Northwestern Requirements for Admission

What are Northwestern's admission requirements? While there are a lot of pieces that go into a college application, you should focus on only a few critical things:

  • GPA requirements
  • Testing requirements, including SAT and ACT requirements
  • Application requirements

In this guide we'll cover what you need to get into Northwestern and build a strong application.

School location: Evanston, IL

This school is also known as: Northwestern University


Admissions Rate: 13%

If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.

The acceptance rate at Northwestern is 13%. For every 100 applicants, only 13 are admitted.

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This means the school is extremely selective. Meeting their GPA requirements and SAT/ACT requirements is very important to getting past their first round of filters and proving your academic preparation. If you don't meet their expectations, your chance of getting is nearly zero.

After crossing this hurdle, you'll need to impress Northwestern application readers through their other application requirements, including extracurriculars, essays, and letters of recommendation. We'll cover more below.


Northwestern GPA Requirements

Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.

The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school's average GPA for its current students.

Average GPA: 3.24

The average GPA at Northwestern is 3.24.

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(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. This school did not officially report its average GPA, but we've estimated it here using data from over 1,000 schools.)

With a GPA of 3.24, Northwestern accepts below-average students. It's OK to be a B-average student, with some A's mixed in. It'd be best to avoid C's and D's, since application readers might doubt whether you can handle the stress of college academics.

If you're currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 3.24, you'll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate. This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.


SAT and ACT Requirements

Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.

You must take either the SAT or ACT to submit an application to Northwestern. More importantly, you need to do well to have a strong application.

Northwestern SAT Requirements

Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school's average score.

Average SAT: 1480 (New: 1080)

The average SAT score composite at Northwestern is a 1480 on the old 2400 SAT scale.

On the new 1600 SAT, this corresponds to an average SAT score of 1080.

This score makes Northwestern Competitive for SAT test scores.

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Northwestern SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)

The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1030, and the 75th percentile New SAT score is 1130. In other words, a 1030 on the New SAT places you below average, while a 1130 will move you up to above average.

Here's the breakdown of new SAT scores by section:

SectionAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile
Math770740800
Reading383739
Writing373639
Composite108010301130

Northwestern SAT Score Analysis (Old 2400 SAT)

The 25th percentile Old SAT score is 1400, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 1560. In other words, a 1400 on the Old SAT places you below average, while a 1560 puts you well above average.

Here's the breakdown of old SAT scores by section:

SectionAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile
Math755710800
Reading725690760
Writing720680760
Composite148014001560

SAT Score Choice Policy

The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.

Northwestern has the Score Choice policy of "Highest Section."

This is also known as "superscoring." This means that you can choose which SAT tests you want to send to the school. Of all the scores they receive, your application readers will consider your highest section scores across all SAT test dates you submit.

Click below to learn more about how superscoring critically affects your test strategy.

How does superscoring change your test strategy? (Click to Learn)

For example, say you submit the following 3 test scores:

Section Reading Math Writing Composite
Test 1 700 300 300 1300
Test 2 300 700 300 1300
Test 3 300 300 700 1300
Superscore 700 700 700 2100

Even though the highest total you scored on any one test date was 1300, Northwestern will take your highest section score from all your test dates, then combine them to form your Superscore. You can raise your composite score from 1300 to 2100 in this example.

This is important for your testing strategy. Because you can choose which tests to send in, and Northwestern forms your Superscore, you can take the SAT as many times as you want, then submit only the tests that give you the highest Superscore. Your application readers will only see that one score.

Therefore, if your SAT superscore is currently below a 1560, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the SAT and retaking it. You have a very good chance of raising your score, which will significantly boost your chances of getting in.

Even better, because of the Superscore, you can focus all your energy on a single section at a time. If your Reading score is lower than your other sections, prep only for the Reading section, then take the SAT. Then focus on Math for the next test, and so on. This will surely give you the highest Superscore possible.


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Northwestern ACT Requirements

Just like for the SAT, Northwestern likely doesn't have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.

Average ACT: 33

The average ACT score at Northwestern is 33. This score makes Northwestern Strongly Competitive for ACT scores.

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The 25th percentile ACT score is 31, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 34.

Even though Northwestern likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 31 or below, you'll have a very hard time getting in, unless you have something else very impressive in your application. There are so many applicants scoring 33 and above that a 31 will look academically weak.

ACT Score Sending Policy

If you're taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.

Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.

This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school's ACT requirement of 34 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you're happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.

ACT Superscore Policy

By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.

We weren't able to find the school's exact ACT policy, which most likely means that it does not Superscore. Regardless, you can choose your single best ACT score to send in to Northwestern, so you should prep until you reach our recommended target ACT score of 34.


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SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirements

Both the SAT and ACT have a Writing section that includes an essay.

Northwestern requires you to take the SAT/ACT Writing section. They'll use this as another factor in their admissions consideration.


SAT Subject Test Requirements

Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.

Northwestern has indicated that SAT subject tests are required for SOME applicants. Typically this means that applying to certain majors or colleges within the school requires SAT subject tests, and others don't. Read further to see if you'll need to submit SAT subject scores.

Typically, your SAT/ACT and GPA are far more heavily weighed than your SAT Subject Tests. If you have the choice between improving your SAT/ACT score or your SAT Subject Test scores, definitely choose to improve your SAT/ACT score.


Our Expert's Notes

We did more detailed research into this school and found the following information.

