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Application Frequently Asked Questions

Jump to answers to the most common questions about the Northwestern Study Abroad Application, organized by topic:

If you have additional application questions not addressed here, feel free to call the Study Abroad Office at 847-467-6400 or schedule an appointment with a Study Abroad Adviser.

Study abroad programs

1. How many programs can I apply to?

You may apply to up to two programs - in one or two countries - per term, using the same application. See the Choosing a Program page for help narrowing down your program choices.

2. If I list second choice program, can I decide later to attend it as opposed to my first choice program?

In general, the order in which you list the programs on your NU Application is not binding. If you are approved for - and accepted to - more than one program, you may choose to attend either your first or your second choice program.  Most programs require a confirmation deposit after acceptance to confirm your attendance. All students are also required to submit a Program Confirmation Form prior to studying abroad to inform us which program you will attend.

4. Can I apply to two consecutive study abroad programs in different locations during the same academic year?

Although Northwestern encourages students to remain in one location for the entire year for optimal cultural and language immersion, students with a compelling academic rationale may be granted permission to study consecutively on two programs in two different locations (e.g., fall in France and winter/spring in Morocco). Contact your Study Abroad Adviser to discuss your plans prior to applying.

5. Can I apply to a program that is not affiliated with Northwestern?

Northwestern strongly encourages students to apply to participate in Northwestern-Sponsored and affiliated programs, but students may be granted permission to apply to an unaffiliated program if they have a strong academic rationale. For more information, carefully review the Unaffiliated Programs webpage for academic year programs and the Non-NU Summer Program page for summer programs.

Required Approvals

What approvals are required on my study abroad application?

All Students:

  • School Representative's signature
    Information on whom to contact can be found in the School Approval section of your Northwestern Study Abroad Application.
  • Student signature
    You must carefully read and electronically sign the Student Agreement in the Northwestern Study Abroad Application.

Other Signatures that may be required:

  • Major/Minor Adviser's signature
    Students who have a declared major or minor in WCAS must obtain the signature(s) of their major/minor adviser(s) in the Department Approval section of the Northwestern Study Abroad Application. MMSS students and HPME students must have a program adviser sign in the Departmental Approval section of the Northwestern Study Abroad Application.


1. How many essays do I need to write?

All applicants must respond to one multi-faceted personal statement; details are provided in the Northwestern Study Abroad Application. Responses should address all of your program choices.

Additional Essays:

  • Students with GPAs below 2.5 must write an additional essay explaining why their GPA fell below 2.5 and provide a plan for improvement.
  • Students applying to study abroad for the Full Year (fall & winter/spring) on two programs in two countries must write an additional essay explaining their academic rationale.

2. May I exceed the word limit?

If your essay exceeds the word limit by just a bit, it is acceptable. If you significantly exceed the prescribed limits, please shorten your essay.

Students with a GPA below 2.5

1. What additional materials do I need to submit?

  • Your School Representative will need to provide a Letter of Explanation (detailed in the Northwestern Study Abroad Application).
  • You will need to write an additional essay explaining why your GPA fell below 2.5 and a plan for improvement (detailed in the Northwestern Study Abroad Application).
  • You will need to obtain a Letter of Recommendation from a professor or TA you've had in class.


1. How do I obtain the unofficial transcript required for the NU Application?

You can access your unofficial transcript in CAESAR: Academic Information - My Academics. Click the "go" button to view your unofficial transcript, and click the printer icon at the top of the page. Make sure your entire transcript prints (all terms, grades, and GPA) and does not get cut off. You should save it as a PDF to later upload into your Northwestern Study Abroad Application.

2. My program application requires an official transcript. How do I request one?

The easiest way to request an official Northwestern transcript is online via CAESAR: For Students - Academic Information - Request Official Transcript. Official transcripts requested through CAESAR are mailed the next business day or are available for pickup the next business day after 3:00 pm.

You may also request an official transcript by mail, fax, or over the counter in the Office of the Registrar. In these cases, processing time is approximately five business days. You can find additional information on requesting transcripts at the Registrar's website.

If your program requires an official transcript, you should have it sent directly to the program. The Study Abroad Office will not forward official transcripts to program sponsors.

Passport information and passport photos

1. Where can I get official passport photos taken?

In addition to the WildCARD Office, passport photography is available at other Evanston locations. See Passports and Paperwork for more information.

2. Do I need to submit my passport information to the Study Abroad Office?

Yes, this information is required. If you do not have a valid passport at the time of application, leave this section blank and apply for or renew your passport immediately. When you receive your new passport, update your information in the "My Profile" section of the application.

3. How long does my passport need to be valid?

Generally, your passport must be valid for six months after your planned date of return to the U.S. If you do not have a passport or it will expire sooner than this, you should begin the process of applying/renewing as soon as possible.

For information on how and where to apply, documentation you will need to present, application forms, and passport fees:

Program applications

1. I've completed my Northwestern Study Abroad Application; do I need to complete a separate application for my program?

In addition to the Northwestern Study Abroad Application, you must complete applications for your program(s) by their published deadline(s) unless you're only applying to the programs listed below.

The following programs do NOT require completion of a separate application:

  • Programs sponsored by Northwestern's Office of International Program Development (with the exception of Exchange programs);
  • All programs sponsored by Northwestern's Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI)
  • Northwestern-sponsored summer programs (Note that applicants for Finding Nano and IES Abroad Arles must submit separate applications)
  • Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS)
  • Consortium for Advanced Studies in Barcelona (CASB)
  • Bologna Consortial Studies Program (BCSP)

If you are unsure about the application process for your program, please contact your Study Abroad Adviser.

2. Do I have to wait to hear from Northwestern before I apply to my program(s)?

No. You can complete both the Northwestern Study Abroad Application and your program application(s) at the same time; you are responsible for knowing and meeting all deadlines. In order to study abroad, you will need to be approved by Northwestern and accepted by your study abroad program, but you do not need to wait for Northwestern's approval before you apply to your program.

3. How do I obtain and where do I submit my program application materials?

Program applications are available online at the program providers' websites. We recommend applying online, if it is an option.

You must submit your program application materials directly to your program offices by their deadlines or earlier – even if your program instructs you to submit them to Northwestern. We cannot forward any program materials (e.g., letter of recommendation or transcript) except study abroad advisor approval forms, if required.

4. How can I send my program materials?

We recommend applying online, if it is an option. If you will be mailing your application materials, we recommend sending them either FedEx/UPS or certified mail, so that you can track your shipment.

5. As part of my study abroad preparations, I need to have materials notarized for my student visa. What does that mean, and where can I get that done?

A notary is someone who is licensed by the state to witness and certify the validity of documents; to have something notarized means that the notary verifies your identity and signature and stamps and seals your document as authentic.

Notary services are available to Northwestern students at a number of places on campus:

  • Depository Services (formerly the Office of the Bursar)
    619 Clark Street
  • Cashier's Office
    Norris University Center
  • Many banks offer notary services to account holders.
6. I have more questions about my program's application. Whom should I contact for assistance?

For questions about your program's application, you should contact the program sponsor directly.