How to Get Into Northeastern: Admissions Stats + Tips
Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?
See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.
- How Hard Is It to Get Into Northeastern University?
- What is Northeastern University Looking for?
- Average Academic Profile of Accepted Northeastern University Students
- How to Apply to Northeastern University
Originally founded as a school for commuters, today Northeastern University (NU) is known for its bustling campus, green spaces, and collegial environment—all while providing easy access to Boston, one of the nation’s most historic, innovative, and healthiest cities. Separating Northeastern from other renowned schools in the Boston area—like Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Boston College, and Tufts—is its top-ranked Co-Op program, which 93% of the university’s 2019-2020 graduating class participated in.
How Hard Is It to Get Into Northeastern University?
Admission to Northeastern is highly competitive. The university received 64,279 applications to its incoming 2020-2021 class and accepted just 13,199—an overall acceptance rate of 20%. Northeastern has an early decision process through which 1,882 applicants applied in 2020-2021, of which 709 were accepted—a 38% early decision acceptance rate.
Northeastern’s acceptance rate is low, but your personal chances of admission depend on your profile strength. CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator can help you better understand Northeastern, using factors like your grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities to estimate your odds of acceptance and provide tips to improve your profile.
Average Academic Profile of Accepted Northeastern University Students
Northeastern did not report the average high school GPA of the students they admitted in 2020-2021. That said, competitive applicants will have performed exceptionally well academically in high school.
The middle 50% range SAT score for Northeastern’s incoming 2020-2021 class is 1430-1540. The class’s middle 50% range ACT score is 33-35.
76% of the 2020-2021 incoming class at Northeastern graduate high school in the top tenth of their class. 95% graduated in the top quarter.
What is Northeastern University Looking for?
The ideal applicant to Northeastern doesn’t fit into a particular mold, rather, the university fields classes with students from a variety of backgrounds and interests—the school is home to 11 cultural and resource centers and 12,098 international students.
While Northeastern attracts all kinds of applicants, they do share some characteristics. Northeastern students are worldly and possess the ability to take a global view. Northeastern students are also go-getters who proactively take advantage of the opportunities presented to them to improve their lives, their communities, and the world.
How Northeastern University Evaluates Applications
According to their 2020-2021 Common Data Set, Northeastern considers the following factors “very important”:
- Course rigor
- Test scores
- Recommendation letters
These factors are “important”:
- Extracurricular activities
- Work experience
- Volunteer work
These are “considered”:
- Class rank
- Geographical location
- First generation
- Racial/ethnic status
- Applicant interest
And these are “not considered”:
- State residency
- Religious affiliation
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Northeastern
1. Achieve the best GPA possible while taking the most challenging classes available
An impressive 76% of Northeastern’s incoming class of 2020-2021 graduated in the top tenth of their class. For serious consideration at Northeastern, you’ll need to earn all, or mostly all, As in the most challenging courses available—Northeastern considers both GPA and course rigor as “very important” to admissions. It’s common for applicants to top-tier schools like Northeastern to have taken between five and 12 AP classes.
Northeastern received a whopping 64,279 applications for its incoming 2020-2021 class. Prestigious schools like Northeastern use a tool known as the Academic Index to expedite the processing of the massive number of applications they receive. The Academic Index is the consolidation of your entire academic performance into a single number. If your Academic Index fails to meet NU’s standards, it’s likely your application will not get a comprehensive evaluation.
If your GPA is low and you’re early in your high school career, there’s still time to raise it. Check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it’s more difficult to increase your GPA, which makes earning high test scores the best method to increase your Academic Index.
2. Aim for a 1540 SAT and 35 ACT
Standardized test scores are “very important” to admissions decisions at Northeastern. The middle 50% SAT range of NU’s incoming 2020-2021 class is 1430-1540, and its middle 50% ACT is 33-35. Any score in the middle 50% is good, however, your odds of admissions improve the higher into the range you score.
