Academic Standing, Honors, and Graduation

The decision concerning a student's academic standing is the responsibility of the faculty of the school in which the student is registered. The following definitions will help explain the academic technicalities at Northwestern.

Northwestern strives to maintain high standards of integrity in academic work. Students found guilty of plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty may suffer a range of sanctions, from a grade of F in course work to suspension or permanent exclusion from the University. Students charged with academic integrity violation may not change their registration in a course in which the charge is pending or a finding of academic integrity violation has been made. A brochure on academic integrity violation is available in each school office and in the office of the dean of students.

Grading System

The following system is used in computing the grade point average:

Grade Points
A 4.0
A- 3.7
B+ 3.3
B 3.0
B- 2.7
C+ 2.3
C 2.0
C- 1.7
D 1.0
F 0
K Work In Progress
N No grade, no credit
P Pass with Credit
S Satisfactory
U Unsatisfactory
X Failed to earn credit; missed final exam
Y Failed to earn credit; work incomplete

If a grade of X or Y is to be changed and credit established, the deficiencies must be made up before the end of the following quarter in which the student attends any school of Northwestern, or credit is forfeited. In Weinberg College petitions to change a grade of X or Y are made in the Office of the Dean. A notation of K must be resolved before graduation; an unresolved K will be changed to Y and the grade point average recomputed.


Regular course examinations are held throughout the academic quarter. Midterm examinations often occur during the third to fifth week of the quarter. Final examinations are held during the last week of each quarter. Early final examinations are not permitted. Permission to be absent from the final examination is given by the instructor and the dean only for cause beyond the student's control. Normally such permission must be secured in advance of the date of the examination.

Grade Reports

In compliance with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act , grade reports are no longer mailed home to parents. Northwestern students assume full responsibility for disclosing and discussing their grades with their parents.

Students may download a copy of their quarterly grade report via the online access system CAESAR or they may ask to receive their grades by mail from the Office of the Registrar.

You as a parent may obtain a printed grade report by having your son or daughter print a copy for you using CAESAR or by having your student request that the Registrar mail a copy to you.

Academic Hardships

Academic probation is usually imposed when a student has received two or more grades below a C in any quarter, although each school evaluates individual student records and may take other factors into account. Academic probation is lifted when the deficiencies leading to it have been remedied. There are several points to remember concerning academic probation:

  • Academic probation is intended to be helpful rather than punitive
  • Being placed on academic probation opens a dialogue between the student and the school
  • Academic probation does not become part of the student's permanent academic record

Academic Dismissal

Students may be dismissed for academic deficiencies when they:

  • Are on academic probation and their academic record has not improved significantly during the period of the probation
  • Fail half the work in any quarter or Summer Session
  • Are not making satisfactory progress toward a degree

A student's cumulative academic record will be considered in every case involving academic dismissal. As a matter of general policy, the probationary period for a freshman may be extended to the third quarter of residence, but only if an extension appears to be in the best interest of the student and of the University. Such consideration will not be granted to freshmen whose record clearly discloses lack of aptitude or flagrant neglect of work.

Withdrawal from Northwestern

After registering for classes in any quarter, students who wish to withdraw from the University must immediately file a withdrawal form, available from the Office of the Registrar. The completed form, bearing the required signatures, must be returned to the Registrar's Office. Students who withdraw from the University and wish to return must submit a Returning Student Application Form to the Office of the Registrar six weeks before desired date of reentry.


Students must file a petition to graduate one year before the expected date of graduation. Those planning a June graduation should file their petitions in spring quarter of their junior year. Students in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science file their petitions in the McCormick Records Office; School of Education and Social Policy students go to their school's Office of Student Affairs to file; students in all other undergraduate schools file petitions in the Office of the Registrar. Seniors receive a letter in April of their senior year from the Office of Special Events containing graduation instructions. Receipt of this letter does not imply that all degree requirements have been met. An all-University Commencement is held each June. Schools also host individual graduation convocations.

Academic Honors

Degrees with honors are awarded to the top 16 percent of the graduating class of each undergraduate school, as determined by grades in all work at Northwestern University. Students in the highest 3 percent of the class are awarded degrees summa cum laude; those in the next 5 percent, magna cum laude; and those in the next 8 percent, cum laude.

Departmental honors may be granted to graduating seniors who have done outstanding work in a department in connection with a research project or work of an integrative nature. Students are nominated for these honors by their departments. The faculty of the school concerned makes the final awards.

Dean's List

The quarterly grade point average required for the dean's list varies with each school. Students should inquire in the dean's office of each school.

Honorary Organizations

  • Arts and Sciences: Phi Beta Kappa
  • Communications: Zeta Phi Eta
  • Engineering: Eta Kappa Nu, Kappa Theta Epsilon, Omega Chi Epsilon, Pi Tau Sigma, Tau Beta Pi
  • Journalism: Kappa Tau Alpha
  • Music: Pi Kappa Lamdba