FAQs

Click on any of the frequently asked questions below to reveal the corresponding answer. FAQs regarding food allergies and other dietary conditions are also available. In addition, we have faculty FAQs. Please contact AccessibleNU with any questions not included on this page so that we can update it and make it more useful to everyone who views this page.

What is AccessibleNU?

AccessibleNU (ANU), formerly the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (or SSD), is the center that oversees implementation of academic and programmatic accommodations for students with disabilities. Through ANU, students can make arrangements for modifications such as testing accommodations, books in alternate format, assistive technology, auxiliary aids, Sign Language interpreting, and other accommodations as determined appropriate by ANU and the student requesting an accommodation.

How do I know if my condition is considered to be a disability and if I qualify for accommodations?

Any student with one or more conditions that interfere with major life activities may qualify for accommodations. AccessibleNU provides services to students with various conditions including, but not limited to, learning disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, sensory impairments, mobility impairments, diagnosed psychological conditions, chronic medical conditions, life-threatening food allergies, and others. Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis. If you are unsure if you qualify for accommodations, please call the ANU staff at (847) 467-5530, or email AccessibleNU.

I've been admitted to Northwestern! When should I start the AccessibleNU application process?

Congratulations! We look forward to working with you and appreciate your interest in planning ahead and registering with us before your classes start. You are welcome to fill out our online application at any time. You can also submit your documentation--please make sure to indicate that you are an incoming student, your first quarter of enrollment, and your requested accommodations--to ensure it meets our criteria for registering, but please keep in mind the following caveats:

  1. If we are in the midst of a quarter, we need to prioritize the more-than-800 of your future peers who are currently actively working with us. It may therefore be more than three weeks before we have time to review your documentation and contact you to let you know if your documentation is complete.

  2. Related to #1, we will schedule new student intakes for fall incoming students starting around August and continuing through the beginning of the school year. We ask that new students be patient as we complete the year and finish the spring quarter with our current students.

  3. We will not review documentation for students who have not yet accepted Northwestern's offer of admission.

How are reasonable accommodations determined?
To put AccessibleNU in the best position possible to be of assistance in working together to determine accommodations, accommodations should generally supported by documentation from a qualified professional, such as a physician, psychologist, or learning specialist who is unrelated to the student. In general, the documentation you provide must be comprehensive enough to allow the AccessibleNU staff to make informed decisions about reasonable accommodations. It should include the name of the condition, a description of the tests or measures used to determine the condition, a description of how the condition impacts your major life activities, and recommendations for adjustments. Keep in mind, however, that recommended adjustments in your documentation will not automatically be approved as reasonable accommodations by ANU staff. Additional information about our documentation criteria is available. Accommodations will be determined after careful consideration of your documentation, your need for accommodation (which is ascertained, in part, through our intake meeting), and program requirements.
What is the procedure for receiving accommodations at Northwestern?
To be eligible for any accommodations at Northwestern, students must register with AccessibleNU. This means that any student requesting accommodations is required to meet with AccessibleNU staff to review their documentation and cooperatively determine accommodations. Because accommodations are individualized and granted on a case-by-case basis, there are many methods of implementation. Once accommodations have been determined and you have signed an accommodations agreement, accommodations can be implemented in any classes for which you request an accommodation notification. In addition to notifying your professors through ANU, you are asked to meet with each of your instructors in the beginning of each quarter to verify your instructor's receipt of accommodation notification from ANU to discuss details such as whether your instructor can proctor your test or alerting them that assistance is needed soliciting a note-taker.
Does Northwestern offer a foreign language waiver?

No. Northwestern offers no course waivers, for foreign language or other courses, even if you had a foreign language waiver in your previous schooling. However, for students whose disabilities adversely impact foreign language acquisition and who provide documentation that clearly demonstrates this adverse impact, Northwestern has a unique, research-based model of providing individualized support to students while they take required foreign language courses. In fact, many students who are convinced they cannot complete the foreign language requirement for reasons related to their disability are thrilled to be able to do so with the accommodation of a Language Proficiency Advisor. Please see our information on course substitutions for more information. Not all schools at Northwestern have a foreign language requirement, however, so you should confirm the course requirements with your school.

Will any information regarding my disability be printed on my transcript?
No. Even in rare cases where students are approved for course substitutions, no special indicator would appear on your transcript. AccessibleNU follows a strict confidentiality policy. Your identity as a student registered with ANU and the details of your condition are maintained only in the ANU Center, and are released to individuals outside of our immediate Dean of Students colleagues only at your request. This also means that no academic institution to which you transfer or attend after Northwestern, no future employer, nor any other third party would be aware of your condition unless you request, in writing, that ANU notifies that third party.
Will my professors automatically be notified each quarter once I register with AccessibleNU?
No. Only the student can initiate (by requesting online, through our database) the accommodation notification process. You may therefore choose to notify only some professors and choose to request only certain accommodations for certain classes. You may also choose not to notify any of your professors; however, if you request any accommodations, you have a responsibility to request an accommodation notification for your professor and to do so in advance of your request. It is strongly recommended that you notify any professor of any needed accommodation by the end of week 2 of each quarter.
Will the accommodation notification share details about my condition?

