Skip to main content

How to Apply

Your Future in Higher Education Starts Here

Develop the knowledge and skills to lead and promote change in higher education administration and policy.

Our Application Process

Our students bring a variety of experiences directly from undergraduate institutions, as well as those with industry experience.  Wherever you come from Chicago, Illinois, across the United States, or from around the world, your academic, professional, and personal background and perspective is a valuable part of what you bring to our program. 

Admissions decisions are based on a holistic evaluation of an applicant's academic and leadership achievements, motivation, professional performance, and potential as a higher education administrator. Application details specific to international applicants are included at the end of this page. 

Regular Admissions Deadlines

Northwestern’s Higher Education Administration and Policy program has rolling admissions.

Full-time matriculated (degree certain) applicants may begin taking courses in either summer or fall term. Full-time matriculated applicants who apply by the early admission deadline (in early January) have the best chance of being awarded partial tuition scholarships, graduate assistantships, and paid internships.

Part-time matriculated (degree certain), non-matriculated (degree uncertain), and certificate applicants may begin taking courses in spring, summer, or fall term.

Desired Entrance Quarter 

All Application Materials Due 

Classes Begin 

Summer 2024 

Matriculated (full- or part-time): No Longer Accepting Application

Non-matriculated/Certificate: No Longer Accepting Application

June 17, 2024

Fall 2024 

Matriculated (full- or part-time): August 19, 2024 (For visa processing purposes, international applicants must wait to apply for admission in 2025.) 

Non-matriculated/Certificate: August 26, 2024 

September 24, 2024

Application Requirements: Matriculated (degree certain)

What is a matriculated student?

Matriculated students are candidates for the master's degree. Primary reasons why some students choose to apply as matriculated students are: 

  1. They are certain they want to earn the MSHE degree either on a full-time or part-time basis. 
  2. They can meet all application requirements, including:  
    • Possessing a minimum of a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. 
    • Submitting GRE test scores that are sufficient for admission or qualifying to petition to waive the GRE. (Please note that we consider average, not minimum, scores. If applicants take the GRE exam multiple times, we will use the highest score from each section.) 
    • Providing two letters of reference, one of which must be an academic reference from an instructor who assigned a grade.
  3. They are a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and wish to apply for Federal Financial Aid. 

Is previous education coursework or experience required?

Previous education course work or experience is not required. 

What components are required for the online application?

  • 4 essays 
  • All undergraduate and graduate academic transcripts – The transcript GPA(s) is an important indicator of an applicant’s academic capabilities and cannot be lower than a 3.0. 
  • Resume
  • Two letters of recommendation (one must be academic) 
  • $100 US application fee (nonrefundable) – Full-time applicants for the MSHE degree may request an application fee waiver after attending an information session. Application fee waiver details will be discussed at the information session. 
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (may petition to waive or substitute – see GRE Requirements section below) 
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score (see English proficiency section below) 

Application Requirements: Non-Matriculated (degree uncertain)

What is a non-matriculated student?

Non-matriculated students are not yet candidates for the master's degree. Primary reasons why some students choose to apply as non-matriculated students are: 

  1. The student does not have anyone who can serve as an academic reference (this often happens with students who have been out of school for a while and have lost contact with their previous instructors). 
  2. The student has not yet taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), does not qualify for a GRE waiver, or prefers not to take the GRE for acceptance to the degree program. Once the student has completed three MSHE courses, they may petition to waive the GRE in their application to matriculate (see information below within 'GRE Requirements'). 
  3. The student does not know whether they want to earn a master's degree or a Higher Education Certificate. 

Non-matriculated students may take up to three courses before they must either apply to matriculate or choose to earn a Higher Education Certificate (HEFC, HESASC or HEOMC). 

Non-Matriculated students may apply to the master’s degree program once they have completed three higher education courses. All coursework successfully completed as a Non-Matriculated/Certificate student will count toward the MSHE degree requirements. Students who choose not to apply for matriculation will earn one of the Higher Education Certificates based on the higher education courses completed. Students who earn a Higher Education Certificate are no longer eligible to earn the master's degree. 

What is a certificate student?

Certificate-seeking students begin as Non-Matriculated students in the program.  After completion of 3 courses, they decide, in consultation with their academic advisor, if they wish to earn a Higher Education Certificate (HEFC, HESASC or HEOMC) or apply to become degree candidates.  

The primary reasons to apply as a Certificate student are: 

  1. The applicant aims to enroll in one of the three Certificates offered.  
  2. The applicant intends to complete the MSHE degree, but cannot satisfy all required components of a successful application, such as does not have an academic reference, does not have a 3.0 required cumulative GPA, does not have satisfactory Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, or cannot petition to waive the GRE requirement. 

Note – applying for a Higher Education Certificate is not available to international applicants (for U.S. visa purposes). 

