Academics / Graduate StudyAdmissions Overview
To maintain a proper balance between department resources and the size of the graduate student population, the department must limit offers of admission to the most qualified applicants. Thus, the admission process is highly selective and competitive.
Initial evaluations of each application are performed by faculty members whose research interests fall in the area of specialization specified by the applicant. A typical applicant is expected to have a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, or a related discipline from a recognized institution. Highly qualified candidates with other academic backgrounds may also be considered.
The specific undergraduate preparation required for graduate study depends on the program and the area of specialization. An applicant who has insufficient undergraduate preparation in any particular area but is well-qualified in every other respect may be required to take certain undergraduate courses as soon as possible after enrolling at Northwestern. That student would be informed of such a requirement at the time of admission.
Jump to a Section
- Application Deadlines and Important Dates
- Who Should Apply
- Who Should Not Apply
- When to Apply
- TOEFL Requirements
- Tips (Read Before You Begin Your Application)
- More Information
Applications for the 2015-2016 academic year will became available on September 2, 2014 on the Apply Yourself application website.
The deadline for PhD applicants is December 31, 2014 (for fall 2015). Most of the decisions are typically finalized by the end of March, but some decisions may be made as late as April 15.
The deadline for MS applicants for fall 2015 is May 1, 2015. The absolute deadlines regarding certain admissions-related actions by TGS are available here.
A person may apply to the doctoral program with either a four-year BS, BA, or a master's degree in a relevant field. Persons with three-year technical degrees are generally not allowed to apply for graduate study at Northwestern University.
A current Northwestern University EECS MS student should not apply to our PhD program. For such a student, continuation to the PhD in our department is only by recommendation and invitation of the student's EECS faculty adviser. If such a recommendation and invitation is made, the faculty adviser will take care of all of the needed paperwork. The student must not submit a completely new application for admission to TGS.
MS and PhD applicants should apply to begin only in the fall quarter. Note that we only allow for fall admits to both programs. Winter and spring quarter admission requests by MS and PhD applicants will be automatically denied, in general.
The only mechanism for winter or spring quarter PhD admission involves the intervention of one of our faculty, who must agree to support the student in question as a research assistant for the remainder of the academic year. To explore this possibility, an applicant should contact individual professors listed in th department's faculty directory.
You can view a great deal of general information about requirements and policies on The Graduate School website. For more info, please contact the EECS department graduate office.
The required minimum scores for PhD students: 90 IBT (Internet-based test), 233 CBT (computer-based test), and 577 PBT (paper-based test).
The required minimum scores for MS students: 80 IBT, 213 CBT, and 550 PBT.
We understand that proceeding with the application process for graduate studies is not an easy decision or something that should be considered lightly. To help you in making up your mind and give you some hints regarding the overall evaluation criteria, we provide a discussion of some of the relevant issues below.
Note that there are many context-specific factors that influence the decision about an individual application, which are impossible to summarize in a coherent manner. However, the "holistic review" and the influential items in it can be described as follows:
We do consider both the GPA and the institution. For example, the average GPA of the MS applicants admitted for the AY 2012-2013 was approx. 3.5/4.0. However, if someone has a GPA of, for example, 3.5/4.0 but is coming from a top-10 university in a country with 200+ universities, it will be considered differently from the same GPA from an institution that is ranked in the top 150, for example.
We do receive applications with transcripts using different GPA scales (10.0; 100%; etc.) and we apply the adjusted criteria to such scales. As another specific example, many of the universities from India have a "class-based" evaluation scheme, and we note that we will always give priority to "First Class with Distinction" applicants. The application process does allow you to write the "self-reported" GPA on the scale of 4.0, however, we will always use the transcripts during evaluation process.
Lastly, note that the evaluation is always "relative,” i.e., in terms of the current pool of applicants.
Standardized test scores
Typically, all the admitted applicants have GRE-Q scores higher than 760 (160 in the newer scale); GRE-V scores higher than 400 (146 in the newer scale). It is often the case that US applicants score higher than the international ones on the GRE-AW portion; however, we will weigh the TOEFL score as a demonstration of the linguistic capabilities indicator for international applicants.
More often than not (especially for PhD applicants) an EECS faculty interested in advising may conduct separate interviews, part of which will serve the purpose of attesting the English-speaking skills of a given applicant.
Statement of purpose
This part of the overall application carries an extremely important weight and the ones that are written in a clear and focused manner will be favored. Namely, upon reading it, an evaluator/faculty should get a crisp idea as to:
- Why is it that you would like to work in a particular major/specialization/topic and with a particular faculty as your adviser (for MS applicants this could be a project or thesis adviser)?
- Why is it that a particular faculty should be interested in having you as an advisee?
In each case, a successful applicant will provide a good balance between background, vision, and desiderata.
Example: simply saying that you like Northwestern or you have a high esteem for the faculty in the EECS, aside from being flattering, is not a statement that, in itself, will "sell well.”
Lastly, while this may not always be possible, it will be helpful if at least some (parts) of the recommendation letters can backup the claims made in the statement of purpose.
Note that, typically, an applicant is given the option to explicitly provide the names of the faculty member that he or she would like to work with as part of the application process itself.
Letters of Recommendation
Make sure that, to whatever extent possible, the letters are stating something that distinguishes you (or, separates you) from the crowd. Example: If you think that a recommender will state something like “he was in the top 25% in my class,” try to find someone else to write you a letter of recommendation. As mentioned above, to whatever extent possible, these letters should reflect your capabilities listed in the statement of purpose. A minimum of two letters is recommended but three is highly recommended.
We will value all your achievements (e.g. awards received on competitions) and experiences (e.g. research projects; leadership). However, the best place to put them in a coherent manner is your resume. Ideally, some of these items should also be properly linked with the statement of purpose document.