Answering Your MSIT Questions

Associate director Stephen Dowling offers answers to common questions from prospective students.

Stephen Dowling enjoys interacting with prospective students as they consider Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program. As the program's associate director, it's one of his favorite parts of the job.

With that in mind, Dowling sat down to talk about common questions from prospective students and what advice he shares with them. 

What are the common trends applicants are asking about? 

The state of the job market is understandably on applicants’ minds; it’s not a secret that the tech sector, broadly speaking, has been going through some ups and downs in recent months. MSIT applicants should know they benefit from the program’s alumni network and University services — like Engineering Career Development and Northwestern Career Advancement – both of which remain available to alumni after graduation. Put another way, career support from Northwestern will be as much of a constant for future job searches as our present and future alumni would like it to be. 

What does an "ideal" MSIT applicant look like, if such a thing exists? 

An ideal candidate for admission has relevant work experience, which might include full-time or part-time work, internships, or assistantships. We want to know that the applicant will contribute to class discussion with real-world work context, and so they might imagine how the concepts they are learning about in class could function in practice. 

We also want to find evidence of strong leadership potential. We look for applicants who are the team members who go above and beyond the minimum expected of them, whether in a professional or academic setting, and whose professional trajectory is one of “IT leadership,” broadly speaking. We also consider the complexity of the work they’ve done. Finally, the personal statement and interview help us discern if a candidate is personable, able to communicate effectively, and has invested some time to know our program’s strengths and how MSIT can help them achieve their goals. 

How can applicants make their application stand out? 

The applications that stand out are those that go beyond "here is why I am interested in graduate school” and into “here is why I want to study with MSIT, specifically.” Graduate programs aren’t one size fits all, and applicants who demonstrate they have thought deeply about why MSIT is the best fit for them and their careers go a long way toward making a compelling argument for admission. 

What additional advice would you offer to part-time students? 

Our part-time students juggle competing priorities: employment, families, and graduate school all at once is a heavy load to manage. Part-time applicants should think ahead to how they will navigate this challenge, and how successful completion of coursework will live alongside outside-school responsibilities without giving short shrift to any of those competing priorities. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has obviously become a hot-button topic in the past year. What, if anything, do you expect to hear from applicants about AI? 

From applicants themselves, we simply hope to see and hear curiosity on this front. MSIT is a great laboratory for solutions to bring back to the workplace, and we hope students will bring their AI-related questions and brainstorms to the classroom to test and iterate them. We also offer courses in AI and Automation and Data Science for Business Intelligence that naturally lean heavily on AI. In the business intelligence course, for example, students will learn to use ChatGPT and other large language models to produce and refine code – no previous experience is necessary. Our hope is students exit MSIT understanding how AI can supplement and enhance their efforts at work. 

Is there anything else you'd like to add? 

Don’t hesitate to contact us at if you have questions before or during the application process. 

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