An Ultimate Guide: Northwestern University Admission Requirements

Most Universities you see these days look new and modern to the point that you don't feel much of the history that goes with them. But for Northwestern University, you'll be eager to learn that it started small back in the 1850s. At that time, few men began with limited resources akin to a man who wants to start his own business.

But the ones who started this elite University were determined to make their vision a reality. Years later, Northwestern University is now what it is. Northwestern University is one of the most elite among other Universities. It's got great housing for students, excellent professors, offers excellent courses.

So, with all that, you must ask yourself: Can you make it through the admissions process and gain your entry into this elite University? Of course, you can! This guide explains the score requirements, application requirements, and everything related to admission. But before this, let's see an overview of Northwestern University.

Northwestern University Overview

Founded in 1851, Northwestern University (NWU) is in Evanston, Illinois, the USA. John Evans founded the University.

As per the "2021 US news ranking", Northwestern is the 9th (tie) best University in the United States. And as per the "2021 QS World University Ranking," Northwestern is the World's 29th best University.

The tuition fee for admitted students at Northwestern is $52,629 (2020-21). The total enrollment in the school is 21,946. The student to faculty ratio in NWU is 6:1. For every 6 students, there's 1 teacher, which provides each student very personalized attention. 77.1% of classes in NWU consist of fewer than 20 students.

The Northwestern University has significant names in the World as its alumni. Some notable alumni are David Schwimmer (American Actor), Stephen Colbert (American comedian), Greg Berlanti ( American writer), Cloris Leachman (American Actress). 

Northwestern University

What Northwestern Looks For In An Applicant?

While reading the student's application, NWU will see you are a fit for the University or not. And to know how fit you are for NYU, they will focus on the following 3 things.

Academic Growth And Intellectual Curiosity

Here, they will try to see how good you are in academics and how intellectually curious you are. When they see your application, they will ask 3 questions to themself. 

The first question is, "What topics are you excited to explore?" They will try to understand which things you like and explore more about it with this question. Understanding this will help them to know the academic type you fit the best.

The second question is, "How have you shown initiative in learning more about the world around you?" This question will help them to know your curiosity about learning and observing your surrounding.

The third question is, "How have you challenged yourself?" This question will help them to know the extra efforts you had taken before you applied. They will see the way you challenged yourself and tried to perform out of your comfort zone.

Involvement And Community

Any top elite college will not just focus on your academic ability but also want to know you above grades. The most common thing elite Universities want to see in an applicant is their community involvement. 

Northwestern will be curious to know what role you had in the communities around you. The community can be anything like school, family, or any organization. They want to know what impact you created within the community, how you shaped this community, and how it shaped you.

They will see how you were involved in the communities, which made you meaningful. By seeing your involvement, they will try to analyze what you will contribute to the Northwestern community.

Personal Characteristics

The College is also interested in an applicant's character. They want to know how you are as a human being. They will see how your personal character differs from others. Understanding your personal character helps the College know what kind of person you will be in NWU. 

Hence, the College will see your academics, contribution to the community, and personal character. To show the College how good you are in academics, you need to focus on your grades and standardized test. 

To show your contribution to the community, you can use the "Activities" section of the application portal. To know more about the "Activities" section, see our blog "Fill The Common App Activities Section Best Way Possible."

To show your personal character, you can take the help of personal essays. To know more about the personal essays, see our blog "Importance Guidelines For Writing Personal Essay."

Northwestern SAT Score Requirements:

The Northwestern University is a very competitive school regarding scores requirements. The SAT 25th percentile score of Northwestern is 1440. It means only fewer than 25% of admitted students have a score below 1440. 

The SAT 75th percentile score of Northwestern is 1550. It means about 75% of admitted students have scored less than 1550. The Average (50th Percentile) SAT score of Northwestern we could find is 1495.

You can also aim for on the 25th percentile and 75th percentile of both sections separately. For Math, the 25th percentile score is 740, and the 75th percentile score is 790. 

For EBRW, the 25th percentile score and the 75th percentile score are 700 and 760, respectively. Here, we can see you require more marks in the Math section to reach a similar percentile score as EBRW.

If you believe you are weak in one section, attempt to score higher than needed in the other section. So, even if you get more points than expected in one section but got less in another, you can still come to the required composite score.

Northwestern University Required SAT Scores

SAT Score Policy:

The College's SAT score policy determines its method in estimating student's scores. This policy is different for each school. In the case of Northwestern, the method they have is the "highest section."

"Superscoring" is another word for this method. In this policy, the University will consider your highest section SAT score from all attempts.

For instance, a student took the SAT exam twice. In the first attempt, his composite score was 1530. In the score of 1530, 775 is of Maths, and 755 is of EBRW. In another attempt, the student again received 1530 as a composite SAT score. But this time, he received 755 in Maths and 775 in EBRW.

Hence, his highest score for Math and EBRW are on the first and second attempts, respectively. And as NWU has a policy of the highest section score, they will count each subject's highest score.

Hence, NWU will take his Maths score as 775 and EBRW as 775. It benefits the applicant as his score improved by 20 points, which now became 1550.

Hence as the superscoring policy benefits students, it's a must to take the SAT exam multiple times. It increases your possibility to raise your composite score.

