Required, Supplemental, and Optional Application Elements
Completing Your Northwestern Application
A quick checklist of application components can be found on our main Apply page. Below, you can find help related to application components, such as your letters of recommendation or personal statements, and answers to common questions.
Standardized Test Scores
Northwestern will be test optional for first-year and transfer applicants for the 2023-24 cycle.
If students choose to take an SAT or ACT, there is no preference for either exam—and will review a “superscore” for both tests. For students who take the SAT or ACT more than once, this means that our system will combine the highest section scores across multiple test dates and calculate a “superscore” that will override the high score from a single sitting in our database. Applicants are not obligated to report scores from all test dates, though are welcome to do so.Reporting ACT scores
- For students who take the ACT section tests, we will factor any individual section scores into your ACT superscore. You may utilize ACT’s new superscore reporting option to report an official superscore.
- Students may self-report all SAT and ACT scores, but please do not calculate your own ACT superscore—report your highest ACT section scores and your highest composite score from a single test date, and our system will calculate the ACT superscore. Admitted students who choose to enroll will be required to submit official SAT or ACT test scores that confirm highest self-reported section/composite scores prior to matriculation.
Letters of Recommendation
TIP: Letters of recommendation should be from individuals who can best speak to the range of your strengths and abilities.
We require two letters of recommendation.
One letter should come from your high school counselor. This could be your college counselor, guidance counselor, academic advisor, career center specialist or whoever can to best speak to your overall high school curriculum and involvement within the context of your high school. The second letter should come from one of your teachers who can address your strengths as a student in the classroom; this recommender should most likely be a teacher from one of your core subject areas, in your junior or senior year.
If you have an additional reference who would like to submit a letter on your behalf, we will accept supplemental letters of recommendation. It is in your best interest that each letter provides new or different information about you.
Personal Statement and Supplemental Essay(s)
Northwestern 2023–24 First-Year Writing Supplements
We have designed these writing supplements to help us understand your experiences throughout high school and imagine what kind of Northwestern student you may become. The supplemental questions below touch on areas we see as important for building Northwestern’s Class of 2028, but you should feel free to repurpose essays you’ve written for other applications (including the Common/Coalition Application personal essay, which we no longer require) if they tell the story you’d most like to share.
We also know there may be information or qualities not covered in our supplemental questions that you see as important to your application. To that end, we welcome—but by no means expect—your submission of a personal essay or additional information in the Common Application.
The following question is required for all Common Application and Coalition with Scoir applicants (optional for QuestBridge applicants). Please respond in 300 words or fewer:
- We want to be sure we’re considering your application in the context of your personal experiences: What aspects of your background, your identity, or your school, community, and/or household settings have most shaped how you see yourself engaging in Northwestern’s community, be it academically, extracurricularly, culturally, politically, socially, or otherwise?
The following questions are optional, but we encourage you to answer at least one and no more than two. Please respond in fewer than 200 words per question:
- Painting “The Rock” is a tradition at Northwestern that invites all forms of expression—students promote campus events or extracurricular groups, support social or activist causes, show their Wildcat spirit (what we call “Purple Pride”), celebrate their culture, and more. What would you paint on The Rock, and why?
- Northwestern fosters a distinctively interdisciplinary culture. We believe discovery and innovation thrive at the intersection of diverse ideas, perspectives, and academic interests. Within this setting, if you could dream up an undergraduate class, research project, or creative effort (a start-up, a design prototype, a performance, etc.), what would it be? Who might be some ideal classmates or collaborators?
- Community and belonging matter at Northwestern. Tell us about one or more communities, networks, or student groups you see yourself connecting with on campus.
- Northwestern’s location is special: on the shore of Lake Michigan, steps from downtown Evanston, just a few miles from Chicago. What aspects of our location are most compelling to you, and why?
- Northwestern is a place where people with diverse backgrounds from all over the world can study, live, and talk with one another. This range of experiences and viewpoints immeasurably enriches learning. How might your individual background contribute to this diversity of perspectives in Northwestern’s classrooms and around our campus?
TIP: The activity chart is your opportunity to be thorough about the depth and range of your involvement, whatever it may be.
The activity chart is your chance to explain any and all activities in which you’ve been involved outside of your high school classes. Provide as much detail as you can, explaining any abbreviations or acronyms that may be unique to your school. If you have held any leadership positions or received any awards, honors or distinctions, be sure to include that information on the activities chart as well. There’s no “right answer” to what kind of activities we like to see: Northwestern has over 500 different clubs and activities on campus, so we appreciate a very wide range of activities and value diversity of student interests.
