A private, nonprofit institution founded in 1851, Northwestern University is recognized nationally and internationally for the quality of its educational programs at all levels. Innovative teaching and pioneering research take place in a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary environment that combines the resources of a major research university with the level of individual attention of a small college.

Approximately 20,000 full- and part-time students are enrolled on Northwestern’s lakefront campuses in Evanston and Chicago and branch campus in Qatar. More than 8,300 undergraduates study at the University’s largest campus in Evanston.

The University’s 3,300 full-time faculty members range from Nobel Prize laureates to Tony Award winners. In their ranks are members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Council of Learned Societies, and numerous other honorary and professional societies.

The some quarter-million alumni include Pulitzer and Nobel Prize laureates, Academy Award winners, and leaders in education, government, science, law, technology, medicine, media, and other domains. 

A Historical Overview

A year after nine Chicagoans met to establish a uni­versity “of the highest order of excellence” to serve the people of America’s Northwest Territory, Northwestern Uni­­ver­­sity was officially incorporated in 1851. In 1853 the founders purchased a 379-acre tract of farmland along Lake Michigan 12 miles north of Chicago as a site for the new university. The town that grew up around Northwestern was named Evanston in honor of John Evans, one of the University founders.

North­western began classes in fall 1855 with two faculty members and 10 male students. In 1869 it enrolled its first female students, thereby becoming a pioneer in the higher education of women. By 1900 the University was composed of a liberal arts college and six professional schools, including the schools of law and medicine, with a total of 2,700 students. In the 20th century, schools were added in management, engineering, education, journalism, and continuing studies. With the establishment of the Graduate School in 1910, Northwestern adopted the German university model of providing graduate as well as undergraduate instruction and stressing research along with teaching. Recent years have seen a proliferation of academic programs and the opening of the Qatar campus.

Today Northwestern enjoys a position as one of the country’s leading private research universities.

The Undergraduate Experience

Academic Excellence

Despite their relatively small numbers, Northwestern undergraduates enjoy a great range of educational choices, including more than 200 formal academic concentrations as well as opportunities to do research and special projects, study abroad, and pursue internships. Students frequently complete two majors or two degrees, and some construct and receive approval for their own programs of study. About three-fourths of Northwestern’s undergraduates engage in internships, practicums, paid cooperative education programs, applied research, study abroad, and other off-campus experiences, often for academic credit. All benefit from a level of faculty involvement unusual for undergraduates at major universities, with faculty teaching a large proportion of classes as well as inviting students to participate in research.

At the heart of a Northwestern education is the belief that a solid foundation in the liberal arts is essential, regardless of one’s future plans. Students in all six undergraduate schools may take courses in science, mathematics and technology, individual and social behavior, historical studies, the humanities, and fine and performing arts. Moreover, Northwestern’s emphasis on effective communication, regardless of field of study, fosters the ability to think analytically and write and speak clearly and persuasively.

Northwestern’s many interdisciplinary research centers have profound implications for undergraduate education. Their research often alters theory and practice within an academic discipline and leads to new curricula. More immediately, many research centers have special programs for undergraduates, who may apply for research grants to fund independent scholarly projects. In recent years many new research centers have been established, especially in science and technology. See research.northwestern.edu for a list of the University’s research centers.

Other academic resources available to Northwestern students include the 10th-largest library collection among US private universities (www.library.northwestern.edu). Northwestern University Information Technology supports students’ academic needs with extensive online services, computer labs, and wired and wireless access from nearly anywhere on campus (it.northwestern.edu).

Underpinning the breadth of a Northwestern education is the quarter system, which gives students the opportunity to take more courses than under a traditional semester system. Most undergraduates attend for three quarters each year (fall, winter, and spring). They typically take 4 courses each quarter and 12 courses in an academic year.

Outside the Classroom

In its extracurricular offerings as well as in its academic programs, Northwestern encourages its students to develop holistically and to prepare for life in a diverse, interconnected, and rapidly changing world.

