The admissions process at Northwestern University begins in early October and ends with the national acceptance date, which varies by year (end of April to the beginning of May). The number of applications varies from year to year, but in general Northwestern receives approximately 250 applications per year from students of diverse backgrounds (20 students are accepted). The online application process opens in October, and the deadline is generally in early January.
The application deadline for fall 2020 admission is Sunday, January 5, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. CST.
Northwestern values many different experiences in our applicants, including past work and life experiences. We accept both applicants who have recently graduated and those who have worked for several years before making the decision to attend graduate school. Learn more about how to apply and what we are looking for below.
Degree and Coursework
You must have a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, psychology, social work, nursing or a related field, with undergraduate course work including at least one semester/quarter each of:
- General biology
- General and organic chemistry
- General or human genetics
- Molecular biology or cell biology
In general, the science courses above should be at a level required for a biology major or a premed track:
- Science courses: Choose the biology, chemistry, genetics, etc. courses that are required for biology majors. Courses at this level are often taken by students on the pre-med track. Your molecular or cellular biology course should be an upper level course; microbiology courses will not fulfill this requirement, though molecular genetics may if the genetics prerequisite was fulfilled by a general genetics or human genetics course.
- Psychology course: Most basic psychology courses are acceptable (intro to psychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, etc.)
- Statistics course: An introductory statistics or biostatistics course that includes content on statistical methodology is acceptable.
None of the prerequisite courses require a laboratory component.
Please consult your institutional academic advising office for help in identifying acceptable prerequisite courses. Due to the numerous institutions attended by applicants and the diverse titles of courses in each curricula, it is difficult for our admissions faculty to be knowledgeable of what may or not be an eligible prerequisite. In general, courses should fulfill requirements for the undergraduate degree. (For example, a course with a title “Evolution of molecular and cell biology” for biology non-majors would not fulfill the application requirement for molecular/cell biology.)
We are unable to offer waivers for any prerequisite course. Prerequisites do not need to be completed before the application is sent int, but they must be completed before matriculation. You should indicate your specific plan to complete any prerequisite courses on your supplemental form.
Courses cannot be taken pass/fail and must be taken for a grade that contributes to your final GPA. Likewise, they cannot be fulfilled by certificate courses. Note: During Spring 2020, many institutions converted their classes to Pass/Fail grading, due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you took a pre-requisite class during that time, which was graded Pass/Fail, please note this on your Supplemental Form, and it will be accepted.
Prerequisites may be fulfilled by AP or IB test, dependent on the specific course. For general Biology and Chemistry, an AP or placement test is acceptable to fulfill the prerequisite. For Statistics and Psychology, you may list the AP or IB test, but we require that you take at least one course in each of these areas at the college level.
Courses can be taken at a four-year or two-year institution, in person or online. However, they must be taken at an accredited institution.
Grade Point Average (GPA)
- Undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above
- Applicants with a GPA less than 3.0 may be considered if they have post degree coursework demonstrating higher grades or another graduate degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher
Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
You must take the general GRE (no subject examination is required) no later than December for admission in the fall. Official scores must be taken no more than five years before the time of application and must come directly from the Educational Testing Service. Official scores must be sent using 1565 as the institution code and 0210 as the program code.
You do not need to retake the GRE if you have earned a PhD; the GRE requirement is not waived for students with a prior master’s degree or MD/DO.
We do not accept MCAT scores in place of GRE scores.
GRE scores are just one factor taken into consideration by the admissions committee. We do not have set cutoffs. Individual percentile scores are reviewed. Due to the variability in the scoring of the Analytical Writing section of the GRE, we consider the Verbal and Quantitative sections to be most predictive of the applicant’s capabilities.
Nonresident applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores are not required of international applicants who are attending/completed an undergraduate degree from a university within the United States.
However, applicants whose native language is not English and who attended a non-English speaking undergraduate program must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores.
