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Application Process

When advising students about applying to study abroad, please review the Get Started page and the Apply page, which explain the application process and outline Northwestern’s expectations for student preparation and approval of study abroad plans. Also, consult information below about assisting students to set goals, choose programs, academic advising and request a letter of recommendation for certain programs.

Goal Setting

While students may know that they want to study abroad, they may not have a clear idea of what they want to gain from the experience. During the application process they will need to articulate their academic, personal and professional motivations to study abroad, and you can assist them with this reflective process. Encourage students to discuss their goals with you and during a general advising appointment with their GLO adviser.

Program Selection

Students may seek your guidance in choosing a program. Since there are over a hundred available programs, we do not expect you to be familiar with all of them. However, to gain a basic understanding, we recommended that you:

Students are strongly encouraged to apply to Northwestern programs, exchanges, or affiliated programs, since they are regularly evaluated by GLO and the Undergraduate Study Abroad Committee (USAC) for quality in terms of academic standards, housing, cultural immersion, and administrative support services. Additionally, students who participate in these programs may apply their financial aid. If students are interested in an unaffiliated program, they may be granted permission to apply only if they have a specialized academic need that cannot be met by one of our affiliated programs, and they will not be able to apply their institutional aid. For more information about this policy please read studying abroad on an unaffiliated program.

Academic Advising

All students must discuss their study abroad plans with their academic advisers as part of the Northwestern study abroad application. All students must receive approval of their study abroad plans from their school adviser, and any student with a declared major or minor that falls under Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences must also receive course approval from their departmental adviser. The general procedure is as follows:

  • Students are responsible for scheduling an in-person meeting to go over their study abroad course plan with you.
  • After reviewing their Preliminary Course Plan of Study, you will determine if their proposed courses fit into their academic plans, are eligible for transfer to Northwestern, and meet the academic requirements for study abroad.
  • School advisers: If your student has a cumulative GPA below 2.5 at the time of application, you will also need to complete a School Representative Letter of Explanation. This supplemental section is required and information on this policy and the kind of feedback we request is detailed in the application.

Letters of Recommendation

As part of the Northwestern study abroad application, students whose cumulative GPA is below a 2.5 at the time of application must obtain a letter of recommendation from a professor or teaching assistant of a class they have taken at Northwestern. It is the student’s responsibility to request the recommendation at least four weeks prior to their application deadline. Letters should be submitted via email to

Additionally, some of our affiliated program partners require letters of recommendation as part of their application process.

If you agree to write a recommendation for a student, you may wish to use the following as guidelines:

  • In what capacity and for what length of time have you known the applicant?
  • What course(s) did the applicant take with you?
  • How would you rate this applicant's intellectual motivation?
  • How would you describe the quality of academic work prepared by the applicant?
  • Are there any special considerations of which we should be aware?
  • How suitable to you think the applicant is for study abroad in terms of stability, independence of mind, creative ability, response to feedback and authority, ability to work in groups, and motivation?

Generally, recommendation letters are three to four paragraphs long and no longer than one page.

Approving Applications

To log in to the Northwestern Study Abroad Application system to review students’ applications and provide approval:

  1. Visit
  2. Log in with your Northwestern NetID and password
  3. Once logged in, you will be directed to your Home page, which will list any new student applications that have been submitted under “Action Items”
  4. To provide approval, follow the directions in the How To Guide for School Advisers