Supported by the Center for Student Involvement, the more than 500 extracurricular groups include organizations devoted to service on campus and in the community, cultural awareness and support, musical and theatrical performance, entertainment programming, political activism, career preparation, and countless mutual interests. The full list is available at northwestern.campuslabs.com/engage.

A charter member of and the only private university in the Big Ten conference, Northwestern sponsors 19 intercollegiate athletic teams (8 men’s and 11 women’s), as well as intramural, club, informal, and instructional sport and fitness programs. Fitness centers provide state-of-the-art facilities for exercise and recreation. Northwestern students even have their own beach and the opportunity to take sailing lessons.

About 4,000 undergraduates live in University-owned on-campus student residences that range widely in size, age, character, and suite arrangements; another 800 live in fraternity or sorority houses, and the remainder live off campus. Services available to undergraduates include counseling and psychological services, healthcare, career advising, and assistance in identifying employment, internship, and external-funding opportunities. Specialized offices and resource centers serve students with disabilities, LGBTQA students, international students, members of various religious denominations, women, and African American, Asian/Asian American, and Hispanic/Latino students. For all programs offered by the Division of Student Affairs, see northwestern.edu/studentaffairs.

In addition to enjoying numerous opportunities on campus, students benefit from Northwestern’s location in the first suburb north of Chicago. Downtown Evanston offers restaurants, shops, and a multiplex movie theater, and the cultural, entertainment, and sporting events of America’s third-largest city are just a short train ride away.

Student Demographics

Northwestern recruits students of demonstrated academic achievement from diverse social, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. More than 90 percent of applicants rank in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and Northwestern’s National Merit Scholar enrollment rate has recently ranked among the nation’s highest. About one in ten applicants is accepted.

All 50 states and more than 70 countries are represented among the undergraduate student body. International students make up roughly 10 percent of the class of 2019. More than 43 percent of the first-year class come from underrepresented backgrounds. About 62 percent of students receive financial assistance.

Both the federal government and the National Collegiate Athletic Association use as a measurement for reporting purposes the graduation rates of entering classes over six continuous years. Such rates at Northwestern have remained above 90 percent since 1991–92. See www.registrar.northwestern.edu/academic_records/enrollment_and_graduation_statistics.html.

Campuses and Schools

The six undergraduate schools on the Evanston campus offer the programs and courses described in their respective sections of this catalog. Undergraduate study may lead to the bachelor’s degree as a final academic goal or to graduate or professional study.

Northwestern is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (www.hlcommission.org). Some schools have additional accreditation, as noted in the following sections.

Evanston Campus

The schools and other institutional divisions, in order of establishment, are as follows:

