What is a Non-degree Special Student?

Properly qualified persons who demonstrate a need for certain Northwestern undergraduate day-school courses may apply as Non-degree Special Students (NDSS) through the Office of Special Students.

Please note: If you are interested in taking non-degree classes offered by the School of Professional Studies (evening and online classes), please contact onlinereg@northwestern.edu for Student-at-large Program information.

Both of the non-degree programs listed above are available during fall, winter, and spring quarters only. If you are interested in taking a course during the summer, please visit the Summer Session website: https://sps.northwestern.edu/summer/

The NDSS Program is not a degree seeking program; it’s purpose is to provide an opportunity to enroll in specific courses needed to move on to an advanced degree program, to explore a specific subject area before committing to a degree seeking program, or to allow students who need to be temporarily away from their home university to continue their studies. Application materials will be reviewed by committee for admission into the NDSS Program. Enrollment in the NDSS Program is for a maximum of three consecutive quarters.

While enrollment as a Non-degree Special Student does not constitute admission to a Northwestern degree program, and credit earned as a NDSS may not necessarily count toward a Northwestern degree, NDSS are granted academic credit for successfully completed courses which may be transferable to other institutions.

Enrollment Policies

Courses available to Non-degree Special Students may be offered by the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the McCormick School of Engineering, the Bienen School of Music, the School of Communication, the School of Education and Social Policy, and the Medill School of Journalism.

  • Admission as a NDSS (visiting student) does not guarantee enrollment in all courses: Northwestern undergraduates have priority in registration, course prerequisites must be met, and individual departments have final approval for enrollment.
  • Course auditing is not allowed through the NDSS Program.
  • NDSS may only register during the Change of Registration period (the first week of classes of each quarter) and it is recommended that students have alternate courses in mind should their first choice of classes be closed by that time.
  • NDSS may not enroll in any 399 independent study or graduate level courses.
  • NDSS registration may be restricted in certain schools or departments.

Matriculation Policies

  • Matriculation is allowed for no more than three consecutive quarters.
  • The NDSS Program is for undergraduate courses only and students are matriculated as undergraduates. As such, NDSS earn undergraduate credit for successfully completed courses.
  • Prospective students who intend to  apply to or transfer credits earned as a NDSS to a Northwestern graduate program should consult the Graduate School.

Coursework not available to Non-degree Special Students

  • NDSS admitted through the Office of Special Students are not able to enroll in courses offered through the Feinberg School of Medicine, Kellogg School of Management, School of Law, or  the School of Professional Studies.
  • Students who wish to enroll in courses offered by these schools or programs should consult the appropriate admissions office regarding any available non-degree study options.
  • NDSS are not to be confused with Student-at-large in the School of Professional Studies. The Student-at-large Program is an undergraduate, non-degree program offering evening and online classes through the School of Professional Studies. The NDSS Program is an undergraduate, non-degree program that allows students to enroll in day classes within some schools other than the School of Professional Studies. A student cannot enroll as an SPS student-at-large and a Non-degree Special Student during the same quarter.
  • Students who are already enrolled in a SPS Program working to complete degrees must petition the Student Affairs Committee for permission to take courses in the day-school.

Categories of Non-degree Special Students

All prospective and admitted Non-degree Special Students are responsible for knowledge of the information on this website. Lack of such knowledge will not provide a basis for exceptions to the policies and procedures of the Office of Special Students. Non-degree Special Students are subject to the policies and procedures required for all Northwestern University students, including but not limited to academic integrity, registration policies, and applicable student fees.

U.S. Non-degree Students

  • Students who have previously earned a bachelor's or master's degree but need specific courses to meet advanced degree enrollment requirements.
  • Students enrolled at another school who wish to attend NU before returning to their home university.
  • Students who have not completed a degree or attended college recently, and wish to explore a subject area before returning to a degree seeking program.

For more information visit the U.S. non-degree special students page.

International Non-degree Students

  • Self-sponsored international students (not part of any official exchange program) who wish to attend Northwestern University as Non-Degree Special Students may enter the US in F-1 status provided they have been admitted to a full-time program or course of study.
  • International students who are not part of a formal Northwestern University International Exchange Program.

For more information visit the International Non-degree Students page.

Former Northwestern Students

  • Northwestern graduates
  • Students who did not complete a degree at NU

Former NU students must go through the same application as U.S. Non-degree students. Please visit the U.S. non-degree special students page.

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