Graduate study at McCormick prepares students to take the lead in this fast-changing world.Graduate study at McCormick prepares students to take the lead in this fast-changing world.

Admissions Frequently Asked Questions

In the following, we provide answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQ's). If there are issues that are not addressed here, please contact the CS Office of Student Affairs.

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Can you look at my resume and tell me if you think I should apply?

We receive hundreds of requests weekly, so regrettably, we cannot assess an applicant's chances individually. If you feel strongly about your qualifications, we encourage you to apply.

For comparison purposes, here are the median scores for applicants we made offers to last year: GRE Quantitative 169, GRE Verbal 156, GRE Analytical Writing 3.5, GPA 3.73, and TOEFL 106.

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Should I specify the MS or PhD degree in my Application?

Applicants pursuing a doctoral degree should select the PhD option. Students pursuing a PhD may also obtain a master's degree during their doctoral career at Northwestern University. You should select the MS option ONLY if you are seeking a terminal master's degree. Note that no financial aid is offered to those seeking the terminal MS degree.

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How do I apply for financial aid?

There is no separate financial aid application. Financial aid, including tuition and stipend, is offered to all admitted doctoral students; however, no financial aid is offered to terminal master's students. There are several sources of loans available, and as a graduate student, you will be eligible for Federal Direct Student Loans. The Evanston Office of Graduate Financial Aid will be able to counsel you about your eligibility. You can email them here.

Please feel free to follow up with the The Evanston Office of Graduate Financial Aid or Bruce A. Lindvall, assistant dean for graduate studies at McCormick, at or at 847-491-4547, if you have questions about financing your MS degree. Visit the The Evanston Office of Graduate Financial Aid website for more information about tuition, fees, billing and payment information. Student loan info can be found here. Northwestern loan procedures, deadlines, and downloadable forms are available here. Private outside scholarship assistance may be found here.

If your ultimate goal is to pursue a PhD, please keep in mind that you may enter PhD programs without having completed an MS degree. If financial aid is not required, please include a separate letter with your application materials stating that you do not need aid and briefly describing the source of your support.

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I'm an international applicant whose native language is not English. What must I do to demonstrate proficiency in the English language?

You must either:

  • Take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and earn a score of 90 or better (100 or better recommended), or
  • Take the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and earn a score of 7.0 or better,  or
  • TGS does not require English language testing scores from those who have earned an undergraduate degree or graduate degree from an accredited institution where the language of instruction is English.

Additionally, international students admitted to the PhD program are not eligible for funding as Teaching Assistants until they have met The Graduate School (TGS) English Proficiency Requirement described here: ( Note that TGS provides extensive help and support for international students ( including many ways to further improve English proficiency )

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What institution and department codes should I use for the GRE and TOEFL?

The institution code for Northwestern University is 1565 for both exams. The department code doesn't matter for the GRE. Use 0000 if you need to specify something. For TOEFL, the department code for The Graduate School is 01.

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What if I do not have a proper BS background (i.e., my undergraduate degree is not in CS)?

We will still give full consideration to your application and evaluate it in the context of the current batch of applicants. However, be advised that if we admit you, the lack of background cannot be used as an excuse for poor performance in your class(es) projects and/or tests. You are more than welcome to take some of our 200-level courses that are pre-requisite(s) for the 300-level courses as part of your graduate education with us; however, the credits earned in those 200-level courses cannot be counted toward your degree. For foreign students: although the 200-level courses' credits do not count toward the degree requirements, they do count toward maintaining your immigration status in a good standing. In other words, since foreign students are expected to be registered for a minimum of three courses per quarter, it is fine if some of those courses are at 200-level.

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What if my background is related to CS, but I want to shift the major of my MS studies (e.g., from CE to CS)?

There are some courses that are considered core in the CS curriculum. Such courses are at 200-level and cannot be counted for graduate credits; however, they need to be taken since they are pre-requisites for many of the graduate-level courses. They will be considered as background-deficiency, and any incoming student who has not taken equivalent course will have to take them early in the MS career.

Important note: As of Spring 2013, the courses COMP_SCI 310 and COMP_SCI 311 have been changed to COMP_SCI 212 and COMP_SCI 214. There will be a special provision for the graduate students starting Fall 2013 to register for them as "temporaryCOMP_SCI 395". However, this is only to eliminate the possible discrepancies due to transition in the CS curriculum. Graduate students interested in CS without an equivalent background will have to take COMP_SCI 212 and COMP_SCI 214 as a deficiency (and not count it toward graduate credits).

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Are there evening/weekend Courses?

No, the CS department does not offer evening classes for graduate students. However, there are evening and/or weekend options at Northwestern. The School of Professional Studies offers a Master's Degree in Computing and Information Systems (MSCIS), obtainable by taking evening and weekend courses, and working professionals can earn a Master's in Information Technology (MSIT) in two years of Saturdays.

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I'm an international student, but I don't have a visa yet. What can I do?

You must first be accepted by the university before any visa work can begin. International students can learn about the visa process for newly admitted students at the Northwestern University International Office website.

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I've received a notification from the department that I am admitted. What are the next step(s)?

The very first step after receiving a notification from is for you to enter your decision (accept or decline our admission offer) at this link. Please check Admission Decision & Enrollment for a more detailed guidance.

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If I am admitted as an MS student and perform well during my studies, will I be considered for continuing in the PhD program?

Although we have had such cases, it is rare (approximately 6 percent of the students admitted to our MS program in the past have been offered to continue for a PhD), and there is absolutely *no* guarantee. It is determined on an individual basis, and it is dependent upon different factors (e.g., an adviser may receive new research funding and wishes to continue working on a project involving an MS student). Hence, one should not take for granted that an MS admission will imply continuation with the PhD program. If your aspiration is to obtain a PhD degree, please apply to the PhD program.

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