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How to get into Northwestern University- General Information

Northwestern University is a private research university located in Evanston, Illinois. The student body in the university at large is just over 20,000 — with a Northwestern undergraduate enrollment rate of 8,000. 

What we’ll cover in this How to Get Into Northwestern guide:

  • Northwestern average GPA
  • Optimal Northwestern SAT scores
  • Northwestern application deadline
  • Details on Northwestern Early Decision
  • Northwestern interview
  • Northwestern class of 2025 statistics, and more. 

When thinking about how to get into Northwestern, you should make sure each part of your application—your GPA, test scores, Northwestern interview, and Northwestern supplemental essays—is top-notch. This means keeping your GPA high, studying to ensure strong Northwestern SAT scores, and building up your extracurriculars. To boost your chances of Northwestern undergraduate enrollment, you should start planning well before the Northwestern application deadline. 

Figuring out how to get into Northwestern takes strategy. We can help. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Northwestern graduates. Want to maximize your Northwestern admissions odds?  Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272. 

How hard is it to get into Northwestern?

When thinking about how to get into Northwestern, it’s hard to ignore the acceptance rate. Northwestern is a highly competitive school, with an acceptance rate of 6.8% in 2021. This is the lowest Northwestern acceptance rate in history, which is mostly due to a higher number of applications. 

If you are serious about Northwestern undergraduate enrollment, you may want to consider applying via Northwestern Early Decision. Note that Northwestern Early Decision is binding, so you must attend if offered a place. However, according to Liz Kinsely, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, the odds of being admitted are much higher if you apply in the Northwestern Early Decision cycle. Roughly half of the Northwestern undergraduate enrollment each year is made up of Northwestern Early Decision applicants. So, think carefully about your strategy when selecting a Northwestern application deadline. If Northwestern is your top school, apply by the Northwestern Early Decision deadline. 

Yes, it can be hard to figure out how to get into Northwestern. However, focus on what you can control. Work to craft a strong application that will help you stand out. Regardless of which Northwestern application deadline you select, the university will be a “reach” school for most. 

It also helps to look at the average Northwestern SAT scores and GPA. With a middle 50% range of Northwestern SAT scores from 1460 to 1540 (ACT 33-35), the school receives many impressive applicants. So, you should do all you can to strengthen all parts of your application. 

What is the acceptance rate at Northwestern?

As we touched on in the previous section, when researching how to get into Northwestern, acceptance rates are just one piece of the puzzle. The acceptance rate for Northwestern undergraduate enrollment is 6.8%. Keep this rate in mind as you decide whether to apply for Northwestern Early Decision or the Regular Decision Northwestern application deadline. We’ll cover more on application deadlines below.

What factors tip the acceptance rate odds in your favor? A GPA close to or above the Northwestern average GPA; standardized scores at or above the average Northwestern SAT scores; and other aspects of your application. Ultimately, with a highly qualified candidate pool, Northwestern undergraduate enrollment is a game of chance. However, you can also help your odds by acing the Northwestern interview and Northwestern supplemental essays.

Want to learn more about acceptance rates? Check out our expert guide.

What is the average GPA for Northwestern?

The Northwestern average GPA probably informs your thinking as you figure out how to get into Northwestern. However, the university does not publish the Northwestern average GPA. In fact, Northwestern undergraduate enrollment statistics from either of the Northwestern application deadlines are sparse. 

However, given NU’s high rank and the average Northwestern SAT scores, you should assume that the Northwestern average GPA is at least a 4.0. Though they do not publish the Northwestern average GPA, NU states that the Northwestern undergraduate enrollment is mainly comprised of students who ranked in the top 10% of their senior class. So, in the absence of Northwestern average GPA figures, use class position and the assumption of a 4.0 weighted GPA as your baseline.

Without knowing the Northwestern average GPA, you can still craft an excellent slate of classes. As you choose your courses, aim for two things: academic rigor and academic achievement. The Northwestern average GPA is driven by students who take challenging courses. So, the admissions team looks for students to take a mix of the hardest classes available.

You’ll want to make sure that you’re not only taking rigorous classes, but also succeeding in them. We believe that the assumed Northwestern average GPA is high because students receive high grades in rigorous classes. So, if you’re interested in Northwestern undergraduate enrollment, know that the Northwestern average GPA is high. Then, try to balance your course load, choosing classes that won’t overwhelm you. Click here to learn which high school courses are required for each college at Northwestern.

Read more about Northwestern’s record-breaking Class of 2025 here

What does the Northwestern University application require?

When thinking about how to get into Northwestern, completing the Common App or Coalition App is the first step. Complete each part of your application with detail and care, and leave yourself plenty of time to review your application materials by the Northwestern application deadline. 

The Northwestern Early Decision deadline is November 1 and the Regular Decision Northwestern deadline is January 3.

All First-Year applicants must submit:

Complete and polish these materials well before the Northwestern application deadline. For more information on how to ace the Common App, click here

The Northwestern supplemental essays are required, and we suggest you put time and energy into making your essays the best they can be. Check out our guide for tips on writing your Northwestern supplemental essays. You can also read some essay examples from students admitted to Northwestern and feedback from former admissions officers on why the essays worked. Also, note that Northwestern does not accept or review any other supplemental materials.

What extracurriculars do I need for Northwestern?

If you want to know how to get into Northwestern, the short answer is: be yourself. Northwestern looks for applicants who pursue their interests with zeal. Northwestern undergraduate enrollment officers are looking to admit a diverse class, so let your passions shine through.

Whether you are applying for Northwestern Early Decision or by the Regular Decision Northwestern application deadline, strive to have strong extracurriculars from the start of high school and develop them throughout. Find or create leadership opportunities and investigate paths that could lead to your future major or career. 

