The Northwest School

The Northwest School (NWS) is a middle and high school with a student population of about 500 students. Located in downtown Seattle, The Northwest School offers a unique college preparatory experience, thriving arts and athletic programs, and supportive environment. Graduates of The Northwest School attend some of the top universities in the nation and overseas. The school has a national reputation as a vibrant intellectual community and has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. The Northwest School is the only school in Seattle with a coeducational international boarding program. Its great location allows international students to not only gain an excellent education, but to also experience many aspects of American culture and life.


3_Main_building - CopyThe Northwest School campus is anchored in the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, one of the most beautiful American cities and home to Microsoft, Starbucks, Boeing, Amazon, Expedia, Costco, and many other world renowned companies. The city has a friendly and highly educated population, world leading universities, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and top athletic teams. The school’s urban campus is surrounded by many art studios, museums, concert halls and theaters. The campus is just a few minutes’ walk from the shore of the Pacific Ocean, famous Pike Place Market, the first Starbucks coffee shop, the Paramount Theater, the Pacific Science Center, the Space Needle and many other cultural landmarks and recreational activities that offer students ample opportunity to learn and enjoy themselves while studying in the U.S.

Campus and Facilities

jpeg-New_building_2---CopyThe Northwest School campus occupies one city block.  The main school building was built in 1905 and is a registered National Historic Landmark. In addition to classrooms and offices, the main building hosts art, ceramic, and dance studios, a common area, the library, a black-box theater, and a photo lab. Adjacent to the main building is the newly-built school complex that contains a dining hall, a 175-seat theatre, and a regulation-size gymnasium with a basketball / volleyball court, and fitness mezzanine. On the roof of the building, is a sport field and sky lab.

Dormitory and Residential Life

The school’s dormitory is located on campus and houses approximately 60 high school students on gender-specific floors. Students typically live two to a room. Common areas include lounges where students can relax, watch TV, or play ping pong and foosball; a kitchen; laundry facilities; a computer lab; and a study room. Dorm students have access to indoor basketball and volleyball courts and the fitness mezzanine. Residential advisors are always present in the dorm to help ensure a safe and happy student body. The dorm students enjoy full housing amenities, weekend outings, in-school celebrations throughout the year, and are provided nutritious meals in the new cafeteria.

10_Dorm_2The Northwest School dormitory offers a safe environment in which faculty and students work together to create a community that supports personal growth. The faculty help students gain communication, conflict resolution, and academic skills, while living together in a joyful, vibrant learning community. Students are actively engaged in sports, the arts, community projects, and outdoor activities. The Northwest School provides many opportunities for students to experience the natural environment beyond the city, through sea kayaking, rock climbing, skiing, hiking, biking and camping. The Outdoor Program offers a schedule of day and weekend-long trips throughout the year.

Student Body Composition

The school has about 500 students – 150 middle school students and about 350 in high school.  Of this number, 74 high school students are international. They come to The Northwest School from Australia, China, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, and other countries. The student to faculty ratio is 1:9 and the average class size is 16.

College Counseling and Matriculation

The school’s College Counseling Department works with juniors and seniors on the college search and application process.  College counseling starts during a student’s junior year with individual meetings to research colleges and the creation of a college list. During their senior year, students work with the Counseling Department to finalize their application plans and proceed with applying to colleges and universities.

Graduates of The Northwest School attend some of the top universities in the nation and abroad. Every year representatives from more than 100 colleges and universities from across the United States visit the school to recruit NWS students.  All NWS students are admitted to universities and colleges.  The class of 2015 middle 50% SAT score was 1760-2050. The complete list of schools attended by NWS graduates can be found here:

High School (9-12 grades) Curriculum

The Northwest School offers a unique interdisciplinary program of studies, consisting of an integrated humanities program, applied mathematics, science, language study, visual and performing arts experiences, and athletic competition.

  • The humanities program combines the study of History, English, Philosophy, Art History, and Literature into one three-year integrated double-credit course. Classes meet nine times each week in lectures, small-group discussions, and regular writing tutorials with three to four students.
  • A broad spectrum of Mathematics classes includes courses in Algebra I and II, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, Math Analysis, Calculus, Statistics, and Advanced Calculus. Students may elect to take the AP Calculus exam to earn college credit. The most advanced students are invited to sit for the American Invitation Mathematics Examination.
  • The Science program consists of courses in Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, Primate Biology, Advanced Chemistry, and Physics. Opportunities for field research in Primate Biology and Chemistry are provided.
  • The arts program offers 57 art courses taught by professional artists in Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts. Students take 2 year-long arts classes.
  • The school fields 30 teams in Basketball, Soccer, Volleyball, Cross Country, Track and Field, and Ultimate Frisbee. The school also supports highly competitive athletes in extramural city and regional teams in such sports as golf, crew, and kayaking.

