Five Tips For Applying to Northwestern's MEM Program

Associate Director Steve Tilley shares recommendations on how Masters of Engineering Management applicants can help themselves stand out.

By Steve Tilley

One of the favorite parts of my job as Associate Director of Northwestern's Masters of Engineering Management (MEM) program is the opportunity to talk with prospective students about the program and whether or not it is a good fit for them.

One of the most frequent questions I receive is how applicants can help themselves stand out during the application process. With that in mind, I wanted to share five tips to consider during the application process. Following these recommendations will not guarantee admission by any means, but it certainly can help make an applicant stand out.

1) Show that you've done your research.

Whenever I talk with students, either over the phone, in person or during an information session, I like to hear questions that are related to how a MEM degree, specifically at Northwestern, will help you gain the skills you need to grow in your career. These are questions and insights that require research about our program and how it relates to your current professional experience.

2) Visit a class or talk with members of the MEM community.

If you're able to come to campus, I strongly recommend you visit and take in the MEM experience first hand. Whenever prospective students visit a class, we introduce them to the professor and fellow students.

Additionally, during our on-campus information sessions, we have a Q&A session with students. To ensure you're able to get the honest answers you're looking for, we have administration representatives leave the room during this session so that any and all questions can be answered.

I would also like to add that Northwestern MEM is a very intimate community. Students are able to build strong relationships with one another, alumni, and the faculty. These different groups are also always happy to talk with prospective students and share their MEM experience.

3) If you're an international applicant, consider applying for Round 1 admission.

International students are required to be full-time students in our program, and I advise them to apply by our Round 1 deadline of January 15. This ensures that these students obtain an admission decision by March, which is about the same time that the Northwestern International Office will begin visa processing for the new academic year. Admitted international students will then have about five months to supply all the required paperwork, obtain the proper visa, and give enough notice to a current employer that they are leaving before they need to move to the United States.  

From my experience, it can take up to two to three months for the process to complete, and applying by Round 1 will help alleviate some of the stress of the process. However, I also want to mention that about 1/3 of our students apply during the Round 2 process and still are able to manage the visa timeline effectively – it is just more condensed.

4) Spend some time customizing your LinkedIn profile.

We do spend some time reviewing applicants' LinkedIn profile as part of their application process. The basics of job responsibilities and skills need to be present, but also any joined groups or special recognition can help us determine career growth and leadership potential. We also use LinkedIn to help research schools and companies we may know little about.

Honestly, one thing I like when I review LinkedIn profiles is when a person customizes their LinkedIn profile URL. This helps them become more searchable and looks more professional. Also, many people underestimate the power a good professional photo can have in making a first impression.

5) Remember that we review applications holistically.

I think many applicants are sometimes overly concerned about certain attributes of their application and may never end up applying. I always explain that our admission committee looks at the whole application in its entirety for the review process. That means if one area is a bit weaker, it can be offset by a stronger section of the application.

Do you have questions about the MEM application process? If so, go ahead and email us at

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