Northwestern University has a lot going for it. It’s #11 in national universities. For aspiring pre-med students, it has arguably the best combined BS/MD program in the nation. And it’s located just north of Chicago on a jaw-droppingly beautiful campus located right on Lake Michigan. Sold? Cool. Let’s jump right in and take a look at exactly how to get into Northwestern University.
Will you need to be an academic rockstar to call yourself a Wildcat? The short answer is yes. We’ll cover every aspect of how to get into Northwestern, but first, here are some facts about Northwestern admissions.
Quick Northwestern Admissions Statistics
|Northwestern SAT scores (average composite)||1510 out of 1600|
|Northwestern ACT scores (average composite)||33 out of 36|
|Northwestern GPA (average of admitted students)||4.13 out of 4.0|
|Northwestern acceptance rate||8.4% for the class of 2022. Historically around 10-13%|
As you can see, the Northwestern admissions board means business, and Northwestern is extremely selective. But if you’ve got the academic chops, you just may stand a chance of getting accepted.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at exactly what you’ll need to make your application irresistible to Northwestern University.
More About Northwestern SAT Scores
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to submit SAT scores to Northwestern:
- Northwestern accepts SAT or ACT scores, but you can submit both if you’d like.
- You may self-report your scores, but are required to submit official scores upon acceptance and attendance.
- You may report your highest scores on each section across all of you test dates.
- SAT subject tests are optional for most programs and required for the Honors Program in Medical Education and the Integrated Science Program.
- The SAT Essay component is optional.
You can read more about Northwestern’s standardized test requirements if you’d like, but let’s move on to the good stuff…
What do you actually need to score for a good chance of getting in?
The average composite SAT score of students admitted to Northwestern University is an impressive 1510. For a better idea of your actual chances with various scores, here are the percentiles:
What does this mean? If you score a 1400 or lower, you’ll be below average compared to the other applicants. On the other hand, if you score a 1560 or higher, you’ll be above average.
So for the best chance of getting accepted, you’ll want to score a 1560 or higher.
As far as the percentiles for each SAT section:
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
Since you can self-report scores in each section across multiple testing dates, we advise aiming for the 75th percentile score for each section. To help you reach such heights, check out the stories of students who nailed the perfect SAT score!
More About Northwestern ACT Scores
If you plan to submit ACT scores to Northwestern:
- You should self-report your highest composite test score overall (from one particular test sitting).
- The Writing test is optional.
- The 25th percentile for Northwestern ACT scores is 31.
- The 7th percentile for Northwestern ACT scores is 34.
As far as a composite ACT to aim for, 33 is it, and as far as the percentiles:
This means a 31 or lower will place you below average compared to other applicants while a 34 or higher will place you above average.
That said, we recommend taking the ACT as many times as necessary to crack a 34. It’s a tall order, but we believe in you!
|ACT Section||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
Keep in mind that regardless of which test you take and how well you do, your test scores are only part of the equation for how to get into Northwestern University.
More About Northwestern’s GPA Average
The average high school GPA of students admitted to Northwestern University is a 4.13.
To earn a GPA north of 4.0, you’ll have to be at the top of your class, earning straight-A’s all the way.
A good way to raise your GPA and push it over the 4.0 mark is to earn A’s in honors, IB, and/or AP courses. Depending on how your high school calculates GPA, A’s in these types of courses are awarded a higher value. In fact, it’s a good idea to take as many challenging, college-level courses as possible during high school. Excelling in them indicates to Northwestern that you are ready for the rigor of their academics.
Here’s something super important to keep in mind though: it’s very difficult to change your GPA beyond your sophomore year. So if Northwestern is your dream school, you’ll have to hit the ground running with straight-A’s early on.
Northwestern Acceptance Rate
Historically, Northwestern has an acceptance rate of about 10-13%, making it highly selective. But like many other elite universities, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get into.
According to a recent piece in The Daily Northwestern, “Northwestern acceptance rate falls to 8.4 percent,” this year’s admissions rate was record-low after nine consecutive years of decline.
An enormous pool of 40,425 applicants applied this year, 2,320 of which were admitted Regular Decision. That’s a wee 6.4% of students admitted! Of the 4,049 students that applied Early Decision, 1,072 were admitted.
What can you take from this information? Well, that admission to Northwestern is more competitive than ever, meaning that you’re going to have to be a really well-rounded and impressive candidate if you want to call yourself a Wildcat! Check out the following advice from Transizion expert Ashley C. on how to make yourself shine in a pile of impressive applications:
What is the fit factor, you might ask? At Northwestern, the admissions team defines it as ‘a story you tell us about how you see yourself thriving on campus.’ They want to know how you envision yourself learning from, plugging into, and contributing to the school community.