  • The Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (1851) offers the degree of bachelor of arts. Majors and minors are available through departments and interdisciplinary programs spanning the arts and humanities, foreign languages, mathematics and statistics, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. Through Northwestern University School of Professional Studies, Weinberg College also offers the degrees of bachelor of philosophy and bachelor of science in general studies.
  • The School of Communication (1878), with departments of communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, performance studies, radio/television/film, and theater, offers a bachelor of science in communication degree and a bachelor of arts in communication degree. Through Northwestern University School of Professional Studies, the School of Communication offers the bachelor of philosophy in communication. The school also offers the degrees of master of science in communication, health communication, leadership for creative enterprises, nonclinical audiology, and speech, language, and learning as well as the doctor of audiology degree. Its programs are accredited by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the National Association of Schools of Theatre.
  • The Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music (1895) offers the degrees of bachelor of music, bachelor of arts in music, and bachelor of science in music. In its graduate division the school offers the master of music and doctor of musical arts degrees.
  • The J. L. Kellogg School of Management (1908) offers undergraduate certificates in financial economics and managerial analytics as well as the master of business administration degree. MBA students may choose from many majors, which are listed at kellogg.northwestern.edu/faculty/academics/majors. In addition to the full-time MBA program, Kellogg offers a part-time evening or weekend MBA program on Northwestern’s Chicago campus, an executive MBA in Evanston and Miami, and international executive MBA programs in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. There is also a PhD program; see kellogg.northwestern.edu/programs/doctoralprogram. In addition, a wide range of nondegree executive education courses are offered at the school’s James L. Allen Center on the Evanston campus as well as in Miami. Kellogg is accredited by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business.
  • The Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science (1909) offers the bachelor of science degree in applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, environmental engineering, industrial engineering, manufacturing and design engineering, materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, and integrated engineering studies. All departments offer advanced study for graduate students. The McCormick School also offers master’s degrees in analytics, biotechnology, engineering man­agement, information technology, product design and development management, and project management. Select McCormick programs are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
  • The Graduate School (1910) administers advanced programs leading to the degrees of doctor of philosophy, master of arts, master of fine arts, master of public health, and master of science. Degree requirements and descriptions of individual graduate degree programs and curricula can be found through the school’s website, tgs.northwestern.edu.
  • Summer Session (1920) provides summer programs for undergraduate, graduate, and visiting students.
  • The Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications (1921) offers the bachelor of science degree in journalism, master of science degrees in journalism and integrated marketing communications, and an undergraduate certificate in integrated marketing communications.
  • The School of Education and Social Policy (1926) offers the bachelor of science degree in education and social policy with concentrations in human development in context, learning and organizational change, secondary teaching, learning sciences, and social policy. It offers master of science degree programs in education (MSEd) with concentrations in elementary, secondary, and advanced teaching; in higher education administration and policy (MSHE); and in learning and organizational change (MSLOC). School programs administered by the Graduate School offer MA and PhD degrees in human development and social policy and in learning sciences. Its teacher education programs are accredited by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Chicago Campus

Schools and institutional divisions on the Chicago campus, in order of establishment, are as follows:

  • The Feinberg School of Medicine (1859) offers the degrees of doctor of medicine, doctor of physical therapy, master of medical science, master in prosthetics-orthotics, and bachelor of science in medicine. High school graduates accepted for the Honors Program in Medical Education can receive a Feinberg MD degree seven or eight years after they enter Weinberg College, the McCormick School, or the School of Communication. The Feinberg and McCormick Schools cooperate in biomedical engineering programs; joint degree programs with the Graduate School and the Kellogg School offer an MD degree as well as MA, MS, MPH, MBA, and PhD degrees. The Feinberg School has accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, American Psychological Association, American Board for Certification in Prosthetics and Orthotics, American Physical Therapy Association, and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
  • The Northwestern Pritzker School of Law (1859) offers the degrees of juris doctor (JD), master of laws (LLM), master of studies and LLM in international human rights, LLM in taxation, master of science in law, and doctor of juridical science. An accelerated JD program allows select motivated students to complete the JD in two calendar years. The Pritzker School and the Kellogg School offer a joint degree program allowing students to earn both JD and MBA degrees in three years. Another joint program with Kellogg permits international and foreign-trained students to earn an LLM degree and a certificate in business administration in one year. Students also may participate in a five-year program to earn a JD and a PhD in one of the social sciences. In addition, the Pritzker School offers an LLM degree to executive students in Seoul, South Korea; Madrid, Spain; and Tel Aviv, Israel. The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and the Association for American Law Schools.
  • Northwestern University School of Professional Studies (1933) is the continuing education division of the University, providing adults an opportunity to return to school part-time or full-time on evenings and weekends. Classes are offered on the Chicago and Evanston campuses, in the Chicago Loop, and online. In addition to postbaccalaureate and professional development certificates and master’s degrees, the school offers courses leading to the degrees of bachelor of philosophy and bachelor of science in general studies, conferred by Weinberg College; and the degree of bachelor of philosophy in communication, conferred by the School of Communication. For a complete list of degrees awarded, please visit www.registrar.northwestern.edu/academic_records/nu_degrees_awarded.html. SPS administers Summer Session programs for the University and is the home of the Center for Public Safety and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Northwestern University in Qatar

Northwestern’s 12th school and only overseas campus is based in Education City, Doha, Qatar. In addition to liberal arts instruction, the school offers bachelor of science degrees conferred by the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the School of Communication. For more information about Northwestern University in Qatar, please visit www.qatar.northwestern.edu.