2020 Best Dorms at Northwestern: North Campus vs. South Campus


Trying to decide housing at Northwestern? You’ve come to the right place!

Northwestern university north and campus

So you’ve just gotten into Northwestern and now you’re wondering where you should live.

You may not want to live on campus, but you are actually required to do so for your first two years for good reason. Living in a dorm is a great way to make friends. You can also easily walk to class and access your school’s libraries. It may seem like an overwhelming decision with so many different choices, but to make things easier, you can split the campus up into North and South. These two areas have distinctly different vibes so you can cut your choices in half and then focus on specific dorms.

1.) First, I’ll explain the differences between North campus and South campus (typically called North and South).

2.) Then, I’ll go into detail about which dorms (that are available to freshmen) are the best in both areas. I’ll give a top 5 ranking of both areas with some information on the dorms.

I lived South my freshman year but joined a fraternity and spent a lot of time up North. Then I lived up North my sophomore year, so I have a great idea about the differences between the two.

North Campus:

  • The people are more sociable, outgoing
  • The people are more likely to party on weekends and join greek life
  • Frat quad is North (parties are up north)
  • Close to the biggest and best gym (Spac)
  • The better beach and the Lake fill are both up North
  • Sargent dining hall always has really long lines (might not be the case because there is now a second dining hall)
  • Tech is North which has several lecture halls (most big classes meet here)
  • Besides Lincoln and Ayers, the dorms aren’t that nice
  • Engineering and Stem classes are up North
  • Close to Mudd (A nice new modern library)

South Campus:

  • Fewer parties and people are less outgoing
  • More likely to have kickbacks and just chill with a few friends or play games
  • Less likely to join greek life
  • Very close to downtown Evanston which is filled with restaurants and useful stores like Target and CVS
  • Humanity classes are down South
  • More dining halls down South
  • There are 2 libraries on South campus (Mudd Library and Deering, both classic libraries)
  • Norris is located South, the student center which has a starbucks, pizza place, hamburger place and other food options
  • Norris also serves as a great study spot and has a giant TV where you can watch sports if you want to
  • Sorority Quad is South

To sum it up, both South and North are amazing places and I’ve made great friends from both sides of campus. When deciding between South and North you should just ask yourself if you want to be going out more often and partying or if you’d rather just have chill nights and hang out with a couple of friends. Also, if you’re going to join a fraternity you probably want to live up North because that’s where all the fraternity houses are. Trust me, the winters are terrible and a long walk back South at night is not fun.

Best North Dorms

1. Lincoln

Lincoln Kitchen at Northwestern University

Lincoln Kitchen

Lincoln is the most modern and lavish dorm at Northwestern. Students typically live in suites with 2 doubles that are attached by a hallway with 2 sinks and plenty of room to set up a couch or TV. Lincoln is the only dorm available to freshmen that has suites. The rooms are very nice and spacious and you can easily host friends. To put it into perspective, my friend had about 25 of us over to his dorm and fit us quite well with all the rooms. Lincoln is the farthest North and has a seemingly long walk to the dining halls in Sargent or Elder when it’s freezing out. Lincoln also has a giant elevator you’d see at a nice hotel which is very useful considering how many floors it has. Lincoln has the nicest lounges on campus by far considering that they are 2 floors with full kitchens and TVs. Lincoln is almost everyone’s first choice because of how nice it is and if you manage to live there you’re lucky.

2. Bobb

Bobb and McCulloch Hall

Bobb/McCulloch Hal

Bobb is quite possibly the worst dorm on campus in terms of facilities. This is partially/mostly due to its residents destroying things. However, the people who live in Bobb are typically very outgoing and social which makes up for this. Bobb also has an outdoor basketball court right next to it which is great when the weather is nice. It’s right next to Sargent so it’s just a short walk to go eat. Bobb is the most social and the biggest party dorm at Northwestern with almost everyone who lives there joining greek life. Almost everyone who I know that has lived in Bobb acknowledges that it is the worst dorm facilities wise but has the best people and therefore, they loved it. Another nice thing about Bobb is it is very close to Mudd library, however, many people do not like Mudd because it does not have the classic library feel. You should live in Bobb if you want to have a fun freshman experience and don’t really care about how nice the building is.

