  • Princeton Review lists Northwestern as one of the Best in the Midwest colleges and universities, based on student opinion.

  • Northwestern’s students scored in the top 25% worldwide on the MCAT exam in 2017.


The Northwestern Core features 14 to 16 credits of courses that all NWC students take. These include a First-Year Seminar that provides an introduction to the Christian liberal arts, 8 credits of classes that focus on the Christian story and tradition; and other courses the cover such learning themes as belief and reason, cross-cultural engagement, historical perspectives, and self and society. A culminating senior-year seminar ensures that students are prepared to apply what they’ve learned—both in their major and in Northwestern Core classes—to their future career and life of service and social responsibility.


Northwestern students have the opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Australia, Belize, Oman, Spain, and 20 other countries. In addition, NWC faculty lead month-long summer study trips to such nations as the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Greece, Israel, and Italy. Northwestern has been ranked among the 50 American colleges and universities with the best study abroad programs by Best College Reviews. lists Northwestern’s Romania Semester as one of America’s top 10 study abroad programs, according to rankings based on student evaluations.


Northwestern students have many opportunities to pursue research projects that lead to presentations at conferences and act as great preparatory work for graduate school. Many of these are even collaborative projects with professors. Through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, first- and second-year biology students have the unique opportunity to conduct research on phages, which are viruses that infect bacteria. Outstanding student academic and creative work is displayed at Northwestern’s annual Celebration of Research. In 2017, 67 students presented posters of their research to faculty, students, Board of Trustees members, and area residents.


Students in the Honors Program have the opportunity to take exclusive courses and participate in scholarly travel experiences and social activities with other top students. The curriculum connects content from multiple disciplines, team-taught by faculty from different departments. The program also adds honors components to major courses, offers a scholarship methods course, and enables students to conduct independent scholarship in their discipline. In addition, Honors Program members can study in Greece in the summer.


Service-learning opportunities enable Northwestern students to put what they’re learning into practice through serving God and others. Examples include public relations students preparing advertising materials for local businesses, social work majors surveying housing needs in Orange City, accounting students helping people file their taxes, kinesiology students developing personal health and fitness plans for women at a transitional housing facility, and English majors presenting book-talk presentations to high school freshmen.

Northwestern’s Spring Service Projects and Summer of Service program also enable students to put their faith into action and learn about life in different cultural settings, from New Orleans and Nicaragua to inner-city L.A. and a Minnesota reservation. About 200 students spend their spring break serving others, while another 20 aid mission partners around the world during the summer.

Activities Offered

Campus Ministries X
Choral groups X
Concert band X
Dance X
Drama/theatre X
International Student Organization X
Jazz band X
Literary magazine X
Marching band  
Model UN  
Music ensembles X
Musical theatre  
Pep band X
Radio station  
Student government X
Student newspaper X
Student-run film society  
Symphony orchestra X
Television station  


At Northwestern, students are led by committed Christians who have studied at top graduate schools and are leaders in their fields. More than 80% of full-time professors have earned the highest degree available from such institutions as Duke, Notre Dame, UCLA, Vanderbilt, and Yale. They have studied around the world, written books and plays, performed in Carnegie Hall, received grants, and conducted research on a wide variety of topics. Two—Jeff Barker in theatre and Piet Koene in Spanish—have been named Iowa Professor of the Year. All are at Northwestern because of their desire to integrate faith with learning as well as their love for inspiring and preparing students. In addition to leading in the classroom, they make time for students in their offices, during their lunch hours, and even at home.


Students are welcomed into the Northwestern family before classes even begin during orientation weekend. In addition to developing relationships with fellow students, they spend the weekend meeting with their faculty adviser and getting acquainted with their First-Year Seminar (FYS) classmates and professor. In FYS, all students read the same books and discuss the same issues. FYS introduces students to Northwestern’s Christian academic community, interdisciplinary thinking and connections, college-level writing and public speaking, and service-learning.

The small size of FYS classes encourages deep discussions and close friendships. The course involves extensive reading, writing, and speaking focused on three questions: Who am I? Who are my neighbors? and How will we live in the world? Wrestling with such questions equips students with the knowledge, skills, and character they’ll need to succeed at Northwestern and beyond. In course evaluations, students have said that FYS helped them connect quickly with other students and that they made some of their best new friends in the class.


More than $45 million has been spent on construction and renovation projects at Northwestern since 2003. Among those are the DeWitt Theatre Arts Center, which has been called the best college theatre facility in Iowa, and the Korver Visual Arts Center. The $14 million DeWitt Learning Commons, built in 2013, houses the college’s library and academic support center. This facility is the place to be for students, whether they are studying individually or with friends, enjoying a coffee with a professor, researching a paper, creating a video for class, taking a break with some leisurely reading, getting help for a test, or planning a group presentation.

A new $24.5 million health and natural sciences center is under construction and will be completed by the fall of 2018. The eco-friendly facility will house classrooms, laboratories, and faculty offices for the departments of biology, chemistry, and nursing. It will also include increased space for student and faculty research.


Every year in February, the normal daily schedule is suspended so that the entire campus community may focus on a specific topic through lectures and workshops. Students can even be among the speakers, presenting alongside Northwestern faculty and distinguished guests. Recent themes have included science and faith, the mission of the Christian college, justice, and “the art of courage.”

