Likelihood of getting into Northwestern?

My daughter is very interested in NU, science major, but we are not sure how realistic it is, how much of a reach. Can anyone give some feedback on this? Her stats: GPA in mid-90’s, first SAT is 1280 but she was winging it and is going to focus to take it a second time, top 10% in class (but just barely). Extra curriculars, which may change as senior year gets going, include President of the school’s Natl Honor Society, student representative on the School Board, Secretary of Mathletes, Captain of varsity tennis. Will be involved in an honors program for students interested in health field. We are from upstate NY.

Northwestern is a huge reach for her and unlikely unless she can raise her SAT by 200 points and/or do comparatively better on the ACT. They are test-optional for this year, but without strong accomplishments in her extracurriculars it’s extremely unlikely based on the information you’ve provided.

Is the GPA weighted or unweighted? How competitive is the health honors program? Does she have any awards? How are her practice SATs doing? Why is she interested in Northwestern?


Thanks for the feedback. Yes that was my thought too, though didn’t want to discourage her. Gpa is unweighted but it will be extremely hard to raise the SAT by 200 points, and it is super competitive even with high numbers. No awards.

The college search is a challenge. Her list includes larger universities in urban settings, strong science/biology programs, diverse student body, secular, pretty campus.

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Northwestern has been moving up national rankings for several years now, and the admit rate for the latest round was less than 7%. While I suspect that this had something to do with the test optionality (SAT, ACT), the normal admit rates are still less than 10%. If you account for athletic recruits, faculty/legacy kids, the real admit rate is much smaller.

Standard tests and GPA are always the first screen that admission officers use. With the average hovering around 1490 the past few years, you need to score at least 1450 to have any real shot. Her GPA sounds good, and I would focus on her leadership experience with tennis, etc.

NU has openly advertised that over 90% of admits are top 10% of their high school class, so hard stats really matter quite a bit. Other factors that might help include:

  • Are you an URM family?

  • Are you a first generation college student?

  • Are you applying to a super competitive major/program? NU has a lot of funding on biochem/bioscience related areas, so make sure she does some homework there.

I would suggest your D to NOT submit your SAT unless you can get it to the 1450 range. If she can get there, however, you guys might also want to look at Vanderbilt, Emory, WashU in St. Louis, BU, Northeastern, and possibly Georgetown. If you are also looking at publics, then UCLA/Washington/Georgia Tech could also fit the bill.

Good luck!

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You might want to look at recent versions of the Common Data Set for Northwestern, specifically Sections C9-C11 (and also Section C7, which tells you what academic and non-academic factors are relevant to the admissions decision). The CDS gives information about the matriculated students for a given academic year, and so may provide some information that will allow you to gauge admissions chances, at least in a broad way.


Just an anecdotal example; my son applied to Northwestern in the last admission cycle. 1500 SAT (800 math), 14 AP courses (all 5s & 4s), 7 dual enrollment, top 10 in his class at a US News top 100 high school, and he was All-State all 4 years on a musical instrument. He was denied at Northwestern - didn’t even get waitlisted.


Same here for D20 (similar classes, great ECs, and higher SAT) and she is a triple legacy (I am an NU grad). She applied RD and was denied. We knew if she applied ED, her chances might have been better but it was probably the worst campus tour we had and she was completely not seeing herself there. (She got a merit scholarship at USC so it worked out in the end since we are full pay anyways!)


@CarnegieDad: Great post until the final paragraph which contains a list of suggested schools.

While those schools may be easier than Northwestern with respect to admissions, all are unlikely to admit OP’s daughter based on her current stats & ECs.


USC is great too - much better weather with some strong departments, and the national rankings have improved quite a lot lately, if that matters. It is also on the radar for my kids. At the end of the day, I believe fit is the most important. Congrats to your Trojan!

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Right. I did mention that hard stats are always the first screen, and the OP’s daughter should try to get her SAT to the 1450 range to stand a chance for most of the schools on my list, unless other factors come into play. Thanks and Go Cats!

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hey! don’t be discouraged, I know someone with a 95 weighted gpa at my school w pretty subpar ecs get in last year REGULAR decision which is much harder. her sat wasnt submitted bc they got a 1300 so honestly, you never know. something about her app made her stick out and even though it was a rare situation, take your bet. She also got a lot of aid and only has to pay 5k a year :slight_smile:

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