Certificate-seeking students may take up to two courses each quarter to complete their course of study in a minimum of three quarters (approximately nine months).  

Is previous education coursework or experience required?

For applicants for non-matriculation or the Higher Education Foundations Certificate, higher education coursework or professional experience is not required. 

For both the Higher Education Student Access and Success Certificate and the Higher Education Organization Management Certificate, higher education coursework is not required, but higher education professional experience is preferred. 

What components are required for the online application?

  • Statement of purpose 
  • All undergraduate and graduate academic transcripts – The transcript GPA(s) is an important indicator of an applicant’s academic capabilities and cannot be lower than a 3.0. 
  • Resume
  • $100 US application fee (nonrefundable) 

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Requirements

GRE Submission Details

Only matriculated applicants seeking the MSHE degree need to meet the GRE requirements or request a waiver. However, non-matriculated applicants should also review this section if they may be interested in pursuing the degree in the future.   

Submit scores to code 8844 (not 1565 NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY) 

If you take the GRE multiple times, we will use the highest score from each section, even if those scores appear on different test dates. 

GRE scores are valid up to five years after the test date. 

To petition to substitute the GRE or waive the GRE, please review the information below and then follow the steps outlined on the application.  If you have questions, please contact our admissions coordinator at mshe-apply@northwestern.edu.  

Petition to Substitute the GRE

Applicants may petition to submit Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores in place of the GRE when applying for matriculated status. 

Petition to Waive the GRE

Applying as a Matriculated (degree certain) Student 

Applicants may petition to waive the GRE when applying for matriculated status if they meet one of the following criteria:  

  • Applicant is a currently enrolled undergraduate who has achieved senior standing with a GPA of 3.3 or higher; 
  • Applicant has earned a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.3 or higher; 
  • Applicant has earned a doctoral degree (MD, JD, PhD, EdD). 

Any applicant seeking to waive the GRE must first participate in an information session (view schedule and sign-up here). 

These are the only circumstances under which the GRE will be waived for direct admission as a matriculated student.  

Applying as a Non-Matriculated (degree uncertain) Student 

The program does offer a possible path for admission for degree without the GRE; this requires admission first as a non-matriculated student.  

A student who wishes to request a waiver of the GRE and who does not meet one of the above qualifications, may apply for admission as a non-matriculated student. After completing three-to-four courses, admitted non-matriculated students may then petition to waive the GRE as part of the application to transition to matriculated status. 

Applying as an enrolled Non-Matriculated Student Seeking to Matriculate 

Non-matriculated MSHE students who wish to change to matriculated status may petition to waive the GRE requirement if all of the following criteria have been met: 

  • Applicant has at least 3 years of full-time work experience (higher education experience is preferred but not required). 
  • Applicant successfully completes at least 3 MSHE core courses as outlined below with a GPA of at least 3.5 and no individual course grade lower than a “B”: 
    • Course #1 - MSHE 460 Proseminar in Higher Education 
    • Course #2 - MSHE 462 The College Student OR MSHE 466 Budgeting and Finance in Higher Education 
    • Course #3 - MSHE 462 OR MSHE 466 OR a MSHE Leadership Course (473, 477 or 479) 
  • Applicant supplies an academic recommendation from a MSHE faculty member from a completed MSHE core course as one of the required recommendations. 
  • Applicant completes all other requirements for applying from non-matriculated status to matriculated status, including the online application. 

Petitions to waive or substitute the GRE are never guaranteed. The decision to grant a waiver or substitution rests with the Higher Education admissions committee and is determined in joint consideration with the rest of a candidate's application materials.  A petition to waive the GRE is not considered conclusive or approved until the admissions committee reviews the application in its entirety. 

A Special Message for Our International Applicants

An Enthusiastic WELCOME from the MSHE Community! 

We are passionate about educating exceptional students from every corner of the globe and are so pleased that you are considering applying to be a part of the MS in Higher Education Administration and Policy (MSHE) program! 

All matriculated (degree certain) applicants, including international students, are required to attend an MSHE Degree information session prior to submitting their application. You may sign up for a session here. Attending an information session will help you determine if the MSHE degree is right for you and result in a stronger application. 

Also, please refer to specific application information for international applicants, noted below. If, after reading this helpful information, you have questions regarding components of the MSHE application, contact Jeanine Breen(MSHE Program Assistant). If you have questions about the MSHE program, the admission process, or higher education, contact Mark Hoffman(Associate Director). Both will be glad to assist you! 

International Applicants

Who is Considered an “International Applicant”?

An international applicant is any person that requires a student visa to study in the United States. U.S. Citizens and U.S. Legal Permanent Residents are not considered international applicants. International applicants are eligible to apply to the MSHE program, provided that they will have successfully completed the equivalent of a United States bachelor’s degree prior to starting MSHE coursework. International applicants must complete all program-specific application requirements as well as additional requirements outlined below. 