Luckily, you have the perfect opportunity to discuss these points in the ‘Why Northwestern?’ essay. Here are some tips:
- Do your research. Find specific classes, professors, experiences, and opportunities that would help you benefit from and contribute to Northwestern.
- Write about characteristics and opportunities that are unique to Northwestern, not just something you can find at any college!
- Personalize it. Instead of just raving about why Northwestern is so great, envision yourself at Northwestern. Why is Northwestern particularly great for you personally? The admissions team explains that most of this essay should focus on your own interests and experiences (and how these make you a good fit for Northwestern).
- If the word count allows, add a sentence or two about your post-college future. Once you’re done learning and contributing at Northwestern, how will you use the skills you’ve acquired to contribute to the world?’
Northwestern Freshman Profile
So who are these phenomenal students who have recently been admitted to Northwestern? Northwestern’s freshman profile (reflecting data on the class of 2021) can give us a sense of just how diverse the incoming classes are.
According to the data about the students in the class of 2021 (admitted last fall):
Additionally, 10% are first-generation college students, meaning they are the first in their family to attend college. Additionally, 19% are Pell Grant recipients.
Other Northwestern Admissions Requirements and Info
Moving on to the application process, let’s talk about what you’ll actually need to submit to Northwestern in order to apply.
Here’s a super helpful overview of Northwestern’s undergraduate admissions requirements. Included are specific instructions for transfer students as well as students applying to various honors, engineering, science, music, and musical theatre programs.
Otherwise, here’s a handy checklist of exactly what you’ll need to provide (and a printable version of this checklist):
- A formal application, either through The Common Application or The Coalition Application
- Your high school transcript(s) and school report(s)
- At least one letter of recommendation from an academic teacher who knows you well (more on this later!)
- A $75 application fee or application fee waiver
- A mid-year report
Additionally, you may need to provide the following:
- A music audition (if you’re a School of Music applicant)
- 3 SAT subject tests (if you’re a homeschooled student)
- TOEFL or IELTS scores (if you’re an international student whose first language is not English)
These Northwestern application FAQs cover pretty much anything you could possibly wonder about during the application process, but here are a few other commonly asked questions about applying to Northwestern University:
Does Northwestern accept AP credit?
Yes. You can read more about AP and IB credits accepted at Northwestern or consult this awesome credit recognition chart that details exactly how much credit is awarded for particular grades on particular exams.
Does Northwestern offer financial aid?
Yes, Northwestern offers various types of financial aid including scholarships and grants. You can also consult Northwestern’s financial aid brochure and read this guide to completing a FAFSA application.
Is Northwestern need-blind?
It sure it. This means your need (or lack thereof) for financial assistance will not affect your application in any way.
How to Get Into Northwestern University
While there’s no magic formula for getting into Northwestern, here’s our distilled breakdown of exactly how to get accepted:
- Earn a 1560+ on your SAT
- Earn a 33+ on your ACT
- Have a 4.13 or higher GPA
And beyond the numbers, here’s what you can do to make your application stand out:
Make Your Writing Sparkle
Your personal essay is hands down the key to an amazing application. It’s your chance to create a compelling and vivid picture of who you are and what you can contribute to Northwestern’s community. Your essay should be thoughtful, unique, well-developed, organized, and polished, so spend ample time crafting and revising. If you choose to submit a Common App, here’s a great guide to writing a Common App essay that will get you accepted.
Get The Best Letters of Recommendation Possible
A strong letter of recommendation can make an application, so make sure to ask for letters from teachers who know you will and can speak to your academic ability, growth, potential and character. And remember to ask early! Give your teachers enough time to draft thoughtful, in-depth accounts of you as a student and person.
Participate in Extracurricular Activities
The more, the better! You want to demonstrate that you are well-rounded, responsible, and collaborative. The wider your interests, the more impressive a candidate you’ll be.
And it may seem obvious, but as far as test taking, it’s important to start prepping for the ACT and SAT as early as possible. Check out this great, 1-week SAT free trial and 1-week ACT free trial to get you started!
Good luck! We believe in you!
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About Nadyja Von Ebers
Nadyja von Ebers holds an MA in English from DePaul University and has been an English instructor at the high school and college levels for the last eleven years. She has extensive experience teaching preparation for various AP exams as well as the ACT, SAT, and GED. Nadyja loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she's not teaching, she enjoys reading and writing for pleasure and loves spending time in or near the ocean.
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