Graduate Study
Materials Science Engineering (MS)

Thank you for your interest in earning a master of science in materials science and engineering at Northwestern University. Please see the frequently asked questions about how to apply below, as well as additional information on the main McCormick School website.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What factors are considered when evaluating my application?

We consider prior academic performance, research and other professional experience, and overall potential to complete the MS degree requirements. Potential is largely evaluated through the transcript and letters of recommendation. The GRE is not required for admission, nor do you need to submit scores if you did take the test. Scores that are submitted will be not be reviewed.

We strongly encourage application by students who are enthusiastic about contributing to our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. In your personal statement, please tell us about the impacts you hope to make in this area as a student and in your professional career.

What are the important dates to remember?

January 31st: Priority review deadline. Applications must be submitted online by 11:59 P.M.
February 28th: Final deadline. Applications must be submitted online by 11:59 P.M.
Mid-March: Last date that supplemental materials (e.g. recommendation letters) will be accepted.
Early April-early May: General timeline for most offers of admission to be made.
Early August: Deadline for students to accept offers of admission.

Can I apply electronically?

You must apply electronically. There is no paper application. Complete the online application. Letters of recommendation and transcripts from ALL schools attended after you complete high school must be submitted online.

Can you waive the application fee?

Application fee waivers can be requested on the application website and are automatically granted to qualified applicants. For more information, see The Graduate School website.

Do I need to submit a financial statement?

A financial statement is not necessary for the application process.

Does the materials science and engineering department require a writing sample or a resume to be sent as part of the graduate application?

The MSE department does not require a writing sample separate from the Statement of Purpose. Submission of a resume or CV is optional. 

What if I forget my PIN/password for the online application system?

Return to The Graduate School's Online Application Website. Click on the search button in the User Login section. Still having problems? Contact the Graduate School.

I would like to eventually get a PhD, but I might want to get a Master's degree first. Should I apply to the MS program or the PhD program?

In this situation you should indicate your preference for the PhD program. The MS program refers to students who are interested only in that degree. A master's (MS) degree is not required for admission to the PhD program in materials science and engineering.

Does the department accept transfer students from other departments?

We strongly encourage students to finish their degrees from the department in which they originally enrolled. We generally do not accept students from other programs.

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Recommendation Letters

How many Letters of Recommendation should I submit?

The minimum is two, but you may submit three if you wish.

Can I use paper letters of recommendation?

No. The Graduate School's policy is to only accept letters of recommendation that are submitted electronically.

Is there a particular format for recommendation letters?

No particular format, and there is no form that needs to be filled out.

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TOEFL Scores

Do I need to take the GRE?

The GRE is not required for admission to the MS program. Even if submitted, GRE scores will not be reviewed.

Do I need to take the TOEFL?

All international students whose degrees are not from institutions where the majority of instruction is in English must take the TOEFL or IELTS exam.

What are the codes for the submission of TOEFL scores?

Northwestern University's school code for TOEFL is 1565. If you are taking the TOEFL be sure to include this number on your test form.

Additionally, you should reference department code 01 when submitting TOEFL scores. IBT test takers should, when prompted, request that their scores be sent to the graduate office (versus undergraduate) and then select the program name that most closely matches their program of interest. If no match is available, the test taker may choose option 99.

I plan to take the TOEFL in late November so the score will only be available late December. May I apply earlier in November or December before I have my official TOEFL score?

You may apply early. We will not render a decision until the file is complete. This includes having an official TOEFL score.

How do I know if my TOEFL scores have expired?

TOEFL must be taken no more than two years before the intended quarter of entry. However, your application will not be disqualified if your scores are a few months out of date.

Are my TOEFL and GPA scores sufficient? What are the minimum scores?

An applicant is evaluated on the basis of the total academic performance, which includes coursework, test scores, research experience, and evaluation by faculty members or applicant’s supervisors. The only minimum we set is TOEFL, on which an international applicant must score 550 or higher on the paper-based test, 213 or higher on the computer-based test, 80 or higher on the internet-based test. On the IELTS, an applicant must score 7.0 or higher. 

Can I upload unofficial copies of TOEFL before the official copies are ready?

Yes, you are encouraged to upload copies of your TOEFL score reports along with your application. However, an official decision will not be made until the official copies are received.

I requested that ETS send my scores to a department at Northwestern other than materials science. Should I ask them to send the scores again?

It most cases we will be able to locate your scores from the other department and it is not necessary to resend them.

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Do I need to submit high school transcripts?


My university doesn’t offer electronic copies of official transcripts. May I submit a copy of my graduate transcript?

Unofficial copies of transcripts are acceptable for the application. To be considered, all documents not in English must be accompanied by official English translations.