School of Education and Social Policy


The mission of the School of Education and Social Policy is to understand and improve learning communities, defined as groups of people working together in structured social and/or technical environments that influence human development. Learning communities include not only schools and classrooms but also workplaces, families, neighborhoods, and other societal arrangements where learning takes place. Through broad-based interdisciplinary research, teaching, and outreach activities, SESP’s faculty strive to better understand how social, psychological, and economic factors shape human development and learning and how innovations in pedagogy, technology, and social policies can benefit lives. They learn to understand human development and improve learning in its various social contexts by applying the social and behavioral sciences.

The school provides undergraduates with an interdisciplinary curriculum, practical experiences, and research activities that are closely linked to its faculty and graduate programs. Six concentrations lead to the degree of bachelor of science in education and social policy. The intellectual core of the human development in context and social policy concentrations comes from SESP’s human development and social policy graduate program. The intellectual core of the learning and organizational change, learning sciences, elementary teaching and secondary teaching concentrations is grounded in the school’s learning sciences graduate program.

The six concentrations offer preparation for a number of career options. Students are encouraged to design their concentrations with career objectives or graduate and professional school admission policies in mind. They enroll with a wide variety of academic and career goals. Some intend to go immediately to graduate and professional schools, while others plan to enter a profession upon graduation.

Students in Northwestern’s other schools may choose to complete the requirements of SESP’s secondary teaching concentration in order to qualify for teacher certification.

SESP offers advanced degrees and programs in elementary and secondary teaching, higher education administration and policy, applied economics and social and economic policy, learning and organizational change, learning sciences, and human development and social policy.

Academic Policies

Requirements for the Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Social Policy

A minimum of 42 course units are required for the degree of bachelor of science in education and social policy. The concentrations in human development in context, learning and organizational change, learning sciences, and social policy have similar distribution and core requirements, though each has different major courses. The new elementary teaching curriculum follows the Illinois Board of Education requirements, and includes the distribution and core requirements similar to the other concentrations. The secondary teaching curriculum is markedly different, largely due to Illinois Board of Education requirements. 

Grade and Registration Requirements

The following requirements concerning grade point average (GPA) and registration apply to all students seeking the bachelor’s degree:

  • 42 course units are required for graduation.
  • Students are required to maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 in all work presented for the degree. To qualify for teacher certification, students must earn a minimum grade of C+ in all professional core courses/foundational courses and maintain minimum GPAs of 2.5 overall and 3.0 in teaching subject–area. In order to maintain a 3.0 in their teaching subject area, students must earn a minimum grade of C in subject-area courses. Subject-area courses earning a grade of C- or below will require conversation with a student's academic advisor and may require retaking the course. Students in the human development in context, learning and organizational change, learning sciences, and social policy concentrations must earn a minimum grade of C– in all distribution requirements, core courses, and concentration courses.
  • Full-time students may elect to enroll in some Northwestern courses with the understanding that they will not receive a regular letter grade but the notation P (pass) or N (no credit). They may elect 1 unit per quarter under the P/N option, which may be used only toward elective requirements.
  • Not more than six of the grades in courses taken at Northwestern and presented for graduation may be P’s and D’s.
  • Students may double-count up to 3 course units from their concentration toward a second major or an adjunct major and up to 2 units toward a minor. Required related courses in Weinberg College are not subject to these limits. 
  • Students may double-count 1 or 2 course units toward a certificate, if a certificate is over 4 courses. However, certificates that are specifically only 4 courses do not permit any double counting because certificates MUST be four unique courses separate from any other major, minor, or certificate.
  • Coursework taken at institutions other than Northwestern that is to be counted toward SESP requirements must be approved in advance by the stu­dent’s adviser; if a course taken for credit is outside SESP’s curriculum, the relevant academic department at Northwestern must also approve. Students taking community college courses must earn a grade of B or higher for SESP to accept the credit.
  • A student typically may not have more than a total of three majors plus minors: three majors, two majors and one minor, or one major and two minors. Exceptions require permission from the SESP assistant dean for student affairs and are not granted during the first year. This is referred to as the "rule of three." Certificate programs do not account against this limit of the "rule of three."
  • All degree candidates must file an application for the degree with their advisers in advance of their degree completion. The adviser will forward the application, when approved, to the Office of the Registrar.
  • Students who wish to transfer into SESP from another Northwestern school must
    • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 (students in the secondary teaching concentration must maintain minimum GPAs of 2.5 overall and 3.0 in teaching subject–area courses).
    • Attend the appropriate information and orientation sessions and comply with the requirements stated on the interschool transfer application.
  • Students transferring from another university must complete 21 units at Northwestern.

