Graduate Study
Application Frequently Asked Questions

Please note: The information provided on this page is for applicants applying to programs offered through The Graduate School at Northwestern University.

Applicants to the following programs offered directly through the McCormick School of Engineering, should refer to their program's website for application instructions as they vary by program: Master of Science in Analytics, Master of Science in Biotechnology, Executive Management for Design and Construction, Master of Science in Information Technology, Master of Engineering Management, The MMM Program, Master of Product Design and Development Management, Master of Project Management, and Master of Science in Robotics.

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How do I apply to graduate school at McCormick?

Northwestern University uses the CollegeNET link for graduate school applications. Please refer to your individual program for specific application requirements. Note that certain graduate programs at McCormick such as the part-time masters programs have a separate application process and do not use Apply Yourself.

The application website typically opens in early September for the following academic year. Applicants can set up an account, work on the application periodically, save their work, and then submit the application by the respective deadline. See our Application Checklist for required materials.

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When are applications due?

Applications are due by midnight on the day of the deadline.

  • The PhD deadline is Dec. 31 for every degree except applied math, which is typically in early January.
  • MS deadlines vary by program. Please consult the department’s website for specific information.
  • Recommendations and official test scores can arrive after the deadline.
  • Departments will give you a reasonable amount of time to complete your application. Applications cannot be reviewed until they are complete.

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When are decisions made?

Admission decisions are made after the deadlines, from mid-January until early April.

Admitted PhD applicants have until April 15 to accept or reject the offer of admission.

Do I need to provide an official transcript?

Northwestern applicants are required to upload transcripts for each university they have attended with their online application. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable. Failing to upload each transcript will block the submission of the application.

Only admitted students who plan to matriculate will be asked to submit official transcripts.

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What should be included in my statement of purpose?

Applicants must submit a statement of purpose with their online application. This should include a brief overview of your research experiences (more detail should be placed in your resume or CV) as well as your reason for attending graduate school.

Share your passion for what you want to do with respect to your research. Take time to connect yourself with several faculty members and their research.

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How many letters of recommendation do I need?

The Northwestern graduate school application has space for three recommenders.

McCormick departments require either two or three recommendations; please refer to each department’s admission section for their requirements.

You should line up at least three recommenders ahead of time. Recommenders should be enthusiastic and supportive of your graduate application.

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Do I need to submit a CV?

In most cases a resume or CV is optional, but applicants are strongly encouraged to submit one. This is your only opportunity to tell us in detail about your research experiences, leadership activities as an undergraduate, and other activities related to your future graduate studies.

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Do I need to take the GRE?

All applicants are required to submit the General Test of the GRE. The code number for Northwestern University is 1565; there are no departmental codes.

We place greater emphasis on the Quantitative score.

When you apply for admission you should upload your GRE paper score report or a screen shot of your GRE scores into the online application. We call ETS to verify your scores.

You are encouraged to go to the Educational Testing Service website and use their free test prep.

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Will the department interview me?

Interviews on campus are not part of the admission process. Some departments will do phone or Skype interviews.

Admitted students are invited to campus after admission and before the April 15 deadline. We pay the costs of your travel to Northwestern.

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I am an international student. How do I prove my English proficiency?

Several options are available for applicants to prove their proficiency in English:

  • Applicants may submit a TOEFL score of 90 for all PhD admissions or 80 for MS admissions (some departments require a score of 90 for MS admissions).
  • Applicants may also provide an IELTS score; 7.0 is required.
  • Applicants may also use the completion of a BS or MS degree where English is the language of instruction at the university as proof of proficiency.

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How can I get my application fee waived?

Northwestern University participates in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) FreeApp Process. Please visit their website to register. Northwestern will contact you about the fee waiver.

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How will I learn of the department’s decision?

Upon the receipt of your application you will receive an email from the school letting you know about the Graduate Admissions Tracking System (GATS).

GATS has a secure website where you can check the status of your application, which recommendations have been submitted, and whether we have your test scores from Educational Testing Service.

You will learn which staff member in the department will be working with you as you complete your application and as your file is completed. This is where you will be notified that a decision has been rendered. You can also send email inquiries in the GATS Message Center.

For further inquiries, please contact Bruce A. Lindvall, assistant dean for graduate studies, at or 847-491-4547.