TIP: Admissions staff members do not conduct interviews, but optional, informational alumni interviews are available in some cities.
Alumni Interviews are an optional component of the application process, available on a limited basis. Alumni feedback is included in your file, but not participating in an interview has no negative effect on your chance of admission. Alumni interviews allow applicants to ask questions, and are primarily informational.
Interviews offer the admissions committee additional context about your potential fit for Northwestern beyond what we read in your application, and allows you to learn more about the university in the process. That said, an interview is not a required part of your Northwestern application. Please read the paragraphs below carefully to understand our interview process./p>
Who conducts interviews?
Regional alumni volunteers on our Alumni Admission Council (AAC) conduct all interviews off campus, which means our ability to offer interviews depends entirely on alumni geography, availability, and capacity. All AAC interviewers complete a comprehensive training program and sign a Volunteer Code of Conduct prior to meeting with students.
For the 2023–24 academic year, Northwestern has adopted a hybrid interview policy. Interviews will be conducted virtually by default, but students will have the option to indicate on their request form whether they are comfortable meeting in-person. Depending on their interviewer’s comfort/availability, some interviews may then be conducted in-person. Please note that Northwestern assigns no higher value to either virtual or in-person interviews; equal consideration will be given to reports from both interview formats.
How can I schedule an interview?
The Admissions Office will contact all Early and Regular Decision applicants who attend high school in regions with active alumni interviewers—look for an email with instructions for making a scheduling request. Our alumni interview coordinators accommodate scheduling requests on a space-available basis.
Please add firstname.lastname@example.org to your contacts, so that our messages do not get caught in a spam folder.
If I choose to interview, what should I expect?
Interview requests are accommodated on a space-available basis. Alumni interview coordinators will match students requesting an interview with an alumni volunteer if space permits.
Your alumni interviewer will contact you via email or phone to coordinate an interview at a mutually agreeable time. All interviews will occur virtually. If you have concerns about technology access or internet connectivity, you may share that with your interviewer. You may also contact email@example.com if you need assistance with interview coordination.
You can expect a conversational setting where you can relax, be yourself, and ask questions in addition to answering them. You do not need to send a resume or other documents to your interviewer or prepare any other materials prior to the conversation.
If you can’t interview, no problem—we promise.
While we have a vibrant alumni volunteer team across the United States and abroad, it is not possible for us to offer interviews to all applicants. We encourage you to request an interview once you receive an invitation, but it is very important to understand the following:
- We extend interview invitations based solely on alumni geography, availability, and capacity—not based on the strength of an application.
- Your application will be at no disadvantage if you are unable to interview.
If geography or capacity prevent you from interviewing, rest assured that will not be held against you as we review your application. Your involvement, writing samples, and letters of recommendation lend a great deal of insight into who you are and what makes you tick. Plenty of students have gained admission in years past without an interview.
And if you were hoping to learn more about Northwestern by way of an interview, there are other great ways to explore our campus and community: take our virtual tour, head over to our YouTube channel, connect with our student teams, or send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Interviews via InitialView
For international students who do not have the opportunity to interview with our alumni volunteers, Northwestern will accept interviews from InitialView. Similar to alumni interviews, InitialView interviews are not required and a student is not a disadvantage without one. InitialView does not review or rate the interviews. Evaluation is done only by members of the admissions committee and provides an additional source of information and perspective about your English language proficiency, personality, academic interests and potential fit for Northwestern.
All InitialView interviews for the 2032-24 cycle must be completed by November 1 for Early Decision or January 3 for Regular Decision.
Questions concerning international interviews may be directed to email@example.com.
Selecting Early or Regular Decision
TIP: If Northwestern is a school that, if admitted, you would attend without hesitation, applying Early Decision best positions you within a competitive applicant pool. If you’re applying for financial aid, we use the same need-based process for financial aid awards for early decision and regular decision; your aid package will be the same regardless of when you apply.
If Northwestern is a top choice, and you feel comfortable applying through the Early Decision process, you are strongly encouraged to consider applying Early Decision. We use the same review criteria for both early and regular decision. Applicants in both cycles are very competitive. Last year we enrolled approximately 50% of our incoming freshman class from early decision. To learn more, please visit our Application Options page.
