Northwestern College, Iowa

Northwestern is a private Christian liberal arts college affiliated with the Reformed Church in America. The school’s 100-acre campus is surrounded by farmland in rural Orange City, Iowa. Orange City has been called one of the cleanest and safest towns in America. Named after Prince William of Orange, the community of nearly 6,000 is best known for its Dutch heritage. Many of the town’s buildings are faced with Dutch architectural fronts, and an annual Tulip Festival is held every May.

Northwestern College has received national recognition for excellent academics, affordability, student volunteerism, environmental stewardship, and other achievements. The college is committed to providing a Christian liberal arts education in an undergraduate, residential, and intercultural environment while engaging students in faithful learning and living that empowers them to pursue God’s redeeming work in the world.

Northwestern was originally founded as a Christian classical academy in 1882. The school was upgraded to junior college status in 1928. After World War II, enrollment increased steadily and with that growth came the construction of a number of buildings in the 1950s. In 1961, Northwestern became the four-year institution it is today. The college is currently in the middle of a major construction project. Its new $14 million learning center and library, which will occupy a prominent position on the campus green, is scheduled to open in Fall 2013. Other buildings include:

  • The award-winning Rowenhorst Student Center, renovated in 2007.
  • The award-winning DeWitt Theatre Arts Center, opened in 2004.
  • The Korver Visual Arts Center, opened in 2003.
  • The Bultman Center for Health, Physical Education and Intercollegiate Athletics, opened in 1995.
  • The award-winning Christ Chapel and DeWitt Music Hall, opened in 1987.
  • Zwemer Hall, built in 1894 and restored in 1997 (the oldest building on campus, listed in the National Register of Historic Places – see photo above).


Northwestern College offers bachelor’s degrees in which students can choose from over 40 majors, 16 pre-professional programs, and 6 career concentrations. The most popular majors are: Accounting, Biology, Business Administration, Elementary Education, Nursing, and Psychology. Some of the pre-professional programs are law, engineering, chiropractic, dentistry, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, and veterinary. A career concentration may be added to one’s major for those who want to focus on particular career opportunities such as computer science, criminal justice, neuroscience, or kinesiology. Most career concentrations include a senior-year, off-campus internship.

Northwestern is ranked as a Top 10 Midwestern college by U.S. News & World Report. Forbes magazine ranks Northwestern among the top 10% of the nation’s colleges and universities. CBSNews lists Northwestern as 5th in a ranking of “25 Colleges with the Best Professors”—ahead of every Ivy League school and all state universities. (The ranking was based on data compiled by Forbes from website includes Northwestern in its list of “The 15 Best Colleges for Studying the Bible.” The only school in Iowa on the list, Northwestern was chosen for its “commitment to sound Christian education, vital campus life, outstanding faculty, academic excellence and … impressive Bible curriculum.” The BestSchools blog states, “Such commendation often accompanies theological compromise, but [Northwestern College] stays true to its Reformed theological roots.” In addition, Northwestern’s theatre program—which includes an Iowa Professor of the Year on faculty—is known as one of the best Christian college theatre programs in the country.

Northwestern takes its Christian identity seriously, striving to integrate “faith and learning” as the main goal of the college education. Northwestern’s academic environment both challenges and supports students as it emphasizes the development of the whole person: mind, body and spirit. The liberal arts are taught, not as self-contained disciplines, but as part of a greater whole. Opportunities for meaningful involvement and service enlarge students’ worldviews and prepare them for fulfilling careers and faithful lives as thinking Christians.

As part of its intercultural emphasis, Northwestern encourages students to spend a semester studying in Oman or Romania. The college has a special program in which the price of tuition abroad is the same as the price of tuition on campus. Students in Romania study Romanian culture, history, language, and Eastern Orthodoxy, combining these subjects with experiential and service-learning among Romanian young people. For students interested in learning more about the Middle East and Islam, Northwestern College offers the Oman Semester in which students explore the Islamic religion, culture, and society while studying the Arabic language.

Community Service

The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll has recognized Northwestern College two years in a row for being a leader in local, national, and international service efforts. Last year, more than 500 students were involved in various extracurricular community service activities in Orange City and around the U.S. Another 500 students were engaged in academic service-learning, putting classroom knowledge into practice by helping area agencies and businesses.

Integrating faith, service, and cross-cultural learning, Northwestern College annually sends students, faculty, and staff to serve with ministries in the U.S. and around the world. Spring Service Projects provide opportunities to participate in mission work taking place domestically and abroad during spring break in early March. The efforts of a variety of ministries are encouraged, supported, and helped in tangible ways. Students have spent their ten-day break serving in city missions, youth hostels, construction sites, disaster relief zones, and low-income schools.

The Summer of Service (SOS) program at Northwestern College challenges, prepares, and encourages students to be effective Christian servants in the world. Each year, 20 to 25 students serve for at least six weeks in the U.S. or overseas to assist and support missionaries and the communities they work in. Past participants have traveled to Croatia, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Malawi, Russia, South Africa and Thailand. They have worked in hospitals, orphanages, and refugee camps; taught Vacation Bible School and English as a second language; and served in sports and hospitality ministries.

