Graduate Study
Prospective Master's Students
Frequently Asked Questions

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PHD vs. MS Program Applications

I think I want 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 apply to the PhD program. The MS program is more suitable for students who are interested only in that degree. An MS degree is not required for admission to the PhD program in mechanical engineering.

May I apply to the PhD program directly from an undergraduate program, or do I need to earn an MS first?

Most entering PhD graduate students have only a BS degree. An MS degree is not required for admission and need not be earned prior to earning a PhD.

Can students transfer to the PhD program from the MS program?

Students whose goal is to obtain a PhD should apply directly to that program since students are accepted to it directly with only a BS. Note that the PhD program is considerably more competitive and requires a much stronger application for acceptance. MS students are very rarely able to transfer to the PhD program as the MS program is intended to be a terminal degree program.

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What are the important dates for the current applications cycle?

Deadline for receipt of online applications by the graduate school is April 30th. However, admission decisions are made on a rolling basis for those outstanding applicants that apply earlier.

Can I apply to begin the MS program in the winter or spring quarters?

We admit graduate students to begin in September (fall quarter) only. This timing provides the most flexibility in adviser selection and provides eligibility for an internship during the summer months for international students. An exception can be made under special circumstances at the discretion of the MS Program Director for outstanding students that are already in the USA.

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Can I still use a paper application?

No. Only the online application is available.

How do I apply electronically?

Additional information and the online application are available through The Graduate School. All supporting materials must be submitted online. Information regarding these materials are on these webpages:

***  For the 2023-2024 cycle, GRE is not required. However, please do follow all other requirements.  ***

What factors are taken into account when evaluating my application?

We consider prior academic performance, research and other professional experience, and overall potential to pursue graduate study successfully in our department. For foreign students from non-English speaking countries, the TOEFL scores are also important.

What are the institution and department codes to give to ETS to send TOEFL and GRE scores?

The institution code for Northwestern for either test is 1565. The department code is not used by Northwestern graduate admissions.

Are there minimums for test scores or GPA for the ms program?

The only test with a fixed minimum is the TOEFL (for non-native English speakers), which requires a minimum score of 90 on the Internet-based test, 233 on the computer-based test, and 577 on the paper-based test. Alternatively, a minimum score of 7 is accepted for the IELTS.

***  For the 2023-2024 cycle, GRE is not required. However, please do follow all other requirements.  ***

The GPAs of admitted students are usually high, but GPAs are evaluated considering the institution where it was earned.

What percentage of applicants are admitted to the MS program? How many applicants are admitted?

Most recently, approximately 20% of more than 330 applicants were offered admission to the MS program. The program continues to grow. In the fall 2016, over 30 new students entered the MS program which had a total of 45 students including Northwestern BS/MS students. More than half of current MS students are international students, and we do not have a fixed limit on the number of international students we accept.

I graduated from college several years ago. May I submit recommendations from work supervisors rather than from professors?

You may submit recommendations from people who were not course instructors, but you should have at least one recommendation from someone who can comment on your academic abilities.

Do you accept applications from students who do not have a BS in engineering into the MS program?

Yes. We have had several successful MS students who had college degrees in other fields. However, applicants must have a sufficient math and science background such that they are able to take at least upper division (junior and senior level = Northwestern 300-level courses) engineering courses when they enter because lower division courses cannot be used for credit towards an MS degree. Students without an engineering BS should expect to take longer to complete requirements for the MS degree.

Do you accept applicants who already have a master's degree?

We accept applicants who already have a master's degree if their desired program of study is substantially different from their previous MS program. For example, a student with a more conventional MS in ME may apply for a second MS with the new Energy and Sustainability option. We also have accepted students with master's degrees in fields other than ME.

How are applicants notified about admissions decisions?

The ME department will notify both admitted and denied applicants by email when a decision has been rendered. Applicants may also check on their application status through the TGS application website. In addition, The Graduate School may notify that a decision has been made, but the TGS email notification will not indicate acceptance, so it will be necessary for applicants to view the decision through the Apply Yourself system.

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International Students

Do all international applicants need to submit results of the TOEFL?

The TOEFL may be waived for an international applicant who completes a BS or MS degree where English is the native language

As a foreign student, I cannot visit Northwestern prior to making my decision. How can I learn more about the department?

Questions should be directed to the graduate studies director for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In addition, we have a great graduate student organization, MEGSS, where you can contact our current graduate students.

Additional information, support and resources for international students can be found at Northwestern's International Office.

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What are the total costs of the MS program?

The Graduate School provides information about tuition amount and estimated costs of living.

Can MS students qualify for any funding from the university or department (scholarship, fellowship, research assistantship, tuition reduction)?

No. All MS students must pay full tuition. A few continuing MS students have been hired for paid research positions or as course graders, but entering MS students are not offered these positions. Some MS students have their own external funding. Underrepresented minority students are encouraged to apply to the GEM MS Engineering Fellowship program.

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May I visit Northwestern to learn more about the department?

Yes. In general, applicants should schedule a visit after they have been accepted to the program, but in some cases we are willing to accommodate visits in advance of admissions. Contact Manohar Kulkarni, assistant chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, to schedule a visit.

As a foreign student, I cannot visit northwestern prior to making my decision. How can I learn more about the department?

Questions should be directed to the graduate studies director for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In addition, we have a great graduate student organization, MEGSS, where you can contact our current graduate students.

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Additional Questions

Whom do I contact in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Northwestern with additional questions that are not addressed here?

For administrative issues and the status of your application, contact the mechanical engineering graduate program coordinator:

Pat Dyess
Graduate Program Assistant
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Northwestern University
2145 Sheridan Road, Room B224
Evanston, IL, 60208-3111, USA