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An Inside Look at the MSC Admissions Process

Sometimes the application process is enough to deter some prospective students from pursuing a master’s degree.

Time is precious, so we’ve removed many barriers from the Master of Science in Communication application process. We’re shedding light on the subject here so you can see—it’s not as complicated as it may seem.

How the Process Works

First, to begin the application, you need just a few basic materials (we don’t expect you to complete the entire applica

tion at once, so you can revisit at any point to continue):

1.      A professional résumé that features a snapshot of job responsibilities

2.      Academic transcripts

3.      A personal essay that tells a story about how you’ve gone above and beyond, been recognized as a leader, or accomplished a goal

4.      Contact information for two people who can provide letters of recommendation

A helpful hint about letters of recommendation: After you enter your recommenders’ contact information into the system, they receive an automatic email containing a link they can use to complete a form.

“We try to make it very easy,” says Toby Cortelyou, director of enrollment management and strategic initiatives for Northwestern’s MS in Communication program. “They don’t have to create a letter from scratch. They answer a few questions, share feedback, and tell us about their core competencies and how they align with the MSC program. We know they’re busy, and we want to make it as seamless as possible.”

Once application materials are submitted, you’ll be invited to participate in a one-on-one interview (virtual or in-person) with a member of the admissions committee, which is made up of admissions faculty and staff.

“During this hour, we want to hear your stories,” says Cortelyou. “Tell us about a time you were part of a challenging team dynamic. Describe a situation where you had to teach something new to someone. We’ll also talk about career goals and aspirations.”

After the interview is complete, every application is examined independently by each committee member. Then the group comes together to make final decisions, keeping three questions in mind:

1.      Will you be able to do the work and manage the academic rigor?

2.      Do we agree with your assessment of what you think you can provide to the program? Are your goals consistent with the experience we provide?

3.      What value will you be able to add? How are you going to contribute?

Within a few weeks, you’ll receive word on the decision. “Candidates get a significant amount of evaluation and review,” says Cortelyou. “It’s ultimately a group decision. If we agree, then that’s great. If we disagree, then we discuss openly.”

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

As you complete your application, keep these hints in mind to help you stand out.

1. Essays are Important!

Personal essays matter (a lot). Instead of trying to guess what the admissions team wants to hear—or what you think the “right” answers are— tell us a genuine, real-world story. We want to experience a piece of your personality so we can learn more about you.

“It’s less about telling us what components of the program appeal to you and more about telling us why you want to be here, what you hope to contribute, and how you can bring people together,” says Cortelyou. “The people who stand out are those who tell us stories, what they want to do with this program, and what they will bring to the classroom.”

2. Keep Future Classmates in Mind

The MS in Communication is a cohort program—you’ll experience everything together. Interactivity and dynamics within the group are important.

In your application, highlight how you can add unique expertise or experience or serve as a voice of connectivity among classmates. The more we think you can bring with you to the program, the higher your potential of being admitted.

3. Ask For Insight from People You Trust

Although you’re working toward your own goals, this isn’t a process you have to complete on your own.

Have conversations with friends, family members, coworkers, and recommenders. Explain why you’re applying for the program and how you hope to represent yourself. Then ask for feedback on stories you should consider sharing—or strengths you should consider leveraging.

“Tell us about you and trust the process,” says Cortelyou. “If you share a story that you believe is compelling, then that’s the best you can do. And that’s all we ask for.”