Northwestern University

Northwestern University – an overview

Northwestern University (or NU) is a prestigious private research university located in and around Chicago, Illinois, with a branch campus in Qatar. Established in 1851, when it opened its doors in 1855, there were ten students enrolled – a figure which has now risen to over 23,000 undergraduates and postgraduates. Northwestern is known for offering students a liberal arts education, which covers courses in science, mathematics and technology, individual and social behaviour, historical studies, the humanities and fine and performing arts. Among its alumni are George R. R. Martin, the popular author of the series A Song of Ice and Fire, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, Pharrell Williams and the actor Warren Beatty – a tiny sample of the judges, politicians, innovators, artists and international academic prize winners who make up the university’s alumni community.

Northwestern University has 11 schools, six of which are undergraduate schools, including the renowned Kellogg School of Management, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Feinberg School of Medicine and Bienen School of Music. It offers students the opportunity to study abroad, do practicums and internships, undertake research and take up paid co-operative educational programmes. Undergraduates are encouraged to apply for research grants and pursue their interests at one of the 90 research centres run by NU. Approximately 40 percent of students take the opportunity to study abroad while studying at Northwestern University.Northwestern University is a vibrant, thriving community with over 500 clubs, lively Greek life, a tradition of community service and engagement,19 intercollegiate athletics teams and a campus with access to Lake Michigan and a beach where you can learn to sail in between classes. Chicago is one of the most interesting and exciting cities in the USA, with all that a huge urban centre has to offer, and is a  short drive away from the Evanston campus. Some 20 percent of students at Northwestern choose to live on campus, while 5 per cent live in fraternity and sorority houses and the rest prefer to rent accommodation in Evanston or Chicago. Ten percent of the student body is made up of international students.

Why apply to Northwestern University?

Northwestern University is a top-ranking and highly respected institution and offers its students flexible and integrated programmes based on cross-school collaboration, a liberal arts foundation and the opportunity to do a five-year double degree. One third of your time is spent on the foundation courses, a third on your major and a third on electives – and there are literally hundreds of courses to choose from at Northwestern University. When you apply, you have to apply to a specific undergraduate school and this is determined by your primary major, but you will subsequently be able to take courses, or add a major or minor, at another school.

Choosing a course at Northwestern university

When you come to choose a major, and decide which school to apply to, make sure you check whether your major is an “adjunct” subject or a stand-alone major. Adjunct majors can only be taken along with a non-adjunct major. Among adjunct majors, taught at Weinberg College, you will find African Studies, Geography, International Studies, Global Health Studies, Science in Human Culture, and Mathematical Methods in Social Sciences (MMSS).

Note that  MMSS has special admissions requirements, since as well as applying through the Common App, you will also have to complete a specific MMSS application by 1 March. In addition, if you decide to follow the Integrated Science program at Northwestern University, you will need to apply through this link.

In order to decide which course you are interested in studying at Northwestern University, it is important to look through the Northwestern University website with great care. This is because certain subjects can be either a major OR a minor (for example, Asian American Studies), whereas Biomedical Engineering is only a major subject and Business German is only available as  a minor subject.

You can also choose to opt for a double major, though this could involve transferring between schools.

If you do decide to apply for a five-year double degree course, however, you need to apply to both schools, since you will be awarded two degrees. Liberal Arts and Engineering and Liberal Arts and Music are two popular double degree options. In addition, you could choose to study:

  • Communication and Engineering
  • Communication and Music
  • Education and social policy and Music
  • Engineering and Music
  • Journalism and Music

Since there are over 130 undergraduate courses to choose from, take your time looking through the curriculum and the many possibilities for combining subjects before you make a final decision. Elab is here to support you, talk through your options and guide you so that you make the decision which is right for you and your future plans.

The application process to Northwestern University

Check the general requirements:

Northwestern University expects applicants to have studied 16 units: a unit is a course studied  for at least one year. This requirement is broken down into:

  • English – 4 units
  • Foreign language – 2-4  units
  • Mathematics – 3-4  units
  • History/Social Studies – 2-4  units
  • Laboratory sciences – 2-3 units
  • Electives – 1-3 of the above

The McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science also requires: Mathematics 3-4, as well as algebra-2, geometry-1, calculus-1, trigonometry-5.

If you are applying to study science you need to show that you have studied 2 units, preferably in physics and chemistry.

International students whose language is not English must submit TOEFL or IELTS test results.

How to apply to Northwestern University?

You will need to fill in the Common App, which includes a supplementary writing question for Northwestern University  – a 300 word essay on why you want to study at the university.

You will also have to send in:

  • Your certified secondary school transcripts
  • Two references
  • Letter of motivation

Northwestern University is test-optional, so you can – but do not have to – submit your SAT/ACT scores.

If you are applying for Music, you may be asked to audition.

Northwestern University will give you credits for higher level IB results and AP scores of 5 (although some courses give credits for AP scores of 3-4).

Interviews are optional, so if you decide not to be interviewed this will not count against you.

The acceptance rate is around 8 per cent, which makes securing a place at Northwestern University very competitive. The university is need-aware, but if you are offered a place, it will cover all your needs for the entire four years of your undergraduate studies, and this applies if you are an international student. Fees are currently in the range of $87,809 per year, or more, so it is worth applying for financial aid.

Contact Elab if you wish to submit an application for financial aid. All documents have to be sent in by 1 December or 1 February, depending on the intake to which you are applying (Early or Regular Decision). You will need to fill in a CSS profile and supply translations of your parents’ federal tax forms etc.

Recent research has established that you are more likely to be offered a place if you decide to apply for Early Decision. Remember, this is a binding agreement to take up your place at Northwestern, if you are offered one.

Application deadlines

 Early DecisionRegular Decision
Deadline for applications1st November2nd January
SAT/ACTSit November testSit December test
CSS financial aid1st December1st February
Response receivedMid-DecemberEnd March
Housing and tuition deposits1st February1st May

And finally

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to organise your application if you are keen on studying in the USA. Northwestern University is ranked 30th in the world by QS, so competition  for places is fierce.

Help is at hand, since Elab has successfully sent hundreds of students to Ivy League and top-ranked universities in America. We have a dedicated and experienced team of specialist consultants who can advise and help you maximise your chances of getting the offer of a place at Northwestern University – so email or call us and let us start on your application to this brilliant institution.

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