Northwestern Admissions: The SAT Scores, ACT Scores, and GPA You Need to Get In

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Northwestern University has a lot going for it. It’s ranked #9 in Best National Universities. For aspiring pre-med students, it has arguably the best combined BS/MD program in the nation. And it’s located just north of Chicago on a jaw-droppingly beautiful campus located right on Lake Michigan. Sold? Cool. Let’s jump right in and take a look at exactly how to get into Northwestern University.

Will you need to be an academic rockstar to call yourself a Wildcat? The short answer is yes. We’ll cover every aspect of how to get into Northwestern, but first, here are some facts about Northwestern admissions.

Quick Northwestern Admissions Statistics

Northwestern SAT scores (average composite)
1495 out of 1600
Northwestern ACT scores (average composite)
34 out of 36
Northwestern GPA (average of admitted students)4.1 out of 4.0
Northwestern acceptance rate6.8% for the class of 2025.

As you can see, the Northwestern admissions board means business, and Northwestern is extremely selective. But if you’ve got the academic chops, you just may stand a chance of getting accepted.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at exactly what you’ll need to make your application irresistible to Northwestern University.

A Note About Northwestern’s SAT and ACT Policies in Light of Covid-19

Because many ACT and SAT testing dates were cancelled, Northwestern will temporarily be test-optional.This policy will remain in place for first-year applicants for the 2020-2021 application cycle.

Assuming everything will return to normal for the next application cycle, the below information reflects the SAT and ACT typical requirements for Northwestern University.

More About Northwestern SAT Scores

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to submit SAT scores to Northwestern:

  • Northwestern accepts SAT or ACT scores, but you can submit both if you’d like.
  • You may self-report your scores, but are required to submit official scores upon acceptance and attendance.
  • You may report your highest scores on each section across all of you test dates.
  • SAT subject tests are optional for most programs and required for the Honors Program in Medical Education and the Integrated Science Program.
  • The SAT Essay component is optional.

You can read more about Northwestern’s testing policies (including but let’s move on to the good stuff…

What do you actually need to score for a good chance of getting in?

The average composite SAT score of students admitted to Northwestern University is an impressive 1495. For a better idea of your actual chances with various scores, here are the percentiles:

  • The 25th percentile for Northwestern SAT scores is 1450.
  • The 75th percentile for Northwestern SAT scores is 1540.
  • What does this mean? If you score a 1450 or lower, you’ll be below average compared to the other applicants. On the other hand, if you score a 1540 or higher, you’ll be above average.

    So for the best chance of getting accepted, you’ll want to score a 1540 or higher.

    As far as the percentiles for each SAT section:

    SectionAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile
    Math 765740790
    Composite 149514501540

    Since you can self-report scores in each section across multiple testing dates, we advise aiming for the 75th percentile score for each section. To help you reach such heights, check out the stories of students who nailed the perfect SAT score!

    More About Northwestern ACT Scores

    If you plan to submit ACT scores to Northwestern:

    • You should self-report your highest composite test score overall (from one particular test sitting).
    • The Writing test is optional.
    • As far as a composite ACT to aim for, 34 is it, and as far as the percentiles:

    • The 25th percentile for Northwestern ACT scores is 33.
    • The 7th percentile for Northwestern ACT scores is 35.

    This means a 33 or lower will place you below average compared to other applicants while a 35 or higher will place you above average.

    That said, we recommend taking the ACT as many times as necessary to crack a 34. It’s a tall order, but we believe in you!

    ACT Section25th Percentile 75th Percentile

    Keep in mind that regardless of which test you take and how well you do, your test scores are only part of the equation for how to get into Northwestern University.

    More About Northwestern’s GPA Average

    The average high school GPA of students admitted to Northwestern University is a 4.1.

    To earn a GPA north of 4.0, you’ll have to be at the top of your class, earning straight-A’s all the way.

    A good way to raise your GPA and push it over the 4.0 mark is to earn A’s in honors, IB, and/or AP courses. Depending on how your high school calculates GPA, A’s in these types of courses are awarded a higher value. In fact, it’s a good idea to take as many challenging, college-level courses as possible during high school. Excelling in them indicates to Northwestern that you are ready for the rigor of their academics.

    Here’s something super important to keep in mind though: it’s very difficult to change your GPA beyond your sophomore year. So if Northwestern is your dream school, you’ll have to hit the ground running with straight-A’s early on.

    Northwestern Acceptance Rate

    Historically, Northwestern has always had a low acceptance rate, but in recent years, there has been a slight uptick.

    For Northwestern’s class of 2024, Northwestern received 39,261 applications and accepted 3,542 students. This marks a 9% acceptance rate.

    What can you take form this information? Well, that even with slightly rising acceptance rates, you’re going to have to be a really well-rounded and impressive candidate if you want to call yourself a Wildcat! Check out the following advice from Transizion expert Ashley C. on how to make yourself shine in a pile of impressive applications:

    how to get into northwestern

    “You might think a highly selective school like Northwestern only cares about your grades and test scores. Not true! Among other considerations, admissions officers say they highly value ‘the fit factor.’

