Northwestern Enrollment

August 17, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Northwestern Enrollment

How Many Students Are Enrolled At Northwestern?

Northwestern accepts applicants from a variety of social, racial, and economic backgrounds who have demonstrated academic excellence. Northwestern’s National Merit Scholar enrollment rate recently ranks among the highest in the country, and more than 90% of undergraduate applicants are among the top 10% of their high school classes. Now let’s tackle how many students are enrolled at Northwestern.

Northwestern enrollment for this year has more than 8,000 full-time graduate students and 8,000 plus full-time undergraduates. The University has about 21,000 students enrolled in total, including part-time students.

What Is Northwestern’s Acceptance Rate?

A total of 51,554 applications were submitted to Northwestern enrollment for the Class of 2026. Compared to 2021, when 47,663 students applied to NU, there have been around 4,000 more applications. In contrast to the Class of 2024, which had an admission rate of 9.02 percent, Northwestern University’s Class of 2026 accepted only 7% of all candidates.

Male and female student leaning on a bookshelf.

Early Decision applicants have made up about half of the incoming class in recent years. 4,411 candidates applied for Early Decision, a figure that increased by nearly 9% for the Class of 2026. As more students choose for the binding ED option to increase their chances, these figures reflect a broader trend this year at colleges. So, what is Northwestern’s acceptance rate for the Class of 2026? Let’s take a glance at the admissions rate over the past three classes at Northwestern.

Class Total Applications Accepted Total Applications Received Overall Admissions Acceptance Rate
2026 3,609 51,554 7%
2025 3,239 47,633 6.80%
2024 3,542 39,261 9.02%

What GPA Is Required for Northwestern?

Northwestern expects you to be at the top of your class with a GPA of 4.1. To compete with other applications, you’ll need to receive almost all A’s. To demonstrate your capacity to excel at academic difficulty, you should also have completed a significant number of AP or IB classes.

It will be difficult to change your GPA moving forward if you are junior or senior. If your GPA is below what GPA is required for Northwestern, you’ll need a higher SAT score to make up the difference and demonstrate that you’re capable of handling the intellectual demands of college. This will give you a competitive advantage over other applicants.

Is Northwestern Test Optional for 2023?

What recent changes has Northwestern made to its approach to standardized testing? Is the Northwestern test optional for 2023? These are the questions that might keep you wondering upon creating your plan for Northwestern enrollment. Up until 2020, Northwestern required SAT or ACT scores from undergraduate candidates in order to consider them for admission. The test-optional policy is extended until the 2022–2023 admission cycles to help students navigate testing and college entrance issues throughout the pandemic. SAT or ACT scores are optional; applicants are not required to submit them.

Students taking an exam in their desk.

A student may submit extra, optional test results (such as those from Advanced Placement or the International Baccalaureate) for review consideration whether or not they want to submit their SAT or ACT scores.

Is it advisable for applicants to provide their test results even though they are not necessary if they are qualified to take the exam?

NU acknowledged that the cancellations and registration caps have interfered with students’ ability to take several exams and interrupted their study plans. Therefore, even if a student is able to take the SAT or ACT, they can be unhappy with their results and prefer that the school will not take that into account while reviewing their application. There is no requirement for candidates to report their scores, and Northwestern will accommodate that applicant’s preference.

However, if you believe your test results accurately reflect your intellectual potential, you may submit them.

What Are The Requirements for Northwestern Enrollment?

Standardized Test Scores

For the 2022–2023 cycle, first-year and transfer applicants at Northwestern will not be required to take the test.

There is no preference for either test if students decide to take the SAT or ACT, and they will review a “superscore” for both exams. This implies that for students who take the SAT or ACT more than once, the system will average the best results from each section across all test dates to create a “superscore” that will replace the best result from a single sitting in our database. Although not required, applicants are welcome to report their test results from all test dates.

Reporting ACT Results

  • Northwestern will take into account any individual section scores for students who take the new ACT section tests (available in September 2020). To report a legitimate superscore, you can use ACT’s brand-new superscore reporting feature.

Self-reporting SAT and/or ACT Results

  • Students may self-report their SAT and ACT scores, but they are asked not to compute their own ACT superscore. Instead, they should report their highest ACT section scores and their highest composite scores from a single test date, and the system will compute the ACT superscore for them. Before matriculation, accepted students who decide to enroll must present official SAT or ACT results that attest to their highest self-reported section/composite scores.

