What Does It Take to Get Into Northeastern?

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Northeastern’s acceptance rate is 19%. What does it take to get in?


Northeastern University, a private research university located in Boston, Massachusetts, is home to nearly 14,000 undergraduate students. Northeastern is known preparing its graduates well for the workforce, largely due to a work co-op program in which 90% of students participate. Through this program, students can work full-time for up to six months at a time beginning in their second year. Its unique commitment to experiential education makes Northeastern a compelling choice for many college applicants.


Bloomberg Businessweek has rated it in the top 20 for undergraduate business schools, and US News and World Report has ranked it 6 for Most Innovative Schools and 9 for Best Undergraduate International Business Programs. It’s no wonder that so many students want to attend.


In this post, we’ll let you in what it takes to get that coveted acceptance to Northeastern University.  


Applying to Northeastern: A Quick Review


You can apply Early Decision I or Early Action by November 1, or Early Decision II or Regular Decision by January 1.


To apply, you’ll need to submit:


  • Common App or Coalition Application
  • Application fee ($75) or a fee waiver request.
  • A Secondary School Report and Official High School Transcript
  • Official SAT or ACT scores.
  • Proof of English Proficiency: All students, regardless of citizenship, must demonstrate English language proficiency when applying to Northeastern. Learn more about the requirement on the Application Information page.
  • Counselor Recommendation and Teacher Evaluation
  • If you are applying to the College of Arts, Media, and Design, you may be required to submit a creative portfolio through SlideRoom.


Northeastern Acceptance Rate: How Difficult Is It to Get In?


Like many universities, Northeastern is becoming increasingly competitive to get into. In 1978, Northeastern extended offers of acceptance to nearly 80% of its applicant pool. In 2018, the rate of acceptance at Northeastern had shrunk to just 19%.


This steady decline in acceptance rate is because the number of applications has been increasing steadily. In 2018, Northeaster received more than 62,000 applications, marking an increase of nearly 8,000 from the year before.


Luckily, applying to Northeastern doesn’t need to be a shot in the dark. There are things you can do to improve your chances significantly.


So, How Does One Get Into Northeastern?


First of all, know what the basic requirements and expectations are. Northeastern requires that all applicants have completed in high school at least four years of English, two years of history, two years of the same foreign language, three years of science, and three years of math. Their admissions team goes on to note that “Our most competitive applicants will have completed four years of all five major subjects, or perhaps dropped one subject as a senior to double up on equally rigorous courses in another subject.”


In addition to being well-prepared academically, successful Northeastern applicants usually excel on standardized tests. The middle 50% of accepted students for fall 2018 received SAT scores between 1470-1550, or ACT scores between 33-35. They also received high school GPAs between 4.1 and 4.5. Clearly, academics are a high priority in Northeastern’s admissions process, but they aren’t the only factor that matters.


Northeastern seeks students who represent diverse backgrounds and interests and who bring with them an entrepreneurial and/or global perspective. These personal qualities, which can shine most brightly through your essay, teacher recommendations, and extracurriculars, will all have a hand in how the admissions committee evaluates your application.


How to Make Your Application Stand Out


Ace Your Standardized Tests. Northeastern values standardized test scores, but incoming students don’t need perfect scores. If you really have your sights set on Northeastern, one way to stand ahead of the pack is to excel on these tests, landing yourself comfortably in the top third of applicants by scoring a 34 or above on your ACT, or a 1500 or above on your SAT. For help polishing your test skills, consider enlisting the help of CollegeVine’s SAT Tutoring Program, where our talented near-peer tutors guide students to an average score increase of 250 points.


Highlight Real World Experience. Northeastern isn’t just looking for students who will do well academically. Their focus on experiential education means they are looking for students who will succeed in the real world. If you’ve had work experience, internships, volunteer hours, or international experience, be sure that these are clearly evident in your application. Consider speaking of them directly in your essay if you can do so without making it sound like a stretch.


Discuss Your Recommendations with Your Teachers in Advance. Recommendations, along with academics, test scores, and your essay, are the factors ranked by Northeastern as most important in the application process. This means it’s worth your while to discuss your recommendations with your teachers and counselor in advance. Discuss the experiences, strengths, and personal characteristics that you hope to highlight on your application, and provide a few concrete examples from which your recommender may be able to draw. Some recommenders may even ask you for a resume or “brag sheet,” which you should take care to fill out. It’s always a good idea to ensure that your recommendations complement the rest of your application.


What If You Get Rejected?


It’s always disappointing to be rejected, no matter the circumstances, but getting rejected from college can be an especially bitter pill to swallow. At Northeastern, more than four out of every five applications are ultimately rejected, so at least you know you’re not alone. Before you get too down, consider your options.


First of all, yes—Northeastern does accept transfer students. They request that you wait a full academic year before reapplying and recommend that transfer applicants hold at least a 3.3 college GPA, although all applications will be considered holistically. You should realize, though, that your odds of getting in as a transfer student aren’t much better than getting in as a first year student. The rate of acceptance for transfer students in 2018 was 26%.


That being said, we at CollegeVine never recommend that you go into your first year old college intending to transfer elsewhere, unless you are starting at a community college or have other extenuating circumstances. Attending one school and wishing you were at another from the get-go isn’t a good approach. Instead, we recommend that you find alternatives at which you know you’d be happy and feel you could succeed. There are so many fantastic colleges out there; there’s no reason to have to set your heart on just one.


For help adjusting to a different dream school, read our post, Envisioning a New Future: Preparing for Life at Your Second-Choice (or Third, or Fourth) School.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to Northeastern? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.