Graduate Study
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Prospective PhD Students
Frequently Asked Questions

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PHD vs. MS Program Applications

I think I want to eventually get a PhD, but I might want to get a master's degree first. Should I apply to the MS program or the PhD program?

In this situation you should apply to the PhD program. The MS program is more suitable for students who are interested only in that degree. An MS degree is not required for admission to the PhD program in mechanical engineering.

May I apply to the PhD program directly from an undergraduate program, or do I need to earn an MS first?

Most entering PhD graduate students have only a BS degree. An MS degree is not required for admission and need not be earned prior to earning a PhD.

I already have a PhD degree. Can I apply to a PhD program at Northwestern?

No. The Graduate School does not allow holders of a doctoral degree (even in a field different from ME or from another country) to join the University as a graduate student. You should consider a post-doctoral position.

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Dates

What are the important dates for PhD program applications?

My PhD application was sent after the December 15 deadline. Can it still be considered?

Applications received after December 15 will still be considered until all the fellowship/RA/TA positions are filled.

When do I need to formally accept or decline an offer of admission?

The deadline is April 15, but if you make your decision earlier than that, please let us know. For the MS program, we would appreciate hearing about your decision promptly, but the actual deadline imposed by The Graduate School is not until mid-August.

Can I apply for admission to begin studies at any quarter?

We rarely admit graduate students to begin in January (winter quarter) or at other times during the year. We strongly encourage students to apply for fall admission. This timing provides the most flexibility in adviser selection and provides advantages in fellowship consideration.

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Application

Can I still use a paper application?

No. Only the online application is available.

How do I apply electronically?

Additional Information and the online application are available through The Graduate School. All supporting materials must be submitted online. Information regarding these materials are on these webpages:

Can I apply for admission to begin studies at any quarter?

We rarely admit graduate students to begin in January (winter quarter) or at other times during the year. We strongly encourage students to apply for fall admission. This timing provides the most flexibility in advisor selection and provides advantages in fellowship consideration.

What is the admission rate for the PhD program?

Statistics for the ME department, including the number of applications received, the number admitted, and the number enrolling for past years are available through The Graduate School.

My PhD application was sent after the December 15 deadline. Can it still be considered?

Applications received after December 15 will still be considered until all the Fellowship/RA/TA positions are filled.

What factors are taken into account when evaluating my application?

We consider prior academic performance, research and other professional experience, GRE scores, and overall potential to pursue graduate study successfully in our department. For foreign students from non-English speaking countries, the TOEFL scores are also important.

What are the institution and department codes to give to ETS to send TOEFL and GRE scores?

The institution code for Northwestern for either test is 1565. The department code is not used by Northwestern graduate admissions.

Are there minimums for test scores or GPA?

The only test with a fixed minimum is the TOEFL (for non-native English speakers), which requires a minimum score of 90 on the Internet-based test, 233 on the computer-based text, and 577 on the paper-based test. Alternatively, a minimum score of 7 is accepted for the IELTS.

There are no specific cut-offs for GRE scores, but admitted students generally have very high Quantitative Reasoning scores and good Verbal Reasoning scores.

The GPAs of admitted students are very high, but GPAs are evaluated considering the institution where they were earned.

I graduated from college several years ago. May I submit recommendations from work supervisors rather than from professors?

You may submit recommendations from people who were not course instructors, but you should have at least one recommendation from someone who can comment on your academic abilities.

How are applicants notified about admissions decisions?

The Graduate School will notify both admitted and denied applicants that a decision has been rendered and is available for viewing in on the TGS application website. The notification email will not indicate what the decision is, just that a decision has been made. The emails will go out once a week and will only be sent to those applicants who have not already viewed their decisions. Applicants should understand that it is necessary for them to view the decision through the Apply Yourself system since the email notification does not indicate acceptance.

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International Students

Do all international applicants need to submit results of the TOEFL?

The TOEFL is waived for any international applicant who completes a BS or MS degree where English is the official language of instruction.

As a foreign student, I cannot visit Northwestern prior to making my decision. How can I learn more about the department?

Questions should be directed to the graduate studies director for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In addition, we have a great graduate student organization, MEGSS, where you can contact our current graduate students.

Additional information, support and resources for international students can be found at Northwestern's International Office.

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Living and Studying

What is the estimated cost of living?

Cost of living estimates are provided by The Graduate School. Note that all PhD students are fully supported by fellowships and research/teaching assistantships and receive a stipend that covers typical costs of living.

How do I choose a research adviser?

The general procedure begins when new graduate students arrive in September and attend research presentations given by each of the faculty members in the department. Students will then meet with faculty members and learn more about their research. In mid-October, students indicate their adviser preferences. Advisers are then assigned based on these preferences.

Can I pre-select a research adviser prior to my arrival at Northwestern?

Our experience is that the adviser selection method described above gives students the most flexibility in finding a research group that matches well with their own interests. However, in a few cases in which a student has very specific interests, he/she may select an adviser in advance and be supported by an RA from the adviser. Students interested in this option should discuss it with the director of graduate studies for the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

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After Acceptance

What happens after I am accepted?

We encourage all accepted U.S. students to visit Northwestern prior to making a decision about the offer. Most students visit during one of two group visits in the spring. We will pay for most of the expenses associated with these visits. During the visits, students speak with faculty who are of the most interest to them, meet with our current graduate students, and learn more about our department and the Evanston/Chicago area.

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Additional Questions

Whom do I contact in the mechanical engineering department at Northwestern with additional questions that are not addressed here?

For administrative issues and the status of your application, contact the ME graduate program coordinator:

Pat Dyess
Graduate Program Assistant
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Northwestern University
2145 Sheridan Road, Room B224
Evanston, IL, 60208-3111, USA
Email Pat Dyess
847-491-7190