There are no “right” or “wrong” activities to do in high school. Instead, Northwestern analyzes your character, interests, and skills through your involvement in different activities. Do you consider yourself a self-starter? Are you compassionate? Are you motivated to solve a specific issue in your community? 

Northwestern undergraduate enrollments are slightly larger than average. In this relatively large community, Northwestern is looking to admit students of diverse backgrounds, interests, religions, and experiences. They believe that each admitted student has the potential to succeed and make a difference. Let your interests tell a compelling story in your application.

Are interviews important for Northwestern?

Your Northwestern interview matters. Though optional, it can provide an additional perspective on who you are as a person. Your Northwestern interview also lets you learn more about the school and what it can offer you.

All Northwestern interviews are done virtually with volunteers from the Alumni Admission Council. Don’t feel disadvantaged if you do not receive an offer for a Northwestern interview—this is simply due to availability. 

When preparing for your Northwestern interview, think about why you want to attend. Be specific and personal! Genuine, authentic answers will be more impactful than answers that are lifted from marketing materials. 

Since your Northwestern interviewer will be an alum, come to the interview prepared with questions to ask. Think of your Northwestern interview as a conversation—they’ll learn about you and, in turn, you’ll learn about them.

Applicants for the Northwestern Early Decision deadline and Regular Decision deadline are eligible for Northwestern interviews. It is an informal conversation between alumni and prospective students to help put a face and a personality with an application. However, your odds of Northwestern undergraduate enrollment will not be lowered for not interviewing. Your recommendation letters and Northwestern supplemental essays also shed light on these more qualitative aspects of your application. 

Click here for a guide to preparing for your Northwestern interview.

Is the Northwestern supplemental essay important?

Northwestern supplemental essays can make a huge difference when planning how to get into Northwestern. Essentially, the strongest Northwestern supplemental essays clearly and concisely answer “Why Northwestern?”

With only 300 words, it’s important to be concise in your Northwestern supplemental essays. Northwestern supplemental essays are among the shortest college essays. So, how can you showcase your identity and interests in the best light? 

Ultimately, the Northwestern supplemental essays let the admissions team measure how you would fit into their next class. They also show NU that you’ve done your research and are likely to attend if admitted. In your essay, make sure you demonstrate that you’ve researched your intended area of study as well as how you would spend your time outside of your courses.

The best Northwestern supplemental essays will think beyond statistics like the Northwestern average GPA and Northwestern SAT scores. Successful Northwestern supplemental essays will emphasize elements of Northwestern’s mission and values. When writing your Why Northwestern supplemental essays, be specific about classes you want to take, research opportunities you want to pursue, clubs you want to join, and places you want to serve.

The key is to remain authentic. In your Northwestern supplemental essays, don’t try to tell Northwestern what they want to hear or portray yourself as someone you think Northwestern would like. All Northwestern supplemental essays will focus on different content, opportunities, and experiences!

Read Northwestern essay examples (and why they worked) by clicking here.

How does Northwestern University review applications?

You are asking, “How to get into Northwestern?” However, the admissions committee is asking, “How will you fit in and succeed at Northwestern?” 

Northwestern undergraduate enrollment officers consider the following three categories when reviewing applications: 

  1. Academic growth and intellectual curiosity
  2. Involvement and community
  3. Personal characteristics

Northwestern SAT scores have become a less weighted component of the admissions process due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For FAQs about the testing policy, click here

Read more about the university’s guidance on Northwestern supplemental essays, Northwestern interviews, Northwestern Early Decision applications, and more by clicking here

Will Northwestern look at my social media accounts?

While thinking about how to get into Northwestern, you may worry about how your social media presence might affect your admissions odds. Northwestern receives tens of thousands of applications each year, so readers usually don’t have the time to look at your social media. 

However, you still shouldn’t post offensive or inappropriate content on social media. Even beyond the college application process, you should use social media responsibly. Our final recommendation is to play it safe. Northwestern likely won’t read your Twitter or check your Instagram, but there’s always an outside chance.

Is Northwestern a good school for me?

When determining how to get into Northwestern, many students think about numbers and statistics, but few think about what the university refers to as the “fit factor.” Basically, Northwestern undergraduate enrollment officers look for students that will thrive on campus and beyond. 

Northwestern has determined that “fit”: 

  • Is not just about who you’ve been or who you are, but also who you will be and who you might become.
  • It is also not about being perfect, but about how your strengths overlap with those of a college or university.
  • Lastly, fit is not static and can change as you develop. 

So if you’re wondering how to get into Northwestern, think about these factors as well as what you think about what NU can do for you in college and beyond. 

To learn even more about whether the Northwestern experience is for you, check out the Northwestern blog

Additional tips to get into Northwestern

  1. Genuine and sincere applications are the most effective. Taking a virtual tour, perusing their YouTube channel, or connecting with current students are all excellent ways to learn about how to get into Northwestern. After determining if Northwestern is a good fit for you, focus your “how to get into Northwestern” strategy on the specific opportunities, classes, professors, and organizations you would engage with there. Try to paint a picture for the admissions team of how you would enrich the Northwestern campus community.
  2. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Don’t wait to implement your “how to get into Northwestern” strategy. If Northwestern undergraduate enrollment is your goal, then you should maintain a strong academic track record, invest in your community, and get involved in extracurricular pursuits early on in high school.

This guide was written by Caroline Marapese, Notre Dame ’22. Cracking the code of how to get into Northwestern is hard. If you want to know how to get into Northwestern, we’ve got you covered. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Northwestern graduates. Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.