First-Year Students
Freshman Checklist

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As Northwestern continues to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the McCormick First-Year Advising Team is committed to providing incoming first-year students with accurate information. As new information becomes available that impacts the FAQs below, we will work to make those updates as soon as possible. For the most complete information on the University's planning and resources, please see the COVID-19 website: https://www.northwestern.edu/coronavirus-covid-19-updates/index.html

June 1 – July 31

Complete the McCormick Dossier

The McCormick Dossier is your most important tool for planning the fall quarter. In it, you will record information on your major interests, previous coursework, and test scores.

The Dossier will also allow you to complete your fall study plan and take the math, chemistry and physics assessment exams.

You must complete the Dossier.

Take Math Assessment Exam

This online exam will help us ensure that you're in the right math class given your background in the subject. To complete the test, log into Dossier.

Complete the Chemistry Assessment

The Chemistry Assessment is required for all incoming engineering students. Some students will also want to take the Chemistry Placement Exam. 

Send Transfer Credit Info: (Registrar's Information)

Review the Credit Transfer Process guidelines listed on the New Student Welcome Page

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Before August 1

Contact Peer Adviser

By mid-July, you should have heard from your peer advisor (PA), an upperclassman who will lead you through Wildcat Welcome.

Be sure to keep in touch with your PA and get to know them before school starts to get your questions answered.

Complete Relevant Placement or Assessment Exams

These might include language placement or assessment exams. Contact the specific department for more information. Read additional information on required Northwestern placement and assessment exams.

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Throughout the Summer

Submit All AP/IB Scores

Send your official score report to:

Office of the Registrar
Northwestern University
633 Clark Street
Evanston, IL 60208

Be sure to bring a copy of the report with you to campus on the fall.

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First-Year FAQs

Placement Exams/Credits

Why are there so many types of exams with different names?

There are multiple exams because they serve different purposes including assessing general knowledge, earning exemptions, and earning course credit. The nomenclature of these exams is not consistent across departments. Below is a summary of exams administered to incoming engineering students.

Math Assessment
Administration: Online, Dossier
Required/Optional: Required
Purpose: Initial assessment of calculus knowledge

Math Proficiency Exam
Administration: Wildcat Welcome
Required/Optional: Optional*+
Purpose: Earn exemption(s) from math courses

Initial Chemistry Assessment
Administration: Online, Canvas
Required/Optional: Required
Purpose: Assessment of chemistry knowledge. Determine placement in CHEM 110 or CHEM 151

Chemistry Placement Exam
Administration: Online, Canvas
Required/Optional: Required for those taking Chem 171 or Chem 210-1   
Purpose: Place into higher level of chemistry than CHEM 151

Physics Placement Exam
Administration: Wildcat Welcome
Required/Optional: Optional*
Purpose: Earn credit for physics

*Students who were not able to take associated AP/IB exams and wish to demonstrate knowledge of calculus, chemistry or physics should consider taking these exams and should discuss this with their first-year adviser.

+Math proficiency exam requires documentation of a completed math course or program.

What is the purpose of the math assessment exams, and how do the results get used?

The math assessment exams are short, required, online exams administered through dossier which do not earn credit nor exemptions. They serve as an initial diagnostic tool to help academic advisers determine which math course(s) to recommend (class number and/or honors), and whether you should consider taking further math proficiency exams to earn exemptions. For these reasons, we recommend that you take the assessment exams seriously.

What is the purpose of the math proficiency exams, and how do the results get used?

The one-hour long math proficiency exams are offered during Wildcat Welcome, and cover both single and multivariable topics. McCormick’s math proficiency exams allow students to demonstrate their mastery of calculus courses for which they were unable to earn college credit. To take a math proficiency exam, you must speak with your first-year adviser and provide documentation of completed math course(s).

What is the purpose of the initial chemistry assessment, and how do the results get used?

All incoming first-year students are required to take the online initial chemistry assessment. This assessment evaluates basic problem solving and quantitative aspects of foundational chemistry material that is typically covered in high school chemistry courses. It is a timed exam that will determine whether a student should start the General Chemistry sequence with CHEM 110 or CHEM 151. Below is a link that provides more information about this assessment from the Department of Chemistry:


What is the purpose of the chemistry placement exam, and how do the results get used?

The chemistry placement exam is an online, timed exam covering the course material from CHEM 110, 131/151 with lab (132/152). The exam is optional and only necessary for students trying to improve their course placement (e.g. start with CHEM 171 or 210-1). We recommend that you take the chemistry placement exam if you require further chemistry for your engineering major and wish to take CHEM 171 or CHEM 210-1. You do not need permission from your first-year adviser to take the chemistry placement exam. Below is a link that provides more information from the Department of Chemistry:


What is the purpose of the physics placement exams, and how do the results get used?

The physics placement exams are optional and offered during Wildcat Welcome. These exams are recommended for students who wish to demonstrate knowledge of physics and earn credit for algebra and calculus based physics. Below is a link that provides more information about this placement exam from the Department of Physics and Astronomy:


I submitted my AP/IB/other scores to the Registrar's Office. When can I see them on CAESAR and how do I view them?

The Registrar's Office works to update AP/IB and other score information throughout the summer so that those credits are posted once you begin fall quarter, though timelines can vary. To view your credits, log into CAESAR, go to “Academic Records” and click “Test & Transfer Credit Report”.

Be sure to report AP/IB information where requested in Dossier so your adviser can help you form the best plan for registration.

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Visit the McCormick Website

Bookmark the Welcome New Students page and check in periodically to stay updated on the latest news for your incoming class.