In addition to and independent of the requirements set by SESP, all students must satisfy the Undergraduate Registration Requirement.

Student Resources


In addition to the University regulations regarding academic probation, undergraduate students in SESP are ordinarily placed on academic probation when, in any one quarter, they do not meet the SESP requirements. SESP students must work with the Undergraduate Advising Team to meet the conditions set by their probation and address the academic concerns that resulted in probation. Expectations and supports are shared with students in a probation letter and in a meeting with their adviser. For more information on SESP's probation process, please visit the SESP website under the Courses, Registration and Grades menu. 

Petitions for Course Substitutions

Students must petition if they wish to request a change in any of the SESP degree or specific course requirements of SESP. Petitions can be submitted via email or discussed in person with the student's adviser. No petition is considered unless it is approved by the student’s adviser. 

Additional requirements are stipulated on the SESP website. All students are expected to be familiar with and observe these policies. When requirements or policies change, notification is provided by e-mail.

Academic Options

SESP concentrations are interdisciplinary and flexible, allowing many undergraduates to enroll in University-wide programs or to pursue up to two additional majors, one additional major and one minor, or as many as two minors along with their concentration. Options include the five-quarter Certificate in Civic Engagement Program and the Summer Field Studies Programs administered by SESP; Many students also elect to spend one or more quarters in a University-approved study abroad program.


Students who maintain records of academic distinction may qualify for the honors program. Any student who has attained a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above after winter quarter of the junior year is eligible for provisional admission to the program beginning in spring quarter of the junior year. Students considering both study abroad and the honors program must plan their study abroad programs accordingly.

Students who successfully complete SESP 391-0 Advanced Research Design in spring quarter of the junior year and are recommended for the honors program may formally enter the honors program by registering for SESP 398-0 Senior Thesis Seminar in fall quarter of the senior year. In this three-quarter program students work with a faculty adviser on a research project. If progress is satisfactory, students are eligible to register for SESP 398-0 Senior Thesis Seminar in winter and spring quarters of the senior year. Grades are based on performance throughout the program and on readers’ evaluations of the project report. All honors students present their projects to SESP faculty, students, and guests at a poster session at the end of the year. Students earn 3 units for successful completion of an honors thesis. They receive departmental honors only on the recommendation of the faculty adviser and the approval of the program director.

Education and Social Policy and Music Dual Degree

Students in any SESP major except undergraduate teaching are able to earn a dual degree in education and social policy and music, developing their passion for music as a tool for creating change in learning environments, human relationships, organizations, and the field of social policy. For details of the five-year program, please see Dual Bachelor's Degrees.

Many programs offered by other Northwestern undergraduate schools or across the University are popular among SESP students. They include the following:

Student-Organized Seminar

As its title denotes, SESP 298-0 Student Organized Seminar is a course in which the topic, reading list, assignments, written examinations, prerequisites, and meeting schedule are proposed by students in consultation with a faculty sponsor. Proposals must be submitted by the posted deadline and approved by the director of undergraduate education before the seminar can be offered.

Undergraduate Research

The school’s curriculum includes a variety of innovative learning opportunities. Students taking SESP 390-0 Research Apprenticeship complete an apprenticeship as assistants in faculty research projects. In SESP 399-0 Independent Study students carry out their own independent research under faculty supervision. Additional information about undergraduate research opportunities and faculty research projects may be obtained through the academic advisers in the SESP Student Affairs Office and on the SESP website.

Student Resources

Academic Advising

Each student is assigned to an adviser in the SESP Student Affairs Office. Advisers are responsible for helping students plan academic programs that meet the requirements for completion and graduation. Advisers also help students make use of academic, professional, and personal development resources. Students consult with faculty as well about research and professional interests. Students are encouraged to meet with their advisers at least once per quarter to develop an individualized plan of study. 

Organizational Involvement

The SESP Leadership and Programming Board plans events and projects to improve the undergraduate experience, with committees for professional and academic opportunities, student experience and inclusion, and community engagement. More information is available on the SESP website and in the SESP Student Affairs Office. 

Support for Research, Special Projects, and Experiences

The SESP Undergraduate Opportunities Fund provides support for special academic projects and community endeavors that students or student organizations undertake either on their own or under a faculty member’s direction.

Students who pursue research may also seek support from the G. Alfred Hess Jr. Fund to defray the costs of data collection and analysis, travel, equipment, and other expenses directly related to their projects.

The Munger Family Practicum/Student Teaching Assistance Fund helps students with financial need afford the additional expenses incurred during their practicum or student teaching. Examples of expenses include transportation.

Applications for all SESP financial funds are through the SES One Form.