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How many students are there in the program?

There are about 85 students total in the ISP. 

Are there opportunities to meet students outside of ISP? Will I be able to take non-ISP classes?

The short answer to both questions is yes! While the ISP has a set curriculum, it is designed to enable students to still take classes outside of the program. First-years in ISP will take their First-Year Seminars (if in Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences) or Design Thinking & Communication courses (if in McCormick School of Engineering) with non-ISP students. In terms of classes, first- and second-year students will take mostly ISP classes, while third and fourth year students may have only one to two ISP specific courses per quarter.

What if I am interested in...?

Medical School: About 20% of ISP graduates enter medical school. In general, pre-medical students who pursue ISP instead of the traditional pre-medicine program have substantial interests in academic medicine or research. The ISP curriculum goes well-beyond the standard curriculum required for admission to medical schools. The standard premed curriculum includes one year of calculus, two years of chemistry (general and organic), one year of physics, and one year of biology. ISP begins its math sequence where the pre-med requirement leaves off. ISP chemistry places more emphasis on physical than on organic chemistry; and the program requires two years of physics, instead of one. ISP biology tends to be more quantitative and focused than the standard biology curriculum and it does not cover several topics tested on the Medical College Admission test (MCAT). In addition, ISP students take courses in earth and planetary science, astronomy, and computing.

It is possible to complete the ISP requirements and graduate in three years. Pre-medical students attempting to do this will have to consider some timing issues. Most students take the MCAT during the spring of their junior year. Students graduating in three years typically have to take the MCAT in the spring of their sophomore year. At this time, ISP students have taken only one quarter of Biology. This means that the student needs to do independent MCAT preparation or else defer second year physics to their third year in order to fit more biology in the schedule. Students can also choose to defer the MCAT until the summer after the second year. Timing is not an issue for students taking four years to complete their degree.

 Engineering: McCormick students can double major in ISP and their chosen field of engineering. Students pursuing this option will need to fulfill both McCormick and major specific requirements as well as the requirements of the ISP major.

It is often difficult for a student in high school to decide whether he or she should pursue a degree in engineering or one in science. This cannot be answered fully, but in general, those with greater interests in fundamental mechanisms or theory should consider science, and those with interests in applications and design may be best served in engineering. There is, however, a large grey area in the middle, and students should realize that a great deal of highly practical work (e.g., chemistry, geology, molecular biology) is done by people with advanced training in the sciences. At Northwestern, engineering and science are in separate schools and a student may apply to only one. Students can complete the ISP major by applying to either school, but students in the McCormick School will also need to complete an engineering major. Transfers between schools are relatively easy in the first year, but it is very rare to transfer into ISP after you have started in either school outside of the ISP program. If you have broad interest in the sciences you should apply to ISP at the same time as you first apply to Northwestern.

MENU: An ISP freshman cannot take the first year MENU sequence (Math 290 or 291) in place of the first year ISP math sequence (281) without consulting the ISP Director. Math 290/291 and Math 281 cover essentially the same material, however the ISP course is designed specifically with the needs of the ISP curriculum in mind and covers material in a different order and with a different emphasis. ISP students who are interested in pursuing more advanced mathematics can enroll in the advanced MENU courses (360, 321, 331).

Music: A double-major in ISP and Music is possible, but generally discouraged. The large number of required courses for each major leads to numerous time conflicts and any student considering this should be aware that it may take more than four years to graduate.

Is it possible to join ISP after freshman year?

If you are interested in ISP, you should apply as an incoming freshman—at the same time that you submit your general admission application to Northwestern. If you are a current freshman at Northwestern or another institution and are interested in transferring into ISP sophomore year, you should contact the program administrator to discuss your options. Please be aware that credit from non-ISP courses is usually not accepted toward a degree in Integrated Science. Transfer into ISP after sophomore year is not possible unless a student is planning to stay an additional (fifth) year at Northwestern.

Do ISP students live in the ISP house?

ISP students do not live in the ISP House and there is no special ISP dorm or other housing. The ISP House is intended as a place for ISP students to work and receive tutoring. ISP students follow the traditional housing process for students at Northwestern.

How many ISP students work in a research lab? How soon can ISP students begin doing research?

Most ISP students are involved in some sort of research project throughout their time in the program, and some begin as soon as winter quarter of their freshman year. Typically, juniors are the most involved in research labs. Many students who pursue research eventually end up graduating ISP with honors by submitting an honors thesis.

How difficult is the ISP curriculum? Will I have support?

ISP is difficult, but ISP students have advisors and tutors to help them along their journey in the program. Juniors and seniors in ISP are employed by the program to tutor other ISP students in their classes. Since these students have taken the same courses before, their input is incredibly valuable, especially to first-year students. ISP students also support each other and see great value in collaboration. Many students in the program cite this communal environment as one of the best qualities of ISP.

If I get a BA in three years, can I get a Master's degree in the fourth year?

Although this is sometimes possible, a student is often better served by doing independent study and a second major in a traditional field of study. This will provide the best preparation for entry into top PhD programs. In the sciences an MS is usually not required on the way to a PhD, and attending a different university for graduate work is generally desirable.

Does everyone who starts ISP finish it?

Yes. The number of students who enter as ISP students, but who later switch to another major is comparable to most other departments at Northwestern. Students who drop ISP usually do so in order to pursue a more narrow focus in a traditional major. All ISP course credit will transfer toward a different major or will fill WCAS/McCormick distribution requirements.

What about Advanced Placement (AP) Credit?

One or two units of credit are awarded for good performance on most AP exams and for some courses taken at universities prior to high school completion. University credit obtained this way in humanities and social sciences may or may not translate into credit for the College of Arts & Sciences distribution requirements. The most current information is available on the WCAS or McCormick site.

Credit in sciences may or may not exempt a student from an ISP course. A 5 on the Chemistry AP test exempts the student from freshman chemistry. A 5 on a Physics C exam may allow placement out of ISP Physics after consultation with the professor, but students are cautioned that ISP Physics goes beyond AP Physics. Students are not exempted from ISP Biology or Math on the basis of AP tests. In math, students can occasionally be exempted from a course on the basis of work beyond AP Calculus.

It is sometimes possible to complete the ISP major, a second science major, and a research project in three years. Students who accomplish this have usually met the two-year language proficiency requirement in the College of Arts and Sciences through strong performance on one of several placement exams. They have also received additional course credit through AP testing. This is, however, an unusual accomplishment; most students who wish to double major should plan on a four-year program.


Can I study abroad and complete ISP as well?

It is possible to study abroad for a year, or a quarter, as part of the ISP. Almost always the students who pursue this option are strengthening their second major and will take four years to graduate. Students who are interested in studying abroad should consult their advisor, ISP Director, and review the global learning offices webpage.