Northwestern allocates financial aid on the basis of demonstrated financial need. Should you receive an offer of admission, your financial aid (including scholarships) will not differ whether you apply under the early decision or regular decision time frame. Please use our Net Price Calculator to determine your expected family contribution. Northwestern guarantees to meet 100% of the demonstrated need between your expected family contribution and the total cost of attendance.
Applications That May Require Additional Materials
Some applications may require materials in addition to an application for undergraduate admission. Below, you will find a list of requirements for Bienen School of Music, Integrated Science Program (ISP), Mathematical Methods in Social Sciences (MMSS) and School of Communication's Musical Theater Program. For questions pertaining to the content of submission of supplemental application material, please contact the corresponding office directly.
Bienen School of Music
In addition to an application for undergraduate admission, all undergraduate applicants to the Bienen School of Music must submit a Bienen School Supplement. Submitting the Supplement ensures that the Bienen School of Music is aware that you are applying for a music major, and provides a portal to submit music application materials. Bienen School applicants also register for auditions via the Supplement.
- Music prescreening and/or portfolio materials
- Music teacher recommendation letter (required, submit via Bienen School Supplement)
See instructions and deadlines for submitting the supplement. Please note that many supplement deadlines fall prior to those of the general application for admission.
Integrated Science Program (ISP)
Students who wish to apply to the Integrated Science Program must also complete an ISP application using the online application.
The application processes to Northwestern and to ISP are separate. Admission to Northwestern is not a guarantee of admission to the ISP and the status of your ISP application will not affect your Northwestern general acceptance decision.
- For an updated list of required materials, please see the ISP website.
ISP application considerations:
- Your high school preparation should include four years of mathematics, including one year of calculus, and four years of science, including chemistry and physics. Taking AP Physics and Chemistry is highly recommended.
- You should complete the study of one-variable differential and integral calculus before enrolling in ISP. If you will not complete this study in high school, we will ask you to outline how you plan to fulfill this requirement.
Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS)
Students who wish to apply to the Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences program must also complete an MMSS application using the online application.
The application processes to Northwestern and to MMSS are separate. Admission to Northwestern is not a guarantee of admission to the MMSS and the status of your MMSS application will not affect your Northwestern general acceptance decision.
MMSS application considerations:
- A strong high school curriculum, including a year of calculus, is required for admission.
School of Communication Applicants to the Music Theatre Certificate Program
Students applying to the Northwestern University School of Communication Theatre Major who are interested in pursuing admittance to the Northwestern University Music Theatre Certificate Program are encouraged to submit an optional Music Theatre Supplement.
Students who are interested in Music Theatre and are applying to the Bienen School of Music do not need to submit this Music Theatre Supplement. Bienen School of Music Voice Majors must audition for the program after their first quarter of study.
Supplement materials include:
- Personal statement (video) responding to the following questions:
- How do you see yourself contributing to the future of music theatre as a field?
- How can a liberal arts education in music theatre at Northwestern bring you closer to your specific goals?
- Performance selection (video)
- Please prepare two contrasting musical selections that you love to sing.
- Optional supporting materials
- Video of a monologue, dance, instrumental skills, etc.
TIP: Use the “Additional Information” section of the Common Application to share any information that may have significantly impacted your academic performance or other involvement.
If you have experienced any special or outstanding circumstances that may have interrupted or significantly affected your academic performance in high school, you may write about those in the “additional information” section of the Common Application. If your high school counselor is aware of these circumstances, he or she may also use the Counselor Recommendation to explain this information. Should you have additional circumstances that need to be addressed, you can email a brief summary to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once You’ve Hit “Submit”
TIP: Once you’ve submitted your application, keep an eye on your email account associated with your Common Application or Coalition Application – that’s where we’ll send any important updates regarding your application status.
Congratulations! You’ve completed your application. Sit back and relax. Keep your eye on the email address associated with your Common Application or Coalition Application. If we are missing any of your application materials, you will receive an email from email@example.com. Otherwise, you’ll hear from us with an admission decision by mid-December for Early Decision applicants, by the end of March for Regular Decision applicants, or by the end of June for transfer applicants.
Need to submit an update or want to check on the status of your application? Once your application has been submitted, we will email a personalized link with instructions on how to access the Applicant Status Portal, which can be used to monitor the progress of your application.