Is Northwestern Test Optional?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Using a pencil while writing in a desk.

Is Northwestern Test Optional?

Is Northwestern test optional? Up until 2020, undergraduate applicants to Northwestern University were required to submit either their SAT or ACT scores for admission consideration. However, in response to challenges posed by the pandemic, Northwestern has adopted a test-optional policy for the 2022–2023 admission cycle.

While there’s no mandate for applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, they are free to do so. Regardless of their choice regarding the SAT or ACT, students can submit scores from other exams, such as the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programs, for consideration.

Northwestern’s recent shift to a test-optional policy recognizes the disruptions students faced due to exam cancellations and registration caps. As a result, even if a student takes the SAT or ACT, they might not be content with their scores. In such cases, they can request that Northwestern disregard their score during the evaluation process. This preference will be respected in the admissions review, irrespective of Northwestern’s test policy. If an applicant feels their scores aptly reflect their academic potential, Northwestern is willing to consider them.

Students taking a tests in their classroom.

For context, although Northwestern is now test-optional, the combination of high school grades and standardized test scores historically enhanced predictions of academic success in college. This holds true even though grades by themselves are powerful predictors of academic success. So, even as Northwestern transitions to a test-optional policy, the university believes that while applications can be robust without test scores, they still see value in them if students choose to submit.

What is Northwestern’s Current Acceptance Rate?

7 percent of first-year applications submitted to Northwestern University were accepted for the Class of 2026. Northwestern received a total of 51,554 applications for the class of 2026 during both the early and regular admissions cycles. This marks an increase of nearly 4,000 applications compared to the previous year.

Young man smiling while on a hallway.

This year’s acceptance rate is slightly higher than the record low of 6.8 percent set last year. Additionally, Northwestern received 3,420 transfer applications, up from the previous year’s total of 2,855. The university has witnessed a consistent decline in its acceptance rate over the past few years, paralleled by a surge in the number of applications. Between 2010 and 2018, the acceptance rate steadily dropped from 23.1 percent to 8.4 percent. After slight increases in the 2019 and 2020 application cycles, the acceptance rate saw a significant drop the following year, with Northwestern receiving over 8,000 more applications than in 2020.

What are Northwestern’s Admission Requirements?

Although Northwestern University isn’t part of the Ivy League, it exhibits the hallmarks of such institutions, boasting stellar academics and a competitive admissions procedure. With Northwestern moving to a test-optional stance, prospective first-year students should strive to ensure their applications stand out.

Northwestern GPA Requirements

As you weigh your options for attending Northwestern, you’re probably considering the average GPA at the university. However, Northwestern does not publicly disclose its typical grade point average. Furthermore, there’s a scarcity of undergraduate student enrollment statistics available for either of the university’s application deadlines.

Students laughing while walking in the school campus.

Given Northwestern’s high ranking and the average SAT scores of its students, it’s reasonable to assume that its average GPA is around or above 4.0. While the university doesn’t provide explicit GPA figures, it does state that a majority of its undergraduate students ranked in the top 10% of their high school class. Therefore, without concrete GPA figures, gauge your prospects based on your class rank and an assumed weighted GPA of 4.0.

Knowledge of Northwestern’s exact average GPA isn’t necessary to plan a robust academic schedule. Your course selection should focus on two primary goals: academic rigor and achievement. Northwestern values students who not only take challenging courses but also excel in them, as they boost the university’s overall GPA. The admissions committee prefers applicants engaged in the most demanding courses available.

To increase your chances of admission, aim to both participate in challenging courses and achieve high grades within them. We infer that the GPA at Northwestern is high, largely due to students performing well in demanding courses.

Therefore, if you’re considering Northwestern for your undergraduate studies, be cognizant of its probable high average GPA. It’s crucial to find a balance between the effort you invest in your studies and the time dedicated to them.

Northwestern University SAT Requirements

As part of its test-optional policy, Northwestern has chosen not to publish the SAT scores of its class of 2025. However, for the class of 2024, the SAT scores for the middle 50% of admitted students ranged from 1460 to 1540.

Group of students answering a test in a room.

Here’s a breakdown of the SAT scores received by the class of 2024 at Northwestern University:

Section Average Score (50th Percentile) 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Reading and Writing 730 715 745
SAT Math 760 745 775
Total 1490 1460 1540

Only 25 percent of students at Northwestern University had SAT scores below 1460, a score viewed as below average. Conversely, with a score of 1540 on the SAT, you would rank comfortably above the average at Northwestern University.

Northwestern University ACT Requirements

Due to its test-optional policy, Northwestern University no longer requires students to submit their ACT scores. Furthermore, the university has opted not to disclose the official ACT scores for the class of 2025. For perspective, the ACT scores for the middle 50 percent of the class of 2024 ranged from 33 to 35.

For applicants to Northwestern, a composite ACT score of 35 would place you above average, whereas a score of 33 would be considered below average, necessitating a stronger overall application.

Northwestern University Application Requirements

Northwestern University comprises three campuses and twelve schools and colleges, offering an array of graduate and undergraduate degree programs. These programs are meticulously designed to give students a challenging yet supportive learning environment.

The application requirements vary based on the applicant type: first-year students, transfer students, or graduate program applicants. To be considered for admission, you must meet the following criteria:

Application Submission: Choose either the Common Application or the Coalition Application to apply to Northwestern.

Personal Essay: Submit two distinct essays. The application portal provides one, while the Northwestern Writing Supplement will ask why you wish to attend the university. Though you can cover various topics, the primary focus should be on your passions.

Activity Listing: Listing your activities in the application is essential. The Common Application allows up to 10 activities, whereas the Coalition Application permits 8. Prioritize and highlight your most impactful activities. Additional activities can be mentioned in the “Additional Information” section.

School Report and Transcript: An official transcript and school report must be sent by your guidance counselor.

Counselor Recommendation: A recommendation letter from your guidance counselor is needed. This individual might also act as your college advisor, career specialist, or academic advisor.

Teacher Recommendation: Submit a recommendation letter from at least one instructor, preferably from one who taught you a core subject in high school.

Test Scores: Though not mandated for the 2020-21 application year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can choose to submit your SAT or ACT scores. More details about score requirements are provided earlier in this article.

Application Fee: A non-refundable fee of $75 is required upon application submission. Fee waivers are available under certain conditions, which you can review on the provided link.

Early Decision Agreement: This agreement is strictly for applicants applying via Early Decision. If accepted, you are committed to enrolling at Northwestern.

Midyear Transcript: The university also requires the submission of a Midyear transcript once available.

Interviews: Some applicants may opt for the interview process.

Music Audition: Those applying to the music school must undergo an audition.

When is Northwestern University’s Application Deadline?

Submitting your application early under the Early Decision plan indicates a binding commitment to attend Northwestern if accepted. If Northwestern University tops your school choices and you’re prepared with all application materials by November, this approach might be ideal. On the other hand, the Regular Decision plan suits those who are still weighing their college choices and appreciate more time for consideration. This plan allows students the flexibility to apply to multiple colleges throughout the year.

Students lounging in the school grounds.

Historically, acceptance rates for Early Decision applicants have been higher than for Regular Decision applicants.

Application Plan Application Deadline Decision Timeframe Enrollment Date
Early Decision November 1 Mid-December February 1
Regular Decision January 3 Late March May 1

Suppose you seek assistance refining your early applications or need guidance on whether Early Decision or Early Action is right for you. In that case,AdmissionSight boasts over a decade of experience navigating students through the competitive admissions landscape.

Let AdmissionSight help you make a strong impression on this year’s college applications. Reach out to us for more details about our services.



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