SAT IIs are recommended but not required, except for applicants to the Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME) which requires chemistry and math II, the Integrated Science Program (ISP) which requires Chemistry, Physics, and Math II, and applicants who have been home-schooled (at least 1 SAT Math and 2 additional tests from different subject areas).

Source


Final Admissions Verdict

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Because this school is extremely selective, getting a high SAT/ACT score and GPA is vital to having a chance at getting in. If you don't pass their SAT/ACT and GPA requirements, they'll likely reject you without much consideration.

To have the best shot of getting in, you should aim for the 75th percentile, with a 1560 SAT or a 34 ACT. You should also have a 3.24 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score.

For a school as selective as Northwestern, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application. We'll cover those details next.

But if you apply with a score below a 1560 SAT or a 34 ACT, you unfortunately start out with the odds against you and have a tiny chance of getting in. There are just too many students with high SAT/ACT scores and strong applications, and you need to compete against them.



Admissions Calculator

What are your chances of admission at Northwestern University?
Chances of admission with these scores:

Here's our custom admissions calculator. Plug in your numbers to see what your chances of getting in are.

Pick your test: Old SAT New SAT ACT

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Note: This is only an estimate for the average student, based on data collected from thousands of students. Other factors in your application may come into play, such as extracurriculars and recommendation letters.

How would your chances improve with a better score?

Try to take your current SAT score and add 160 points (or take your ACT score and add 4 points) to the calculator above. See how much your chances improve?

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Application Requirements

Every school requires an application with the bare essentials - high school transcript and GPA, application form, and other core information. Many schools, as explained above, also require SAT and ACT scores, as well as letters of recommendation, application essays, and interviews. We'll cover the exact requirements of Northwestern here.

Application Requirements Overview

  • Common Application Accepted
  • Universal Application Not accepted
  • Electronic Application Available
  • Essay or Personal Statement Required for all freshmen
  • Letters of Recommendation 1
  • Interview Not required
  • Application Fee $75
  • Fee Waiver Available? Available
  • Other Notes Audition for music program recommended for some freshmen

Testing Requirements

  • SAT or ACT Required
  • SAT or ACT Writing Required
  • SAT Subject Tests Required for some
  • Scores Due in Office January 15

Coursework Requirements

  • Subject Required Years
  • English
  • Math
  • Science
  • Foreign Language
  • Social Studies
  • History
  • Electives

Deadlines and Early Admissions

  •  
    • Offered? Deadline Notification
  • Regular Admission
    • Yes January 1 April 1
  • Early Action
    • No
  • Early Decision
    • Yes November 1 December 15

Admissions Office Information

Our Expert's Notes

We did more detailed research into this school's admissions process and found the following information:

You will apply to one of NW's six undergraduate colleges. They are all about equally competitive so apply where you are most interested.

You must specifically contact the admissions office for an interview if you apply early decision, but will be automatically contacted for regular decision.

If you're applying to the school of engineering, you need more rigorous high school course requirements:

  • English: 4 full-year courses
  • Laboratory science: a minimum of 3 full-year courses; chemistry and physics preferred
  • Mathematics: 3.5-4 full-year courses; calculus preferred, if available; the minimum requirement includes 2 full-year courses of algebra, 1 full-year course of plane geometry, and 1 semester of trigonometry
  • Additional subjects: 5-6 full-year courses; these should include courses in foreign language, history, and social sciences

Source


Other Schools For You

If you're interested in Northwestern, you'll probably be interested in these schools as well. We've divided them into 3 categories depending on how hard they are to get into, relative to Northwestern.


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Reach Schools: Harder to Get Into

These schools are more selective and have higher scores than Northwestern. If you improve your SAT score, you'll be competitive for these schools.

School Name Location SAT Avg (1600) SAT Avg (2400) ACT Avg
Quinnipiac University Hamden, CT 1200 1677 24
University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL 1190 1652 27
Ohio University Athens, OH 1180 1632 24
University of North Texas Denton, TX 1160 1610 23
Pace University New York, NY 1140 1070 24
Florida Gulf Coast University Fort Myers, FL 1150 1595 24
San Jose State University San Jose, CA 1120 1555 23

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Same Level: Equally Hard to Get Into

If you're competitive for Northwestern, these schools will offer you a similar chance of admission.

School Name Location SAT Avg (1600) SAT Avg (2400) ACT Avg
University of Texas at Arlington Arlington, TX 1120 1549 23
Washington State University Pullman, WA 1110 1535 23
University of Texas at San Antonio San Antonio, TX 1110 1525 23
Texas State University San Marcos, TX 1100 1516 23
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN 1090 1499 22
California State University Long Beach Long Beach, CA 1060 984 21
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 1050 1430 32

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Safety Schools: Easier to Get Into

If you're currently competitive for Northwestern, you should have no problem getting into these schools. If Northwestern is currently out of your reach, you might already be competitive for these schools.

School Name Location SAT Avg (1600) SAT Avg (2400) ACT Avg
Kean University Union, NJ 1010 930 19
Texas A&M University - Kingsville Kingsville, TX 1020 1389 20
California State University Northridge Northridge, CA 990 912 19
California State University Bakersfield Bakersfield, CA 980 905 19
California State University East Bay Hayward, CA 990 1347 19
California State University Fresno Fresno, CA 990 1340 19
California State University Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 980 1322 18

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