No. Accommodation notifications state only that you have provided documentation that meets our criteria for registering and, as such, you have been approved for particular accommodations. (You can also always login to our database and choose the url labeled "My Mailbox" to see the exact verbiage of your accommodation notifications or ask to see what your notifications would say during your initial appointment with AccessibleNU.)

Although we instruct them not to, professors (who are well-intentioned and probably missed out on our guidance) may occasionally ask about your condition; however, you can say you prefer to keep this information to yourself unless you are inclined to share. If professors contact us for information about your condition, we will not share any details without your explicit permission. Instead, when professors call us, we typically ask them to share their concerns and/or gather information about their course (to be in a better position to evaluate possible accommodation alternatives, if needed) rather than sharing any information about students. Our next call is to you to pass along the information and to strategize together about next steps. Please see our confidentiality guidelines for more information.

I'm wondering if I have attention-deficit disorder or a learning disability. How could I find out?

It's important to find an experienced evaluator, which may include neuropsychologists, clinical/school psychologists, psychoeducational or learning specialists, and psychiatrists. A thorough evaluation for learning and attention concerns typically takes at least 6 hours (see our documentation guidelines for learning disabilities and for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, for example), sometimes spaced over multiple days, during which you would be interviewed about your academic and related history and administered a variety of tests. A detailed report should be provided to you afterward.

Because of how involved the evaluation process is, you should be prepared for the fact that it may take a few months to schedule an evaluation as well as a few months after you're tested to receive your report (although some evaluators can provide you with a test score summary to help AccessibleNU make initial determinations about reasonable accommodations). If you contact AccessibleNU, we can provide you with recommendations for reputable, reasonably priced (sometimes even free) evaluators. You can also ask for recommendations through your health insurance provider.

I've heard it can be expensive to get evaluated for a learning or attention problem. Is that true?
Many students are unfortunately deterred from being evaluated for these conditions since evaluations tend to be expensive. Thorough testing also requires at least a full day's worth of time. However, AccessibleNU (ANU) works with reputable local evaluators, including one on-site evaluation resource (the Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning) to establish discounts for NU students, especially if you have Northwestern's student health insurance. In addition, ANU can work with Student Financial Services to try to procure additional grant aid to cover any costs that would be incurred if you choose to be evaluated.
I'm concerned there will be costs associated with getting documentation from my provider to see if I'm eligible to register with AccessibleNU.

If you have a medical condition, it's possible you can procure documentation from Health Service, who can, in turn, fill out AccessibleNU's Medical Disability Verification Form on your behalf. If you have a psychological condition and are connected with Counseling and Psychological Services, the Women's Center, the Family Institute, a therapist there may be able to fill out AccessibleNU's Diagnosed Psychological Conditions Verification Form on your behalf. Most private mental health and medical providers will also fill out these forms at no cost. If you are having difficulty procuring documentation of your condition, please contact AccessibleNU, and we'll work with you and, if needed, Student Assistance & Support Services, Student Enrichment Services, Student Financial Services, and other campus partners to assist.

Should I share my documentation as part of my application or otherwise share about my condition with Admissions?

You should not share your documentation with Admissions since Admissions staff generally do not have training to evaluate documentation, and they will not consider this documentation as part of your application. This means that all Northwestern students, including those registered with AccessibleNU, have met the same rigorous admission criteria. The only potential exception to waiting to self-identify before you've been admitted would arise if you feel your condition may have adversely affected some aspect of your application materials--for example, perhaps your GPA was adversely affected prior to diagnosis and receipt of accommodation. In these cases, you may want to briefly reference your condition and how it impacted you where relevant in an application essay, but you should still not submit your documentation to Admissions.

I am an incoming student planning on taking math courses. How do I receive extended time on my ALEKS assessment?

The ALEKS math assessment does not have a time limit. Email calculus@math.northwestern.edu with questions about the assessment. This assessment is required for all incoming students planning on taking math or chemistry courses.

As an incoming engineering or chemistry student, or as a student planning on taking chemistry courses on campus, how can I receive extended time on the required placement exams?

The chemistry placement exam is required for all incoming engineering students as well as all students planning on taking a chemistry course on campus. The math placement exam, which is separate from the ALEKS assessment, is recommended for all incoming engineering students. In order to receive extended time on either of these placement exams, students should have already completed the Accessible NU intake process. If you have completed this process and are eligible to receive extended time, email accessiblenu@northwestern.edu to notify us of your plans to take the placement exam so that we can coordinate with the placement test coordinators.

If a placement test deadline is approaching and you have not registered with AccessibleNU yet, please complete the first two steps of our intake process, and we may then be in a position to approve you for accommodations on just placement tests. However, you will need to schedule an intake appointment later in the summer or in early fall in order to complete your registration with ANU and to be eligible to receive accommodations in your courses.

Email Dr. Fred Northrup with specific questions about AP/IB credit and the placement exams.

As an incoming student, how can I receive extended time on foreign language placement tests?
Foreign language placement exams are not time-limited. However, the time taken on a given test may factor into a student's placement score. If you have been approved for extra time by registering with AccessibleNU and you feel that your exam took a long time to complete, you can email AccessibleNU and ask us to reach out to the appropriate language department coordinator on your behalf. If you want to reach out to them yourself for any reason, language coordinators' emails are listed on their respective language department pages. As explained in an earlier FAQ, Northwestern does not offer foreign language or any other course waivers.