Graduate Program Area

Graduate FAQs

Below is a list of the most commonly asked questions, grouped by category. If you find that you still do not have an answer to your question, please contact us.

Application

For general application instructions and deadlines visit the Admissions page. For application information specific to a program please visit that program's admissions page.

I have interests in more than one program. Can I apply to two programs?

No, you may only apply to one program per quarter. Some programs allow you to take courses in more than one curriculum.

Can I apply to a program and get a decision before I finish my bachelor's degree?

You may apply to a program while you are in the process of finishing your bachelor's degree. In order to complete your application, applicants must submit a final official transcript with a bachelor degree conferred. The only applicants that may be reviewed prior to completing their undergraduate degrees are current Northwestern University students who are in their final quarter of undergraduate study.

What will happen to my application if I miss the deadline?

If your application remains incomplete after more than four quarter deadlines, your application will be purged, and you will need to begin the application process again.

How soon after the deadline will I receive a decision?

Decisions are mailed approximately three to four weeks after the application deadline.

How do I contact you if I need more information?

To arrange an appointment with the admissions coordinator, please call the School of Professional Studies at 312-503-2579.

Tuition and Fees

How much does the program cost?

Tuition information can be found on the tuition page for each graduate program.

What is the process if my employer pays part of my tuition?

The University's Employer Reimbursement Plan (ERP) is designed for students whose employers offer reimbursement for tuition charges. The plan allows participants to defer their employer-covered tuition payments to Northwestern until after the term has been completed. For detailed information about ERP and to download an application form, visit the Office of Student Accounts.

When is tuition due?

Shortly after your registration, your account and any financial aid information will be visible on CAESAR.

What if I have questions about my bill?

You should contact the Office of Student Accounts at 847-491-5224 or at 312-503-8503.

Do you offer application fee waivers?

To insure equal treatment of all applications, your application will not be considered without the required application fee.

Transcripts

My former school will not send me transcripts in sealed envelopes to enclose with the rest of my application materials. What should I do?

Many schools will issue documents in sealed envelopes directly to the student. You may also request that your transcripts get mailed directly to us and we will include them with your application. You may inquire with your previous institutions regarding their capabilities to email secure and official records. If so, the Registrar may send official records to: spsadmissions@northwestern.edu

I took one course during the summer from a different university. Do I have to send the transcript for that one course?

Yes. You will need to submit all of your official transcripts from any previous college or university where you attempted academic work.

Should applicants with previous military experience submit a JST transcript?

Yes, prior military service should be indicated in a resume as well as a submission of an official JST transcript.

May I send documents to the School of the Professional Studies before I submit my application?

Yes. Documents that arrive before your application are held in a pending file until the application and fee are submitted. Anything sent separately from your application should include the name under which you are applying and the name of the program to which you are applying.

Statement of Purpose

What are you looking for in the statement of purpose?

The admissions committee wants to see a strong argument for why you are a good fit for the program. Tell us who you are, what you want to achieve and why you think the graduate program will get you there. Keep your statement close to the 300-word limit. Please view the program admissions page for additional tips.

How important is the statement?

We look at all the materials in an application carefully to get a holistic impression of an applicant and try to gauge his/her chances for success in the program. The statement is especially important because it is one of the few pieces of the application that you create. You can't change your transcripts, but you can be sure to craft a strong and logical statement. Please note: a statement of purpose is also a writing sample, so be sure it is error free and well written.

Recommendation Letters

How can I get a strong letter of recommendation?

Educate your recommenders about the program and your goals. Write your statement of purpose first. When you have made a convincing case for admission in your statement, share that with potential recommenders. That way, they know what talents of yours they can highlight to support your statement.

I have been out of school for several years and there is no one there who can write a recommendation for me. Can I get my employer to write one?

The purpose of submitting letters of recommendation is to give the admission committee an indication of your ability to succeed in the program. It is recommended that at least one of the letters speak about your academic potential. Do not assume that no one remembers you at your undergraduate college, though it may take some work to reach a former professor. If you are unable to obtain a letter from a former instructor, you should ask someone who you think can best assess your potential for graduate study in your particular program area. 

I want to send more than the required number of letters of recommendation because I feel this will enhance my chances of being offered admission. Does this indeed help?

It is not how many letters of recommendation you send but the information contained in these letters that contributes to the overall strength of your application. Send the required number of letters but choose these recommenders well. 

GRE Scores

Is the GRE required for admission?

No, GRE scores are not required, but strong scores bolster chances of admission for any applicants possessing weak academic credentials. Test scores (GRE, GMAT, TOEFL) should be sent directly from the testing agency to Northwestern University School of Professional Studies. Our Designated Institution Code for the GRE is 6256.

International Students

I did my undergraduate work in a foreign country. How close to a U.S. bachelor's degree does it have to be?