Northeastern superscores both the SAT and ACT—that is, the university will take your highest section scores, across multiple test dates, to create a new composite score. Because NU superscores standardized tests, taking the SAT or ACT between two and three times is a sound strategy to improve your admissions odds. To raise your SAT/ACT score, check out these free CollegeVine resources:
- How to Get a Perfect 1600 Score on the SAT
- How to Get a Perfect 36 Score on the ACT
- More SAT Info and Tips
- More ACT Info and Tips
Due to the challenges COVID-19 has presented, Northeastern has instituted a test-optional admissions policy for both the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 admissions cycles. More than half of applicants in the 2020-2021 admissions cycle applied test-optional. Regardless of NU’s test-optional policy, CollegeVine encourages you to take either the SAT or ACT, if you can do so safely, and submit your score if it’s at or above the 25th percentile at NU (1430 SAT and 33 ACT). Applicants who submit test scores are accepted at higher rates than those who don’t.
You can get recommendations on whether or not you should apply test-optional using our free chancing engine.
3. Write engaging essays
Essays are “very important” to admissions decisions at Northeastern. Nearly every applicant to NU has an impressive academic profile—essays are a way to highlight your talent and character (both of which are “important” to NU admissions) and set yourself apart from other candidates.
Northeastern accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application and you’re required to answer the essay question of whichever application you’re applying with. An attention-grabbing college essay highlights why you’re a good fit at a school and how the school will benefit from having you on campus. Keep in mind, NU is looking for go-getters and views work experience and volunteer work as “important” to admissions; use them to show what you’ve done and how those experiences prepared you to succeed in college and the world in general.
4. Letters of Recommendation
Northeastern views letters of recommendation as “very important” to admissions and requires you to submit two letters of recommendation with your application: one from your high school counselor and one from a teacher.
Teachers are not compensated for writing letters of recommendation and it’s common for a teacher to get tapped for recommendations by numerous aspiring college students. Getting a teacher to craft a compelling letter begins with following the nine rules for requesting letters of recommendation from teachers, which provides a good guideline for everything from who to ask to how much time they need and how to thank them for their time.
5. Cultivate one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)
Extracurricular activities are an “important” part of admissions at Northeastern. A highly-developed interest is known as a “spike” and one or two impressive supporting extracurricular activities on your profile can give your application a boost at a highly-ranked school like NU. Just how impressive are your activities outside of the classroom? The four tiers of extracurriculars are a good gauge for how colleges view them?
- Tier 1 activities are the most impressive, they show exceptional accomplishment or leadership. Tier 1 activities are also the rarest and include achievements like winning a national competition or attending a prestigious merit-based summer program.
- Tier 2 is home to activities that demonstrate great accomplishments or leadership, but don’t rise to the level and are more common than those found in Tier 1. For example, common Tier 2 activities include serving as student body president or earning state-level recognition in athletics or music.
- Tier 3 are activities that highlight your interests outside of the classroom but don’t have the distinction or influence on admissions as those of the higher tiers. Common Tier 3 activities are holding a minor leadership position in a well-known club, captaining a varsity sport, or playing in a regional music ensemble.
- Tier 4 the most common and least impressive activities—such as participating in a club, participating in a sport, or playing in the band or orchestra—fall under Tier 4.
4. Apply Early Decision
Northeastern has four admissions processes: early decision I, early decision II, early action, and regular decision. In general, applying early is a good way to improve your odds of admission to a school. At Northeastern, both early decision I and II can increase your odds of acceptance significantly—the 38% early decision acceptance rate is nearly double the 20% overall acceptance rate.
Applying early decision is a binding agreement where you commit to attending Northeastern if accepted. Early decision is best suited for applicants for whom NU is their number one choice and are confident it’s the right fit—academically, socially, and financially. If you’re not positive Northeastern is the school for you, early action allows you to submit your application in advance of the majority of candidates, gives you a leg up in the admissions process, and is non-binding, so you’re under no obligation to attend if accepted.
How to Apply to Northeastern University
Early Decision I
Early Decision II
Northeastern University accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application. Other requirements include:
- Counselor recommendation
- Teacher recommendation
- Mid-year school report
Other optional materials include:
- Creative portfolio
Learn more about Northeastern University
Interested in learning more about Northeastern? Check out these other informative articles:
- What is Northeastern University Known for?
- What does it cost to attend Northeastern University?
- Northeastern vs. Northwestern: Which College is Right for You?
- Boston University vs. Northeastern: Which College is Right for You?
Want to know your chances at Northeastern? Calculate your chances for free right now.