Application Process

Application Process

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.

Course of Study Options

There are three courses of study: Matriculated, Non-Matriculated (leading for Matriculation), and Certificate.


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
    • Submit GRE test scores that are sufficient for admission or qualify to petition to waive the GRE (see below for details)
    • Provide two letters of reference, one of which must be an academic reference from an instructor who assigned a grade
  3. If they are a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and wish to apply for Federal Financial Aid 

Please note that these are average, not minimum, scores. If applicants take the GRE exam multiple times, we will use the highest score from each section.

Non-Matriculated (leading to Matriculation)

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 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 but does want to take some courses in the program.

Non-matriculated students may take up to four courses before they must either apply to matriculate or choose to earn the Higher Education Certificate.


Certificate-seeking students should apply as non-matriculated. The primary reasons for this include:

  1. The student only aims to complete five courses to fulfill the Certificate requirement 
  2. The student does not need nor has taken the GRE
  3. The student does not need nor has an academic reference 
  4. The student wants a quick turnaround time to begin taking courses

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). Certificate-seeking students should complete five courses to fulfill the Certificate requirement. Should a Certificate student decide to pursue the Master's degree, they may apply to matriculate after completing three courses, in consultation with their academic advisor. 

Applicants should follow instructions for completing a non-matriculated application.

Application Requirements

Matriculated Higher Education Administration Certificate / Non-Matriculated1
Previous education course work or experience is not required Previous education course work or experience is not required
Online application:
  • 4 essays
Online application:
  • Statement of purpose
All undergraduate and graduate academic transcripts* All undergraduate and graduate academic transcripts*
Resume Resume
Two letters of recommendation (one must be academic)
$100 US application fee (nonrefundable)** $100 US application fee (nonrefundable)**
GRE scores (may petition to waive or substitute)
TOEFL score (see international requirements)

*The transcript GPA(s) is an important indicator of an applicant’s academic capabilities and can not be lower than a 3.0.
**To request the fee waiver, send a message detailing why you need to request the waiver to our admissions coordinator at
1Through a separate application process, Non-Matriculated students may apply to the master’s degree program.  All coursework successfully completed as a Non-Matriculated student will count toward degree requirements.  Students who choose not to apply for matriculation may earn the Higher Education Certificate instead by completing a fifth course.  Students who earn the certificate are no longer eligible to earn the master's degree.

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 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. 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 MSHE 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  If necessary, hard copies may be mailed to:
  4. MS in Higher Education Administration and Policy
    Attention: Admissions
    1800 Sherman Avenue, Suite 7300
    Evanston, IL 60208

GRE Requirements

This section only applies to individuals seeking the MSHE degree -- it does not apply to individuals seeking the Higher Education Administration Certificate.

GRE Score Submission Details

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

Petitioning to Substitute the GRE

Applicants may petition to submit GMAT or LSAT scores in place of the GRE when applying for matriculated status.

Petitioning to Waive the GRE

Applying as a Matriculated 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 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. Admitted non-matriculated students may then petition to waive the GRE at a later date, 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 three years of full-time work experience (higher education experience is preferred but not required)
  • Applicant has successfully completed 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 MSHE 467 History and Philosophy of Higher Education 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 MSHE 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.

Additional Information

For more information please email the MSHE admissions coordinator at

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.


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
  • 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

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

The Master of Science in Higher Education Program does not require that international applicants submit a TOEFL score. However, much of your success in graduate study in the United States will rest on your ability to understand, read, write and speak English. If English is not your native language, evidence of proficiency in its use will be helpful in reviewing your application for admission. Therefore, international applicants are encouraged to provide official TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores.

If submitting TOEFL scores, the test results must come directly from the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The TOEFL 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 paper 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

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Contact Us

MS in Higher Education Administration and Policy Program

1800 Sherman Avenue, Suite 7300
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-7526