- The minimum acceptable paper-based TOEFL score is 600
- The minimum acceptable computer-based TOEFL is 100
- The minimum acceptable IELTS score is 8.0 overall and 8.0 on each of the sections
Suggested (Not Required)
- Counseling experience: Applicants are encouraged to have some counseling experience, which may be obtained in a number of ways, including work in crisis counseling, peer counseling, domestic abuse or Planned Parenthood
- Genetic counseling exposure: Shadowing a genetic counselor or having a genetic counseling internship are both valuable experiences; however, we understand these may be difficult to arrange. Speaking with a genetic counselor about the field is also a valuable experience.
- Exposure to people with a chronic illness or a disability through volunteer work with Special Olympics or camps specific for children with disabilities
- Laboratory experience
- Research experience
- Varied volunteer and work experiences
Register for Match
The Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling participates in the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match through National Matching Services (NMS). The Match uses a process that takes into account both applicants’ and programs’ preferences. All applicants must first register for the Match with NMS before applying to participating genetic counseling graduate programs. At the conclusion of all program interviews, both applicants and programs will submit ranked lists of preferred placements to NMS according to deadlines posted on the NMS website. The binding results of the Match will be released to both applicants and programs simultaneously in late April. Please visit the NMS website to register for the match, review detailed information about the matching process and view a demonstration of how the matching algorithm works.
How to Apply
Apply online here; you will be required to submit a $95 application fee. To apply to the Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, please use department code G10MS. To apply to the dual-degree program in Genetic Counseling and Medical Humanities and Bioethics, please use department code G12MS.
The request for a resume and a diversity statement are both optional for the Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, but the following additional items are required:
- Three letters of recommendation: These must be submitted online through the application. They should come from people who know you well and can speak to your personal and academic qualifications for graduate school. At least one should come from an academic such as a professor or lab supervisor. Letters from employers and volunteer experience supervisors are also acceptable. It is not advisable to submit letters from personal or family friends.
- Personal essay: This is submitted on the online application. Please disregard the general instructions on the application regarding what to address in the personal essay. Your essay should describe your reasons for pursuing a degree in genetic counseling at Northwestern and examples of experiences that have motivated you personally. Rather than simply list the things you have accomplished (we have that information on your supplemental form), tell us what those experiences meant to you and how they shaped your desire to become a genetic counselor.
- Transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate schools you have attended: Upload these online. They can be either official or unofficial transcripts. It is not necessary to mail official transcripts unless an offer of admission is made and accepted, at which point they must be sent to both the Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling and The Graduate School of Northwestern University. Note: if you are an international applicant from a non-US university that does not offer classes in English and/or does not use the 4.0 grading system, we ask that you upload an evaluation through World Education Services or a similar service.
- General GRE scores (quantitative, verbal and analytical): Official scores should be sent using 1565 as the institution code and 0210 as the program code. The GRE requirement will be waived for applicants who have earned a PhD. The GRE requirement is not waived for students with a prior master’s degree or MD/DO. The Program does not accept MCAT scores in place of GRE scores.
- Supplemental form: Use this form to list prerequisite courses that are completed/in progress as well as any volunteering or shadowing experience. Please upload the form to your online application under “Supplemental Document 1."
All students are required to sign up for the National Matching Services (NMS) before applying.
More information can be found at the Genetic Counseling Admissions Match website.
Additional documents are required for applications to our Dual-Degree Program; visit the program page for more information. You may also visit the prospective students page on The Graduate School's website for more general information.
The applications are reviewed by the program's leadership, then 77 applicants are invited to Northwestern for interviews, which are held in late March and April. Applicants have the opportunity to meet with multiple faculty members and current students, providing an in-depth view of the Northwestern program. The interview process is critical to the admissions process, allowing faculty and program directors to learn about the applicants and applicants to determine if Northwestern is the best choice for their graduate education. Offers are extended on the national acceptance date. There are a total of 20 students in each class.
Please note that we do not allow deferred admission; an applicant must enroll during the year they are accepted or re-apply in a subsequent year.
There are no part-time options; due to the structure of the program, courses and clinical work can only be completed as a full-time student.
It is the policy of Northwestern University not to discriminate against any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age, handicap or veteran status in matters of admission, employment, housing or service or in the educational programs or activities that it operates, in accordance with civil rights legislation and university commitment. Northwestern University reserves the right to change without notice any statement concerning, but not limited to, rules, policies, tuition, fees, curricula and courses.