Frequently Asked Questions

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. Current students should contact their academic adviser. Prospective students should contact the enrollment advising team.
Quick Links:
Application Recommendation Letters Learning Online
Tuition and Fees GRE Scores Financial Aid
Transcripts International Students Careers
Statement of Purpose Admission Campus Safety


Graduate School Application

For general application instructions and deadlines visit the Admission page

I have interests in more than one program. Can I apply to two programs?
No, you may only apply to one program at a time. 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. Graduate applicants who are currently in their final semester and/or quarter of undergraduate study OR meet the required number of semester/quarter hours completed can be reviewed by the admissions committee for conditional admission.

What will happen to my application if I miss the deadline?
Applications are valid for one year from the date of original submission. If your application remains incomplete for more than one year from the original submission date, 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 posted in the application portal and mailed approximately four to six weeks after the application deadline.

How do I contact you if I need more information?
To arrange an appointment with an enrollment adviser, please call the School of Professional Studies at 312-503-2579.



Graduate School 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 Finance page.

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 Finance at 847-491-5224 or at 312-503-8503.

Do you offer application fee waivers?
To ensure equal treatment of all applications, your application will not be considered without the required application fee.




What official transcripts am I required to submit? 
Applicants are required to submit transcripts from all institutions attended.

For instructions on how to submit official transcripts please visit the Admission page

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 admission 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. 

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 their 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. Letters of recommendation are not recommended from friends or family. 

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?
To pursue a graduate degree at the School of Professional Studies, an applicant must hold a U.S. bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or foreign equivalent.

Official transcripts from institutions outside of the U.S. are required to be evaluated by a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). Applicants are required to have an official course-by-course evaluation completed. The course-by-course evaluation will serve as the official transcript for studies completed outside of the U.S. 

Northwestern University School of Professional Studies will only accept official course-by-course evaluations if the evaluation explicitly indicates that the individual’s course of study is the U.S. equivalent of a bachelor’s degree (or master’s degree).

For additional instructions on what is required for the official course-by-course evaluation visit the Admission page

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?
It is not necessary to also submit an original transcript issued by the non-U.S. institution.

Will the School of Professional Studies issue me a student visa upon acceptance into a certificate or degree program?
International students currently in the U.S. on other types of visas may not require a student visa if their current visa permits part-time study (e.g. L-1B, L-2, H-1B, or H-4). If you are in the U.S. on a visa other than an F-1 or J-1 visa, please speak with your visa sponsor to confirm your ability to enroll and study at SPS.

Students that are admitted to the accelerated MPPA, accelerated MSDS, or accelerated MSIS programs are eligible to apply and receive a student visa.

International students in these Chicago campus accelerated programs are eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) opportunities. International students in accelerated MSDS or accelerated MSIS programs are also eligible for the F-1 STEM OPT Extension opportunity. Students are responsible for obtaining an internship or job for CPT and OPT authorizations, however the academic program will provide networking opportunities for students during the course of the year. Please note that full-time CPT requests will not be approved due to the accelerated nature of the academic program. Interested students can check their eligibility for these programs by contacting Northwestern ‘s Office of International Student and Scholar (OISS) Services.

SPS does not process I-20 or DS-2019 forms for any other certificate and degree programs as they 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?  
In order for a TOEFL or IELTS test score to be waived, applicants must provide an official course-by-course evaluation where the language of instruction is indicated as 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. For the TOEFL, applicants must score 100 or higher on the internet based test. For the IELTS, applicants must receive a score of 7.0 or higher on the Academic IELTS exam. SPS's institutional code for the TOEFL is 9019

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.



Graduate School 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 an enrollment adviser 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. 

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.

If you are enrolled in the Accelerated MPPA program, you must take 3 or 4 courses per quarter.



Earning an Online Master's Degree

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 for Northwestern SPS Graduate Degrees

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. Please note that depending on course availability, students may need to take a break for one or two quarters to maintain the two-credit minimum course load requirement for financial aid.

As at most universities, Northwestern University aid, assistantships, and stipends are reserved for PhD and MFA 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.



Career Options After Earning a Master's Degree

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 advisers. SPS academic advisers provide resume review, program-tailored career advice, and help connect students to additional resources.

Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) is a comprehensive career services office that provides an extensive range of career coaching, counseling, programming and resources to all Northwestern University degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students. Current students are encouraged to work with NCA throughout their program and 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.  A hard copy of the University's Annual Security Report(s) is available upon request by calling 847-467-6171. The Report can also be accessed and printed from the University Police.



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