High School Curriculum for International Students

International students who fully meet the English language proficiency requirement attend regular classes without ESL support.

International students who require ESL support are gradually integrated into more courses with U.S. students each year.  In the 9th grade, students take four classes (Humanities, Beginning Grammar, and Theater as Communication) with ESL support, and share math, PE, and an art course with U.S. students.  In the 10th and 11th grades, students take two classes with ESL support (Humanities and English), and share all other classes with U.S. students.  In the 12th grade, all international students follow the full 12th grade curriculum.  In addition, they take Advanced English Composition to further strengthen their English language skills.

Support for International Students

19_Art_1Each student in the school is assigned an academic advisor who monitors their progress in school. Advisors review all evaluations with students, help students set goals based on the evaluations, and aid in course selection during registration periods. International students also work with professional residential advisors who closely follow their academic performance, stay in contact with their teachers, and provide help and support.

The school’s Family Buddy Program connects dorm students with families of The Northwest School day students. This allows international students to gain a “home away from home”, learn about Seattle, and broaden the opportunity for cultural exchange.  In addition, a group of international parent representatives, consisting of local student parents, meets regularly with each international student and acts as liaison between the school’s administration and the student’s families back home.

International Admissions

Admission to The Northwest School is competitive, and is not dependent on one single factor. A committee comprised of faculty and administrators considers the following sources of information: the application, academic records, teacher evaluations, personal recommendations, test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, iTEP-SLATE, or EIKEN), school visit/interview, and a student’s talent, character, and leadership qualities.

13_Classes_1 - Copy

All international students applying to The Northwest School must meet one of the following minimum English language proficiency requirements:

Grade 9 (with ESL support) iBT 50 4.0-4.5 3.5 Grade 3
Grade 10 (with ESL support) iBT 60 5.0 4.5 Grade 2 A
Grade 11 (with ESL support) iBT 80 6.0 5.5 Grade Pre-1
Grade 12 iBT 90 6.5 6.0 Grade 1
Grade 9-12 (without ESL support)
First round of admissions deadline is the second week of December. Second round of admissions deadline is the first week of February. After February, international applications are accepted on a rolling basis depending on space availability in school and in the dormitory.

International Summer Camp (July-August)

For over 20 years, The Northwest School has provided a welcoming and engaging summer program for youth ages 10-16 from across Seattle, the U.S. and the world. Modeled on our school’s liberal arts curriculum, campers choose from a wide range of exciting subjects, including English language classes, the visual and performing arts, athletics, sciences, and more. With experience in intercultural instruction, our teachers are prepared to assist students with a broad range of English level and learning styles while also maintaining an engaging and challenging curriculum.


Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS), Membership with National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS).

  • Estimated Start Date
  • Estimated End Date
    Mid June
  • Number of Students
    510 (15% international)
  • Grades
  • Teacher/Student Ratio
  • Teachers with Advanced Degrees
  • ESL Programs
  • Tests Accepted
  • School Uniform
  • Year Established
  • Campus Size
    2 acres
  • Boarding
  • Countries Represented
    10+ countries including: Australia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam
  • Foreign Languages Offered
    Chinese, French, and Spanish.
  • Arts
    The arts program offers 57 art courses taught by professional artists in Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts.
  • Activities
    Student interest groups: AIDS Aware, BIG News, Book Group, Checkmate!, Engineering Interest Group, Fashion, Freedom Fries, GLAM, Habitat for Humanity, Kibali, Math Club, Model UN, Opera Club, Outdoor Program, Save Capitol Hill, Screamin' Vegan, and others. Outdoor program.
  • Sports Offered
    The school fields 30 teams in Basketball, Soccer, Volleyball, Cross Country, Track and Field, and Ultimate Frisbee. The school also supports highly competitive athletes in extramural city and regional teams in such sports as golf, crew, and kayaking.
  • SAT Average
  • University Acceptance Rate

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