Northwestern ACT Score Requirements

The composite ACT 25th percentile score of Northwestern is 33, and the 75th percentile score is 35. NWU doesn't have any minimum score conditions. Still, a lower score than the 25th percentile will make conditions tough for you to get admitted.

The composite score of ACT is the Mean of all 4 section scores. To get the desired composite score, you require to score around what you desired in each section.

ACT Score Policy:

Northwestern University uses the superscoring method for ACT also. Here, they will consider your highest individual score of each section across many attempts.

For example, you have given the ACT exam two times. In the first attempt, you got the following numbers:

Science: 33

Math: 33

Reading: 31

Writing: 31

So, the Composite ACT in the first attempt is 32.

In the second attempt, you got the following numbers:

Science: 31

Math: 31

Reading: 35

Writing: 35

So, the Composite ACT in the second attempt is 33.

But, as NWU uses superscoring, it will take the highest individual score across both attempts. So your highest section scores will be:

Science: 33

Math: 33

Reading: 35

Writing: 35

So, the composite ACT score after superscoring will be 34.

Hence, we recommend you give multiple attempts of the ACT before applying to NWU.

Northwestern GPA Requirements

The average GPA for Northwestern is 3.92 on a scale of 4. You need a high school grade of "A" to get this much GPA. If you know that you are not getting that much GPA score, concentrate on gaining more points in SAT / ACT.

Now let's move the application requirements.

Northwestern Application Requirements

Application Through Common Application Or Coalition Application

To apply for Northwestern University, you choose either Common Application or Coalition Application.

Personal Essay

While applying to Northwestern, you need to provide two essays. One essay is from the application portal. And the other is the Northwestern Writing Supplement essay which will ask you why you choose NWU. You can choose various aspects while writing, but most of your essay should focus on your interests.


As mentioned above, it's essential to mention your activities in the application portal. However, you can submit only 10 activities in Common and only 8 activities in the Coalition app. So, mention the activities which are most important considering the admission. If you have more activities, you can mention them in the "Additional Information" section.

Official School Report And A Secondary School Transcript

Your school counselor needs to submit the official transcript and school report to the University.

Counselor Recommendation

You need a letter of recommendation from your high school counselor. Your high school counselor could be your guidance counselor, college counselor, career center specialist, academic advisor.

Teacher Recommendation

You require a letter of recommendation from at least one teacher. The teacher should be the one who taught you one of the core subjects in high school.

SAT or ACT Scores 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the SAT / ACT exam is optional for 2020-21 applicants. It's up to you to submit the score or not. We've explained the SAT / ACT score requirement above the blog.

Application fee or application fee waiver

While applying, you need to submit $75 as application fees. Keep in mind that this application fee is non-refundable. You can also take an application fee waiver. To be eligible for an application fee waiver, you need to satisfy one of the given conditions. You can check the given conditions here.

Early Decision Agreement

The Early Decision (ED) agreement is only for the student who is applying through early decision. The agreement binds you that you will join the University if accepted.

Midyear Transcript

College also requires a Midyear transcript when you will receive it.

Interviews And Meetings

Interviews are optional which is an offer to a limited number of the applicant. 

Music audition 

If you are applying for a school of Music, then you also need to Music audition.

What If You Are An International applicant?

For an international student, the application requirement is similar to local students but with the English proficiency test requirement. You need to demonstrate proficiency in English if you want to get accepted. For this, you can take tests like:

Northwestern Acceptance Rate

You need to know the acceptance rate of Northwestern to know how selective they are. The acceptance rate represents how many percentages of candidates get confirmed. The World's top colleges are very choosy while accepting applicants. And as the Northwestern University is a leading college in the World, the acceptance rate is low.

The current general acceptance rate of Northwestern is 9%. It means, in every 100 candidates, only 9 get accepted. 

The acceptance rate for early application of the class of 2024 of Northwestern is approximately 9.3%. So as we see, the early applicant's rate is similar compared to regular decisions. Each year, both these acceptance rates are shrinking. In the following years, it may go even less. 

In short: only a few get selected. You can be among the few students who get admitted to Northwestern University if you work hard.

What If Not Accepted? 

If Northwestern University does not accept you, Does it mean you'll give up? No, not yet, because there's still another option to pursue. It's not the usual type, and it's no guarantee you'll get in, but you've already tried applying, so trying it out won't be too much of a hassle. Here it is: 

Alternative Option: Apply For Another College And Transfer To Northwestern University Later

You can try heading to another college and transferring to Northwestern University later. The requirements for transferring are here. You can even see the page as an FAQ section. Here, you'll find all the things you need to become a transfer student. 

It'll also be a surprise to know that the transfer acceptance rate is 15.27%, which is higher than the acceptance rate for regular applicants. But before you believe you have it under control with this option, remember that because you're applying as a transfer student, you'll already have some history with the Northwestern University admissions team, which could mean they may already consider not taking you in. 

But you can use the time you'll spend in the other College to give Northwestern University a chance to see you've changed and achieved the "fit" factor they've meant to find in you.


"Start small, think big." That's a famous saying many utter when a person wants to start a business, but you can also apply it to many goals one wants to achieve. 

That's likely the mindset the men who began Northwestern University had when they made the institute. It now becomes a top University that many find attractive and alluring to apply for from its humble beginnings. 

With its intricate designs, great accommodations, and other spectacular offerings, Northwestern University emits the aura of charm and greatness to those who want to gain admission, especially you!