Visa Status, Start Date, and Internship Experience

International students may begin their MSHE coursework in either the summer or fall term. To be eligible for a student visa, students must be enrolled full-time in the MSHE program, which is three (3) courses per term. Full-time students are required to complete 400 hours of internship work. International students are eligible to complete one or two internships once they have obtained a U.S. Social Security number and met other requirements. Additional information regarding the internship process will be provided upon admission to the program. 

Transcripts

If you attend(ed) academic programs located outside the U.S., the Admissions Committee needs to receive translated transcripts (regardless of language of instruction). You must use a credential evaluation service that converts scores and grade point average into U.S.-based grades, as well as confirms that the academic components of your degree meet our requirements. 

Two organizations that offer transcript translation services are World Education Services and Education Perspectives. Other transcript translation services may be accepted as long as they are certified by NACES (National Association of Credential Evaluation Services). Request the course-by-course or detailed report (not the document-by-document report). The service will request that you have your academic program(s) send your transcript(s) to them, and they will, in turn, generate a report that is sent directly to the MSHE program. You do not need to send your original transcripts to MSHE. 

Direct the translation service to send transcript evaluations to: 

  • Via email (this is preferred), with accompanying PDF file, to mshe-apply@northwestern.edu. 
  • Via mail, in an envelope sealed by the official sender (not by the applicant) to: Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy; Northwestern University; 1800 Sherman Avenue, Suite 7300; Evanston, Illinois 60208 

English Proficiency

If English is not your native language, evidence of proficiency in its use will be helpful in reviewing your application for admission. The ability to understand, read, write and speak English is a key element of successful graduate study in our program. 

Applicants whose native language is not English must certify their proficiency in the English language in ONE of the following three ways: 

  • Providing official documents for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Official scores must be less than two years old. 
  • Providing official documentation from a credential evaluation service (such as World Education Services (WES)) and Educational Perspectives) verifying the equivalent of an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-your institution where the language of instruction is English. 
  • Providing official transcripts verifying a degree from an accredited institution where the language of instruction is English. 

Test results must come directly from the testing service. The code for the MSHE Program is 8844. Personal copies are not considered official, nor are “attested” or notarized copies. However, it is to your advantage to include a copy of your score report in your application materials. This will aid us in verifying your scores quickly, should there be any delay in receiving the official report, and to identify any errors in the electronic report. 

For more information about the TOEFL test, visit www.toeflgoanywhere.org. 

For more information about the IELTS test, visit www.ielts.org.  

Additional Information 

For more information, please email the MSHE admissions coordinator at mshe-apply@northwestern.edu.  

Using the Online Application Form

  1. Under "Program and Degree," select "Master of Science in Higher Education Administration Program." Please note, an applicant may not apply to multiple School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) Professional Masters programs (Higher Education Administration and Policy, Learning and Organizational Change, Education, or Dual Degree – Economics and Social and Economic Policy) at the same time. 
  2. Under "Type of Application," select "Matriculated" or "Non-Matriculated" as appropriate. 
  3. Choose "Matriculated" if you wish to earn the master of science degree.  Choose "Non-Matriculated" if a) you wish to earn the degree but cannot currently meet the criteria for the Matriculated application, b) wish to enroll in higher education courses but are uncertain about earning the master of science degree, or c) wish to earn one of the Higher Education Certificates. Non-Matriculated applicants, within your Statement of Purpose, identify if you are interested in a Higher Education Certificate (and which one). 
  4. Transcripts reflecting all undergraduate and graduate level coursework and degrees earned are submitted separately from the online application.  Copies of transcripts will be accepted during the application review process. Should an applicant be accepted into the Higher Education program and choose to enroll, official transcripts with degrees posted must be sent directly from each institution to our office prior to course enrollment.  Whenever possible, transcripts and transcript evaluations should be sent electronically to mshe-apply@northwestern.edu.  If necessary, hard copies may be mailed to: 

MS in Higher Education Administration and Policy 
Attention: Admissions 
1800 Sherman Avenue, Suite 7300 
Evanston, IL 60208 

Preview Days

Preview Northwestern Days is a special event for MSHE matriculated applicants who are admitted to the program via the early admission deadline in January. At Preview Days, admitted students learn about our community through programming, interview for internships and graduate assistantships, meet with an academic adviser, and get to know faculty, alumni, current students, and future classmates. Preview Days takes place annually in early March. 

Information Sessions

A distinctive part of Northwestern’s higher education program is our interactive information sessions, which we host at a variety of times to meet your busy schedule. 

  • Matriculated (degree certain) applicants are required to attend an MSHE Degree information session prior to submitting their application. Full-time applicants will learn how to request an application fee waiver at an information session. 
  • Non-matriculated (degree uncertain) applicants are strongly encouraged but not required to attend an MSHE Degree information session. 
  • Certificate applicants are strongly encouraged but not required to attend a Higher Education Certificates information session.