Northwestern University Admissions Statistics

Learn About Northwestern and the GPA and SAT / ACT Scores You'll Need

University Hall
University Hall at Northwestern University. Bruce Leighty / Getty Images

Northwestern University has highly selective admissions with an acceptance rate of just 9 percent. Students will need strong grades and standardized test scores to get in. To apply, prospective students will need to submit an application including SAT or ACT scores, high school transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation. The university accepts the Common Application and Coalition Application.

Northwestern University ranks among the top Illinois colleges, top Midwest colleges, and top national universities. It is also one of the nation's most selective colleges.

Why Northwestern University?

  • Location: Evanston, Illinois
  • Campus Features: Northwestern's attractive 240-acre campus sits on the shore of Lake Michigan and includes a lakefront park. Downtown Chicago is just 12 miles to the south.
  • Student/Faculty Ratio: 6:1
  • Athletics: The Northwestern Wildcats compete in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference.
  • Highlights: One of the most highly-ranked universities in the country, Northwestern is a major center for both research and education. With a nearly $10 billion endowment, the school does well providing grant aid for qualifying students.

Northwestern Admissions Statistics 2017-18

For students who entered Northwestern University in the 2017-18 academic year, the acceptance rate was 9 percent. Below are SAT scores and ACT scores for admitted students organized by score percentile.

SAT Score Percentiles
Section 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
ERW 700 770
Math 720 790
ERW=Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

If you compare SAT scores for top universities in the United States, you'll see that only a handful of schools have admissions standards that are equal to or higher than those at Northwestern.

ACT Score Percentiles
Section 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
English 32 34
Math 32 34
Composite 32 34

An average ACT score is a 21. Northwestern's typical scores of 32 or higher places applicants in the top 5 percent or 6 percent of all students who took the exam.

Northwestern University GPA, SAT Score, and ACT Score Graph

Northwestern University GPA, SAT score, and ACT score data for admission.
Northwestern University GPA, SAT score, and ACT score data for admission.  Graph courtesy of Cappex

The Northwestern University GPA, SAT score, and ACT score data in the graph was self-reported by applicants to the university. Grades are unweighted. You can see the real-time graph and calculate your own chances of getting into Northwestern with a free account at Cappex.

Discussion of Northwestern's Admissions Standards

In this graph, the blue and green dots representing accepted students are concentrated in the upper right corner. Most students who got into Northwestern had "A" averages, SAT scores (ERW+M) above 1250, and ACT composite scores of 26 or higher. The reality is that about 75% of successful applicants have SAT scores around 1400 or higher and ACT composite scores above 30. Also realize that a lot of red dots are hidden beneath the blue and green— many students with impressive transcripts and high standardized test scores get rejected from Northwestern (see below). So even if your grades and scores are on target for admission to Northwestern, make sure you have some back-up plans.

At the same time, keep in mind that Northwestern has holistic admissions—Northwestern's admissions folks are looking for students who will bring more than good grades and standardized test scores to their campus.If you have some kind of remarkable talent or have an interesting background, your application will certainly get a close look even if your grades and test scores aren't quite up to the ideal. A winning essay, strong letters of recommendation, and interesting extracurricular activities all contribute to a successful application. But be realistic—students with a "B" average and middling ACT scores aren't likely to get into Northwestern.

You'll also want to put plenty of care and thought into your supplemental "Why Northwestern?" essay. If you write an essay that is generic and could be sent to any top university, you haven't done the assignment well. This is your big chance to demonstrate your interest and show that specific features of Northwestern University align with your interests and aspirations. 

Northwestern Waitlist and Rejection Data

Northwestern University rejection and waitlist data
Northwestern University rejection and waitlist data.  Graph courtesy of Cappex

This graph of rejection and waitlist data shows the painful reality of Northwestern University admissions. Once we strip away the blue and green accepted student data from the Cappex graph, we can see that the rejection data points extend all the way to the upper right corner of the graph. Students with 4.0 unweighted averages and stellar ACT/SAT scores still get rejected from Northwestern.

Typically strong students don't get in because their applications didn't convince the admissions folks that their passions, interests, and personality make them a perfect match for Northwestern. If your application doesn't reveal the meaningful ways you might contribute to the campus community, then you might find yourself with a rejection letter even if your numerical measures were all in the top 1 percent. It's for this reason that all applicants should consider Northwestern a reach school.

More Northwestern University Information

Northwestern's extremely high price tag might discourage many students from applying, but keep in mind that the school also has an $11 billion endowment. The typical financial aid package for qualifying students will often put the cost in line with public universities with the added benefit of less reliance on student loans.

Enrollment (2017)

  • Total Enrollment: 22,008 (8,700 undergraduates)
  • Gender Breakdown: 49 percent male / 51 percent female
  • 94 percent full-time

Costs (2017 - 18)

  • Tuition and Fees: $52,678
  • Books: $1,660 (why so much?)
  • Room and Board: $16,047
  • Other Expenses: $2,595
  • Total Cost: $72,980

Northwestern Financial Aid (2016 - 17)

  • Percentage of Students Receiving Aid: 61 percent
  • Percentage of Students Receiving Types of Aid
  • Grants: 54 percent
  • Loans: 17 percent
  • Average Amount of Aid
  • Grants: $44,247
  • Loans: $7,024

Academic Programs

Graduation and Retention Rates

  • First Year Student Retention (full-time students): 98 percent
  • 4-Year Graduation Rate: 84 percent
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 94 percent

Intercollegiate Athletic Programs

  • Men's Sports: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Golf, Soccer, Swimming & Diving, Tennis, Wrestling
  • Women's Sports: Basketball, Cross Country, Fencing, Field Hockey, Golf, Lacrosse, Soccer, Softball, Swimming & Diving, Tennis, Volleyball

If You Like Northwestern University, You May Also Like These Schools

Applicants to Northwestern University often apply to other top universities in and around Chicago including the University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, and Loyola University Chicago. Loyola is the least selective of these schools.

Note that the majority of Northwestern applicants do not restrict their searches to narrow geographic areas and tend to apply to top-ranked universities across the country. Other popular options include Stanford University, Georgetown University, Vanderbilt University, and Cornell University. Just keep in mind that all of these schools are extremely selective, so you'll want to make sure your college wish list includes a few schools with a lower admissions bar.

Data Source: National Center for Educational Statistics