Read further to see what are the requirements for Northwestern enrollment.

Character Reference Letters

TIP: People who can best describe your variety of skills and strengths should write letters of recommendation for you.

Two letters of recommendation are required. Your high school counselor should write one letter. The person who can best speak to your whole high school curriculum and involvement within the setting of your high school may be your college counselor, guidance counselor, academic advisor, career center specialist, or another person. The second recommendation letter should come from a teacher who can best speak about your skills as a learner in the classroom. This recommender should ideally be a teacher from one of your key subject areas, and they should be in their junior or senior year.

Northwestern accepts additional letters of recommendation if you have a reference who would like to submit one on your behalf. It is to your best advantage for each letter to reveal something fresh or unique about you.

Personal Essay

Essays present an opportunity because they are one of the few components of your application that you have control over and are not reliant on past performance.

Writing essays is a fantastic way to express oneself and think creatively. Essays from the Common Application or Coalition Application and the Northwestern Writing Supplement essay are required of all applicants to Northwestern. You have the opportunity to respond fully to each question thanks to the proposed word limit guideline, which also pushes you to write succinctly and clearly.

Young man using a laptop while studying.

Students are asked to provide a justification for choosing Northwestern in the writing portion of the Northwestern Writing Supplement. This inquiry is meant to be open-ended. Although the majority of the essay’s content should be related to your own interests or experiences, you may choose one or more areas of Northwestern to concentrate on in your writing.

Activities Part

You have the chance to be meticulous about the scope and depth of your involvement, in whatever capacity, on the activity map.

You have the opportunity to describe any extracurricular activities you have participated in outside of your high school courses on the activity chart. Give as much information as you can, explaining any acronyms or abbreviations that could be specific to your school. Include details about any leadership roles you’ve held and any honors, awards, or distinctions you’ve gotten on the activities chart as well. There is no “correct” response as to the types of activities the school prefers to see. Due to the more than 500 organizations and activities, Northwestern values a wide variety of activities and the diversity of student interests.

Special Situations

Use the Common Application’s “Additional Information” section to offer any details that may have had a major impact on your academic performance or other activity.

You may include information about any unique or noteworthy events that may have interfered with or adversely impacted your academic achievement in high school in the “additional information” section of the Common Application. Your high school counselor may also use the Counselor Recommendation to provide this information if he or she is aware of these situations. You can send a brief explanation by email to if you have any extra circumstances that need to be taken into consideration.

Choosing Between Early and Regular Decision

TIP: Applying Early Decision places you in the best position possible amid a competitive application pool if Northwestern is a school you would attend without hesitation if admitted. Regardless of when you apply for financial aid, your aid package will be the same since we employ the same need-based system for early decision and regular decision awards.

Young man looking at his laptop.

You are strongly advised to think about applying Early Decision if Northwestern is your top choice and you feel comfortable doing so. Both early and regular decisions are subject to the same review standards. Both cycles have a very strong applicant pool. Northwestern enrollment was made up of over 50% of the incoming freshman cohort through early decision last year.

Financial help is distributed by Northwestern based on verified financial need. Whether you submit an application during the early decision or normal decision period, your financial aid (including scholarships) will be the same if you receive an admission offer. To calculate your projected family contribution, please use Northwestern’s Net Price Calculator. Between your estimated family contribution and the total cost of attendance, Northwestern guarantees to cover 100% of the demonstrated need.

Meetings and Interviews

TIP: Although alumni interviews are optional and available in some places, admissions staff members do not conduct interviews.

Alumni interviews are an optional step in the application process that is only occasionally offered. Your file will have input from alumni, but not attending an interview won’t hurt your chances of getting accepted. Interviews with alumni are mostly informative and provide applicants the chance to ask questions.

How To Get Into Northwestern?

1. Take the most difficult classes you can while maintaining the greatest GPA attainable.

The average GPA of students accepted into the class of 2025 may not be published by Northwestern, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in your GPA. GPA, class rank, and course rigor are the only three factors that the institution considers “extremely important.”

Academic Index is used by highly selective colleges to expedite the admissions process after receiving a flood of applications. The institution employs the Academic Index to distinguish between academically qualified applicants and those who fall short by condensing an applicant’s academic credentials into a single figure. If your academic index falls outside of Northwestern’s range, you won’t be taken seriously as an application.

