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Northwestern University

Your Academic Path

Advice for identifying your plans when you apply. 

See our suggestions related to selecting an undergraduate school and major(s), planning your coursework and pursuing specific or multiple areas of study.

Selecting an undergraduate school at the time of application

TIP: Apply to whichever undergraduate school’s curriculum is most relevant to your academic interests – they are all equally competitive.

Northwestern requires all applicants to apply to one of the six undergraduate schools. There is no strategic advantage to applying to any specific school, as we use the same admission review criteria for all Northwestern undergraduate applicants. The undergraduate schools are not restrictive; it is very common for students to take classes and/or add a double major or minor in another school. Given that each school has different degree options and requirements, it is in your best interest to apply to the school that houses the department of your intended or anticipated primary major.

Dual Degrees and Second Majors

TIP: If you want to earn two bachelor’s degrees over five years, apply to the Dual Degree program. If you want to have a traditional double major in four years, apply to the undergraduate school that houses your primary major, and you can add a second major later.

The Dual Degree programs at Northwestern allow students to graduate with two separate degrees in five years. For example, a student enrolled in the Bienen School of Music Dual Degree program with the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Music. In the Dual Degree programs, you have to fulfill the curriculum requirements for both degrees and majors. 

Conversely, adding a second major adds another concentration of study to the same degree. For example, a student double majoring in McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will receive one Bachelor of Science degree with two majors (i.e. Industrial Engineering and Computer Science). Adding a second major can be completed within four years.

Pursuing pre-med coursework

TIP: The Honors Program in Medical Education is an accelerated option for the most academically competitive students, but there are plenty of other opportunities to be pre-med at Northwestern.

The majority of undergraduates interested in studying medicine participate in pre-med as an advising track. These students have the option to choose any major offered at Northwestern, while also taking the necessary complement of science courses required by most medical schools. Staff in Health Professions Advising will encourage pre-med students to also consider clinical experience, research, and involvement in the campus and local community.

Northwestern also offers the HPME program (Honors Program in Medical Education). HPME is a direct-admit, highly selective program, whereby students are admitted to both Northwestern University and the Feinberg School of Medicine. Students interested in applying to HPME should submit a request form, which becomes available in mid-September and must be completed by December 1. Note that students must complete the application required by the Office of Undergraduate Admission as well as a separate application for the Feinberg School of Medicine. HPME undergraduates can pursue majors within the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Communication. The HPME website offers a profile of the most recently admitted class, which you can view to determine if you are a competitive applicant.

The Northwestern Undergraduate Premedical Scholars Program (NUPSP) is an additional early acceptance program into the Feinberg School of Medicine for high achieving Northwestern University undergraduate students. NU students apply to the program at the beginning of their junior year for matriculation into the Feinberg School after their senior year.

Applying “Undecided”

TIP: If you’re unsure of your major, you can apply “Undecided” to the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, or the School of Education and Social Policy.

Applying undecided is one of the more popular majors for applicants. You may apply undecided to the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Education and Social Policy. In fact, "Undecided" is the most common major among our applicants.  Undecided students have until the end of their sophomore year to declare a major, during which time they may explore the distribution requirements of their school as well as work with their adviser to find a major that fits their interests.  

Pursuing multiple areas of study

TIP: You only need to select one area of study at the time of your application – you can add second majors, minors, and certificates later.

All students must select one primary major within their undergraduate school, which will determine their degree requirements. You may choose to add a double major, or a minor or certificate as an additional area of study. At Northwestern, a certificate program is a highly specialized area of study which requires fewer courses than a minor. A major is typically 15-18 courses, a minor is typically 8-10 courses and a certificate is typically 4-6 courses.  Northwestern students can declare up to three different concentrations (majors, minors, certificates).

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