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Application Frequently Asked Questions

Jump to answers to the most common questions about the NU 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 for assistance or come to our walk-in hours.

Study abroad programs

1. How many programs can I apply to?

For programs during the academic year, you may apply to up to two programs in one or two countries, using the same application. For summer, you may list a second choice program but will only be considered for your second choice if you are not approved for your first choice program. See the Choosing a Program page for help.

2. Should I apply for a second choice program?

We encourage all students to list two programs. You cannot add a second choice after Northwestern's application deadline has passed.

3. Can I decide later to attend my second choice program?

For programs during the academic year, the order in which you list the programs on your NU Application is generally 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 to the Study Abroad Office prior to studying abroad to inform us which program you will attend.

For summer, as mentioned above, you may list a second choice program but will only be considered for your second choice if you are not approved for your first choice program.

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 study abroad on 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

1. 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.

Essays 

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 to submit with your study abroad application. 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?

  • For programs during the academic year, your School Representative will need to provide a Letter of Explanation (detailed in the Northwestern Study Abroad Application).
  • For all programs, 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).

Transcripts

1. How do I get 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. If I don't have my transcript, will you still accept my NU Application?

No. You must upload an unofficial copy of your transcript before you can submit your Northwestern Study Abroad Application.

3. 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.

Letters of recommendation for Programs during the Academic Year

1. I have not worked closely with any professors. How do I choose a recommender?

We recommend requesting a meeting with the potential recommender to discuss your work in his/her class as well as your study abroad plans and how they fit in with your academic and personal goals. You can direct them to the Faculty/Advisers section of the study abroad website, which includes information on letters of recommendation.

2. Where should my recommender send my letter of recommendation?

You will request a letter of recommendation through the online application process. Your recommender will be sent an email with instructions on how to upload their letter into your Northwestern Study Abroad Application.

3. Will the Study Abroad Office send my letter of recommendation to my study abroad program?

No. If your study abroad program application requires a letter of recommendation, or a specific recommendation form, you or your recommender must send it directly to the program.

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 requested in your Northwestern Study Abroad Application. 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 may be required to complete applications for your program(s) by their published deadline(s). Exceptions: all 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; all Northwestern sponsored summer programs (with the exception of IES-Arles, BU-Padua and Finding Nano); the Danish Institute for Study Abroad; the Consortium for Advanced Studies in Barcelona; and the Bologna Consortial Studies Program. 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.

You can also fax materials at the FedEx Office store on the ground floor of Norris.

5. I need to have part of my program application or another form notarized. 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
    847-491-5343
  • Cashier's Office
    Norris University Center
  • Many banks offer notary services to account holders.

6. My program application has a form that needs to be filled out by a study abroad adviser or someone (a dean, etc.) responsible for approving study abroad. Who is this, and how can I get the form filled out?

Your Study Abroad Adviser will complete this form. Fill out the student information section, sign it if required, and submit the original form with your NU application. After your adviser has reviewed and approved your application, she will complete the form and send it directly to your program before their published deadlines.

Exceptions: Students applying to programs run by the following sponsors for the fall, winter and/or spring - as well as for the IES Abroad Arles and BU Padua Summer programs - do *not* need to submit Study Abroad Adviser Approval forms. The Study Abroad Office will communicate approval to these programs electronically:

  • Arcadia (Study Abroad Advisor's Form)
  • The Alliance for Global Education (Study Abroad Advisor's Form)
  • Boston University (Approval of Student Participation Form)
  • IES Abroad (Authorization and Evaluation)
  • London School of Economics (University Contact Signature on last page; academic year only)
  • Sweet Briar Junior Year in France (Part VI, "Dean or College Official")
  • Sweet Briar Junior Year in Spain (Part IV - Official Permission to Study Abroad)

7. 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.