Students must enroll in the most difficult courses available if they want to remove the Academic Index bar from their transcript. At top 10 institutions like Northwestern, it’s typical for students to have taken upwards of 12 AP courses over their high school careers.

2. Aim for an ACT of 35 and a SAT of 1540.

The SAT and ACT middle 50% ranges for admitted students at Northwestern are 1430–1440 and 33–35 respectively. Any score in the middle of 50% is good, but your chances of admission improve as you approach the top end of the range. It is a wise move to take the SAT/ACT numerous times in order to increase your chances of admission because Northwestern will super score both of them for those who take them multiple times.

3. Create interesting essays.

Essays are the best method to stand out from the crowd if you’ve passed Northwestern’s academic bar. Essays are an opportunity, as Northwestern University states on its applications portal website. The Common Application and Coalition Application essays carry a lot of weight for Northwestern enrollment.

If we’re talking about how to get into Northwestern, submitting a writing supplement should not be missed. Northwestern also encourages all candidates to do so. The question for the additional essay is: we can tell a lot about you from other aspects of your application, but we’re particularly interested in learning more about how you plan to interact with the Northwestern community.

4. Develop one or more Tier 1-2 extracurricular activities (identify your “spike”).

Compared to other top 10 colleges, Northwestern places less importance on extracurricular activities, yet it still views them as “essential.” However, they’re still a great method to stand out from the crowd and emphasize your unique qualities.

Even though all extracurriculars can shed light on your interests outside of the classroom, some are more impressive than others in the admissions process. Understanding the effects of your extracurricular activities is simple when using the 4 Tiers of Extracurriculars. Choose one or two top-tier activities rather than a number of unconnected, less outstanding ones. For instance, having a “spike,” or strongly developed interest can increase your chances of earning Northwestern enrollment.

The 4 Extracurricular Tiers are as follows:

  • Tier 1 displays extraordinarily high standards of achievement and leadership. These extremely uncommon accomplishments include receiving national recognition or award.
  • Activities in Tier 2 exhibit high levels of leadership and accomplishment but are more frequent than those in Tier 1. Examples include being a leader in a well-known club or being chosen for the all-state team in music or athletics.
  • Activities in Tier 3 emphasize a student’s interests more than they do distinctions. These endeavors include serving in small leadership roles in well-known clubs or achieving less impressive feats like being the captain of a varsity sport.
  • The most prevalent and least significant extracurricular activities are those in Tier 4. These include of volunteering generally as well as taking part in a club, sport, or musical ensemble.

5. Use the Early Action/Early Decision process.

Early decision (ED) applications to Northwestern are accepted at a rate of 25% compared to the university’s overall acceptance rate of 6.8%, which is a benefit. Simply put, applying for early decision is one of the best methods for qualified students to increase their chances of being accepted at Northwestern.

Early decision doesn’t work for everyone, despite increased acceptance rates. Early choice is legally binding, and by submitting an ED application to Northwestern, you are committing to going there if approved. As a result, you are unable to compare financial aid packages from other schools.

For applicants who are certain that Northwestern is the school they want to attend and can afford it, early decision is generally a solid option.

6. Submit letters of recommendation.

Northwestern requests two letters of recommendation from candidates and views them as “essential” when making admissions decisions. One letter needs to come from your high school advisor, who can comment on your high school activities and curriculum. This person could be a career center expert, college counselor, guidance counselor, or academic advisor. The second reference has to come from a professor in a crucial subject from your junior or senior year who can speak to your academic strengths.

Young woman typing on a laptop in a desk.

Follow these general guidelines to make it as simple as possible for teachers, who are not paid for their time in producing recommendation letters:

  • Give them plenty of time to complete the letter; it’s best to give them a few months’ notices.
  • Give them all the material they require to compose a convincing letter; a CV, transcript, or remembrance of an important event are all helpful.
  • Once it’s written, be sure to express your gratitude; it’s normal to provide a modest gesture of your appreciation, such as a gift card or something homemade.

If you’ve been thinking if Northwestern is a “fit” for you, you might want to check how the school defines what is “fit”:

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

If Northwestern, or any other school, is your top choice in college, don’t stress yourself thinking if you “fit” their institution. You can and you will; as long as you are willing to change and progress for the better. AdmissionSight could also help you in improving your college application materials and manage your anxiety about applying to college. To start, we can answer any questions you have in our initial consultation. AdmissionSight is waiting for you!


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