Northwestern’s Summer of Service team members return from their summer experiences more aware of the world’s problems and more equipped to wrestle with the biblical applications to what they experienced. Students are challenged and strengthened in their faith as they see the gospel being lived out in cultures different than their own. Often these students remain involved in service and missions, either full- or part-time after graduating from college.

Student Life

Northwestern College has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,211. The students come from 36 states and 17 countries. Ninety percent of Northwestern students live on campus, and mixed-gender visiting is allowed in the dorms during specified hours. Chapel at Northwestern is where the campus community gathers together to learn about God, the world, and our place in it, with cross-cultural ways of worshipping explored.

As Christians, Northwestern students and staff are committed to caring for God’s creation. In 2008, Northwestern became the first Iowa college and the second college nationwide to be named a Groundwater Guardian Green Site in recognition of its environmental stewardship. The college is working on installing wind turbines on college-owned farmland. Campus-wide conservation efforts include recycling, reusing, and donation programs. A tray-less cafeteria saves dishwashing energy, and many students line-dry their clothes rather than using dryers. Northwestern’s share-a-bike program enables students to leave cars parked while running errands around town.

At first glance it may not seem like there is much to do in the small town of Orange, but there is a 7-screen movie theater, 18-hole golf course, and restaurants ranging from coffeehouse hangouts to fast-food chains to the Blue Mountain Culinary Emporium. An hour’s drive will take you to Sioux City or Sioux Falls where you’ll find shopping malls, museums, professional sports, and many more restaurants and theaters. Also within a half-day’s drive are: Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; and Kansas City, Missouri.

Student life at Northwestern is active with both planned events and unplanned fun. The college’s creative Student Activities Council fills the calendar with concerts, open mic nights, singing competitions, and formal ballroom dances. Every week there are recitals, plays, art exhibitions, and Raider sports—all just a walk away. Student traditions include a Christmas Bash, Medieval Week’s Epic Battle, a Wild West Shoot-out, and the annual Clash of the Classes. Nationally known speakers visit to talk about hot topics, and student clubs host events like Night-in-a-Box to raise awareness for homelessness.

Alcohol is not permitted for students of any age at Northwestern College, but unlike some Christian colleges they do allow dancing. A Student Dance Concert called RUSH has become one of the most anticipated and popular events at Northwestern. RUSH is a completely student-led, student-initiated, student-choreographed dance concert with a cast of close to 200 dancers with experience ranging from 0-20 years. RUSH holds the belief that anyone can dance, so long as they are committed and determined, and all who try out are cast.

Northwestern offers ten unique musical opportunities for students. Three of these are vocal ensembles and seven are instrumental. They include the Acappella Choir, Heritage Singers, Women’s Choir, Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Ensembles (Brass Quintet, String Quartet, and Woodwind Quintet), and Percussion Ensemble.

There are more than 50 student clubs and organizations on campus including 13 ministry and service groups, the Student Government Association, The Beacon weekly newspaper, The Spectrum literary/art magazine, Future Physicians, Pre-Vet Club, International Club, Terra Nova (ecology club), and Ultimate Frisbee Club. Intramural sports include bumper pool, chess, foosball, table tennis, and pickleball (a cross between badminton, tennis, and ping-pong).

Northwestern athletics include more than 15 Raiders varsity sports teams, which compete in the NAIA Great Plains Athletic Conference. Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, track & field, and wrestling; while women’s sports include basketball, cheerleading, cross country, dance, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball.

Homeschool Applicants

Northwestern College is selective, with an acceptance rate of 74.5 percent. Around 11 students who were homeschooled as seniors enroll at Northwestern every year, and many more have been homeschooled at some point during their K-12 education. Among the many things homeschooled students say they appreciate about Northwestern are:

  • A tight-knit, residential community that feels like home.
  • The integration of faith with learning which offers God’s truth under the mentorship of professors who are committed Christians.
  • Small class sizes with a student-faculty ratio of 14:1 which gives serious, curious students a safe place to ask any question and pursue open-ended discussion with professors and peers.
  • Students can receive extra help with their studies at the Academic Support Center, which offers tutors, tips, and writing workshops.
  • Co-curricular opportunities in fine arts, athletics, and ministry take education beyond the classroom.

Applying to Northwestern for homeschooled students is no different than for any student, and they are eligible for the same federal, state and institutional financial aid and academic scholarships. To be eligible for admission to Northwestern College, you’ll need a completed secondary school transcript or a high school equivalency certificate (GED).

The following preparatory courses are recommended for college-bound high school students: 4 years of English, 3 years of math, 3 years of social studies, 3 years of foreign language, and 2 years of natural science. If you’ve achieved high scores on AP or CLEP exams, or if you’ve already taken some college courses, you may be able to transfer those credits to Northwestern.

Additional Information – Official Website – NWC Awards and Honors – Homeschool Admissions – NWC at a glance – Campus Virtual Tour

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.