How to Write the Northwestern Supplement 2018-2019

Northwestern is a private university in Evanston, Illinois with an undergraduate student body of approximately 8,000 students. The acceptance rate for the class of 2022 fell to 8.4%, a record low. Northwestern is a Big 10 school, just 30 minutes away from Chicago, and operates on the quarter system.

Northwestern’s writing supplement is “optional,” although they HIGHLY suggest that you complete it. Their acceptance rate has been steadily declining for years now, so it’s about as optional as turning your car on before you start driving.

''Why Northwestern'' Statement (completion strongly recommended):

Other parts of your application give us a sense for how you might contribute to Northwestern. But we also want to consider how Northwestern will contribute to your interests and goals. In 300 words or less, help us understand what aspects of Northwestern appeal most to you, and how you'll make use of specific resources and opportunities here.

Do you plan to complete the ''Why Northwestern'' Statement?

(We HIGHLY recommend you complete this essay.)

The good news is that Northwestern is asking “Why Us” in a very straightforward way. You only have 300 words, which actually works to your advantage because you can be incredibly specific about your goals (academic and extracurricular) without adding unnecessary fluff.

Northwestern wants to know what you plan to do both inside and outside of the classroom, and what other aspects of the school appeal to you. In other words, you need to show them that you’re going to take advantage of what the school has to offer and also have something to contribute. You’ll answer this question by addressing the following points:


Before we dive in, we highly suggest doing your due diligence by researching Northwestern’s quarter system calendar. There’s a lot of information (and midterm schedule guides) on the website that should be helpful. It’s a personal choice: the upside of being on a quarter system is that students are able to take more classes, but you’ll also almost always be in midterms. If you’re the kind of person that suffers meltdowns every time you have to study (cram) for an exam, spend some time thinking about whether or not the quarter system will work for you. If there’s any reason you think the quarter system is ideal, mention it in this part of your supplement.

Next up, pick a major. Look at the list of majors and minors on their website and find something related to your academic interests. We’ve said it before: you don’t have to stick with the major you write about in your supplement but you should be genuinely interested in the subject. This is a research assignment and you need to show that you have a plan, so find a few classes that interest you and write about why you want to take them. These should be upper level (200-300) classes, not 101 classes that you could take anywhere. Let’s say you’ve decided on a Journalism major and want to produce a documentary. Look into the professors teaching those classes, projects you want to join, and any other interesting tidbits you find. The professors at Northwestern teach there for a reason, and writing about why you want to take certain classes (with certain teachers) shows that you’re prepared.


Next, you’ll choose a student organization or club that you’re interested in joining. The club that you choose should be a logical extension of the things you’ve already done in high school. Once you get in you’ll be able to join any club you want, but for the purposes of this essay you need to choose something that is complementary to your major. Our journalism applicant from before might write about their plans to join the Film club and the horror movie gatherings they planned throughout high school. You get the point, don’t pick something random.


Before you run off and hit submit, Northwestern is very proud of the fact that they’re located in Evanston. Evanston is a short train ride to Chicago, on the coast of Lake Michigan and incredibly diverse, so you can’t really blame Northwestern for their ~obsession~, but before you close out your essay you should write about how you plan to take advantage of the location. This is not a good time to talk about how you’re from California and have always wanted to experience a real winter, find something that students (and eventually you) do in Evanston and close with that. The end.


Want to talk about some of your ideas? We’re here to help.