    What is the fit factor, you might ask? At Northwestern, the admissions team defines it as ‘a story you tell us about how you see yourself thriving on campus.’ They want to know how you envision yourself learning from, plugging into, and contributing to the school community.

    Luckily, you have the perfect opportunity to discuss these points in the ‘Why Northwestern?’ essay. Here are some tips:

    • Do your research. Find specific classes, professors, experiences, and opportunities that would help you benefit from and contribute to Northwestern.
    • Write about characteristics and opportunities that are unique to Northwestern, not just something you can find at any college!
    • Personalize it. Instead of just raving about why Northwestern is so great, envision yourself at Northwestern. Why is Northwestern particularly great for you personally? The admissions team explains that most of this essay should focus on your own interests and experiences (and how these make you a good fit for Northwestern).
    • If the word count allows, add a sentence or two about your post-college future. Once you’re done learning and contributing at Northwestern, how will you use the skills you’ve acquired to contribute to the world?’

    Northwestern Freshman Profile

    So who are these phenomenal students who have recently been admitted to Northwestern? The class of 2022 freshman profile (the most recently released information out there) can give us some insight:

    According to the data about the students in the class of 2021 (admitted last fall):

  • 56% are white
  • 23.5% are Asian
  • 13.5% are Hispanic or Latinx
  • 10.1% are Black or African American
  • 11.1% are international
  • 1% are American Indian, Pacific Islander, or Alaska Native
  • Other Northwestern Admissions Requirements and Info

    Moving on to the application process, let’s talk about what you’ll actually need to submit to Northwestern in order to apply.

    Here’s a super helpful overview of Northwestern’s undergraduate admissions requirements. Included are specific instructions for transfer students as well as students applying to various honors, engineering, science, music, and musical theatre programs.

    Otherwise, here’s a handy checklist of exactly what you’ll need to provide (and a printable version of this checklist):

    • A formal application, either through The Common Application or The Coalition Application
    • Your high school transcript(s) and school report(s)
    • At least one letter of recommendation from an academic teacher who knows you well (more on this later!)
    • A $75 application fee or application fee waiver
    • A mid-year report

    Additionally, you may need to provide the following:

    • A music audition (if you’re a School of Music applicant)
    • 3 SAT subject tests (if you’re a homeschooled student)
    • TOEFL or IELTS scores (if you’re an international student whose first language is not English)

    Northwestern FAQs

    These Northwestern application FAQs cover pretty much anything you could possibly wonder about during the application process, but here are a few other commonly asked questions about applying to Northwestern University:

    Does Northwestern accept AP credit?

    Yes. You can read more about AP and IB credits accepted at Northwestern or consult this awesome credit recognition chart that details exactly how much credit is awarded for particular grades on particular exams.

    Does Northwestern offer financial aid?

    Yes, Northwestern offers various types of financial aid including scholarships and grants. You can also consult Northwestern’s most recent financial aid brochure and read this guide to completing a FAFSA application.

    Is Northwestern need-blind?

    It sure it. This means your need (or lack thereof) for financial assistance will not affect your application in any way.

    How to Get Into Northwestern University

    While there’s no magic formula for getting into Northwestern, here’s our distilled breakdown of exactly how to get accepted:

    • Earn a 1540+ on your SAT
    • Earn a 34+ on your ACT
    • Have a 4.0 or higher GPA

    And beyond the numbers, here’s what you can do to make your application stand out:

    Make Your Writing Sparkle

    Your personal essay is hands down the key to an amazing application. It’s your chance to create a compelling and vivid picture of who you are and what you can contribute to Northwestern’s community. Your essay should be thoughtful, unique, well-developed, organized, and polished, so spend ample time crafting and revising. If you choose to submit a Common App, here’s a great guide to writing a Common App essay that will get you accepted.

    Get The Best Letters of Recommendation Possible

    A strong letter of recommendation can make an application, so make sure to ask for letters from teachers who know you will and can speak to your academic ability, growth, potential and character. And remember to ask early! Give your teachers enough time to draft thoughtful, in-depth accounts of you as a student and person.

    Participate in Extracurricular Activities

    The more, the better! You want to demonstrate that you are well-rounded, responsible, and collaborative. The wider your interests, the more impressive a candidate you’ll be.

    And it may seem obvious, but as far as test taking, it’s important to start prepping for the ACT and SAT as early as possible. Check out this great, 1-week SAT free trial and 1-week ACT free trial to get you started!

    Good luck! We believe in you!

    Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

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    • Nadyja Von Ebers

      Nadyja von Ebers is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. Nadyja holds an MA in English from DePaul University and has taught English and at the high school and college levels for twelve years. She has a decade of experience teaching preparation for the AP exams, the SAT, and the ACT, among other tests. Additionally, Nadyja has worked as an academic advisor at college level and considers herself an expert in all things related to college-prep. She’s applied her college expertise to posts such as UCLA Admissions: The SAT Scores, ACT Scores, and GPA You Need to Get in and A Family Guide to College Admissions. Nadyja loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she's not teaching, she enjoys reading and writing for pleasure and loves spending time in or near the ocean. You can connect with her on LinkedIn!

    By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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