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Northern Illinois University is a good school, if you enter as one of most majors.
Northern Illinois University is a TERRIBLE school, if you enter as a music major.
Now now, I know what you're thinking: NIU has one of the most accredited music programs in the country. I know this. The program is great. The "scene", however, is ridiculous.
In all my college-visiting experiences, and there have been many, I have never been so wholly unimpressed with a department's students and their lifestyle. I'm not going to delve off into a self-righteous display of pretentious blah blah blah, I just want to relate to a prospective music student, or whoever will be PAYING for it, what you could run into.
Now there are hard-working students, just like in any major, in any dorm, in any college on the planet. And for those of you who work hard, a world of praise goes straight to you, because frankly I don't know how you can concentrate.
My first visit to NIU was with two friends. We were visiting a music major mutual friend, who lived in the dorm there. My first impression of their way of doing things wasn't related in any way to music or their proposed study of it. It was more related to bongs and their study of bongs.
I don't pretend to be naive to the ways of the drug counterculture. I don't even frown of drug use in moderation. Hell, if you can still get your work done, smoke aaaaaaalllllll the pot you want to. If you can pass your classes, go ahead and fry the rest of your brain cells on smack or whatever. Drink EVERY night if you can get away with it.
OK so the problem at Northern is, as I am sure it may be at other colleges too, these kids are not getting their work done. I have now been to visit NIU 3 separate times. Every time I meet a music student, I get offered weed. Or crank, or acid, or worst, ecstasy (no anal rape for ME tonight!). And I meet other students, and if they're going to offer me weed, or crank, or acid, they at least wait an hour or so before they bring it up. Or most of them seem like hard working students with their heads in the right place.
NIU is the only college I've visited where I've met with this much drug culture. Like I said, I am a college student myself and I have been to college parties and I know what it is like at college. Sad to say, I too have embarrassed myself by drunkenly blurting things out like "Hey, Playboy DOES have good articles!!", leafing through a stack of them while taking a pee. After that, I spent the greater portion of three hours putting a pile of fake poop in the toilet and waiting outside the door as each frat member or drunken party ho thought it was real and tried to flush it. (By the way that is STILL funny).
What I am saying about NIU is not that it's a bad place, and not that you shouldn't go there, even IF you're a music major. Hey, they have a GREAT program. What I AM saying about NIU is that if you are the type of student who already experiences self-discipline problems, or a predisposition to addictive behavior, you should probably eliminate Northern as one of your choices. Literally, walking into the building that first visit, I had never smelled pot before. Yet, I knew distinctly that what I was smelling (and almost, in some hallways, SEEING in the AIR), was pot. I woke up THREE times the first night, when the phone rang and it the kid next door, drunk off his ass. It's not just a few students, or your typical every-college shiftless hippies, it's the majority of the student body. At least the music-major student body.
So go to Northern Illinois University for its majestic corn fields, or the grotto porn store, or because you really like the warm sunny winters of Dekalb. Go to Northern if you want to be the best meteorologist on UHF. Go to Northern if you have any interest at all in being another Trinidadian Kettle Drummist. (Their steel band is just great.) But if you want a school where it will be easy to practice your trumpet in peace, and you don't want to wake up the next morning wondering who took the hookah pipe out of the bell to your saxomophone, DON'T go to Northern. And if your kid is an aspiring pianist, and you've already found traces of what looks like oregano in his bookbag, or you THINK you've heard the musical renderings of..Pink Floyd? coming from his room, try your hardest to find either another university to waste money on, or point little Jimmy in the direction of the Physical Education department, because once he's done spending his days learning which end of a joint to smoke, the only job he'll be able to get is teaching Gym at Mundelein High School.
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