Frequently Asked Questions
What is the profile of a successful applicant?
The successful applicant plans early. Typically they will have a strong GPA, competitive GRE scores, and strong letters of recommendation from research advisors which demonstrate laboratory and critical thinking skills. Recommendations from undergraduate laboratories, internships, or industrial settings are best. In addition, copies of one's publications list will enhance one's application and should be included, although publications are not required.
What is the deadline for submitting an application?
You should have your application and all supporting materials submitted as soon as possible, and no later than December 1st. Because the faculty admissions committee reviews applications during the fall and winter, your chances of admission is greater the sooner you submit your application and materials. If some of your supporting materials such as GRE scores come in after the December 1st deadline that is fine.
Is the Chemistry GRE Exam a requirement for admission?
No, the GRE Subject Test score(s) is not required but is strongly recommended and viewed favorably by the admissions committee.
Do I need to submit a separate application for financial aid?
No separate application for financial aid is necessary. If you wish to be considered for a financial aid award, please check the appropriate box on the Graduate School Application form. All Northwestern University graduate students accepted into the program are fully funded. All admitted U.S. citizens do need to complete the FAFSA form available online. Each applicant will be considered for all types of financial aid available to the department. All recipients of financial aid are expected to register for a full time program of graduate study. Successful applicants can expect to receive a financial aid package, which typically includes a stipend and full tuition scholarship. Recipients of financial aid may not engage in remunerative work elsewhere except in unusual circumstances and with the permission of the Department Chair and the Dean of the Graduate School.
No awards of financial aid are given in payment for services rendered, and no services are required in connection with any award. All awards are made for the sole purpose of enabling the student.
To pursue full-time graduate work, domestic students must fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Some students are already familiar with this form in association with guaranteed student loans. Domestic graduate students should complete this form to increase their eligibility for grants and fellowships that will request this information for funding. It is not necessary for students to ask their parents for their IRS records. The website will direct the student to answer the questions based on your personal information from the previous year.
What if I am currently attending another graduate school and want to transfer?
The application process for transfer students is the same as for other applicants. However, we do not encourage students to transfer from our sister institutions in the U.S. as this tends to create bad feelings with our colleagues at those institutions. The student should be well aware of the consequences of applying for a transfer before beginning this process. If the student is leaving their institution with a Master’s degree and this is the highest possible achievement there, then he will not be viewed by the Admissions Committee as a transfer student. However, if the student is departing from an institution that offers a Ph.D. program, he will be considered as a transfer.
We do occasionally make exceptions under extenuating circumstances (e.g., if the student has a spouse in our department or their advisor was denied tenure.) If you feel that you meet either of these criteria, you should let us know and have a letter of recommendation from your main advisor. If you are an international student, TOEFL scores are valid for two years only. You will need to ask ETS to forward all of your scores in order to receive financial aid.
When will I be notified whether I have been admitted?
The faculty admissions committee reviews applications during the fall and winter. All decisions will be made no later than April 15th.
Can I apply to begin the program in the spring rather than the fall?
No. We have Fall Admissions only. If you are admitted to the program, you are more than welcome to arrive in the summer to conduct research. You need to find a faculty member who is willing to employ you on a temporary basis. Although you cannot officially commit to joining a group before the advisor selection process in the fall of your first year, students who come early are often invited to join the group in which they were temporarily working.
If I am admitted and then decide that I would like to take a year off, can I defer my start date until the following fall?
Yes. Admission may be deferred up to one year from the quarter of admission. You will need to submit the request to The Graduate School. If you decide to take more than a year off, you will need to reapply to the program.
What can I expect during the visit weekends?
Students who have received an acceptance letter will be invited to attend a visit weekend. Prior to the weekend, each student will be asked to forward the names of four professors they would like to meet with during their stay. Visit weekends typically begin on a Thursday evening and conclude on a Saturday afternoon. Students will be given an overview of the curriculum and requirements. They will also have the opportunity to meet the faculty and tour the facilities. The purpose of the weekend is to give the student a broader sense of the research opportunities available at Northwestern. It is highly recommended that you visit the institution in order to make an informed decision on attending Northwestern.