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. read more

Graduate Study
Admissions Frequently Asked Questions

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

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The application fee is expensive, and I don't want to apply if my chances aren't good. 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 individual chances. If you feel strongly about your qualifications, we encourage you to apply.

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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; no financial aid is offered to terminal Master's students. However, there are several loan options available and as a graduate student you will be eligible for Federal Direct Student Loans. You are invited to email the Evanston Office of Graduate Financial Aid for counsel about your eligibility. 

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. Learn about student student loans, Northwestern loan procedures, deadlines, downloadable forms, and private outside scholarship assistance.

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 are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The Graduate School considers 550 to be the minimum acceptable paper-based TOEFL score, 213 to be the minimum acceptable computer-based TOEFL score, 90 to be the minimum acceptable internet-based TOEFL score, or 7 to be the minimum acceptable IELTS score for both MS and PhD applicants. To be eligible for a teaching assistantship, international applicants must submit an official Test of Spoken English (TSE) score of at least 50 or score at least 26 on the TOEFL speaking section.

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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 electrical or computer engineering)?

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 ECE but I want to shift the major of my MS studies (e.g., from CE to EE)?

There are some courses that are considered core 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.

For example, ELEC_ENG/EECS 222 is a pre-requisite for many courses in our EE major. As such, any student who does not have an equivalent course will need to take it as a deficiency.

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Are there evening/weekend courses?

No, the ECE department does not offer evening classes for graduate students. However, there are evening and/or weekend options at Northwestern: 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 steps?

The very first step after receiving a notification from is for you to enter your decision (accept or decline our admission offer). 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 (approx. six 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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I am an international student and I cannot afford the application fee. Can I get an application fee waiver?

Unfortunately, we cannot offer application fee waivers for international students at this time. This is policy is in effect across The Graduate School (TGS)'s programs. 

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