Thank you for your interest in earning a graduate degree in chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern University. The department only admits degree-seeking graduate students for fall quarter.
Please see the frequently asked questions about how to apply below, as well as additional information on the main McCormick School website.
Frequently Asked Questions
Jump to a Section
- Application Process
- Test Score Requirements
- Admissions Prerequisites
- Research and Advisers
- Program Specifics
How do I apply to the graduate program?
If you’re interested in applying to either the master of science or PhD program in chemical and biological engineering, please submit your application through The Graduate School.
If you’re interested in applying to the master of science in biotechnology program, please do so through the program’s website.
Do I have to pay the application fee?
Yes, all students have to pay the application fee. The application fee is not typically waived.
Do I have to pay the fee by credit card? Can I pay by check?
The fee must be paid online using a credit card. If you do not have a credit card and are unable to borrow a card from a friend or family member, please contact The Graduate School’s admissions staff. Students without credit cards may also pay using a Visa gift card, which may be purchased in a number of ways and is a gift certificate that may be used in place of a credit card. These gift cards frequently involve a nominal purchase fee, though, and the use of a standard credit card is recommended if at all possible.
Where do I get forms for recommendations?
We do not provide a form or worksheet for your recommenders to fill out. We ask that recommenders write letters on their respective letterhead, and we prefer that recommendations be submitted online. If you wish to submit your recommendations in hardcopy, please generate a cover sheet with your name, application ID, and the program to which you are applying, and give your recommenders that sheet to attach to the front of their recommendations. If possible, please submit the recommendations (in individual sealed envelopes signed over the seal) in the same envelope with your other supplemental materials.
Can I have a fourth recommender send in a recommendation letter?
If you choose to have a fourth recommender, make sure this person’s reference is highly applicable to your field of study. Send the name and contact information of the fourth recommender to the graduate program assistant so that he or she is aware that an additional letter is expected to arrive.
How do I submit official GRE or TOEFL scores? What are your department and institution codes?
Please order official score reports directly from ETS. Photocopied or hardcopy score reports cannot serve as official reports. Northwestern University's school code for GRE and TOEFL is 1565. Additionally, you should reference department code 01 or 99 when submitting TOEFL scores. You needn't reference a specific department code for GRE scores.
What are the TOEFL, GRE, and GPA requirements for admissions?
The TOEFL minimum requirement is 100 for PhD and 90 for MS applicants. There are no specific GRE and GPA requirements for our department. For the 2014 incoming class the average GRE score was 166 (Q) & 160 (V), and the average GPA is 3.6 on a 4.0 scale.
Can I submit official test scores if the supporting documentation will not be available until after the December 31st application deadline?
The supporting documentation for ETS and TOEFL scores has some flexibility. Once you know your scores upon completion of the test, you can self-report these scores on the application. You must then request that a score report is sent to Northwestern University. Note, however, that it is your responsibility to make sure that the department receives this documentation. It is important to get these score reports in to the department as soon as possible.
I have included testing scores, my resume or CV, and a sample publication in an email. Will you please review these documents and let me know my chances for admissions or if you recommend retaking any of the standardized tests?
Our policy is to provide final decision offers after all applications have been reviewed.
If I applied last year and was not admitted, but would like to apply again, do I have to send in a new application?
You need to fill out a new online application and pay the application fee again. However, you may not need to send new copies of the supporting documents if we still have them on file.
I received a special honors or award after submitting my online application. How can I include this information in my profile?
If you receive any notable commendations after submission of your application, please send an email to the graduate program assistant with the relevant information and a request for it to be incorporated into your file.
Can I be admitted to the department if I do not have an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering?
Yes. We have students with BS degrees in other areas of engineering and BS degrees in the sciences. In most cases, it may be necessary to first take some undergraduate chemical engineering courses to be prepared for the core chemical engineering graduate courses.
Do you admit international students?
Yes. The large majority of the graduate students we admit received their BS degrees from US institutions, but we do admit a small pool of international students each year.
The GATS system currently shows a message that the system will open in November, but is currently not open. When can I expect GATS to open?
The GATS system opens midway through the month of November.
The GATS system is not showing my GRE or TOEFL scores as being received. Do I need to resend the scores?
The GATS system requires a couple of days to update the records once the information has been entered into the system. Due to this processing time, you should expect a delay of about a week for the system to update the status of your records.
I tried to log in to GATS and received the message “Data currently not available due to system upgrade.” What should I do?
GATS occasionally experiences system updates, which block users from entering the system. If you receive this message, please check back at another time.
How are research advisers assigned?
Early in the fall, each faculty member who is looking to recruit new students will give a research presentation at the beginning of the fall semester. Over the next four weeks or so, you will talk in more detail with the faculty members with whom you have interest in working. In November, you submit your top three adviser choices, in rank order. The faculty members then meet to match students’ and advisers’ preferences.
Will I get my first choice for my research adviser?
Typically, the matching process has gone very well, with the majority of the students receiving their top choice. In some cases, a student’s second or third choice is awarded. It is extremely rare that we are not able to satisfy one of the top three choices. In this case, we work with the student to identify other available advisors that are still in their area of interest.
How long does it take to complete a PhD?
The typical residency for a PhD student is five years.
How many courses do I need to take?
PhD students are required to take 10 classes on the quarter system. MS students take 7 or 10 courses, depending on whether they opt for the thesis or non-thesis option, respectively.
Are there any qualifying exams?
We do not have formal qualifying exams. After the first year, PhD students wishing to be considered for continuation are evaluated based on their coursework and research performance to date. Students are asked to demonstrate a minimum 3.5 GPA in graduate coursework and to demonstrate a working knowledge of their selected field of research.
How does the funding work for a master's student?
While there are some limited funding opportunities for full-time masters students in our department, preference is given to the doctoral students. As a consequence, nearly all of our master’s students are self-funded.
How does the funding work for a PhD student?
In our department, fulltime PhD students are are provided a stipend, benefits, and full tuition for at least five years, as long as progress milestones are being met. Students are highly encouraged to seek their own outside funding, as this can increase their stipend and can be quite prestigious.