Northwebster: A dictionary for all of your Northwestern needs


Design by Cynthia Zhang

Campus language can be disorienting for first-year students. For example, WildCARDs are student IDs used to access buildings and pay for meals.

Jordan Mangi, Reporter

The first few weeks at any college can be overwhelming — Northwestern is no different! Between finding your classes, figuring out when to eat at the dining hall and the schedule of the intercampus bus, incoming students can get lost in the sea of acronyms and nonsensical language used by upperclassmen. Here’s a guide to (some) of those words and phrases to help you feel a little less disoriented.

People and things 

ASG: Associated Student Government is an elected group that advocates for undergraduate students and allocates resources to clubs and organizations. They have 12 issue-based committees and all Senate meetings are open to the public.

CAESAR: A portal used to register for classes, pay tuition bills and view academic records. 

Canvas: A platform used by professors to post homework, submit assignments and respond to discussion boards. A necessity for remote or hybrid learning!

CTECs: CTECs are surveys students complete at the end of each quarter on the quality of each course and professor. Completed CTECs can be viewed by students to help choose future classes. 

Distros: Distros are classes that fulfill distribution requirements. Every school has different requirements, but Weinberg categories include Ethics and Values, Formal Studies and Social and Behavioral Sciences. Talk to your friends, your PAs or returning students about good distros for each category.

Doodle: A site used to sign up for meeting or appointment times. The site’s biggest downfall is that it doesn’t send you anything confirming the time you signed up for, so make sure you write it down somewhere.

DTC: A class all McCormick students take, short for Design Thinking and Communication. If you talk to a freshman engineering major, they will probably be complaining about their DTC project. 

FGLI: An acronym for first-generation and/or low-income students. Pronounced “figly.”

Pub push: When a club or student organization posts on social media at the same time to promote their event. Facebook is often used for its event feature, but recently student groups have included pub pushes on Instagram. 

RTVF: Radio/Television/Film. A major in the School of Communication that is roughly equivalent to a film or media major. 

SESP: School of Education and Social Policy. Pronounced “Sesspee”.

StuCo: The Student Theatre Coalition, referred to as StuCo, oversees theatre boards and other student performance groups on campus. While student-run theatre requires an explainer of its own, getting added to the listserv, TWIST (This Week In Student Theatre), is a good way to hear about performance opportunities as well as positions on the production side of shows. 

WildCARD: Student ID cards used to pay for food and gain access to buildings and dorm rooms. 

When2meet: A site where you can send a block of hours or days to a group of people to find a time when everyone is available. In a sentence, someone might say, “Can you fill out this when2meet?” And then you will realize that you are severely overscheduled. 

Places and spaces

Blom: Short for “Blomquist,” Blom is the smaller, lesser-known, South Campus recreation center located across the street from Foster-Walker Complex. 

CAPS: CAPS stands for Counseling and Psychological Services. Located on the second floor of the Searle Hall, the health center, CAPS offers free short-term clinical services and workshops, and sets up long-term care plans including connecting students to off-campus therapists.

Lakefill: A man-made mound of land in Lake Michigan that serves as a hangout spot when the weather is nice enough. Bring a hammock!

Norbucks: The Starbucks in the Norris Student Center is a meeting place for studying (or pretending to study) that is notoriously populated with School of Communication majors. Students also refer to the tables and chairs surrounding the literal Starbucks as Norbucks.

Plex: Home to a labyrinth of single dorm rooms, Foster-Walker Complex is a mid-campus building known as Plex. With a late-night dining hall on one end and an allergy-friendly one at the other, Plex generally houses sophomores. In the basement, you can find the South Campus mail room.

Sarge: Short for “Sargent,” this term is used to refer to the North Campus residential hall as well as the dining hall located on its first floor. 

SES: An acronym for Student Enrichment Services, SES is a resource for FGLI students that offers workshops and mentorship programs, as well as assistance in obtaining books, supplies, computers and winter gear. Its office is located in Plex.

Sherbucks: The off-campus Starbucks on Sherman Avenue. It’s one of many coffee shops in Evanston frequented by students, conveniently located a few blocks from South Campus.

SPAC: The large North Campus fitness center that offers free exercise classes and workout facilities to students. Its official name is the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion.

The Garage: A space in North Campus much larger than a traditional garage that houses entrepreneurial student projects. They also provide students with tools, mentorship and host competitions for project grants. 


Dolphin: The Dolphin Show, now in its 78th year, is the largest student-produced musical in the country. From its humble beginnings as a water ballet raising money for World War II bonds, Dolphin now brings in hundreds of audience members for every performance in late January. 

Dillo Day: A free outdoor concert on the Lakefill at the end of Spring Quarter. The (virtual) line-up last year included The Regrettes and Rico Nasty. 

NUDM: Also known as Dance Marathon or just “DM,” this is one of the largest student-run philanthropy events in the nation. Students gather at the end of Winter Quarter to dance for 30 hours to raise money for charity. This coming year, the benefactor is Compass to Care, a nonprofit that supports families who have a child with cancer by covering transportation costs. 

The Rock: A large rock located in South Campus that student groups paint after guarding it for 24 hours. There’s also a “rock cam” live stream where you can watch the goings-on around the Rock at all hours.

Primal Scream: The night before Finals Week begins each quarter, all students… well… primal scream at the same time. While it sounds stupid, it is incredibly cathartic. 

Waa-Mu: The Waa-Mu Show is a student-written and produced show that goes up every spring in Cahn Auditorium. This year will be its 90th anniversary, and students will take all year to write and put on an original musical. 

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are plenty more words and phrases that new students just nod along to until they figure out what it means. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jordanrose718

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