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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What are the minimum academic requirements for a CS MS applicant?

We do not set minimums beyond those required by the Graduate School, but with more than 1700 applications every year and a limit of about 250 offers, competition is stiff. The average GPA for those made offers is 3.82, and the median TOEFL (when required) was 108.

All applicants who received offers had degrees or at least a minor in CS or a closely related area.

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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 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
  • Take the Michigan English Test (MET) and earn a score of 54 or better for master's applicants and earn a score of 61 or better for PhD applicants, 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.

Detailed information is provided by The Graduate School (TGS) at the following link:

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. Though a GRE score is not required, if you wish to submit one, you can use 0000 if asked for the department code. 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)?

While a CS degree is not required, we receive over 1300 applications a year, mostly from those with CS or CS-related degrees. To be competitive, you need the equivalent of at least a minor in computer science. That means programming experience in more than one language, data structures (including trees and graphs) and discrete math, comparable to what's covered in our undergraduate-only CS 211, 212, 213, and 214, as described here:

Note: Online MOOCs on these topics, while helpful, carry much less weight in our evaluation than courses taken from a campus-based college.

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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)?

Undergraduates in an existing campus-based program who are planning to apply to the MS program are advised to take courses comparable to CS 111, 211, 212, 213, and 214. These courses are described here:

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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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