3. McCulloch

McCulloch comes in at third and is basically the same dorm as Bobb. They actually are two dorms that are connected to make one building. Basically everyone who wants to live in Bobb that doesn’t get to ends up living in McCulloch.

4. Elder

Elder Dining Hall at Northwestern University

Elder Dining Hall

Elder was recently renovated and now has the second North dining hall. It is across the street from every other dorm and building up North so it is slightly isolated but due to its new dining hall, you won’t have to walk anywhere to eat. Elder has nicer facilities than Bobb or McCulloch but is less social than the two.

5. Ayers

Ayers dorm room at Northwestern University

Ayers Dorm

Ayers is a residential college for industry and commerce. It is very tight-knit because you have to write an essay to get in and you are rooming with people with shared interests. Ayers is also close to Lisa’s, a kind of mart/food place where you can get simple meals like chicken tenders and fries and snacks like potato chips and ice cream with your meal swipes or dining dollars. Ayers has the second-best dorms up North behind Lincoln.

Best South Dorms:

1. Willard

Willard dorm room at Northwestern University

Willard dorm

Willard is the nicest dorm down south due to its wonderful design, its new renovations, its nice rooms, and because it has Fran’s. Fran’s was the greatest part of my freshman experience. It is a late-night food place where you can use a meal swipe to get a chicken and cheese or just cheese quesadilla with waffle fries even after all the dining halls have closed. You get 2 meal swipes a week at Northwestern and I always used mine during late nights at Fran’s. I would just walk over with some friends and go get some amazing food. Willard also has its own gym only open to Willard residents that is open 24/7. So you can work off the calories after enjoying a late-night meal at Fran’s. Unfortunately, it does not have any racks or benches and is basically a hotel gym with cardio machines.

2. Allison

Allison dining hall at Northwestern University

Allison Dining Hall

I lived in Allison my freshman year and before I moved in I heard that it was called “Hotel Allison” so I had high hopes. It is a nice dorm even by South’s standards but there are better dorms so I was a bit disappointed. Allison has a nice floor lounge with a pool table, ping pong table, foosball, and TV. One big positive in my opinion is the elevator, it’s small but it saved me from walking up 4 flights of stairs after workouts. The best part is the dining hall though. When we had a polar vortex my freshman year everyone else was walking into the dining hall with big winter jackets and completely freezing while I walked down all comfy in sandals and PJs.

3. Shepard

Shepard basement and study area at Northwestern University

Shepard basement and study area

Shepard is a very nice dorm that is right next to Allison so it's a quick walk to food. It is also the closest dorm to downtown Evanston, however, it’s only slightly closer than Allison and Willard. Shepard is a quieter dorm with lots of space to study in the basement. Due to this, peer tutoring happens most Sundays in Shepard’s basement where you can get help for a variety of subjects. It also has a really nice kitchen that I often used to cook my freshman year with friends.

4. 1838 Chicago

1838 Chicago dorm room at Northwestern University

1838 Chicago dorm room

1838 Chicago is the closest dorm to the Arch. It’s near Allison which is nice for food but its also the closest dorm to Hinman which has an absolutely amazing dining hall. They have taco Tuesdays and loads of other great food that they only serve at that dining hall. Hinman is far away from the rest of campus so it’s typically pretty empty and there aren’t many lines. 1838 also has a hotel gym in its basement that only South residents can use so its usually pretty empty. Since its a hotel gym there are no racks or benches but there are dumbbells and cardio machines.

5. Foster-Walker Complex

Foster-Walker dorm room at Northwestern University

Foster-Walker Plex single

Commonly known as Plex, almost all its rooms are singles which is one of the reasons why people like it. It’s pretty isolated from other dorms but it can be nice to have a single. People typically keep to themselves in this dorm so if you’re outgoing and looking to be good friends with your dorm mates this isn’t the best option. Plex is close to Blom, the gym in the middle of campus where the Basketball team practices. It is far smaller than Spac but it has the same amount of basketball courts and people are often playing games when the Basketball team is not practicing. Plex also 2 dining halls and a mart where students can spend their dining dollars on snacks. Plex is also close to two libraries: Deering and Main.


Regardless of what dorm you end up in, you can still have a great college experience. Both sides of campus have their pros and cons but neither is better than the other. You simply need to choose based on where you think YOU will fit-in the best.