In order to be eligible for admission to SPS as a graduate student, you must have completed the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor's degree. You are required to have all transcripts for coursework complete in a foreign country evaluated by a NACES member credential evaluating agency which will translate courses, degrees and grades to U.S. equivalencies (Please also see the section on Transcripts above.)

Do I have to send an original copy of my transcript from the non-U.S. institution as well as the course-by-course evaluation?

Applicants with international transcripts must request an official course-by-course evaluation of those transcripts from a NACES member. A course-by-course evaluation will translate courses, degrees and grades to U.S. equivalencies. The evaluations must be prepared for Northwestern University School of Professional Studies and must arrive in our office in a sealed envelope issued by the evaluator. It is not necessary to also submit an original transcript issued by the non-U.S. institution.

Can I get a student visa if I want to be a non-degree or Visiting Scholar student?

SPS does not process I-20 or DS-2019 forms for full-time student or exchange visas. Our degree programs are designed as part-time programs for working professionals and cannot be used to maintain legal status in the United States.

I am a foreign student but my undergraduate work was taken at an English-speaking institution abroad. Will the TOEFL or IELTS score requirement be waived?

TOEFL or IELTS scores are not required for students who have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited four-year institution or equivalent where the language of instruction is English.

Is the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) the only exam that you accept?

SPS accepts both the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. Tests must be taken no more than two years before the intended quarter of entry. For the TOEFL, applicants must score 600 or higher on the paper-based test, 250 or higher on the computer-based test, or 100 or higher on the internet based test. SPS's institutional code for the TOEFL is 9019. For the IELTS exam, applicants must receive a score of 7.0 or higher.

My TOEFL score is more than two years old, so the Educational Testing Service (ETS) will not send official scores to you. Will you accept a photocopy?

SPS will not accept a photocopy of a score report. Additionally, TOEFL scores must be taken no more than two years before the intended quarter of entry.

Admission

If I am not admitted, can I be reconsidered for another quarter?

If you were denied admission, you may reapply in any future quarter in which you have substantially new materials to submit. This can be to your advantage, enabling you to amass additional and better academic credentials, more substantial letters of recommendation, or further professional experience. If you wish to speak with the admissions coordinator at SPS about your application, please call 312-503-2579 to make an appointment.

I have been admitted for one quarter but I have decided to begin studies in a different one. What do I need to do?

Newly admitted students may defer their first enrollment for up to three quarters before being required to apply again. It is not possible to start your studies earlier than the intended entry quarter selected in your application.

I have decided not to attend Northwestern. Do I need to let you know this?

If you will not be registering for classes, please contact the Registrar's office at onlinereg@northwestern.edu.

I have moved since I received my letter of admission. How do I change my address with you?

Please notify us in writing of any changes to your application. Email (to spsadmissions@northwestern.edu) is acceptable.

When will I get more information on registration?

Registration information will be included in your admission packet.

How many classes may I take per quarter?

Students generally take one or two units of credit per quarter, but may take up to four.

Learning Online

What is it like to earn a master's degree online?

At Northwestern University School of Professional Studies (SPS), we believe that an effective distance education should be based on theories of learning and cognition that are purposefully and strategically incorporated into the learning environment. In this way, students’ academic experiences within any given program are cohesive and consistent, yielding deep and meaningful learning. Learn more about online learning at SPS.

Financial Aid

Are part-time students considered for financial aid?

Students in master's degree programs may qualify for federal or private loans. Federal loan eligibility is usually limited to students taking at least two units of credit in the quarter for which they receive aid. As at most universities, Northwestern University aid, assistantships and stipends are reserved primarily for PhD candidates.

Graduate students should direct their financial aid questions to the Chicago Office of Financial Aid at 312-503-8722.

What about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form? [The FAFSA pertains only to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.]

The FAFSA form is not required as part of your application, but we encourage all U.S. citizens and permanent residents to complete the FAFSA online if they would like to be considered for any loans.

Careers

Does the School of Professional Studies offer career guidance and career-related advising?

SPS degree-seeking and certificate students are encouraged to discuss their career goals with their academic advisors. SPS academic advisers are available to help with job search strategies, resume review, and provide program-tailored career advice.

Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) is a comprehensive career services office on the Evanston campus that provides an extensive range of advising, programming and resources to all Northwestern University degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students. Recent alumni have access to NCA for six months post-graduation.

Campus Safety

Where can I find a copy of Northwestern's Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics?

As provided by the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, now known as the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, you are entitled to request and receive a copy of Northwestern University's Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. This Report includes statistics for the previous 3 years concerning reported crimes that occurred on campus; in certain off-campus buildings or property owned or controlled by Northwestern University; and on public property within, or immediately adjacent to and accessible from campus. The Report also includes institutional policies concerning campus security, such as policies on drug use, crime prevention, the reporting of crimes, sexual assault, fire safety and other matters. You can obtain a copy of this Report by contacting the Northwestern University Police Department Deputy Chief at 847-491-3256. The Report can also be accessed and printed from the University Police.