Common Core

Arts/fine arts X
Computer literacy  
English (including composition) X
Foreign languages X
History X
Humanities X
Mathematics X
Philosophy X
Sciences (biological or physical) X
Social science X


Other: Religion

Class Size Breakdown

Size 2-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 100+ Total
Number of Classes 103 101 66 33 3 2 0 308


Northwestern is known to be a place where students experience belonging and togetherness. In fact, 94% of NWC freshmen say they feel like they’ve already found a home in their first semester of college. 90% of students live on campus, and many stay around on the weekends; the community is bustling with numerous student-planned events, opportunities to cheer on peers at games and performing arts events, and the spontaneous fun that happens when everyone’s looking for a study break. Student resident assistants and professional resident directors, each of whom are committed Christians, staff every wing and hall, so students are known, cared for, and challenged to be the best they can be. Unlike other colleges, where freshmen-only dorms are the norm, at Northwestern junior and senior leaders choose to stay in the residence halls to befriend and mentor underclassmen.


Northwestern has a thriving fine arts scene, showcasing outstanding student theatrical and music productions and art exhibits. Guests such as the Boston Brass, men’s vocal ensemble Cantus, and renowned opera star Simon Estes also perform in Christ Chapel. Award-winning authors William Kent Krueger and Chigozie Obioma spoke on campus last year.


Chapel services, held twice a week, bring the campus community together to learn about God, the world, and how to make a difference in it. Nationally known speakers such as Hugh Halter, Jerry Sittser, and Sarah Thebarge challenge students, as do area Christian leaders, faculty and staff, and other students. The student-led Sunday Night Praise & Worship service is a popular way to start a new week. In the dorms and apartments, nearly 500 students meet in small discipleship groups on a weekly basis to pray, study the Bible, and talk about how their faith integrates with what they’re learning.


Christian musicians such as Crowder, Tenth Avenue North, Jamie Grace, and Jeremy Camp have performed concerts as part of the Student Activities Council’s schedule, joining other events such as dances, Airband, Clash of the Classes, and giant beach volleyball. Other campus traditions include the RUSH student dance concert and Hospers Hall’s cardboard-and-duct tape battle. More than 50 clubs and organizations enable students to develop leadership skills and enjoy special interests with others just like them.


An extensive intramural program and a state-of-the-art fitness facility help students stay healthy and deepen friendships. Pick-up football games, disc golf contests, and gennis games (golf played with a tennis ball) dot the campus green on beautiful fall and spring days.


Ranked among the nation’s top 5 Christian college towns and named the happiest city in the state, Orange City, Iowa, is known for its unique old-world European charm and small-town hospitality. Local residents are among Northwestern’s biggest supporters, eager to attend Red Raider games and music and theatre performances as well as to get to know students at area churches and businesses.

Campus Housing Options for Undergraduates

Coed dorms  
Men’s dorms X
Women’s dorms X
Apartments for married students  
Apartments for single students X
Special housing for disabled students X
Special housing for international students  
Fraternity/sorority housing  
Cooperative housing  
Theme housing  
Wellness housing  
Other housing options  


Internships help to strengthen students’ résumés, expand their professional network, and often even lead to their first job. Northwestern students intern near campus, in their hometown, and across the country through programs in cities like Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. Northwestern’s elite Carlson Internships have placed students in Chicago; Detroit; Haiti; Sioux Falls, SD; Southern California; and around the country throughout the summer intersession.


75% of students regularly use Northwestern’s Peer Learning Center. Located in the DeWitt Learning Commons, the center offers numerous free services for students, including peer tutors, study sessions, writing help and workshops, and study skills tips and training.


An average of 96% of Northwestern alumni are employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation, thanks to the preparation provided by excellent academic programs, hands-on internships, and the personal attention of counselors in the Career Development Center. Recent graduates are working for Amazon, Ernst & Young, Sioux Falls Public Schools, Sanford Health, Taproot Theatre Company, and Vermeer Corporation, while others are pursuing graduate studies at institutions like Johns Hopkins University, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina State, and Vanderbilt. (Read about what members of the class of 2016 are doing.)


Among recent graduates, Felipe Silva from the class of 2012 received the 2017 Young Alumni Award from the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities for his work developing and leading a climbing gym for youth in a depressed area of Romania. 2013 alumna Keely Wright-Ogren won the 2017 Robert Cohen Sound Achievement Award from the United States Institute of Theatre Technology. For two years in a row the Iowa Interpreters and Translators Association’s Promising Professional Scholarship has gone to a Northwestern student. Northwestern alumni educators consistently win teaching awards, including 2014 graduate Krissa Hetletvedt, who was named Rookie of the Year by the Omaha Education Association. And 2009 alumna Becky Hille received the 2015 Nurse of the Year Award from the National PACE Association.



2,199 Total Applicants 
1,441 Total Admissions 
283 Total Freshman Enrollment

65.53% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2017-18 Admission

Rolling admission? Yes

Priority date: Jun 1

Admissions Factors

Class rank
Academic GPA
Standardized test scores

Rigor of secondary school record
Application Essay
Extracurricular activities
Character/personal qualities
Religious affiliation/commitment

Freshman Profile Fall 2016

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 440 560
SAT Math 460 610
SAT Writing    
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 21 28
ACT Math 20 27
ACT English 21 28
ACT Writing    


net price calculator


Tuition $30,000
Fees $200
Total $30,200
Room and Board (on campus) $9,000
Estimated Total On Campus $39,200


Average Financial Aid Packages 2016-2017 final

$24,356 First-year students
$7,373 All undergrads

Financial Aid Breakdown 2016-2017 final

91% on average, the percentage of need that was met
63% of financial need students that had need fully met

$7,373 Average need-based scholarship or grant award
$5,110 Average need-based loan