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Northwestern’s Class of 2028 is taking shape

With regular decision process now complete, admittance rate stands at 7.5% with more than 50,000 applications received
regular decision process
In 2023, Northwestern rolled out a new set of supplemental essay questions designed to focus student responses on areas the University considers important to holistic admissions review. Photo by Shane Collins

As an elite high school fencer, Daphne Chan has crisscrossed the globe to compete at every level all while keeping her academics in balance. She does it by focusing on her dream to participate in the Olympics — a dream that will become reality this summer when she represents Hong Kong, China, in the Paris Games.

Chan, who applied early to Northwestern, also is among the first to join Northwestern’s Class of 2028. And when the Office of Undergraduate Admissions released regular decision outcomes last week, the University moved a step closer to shaping another exceptional incoming class.

Stacey Kostell, vice president and dean of enrollment, is welcoming her first class of new Wildcats and says she is inspired by the personal stories and journeys of these newly admitted students.

“They represent the best things about Northwestern — their resilience, ambition, creativity, thirst for learning and a desire to make their marks on the world,” she said. “We’re thrilled to be able to extend invitations to these students and can’t wait to see them on campus this fall.”

First-year applications for the Class of 2028 totaled more than 50,000, and the acceptance rate is around 7.5%. In recent years, the number of secondary schools represented in this pool has climbed to more than 10,000 — “a meaningful testament to our ability to reach new audiences around the world and further diversify our pool,” said Liz Kinsley, associate dean and director of undergraduate admission. The incoming class size has also grown by about 5% since pre-pandemic and is expected to be around 2,100 this fall.

The incoming class size has grown by about 5% since before the pandemic and is expected to be around 2,100 this fall.

Northwestern’s growing partnership with QuestBridge, a national organization that supports high-achieving students from lower-income households, is another sign of increased diversity. In the fall, Northwestern reviewed nearly 1,700 candidates through QuestBridge’s National Match program and will enroll a record 93 QuestBridge Match Scholars in fall. Since Northwestern invites QuestBridge National Match finalists who are not matched anywhere to apply through the early and regular decision rounds, the Class of 2028 thus far includes nearly 140 Quest Scholars — up 34% since fall 2020. And, that number will grow as regular decision admits choose Northwestern in the weeks to come.

The University also continues to grow the number of students whose parents did not graduate from a four-year college — more than 16% of early admits already committed to Northwestern are first-generation college students, compared to 14% three years ago.

In 2023, Northwestern rolled out a new set of supplemental essay questions designed to focus student responses on areas the University considers important to holistic admissions review.

“Candidates reflected with impressive substance and specificity on how their backgrounds and experiences have shaped how they see themselves engaging our campus opportunities, resources and communities,” Kinsley said. “We also read thousands of exciting proposals for interdisciplinary courses or collaborations, ideas for painting the Rock and more.”

Test-optional policies implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic have remained in place for first-year and transfer students.

This year’s admitted students come from all over the country and the world, from all 50 states and over 90 countries of citizenship.

High school senior Sebastian Hesser, another incoming student admitted during early decision, grew up in Alaska and Maine. “My background has always been fun to explain since my mother is from Colombia and my father is from Pennsylvania,” he said. “As a family, we've been all over.

“At the beginning of the year, I had no clue about what I wanted to do in college. I love the life sciences, music and languages — there’s so much to discover and learn. Committing to just one of those fields was going to be very hard for me. But Northwestern stood out as a place that would enable me to really explore at a high level and feed my passion for learning.”

What about the FAFSA delay?

Recent changes to the U.S. Department of Education’s federal student aid application (FAFSA) promised a simpler form. However, the relaunch has been hit with delays, which means many families are waiting longer to find out how much support they’ll get in paying for college. But given Northwestern’s use of the CSS Profile alongside the FAFSA, these delays have not impacted Northwestern’s ability to provide loan-free financial aid packages that meet the full demonstrated need of all admitted students, according to Phil Asbury, University director of financial aid.

Students admitted to Northwestern through regular decision have until May 1 to accept their offer.

Wildcat Days are here again

With the arrival of spring, the Evanston campus will welcome hundreds of admitted students and their families for Wildcat Days on April 8 and 15. In these two centerpiece admitted-student days, Northwestern will present an expansive program that connects admitted students and their families with University leaders, advisers, faculty, staff and current students for a taste of campus life and Purple Pride. Admitted students can also access dozens of digital events throughout April and connect one-on-one in online “Purple Priority” conversations with current undergraduates and alumni.

Highlights during Wildcat Days include:

  • Exploring academics, libraries, study abroad options and career services
  • Having lunch in a dining hall
  • Discussing opportunities for those who identify as first-generation, lower income
  • Discovering how to make an impact through civic engagement
  • Visiting “Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology” at The Block
  • Seeing student startups in action at The Garage
  • Touring athletics facilities
  • Experiencing Evanston and walking along Lake Michigan
  • Learning the traditions that bring Northwestern Wildcats together
  • Meeting leaders of student clubs and organizations