How to Apply

Application deadlines for Fall 2018 matriculation

Doctoral applications

All application materials are due by 11:59 pm (CST)

  • Sunday, December 3, 2017

Master's and Non-degree applications

We will review completed applications twice this year, and all application materials are due by 11:59 pm (CST) on the following dates:

  • Thursday, January 31, 2018
  • Sunday, April 1, 2018

All applications that are complete by a given deadline will be reviewed at that time, and will receive a decision as soon afterwards as possible.  We aim for an 8 week turnaround.

Program Codes

Look for the following codes when searching for the correct degree program:

  • E25PH is the program code for the Doctoral program
  • E25MA is the code for the Master's program
  • E25ND is the code for Non-Degree students


All supplemental application materials must be submitted through The Graduate School's application system. Please do not send, or have sent, paper copies of any documents. If you or your recommenders are having difficulty submitting any component of the application online, and the application system's online help is unable to resolve your problem, please contact the Graduate Program Assistant.

Recommendations from Interfolio cannot be submitted directly to the application system, and must be sent directly to the Graduate Program Assistant.

In all cases, our department's specifics regarding supplemental application materials superseded those listed on The Graduate School's website, as well as any listed in the application itself.

Supplemental Application Materials

In addition to the online application, the English Department requires the following documents for application to the Doctoral (program code: E25PH), Master's (program code: E25MA), and Non-Degree (program code: E25ND) programs:

  • One scanned copy of the OFFICIAL transcript from each institution you've attended;
    • We cannot accept printouts of unofficial grade reports,
    • Transcripts for non-degree courses are not needed,
    • Transfer credits and courses taken as part of a study-abroad program will usually be included in your degree-awarding institution's transcript. There's no need to submit separate transcripts from those other institutions;
  • Two letters of recommendation, though we strongly advise you to ask for three;
  • A statement of purpose detailing your intellectual interests, strengths, and reasons for wanting to undertake graduate study - approximately 400-500 words, double-spaced.  These guidelines supersede any instructions to the contrary on the online application;
  • GRE scores from the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing sections of the exam;
    • Arrange for ETS to report the scores to Northwestern directly.  The institution code is 1565.  No department code is needed,
    • The Literature in English subject test remains optional,
    • For scores to be considered official, the test must have been taken no more than five years before the intended September of entry and must come directly from the Educational Testing Service (ETS);
  • All non-native English speaking applicants are required to report scores from either the TOEFL or the IELTS exam;
    • To be considered official, the exam must have been taken no more than two years prior to the intended September of entry,
    • Because of the level of English fluency required of students in our program, we will only consider applications with a TOEFL score of at least 100, or IELTS score of at least 7,
    • Rules governing exemptions from this requirement can be found in our FAQ;
  • A sample of your writing on a literary topic - ideally a critical essay - between 12 and 25 pages.  Scholarly citations must be included, but do not count against the page limit;
    • Please do not submit creative writing samples of any kind;
  • Additional details from Northwestern's Graduate School about the application (including further details on the TOEFL/IELTS requirement, transcript submission, application fees, etc...) can be found on The Graduate School's website.

PhD Applicants

Applications for doctoral study are considered for Fall admission only. All students admitted to our doctoral program are offered full financial aid (summers included) through the end of the spring of their fifth year, this provided by a combination of fellowships and teaching assistantships. Prospective students must submit all application materials by the deadline listed above. The English Department admissions process occurs once a year and ends in early February.

When reviewing applications, we look for evidence of keen intellectual ability, skill in literary analysis, scholarly potential, and a strong sense of academic purpose. We do not emphasize any single factor, but pay close attention to written work and to applicants' competency in one or more foreign languages. We typically expect to receive between 200 and 300 applications for admission to the doctoral program, with a target class size of between 6 and 8 students. The recipients of admissions offers have, on average, GRE Verbal scores of 166, Quantitative of 151, and Analytical of 5.0. An undergraduate GPA over 3.5 is highly desirable.

Notification of the admissions committee's decisions will most likely occur in early February. Once our offers of admissions have been made, we will invite those prospective students to campus for a Visiting Weekend around the beginning of March. This is a chance for you to meet with faculty and current graduate students, discuss future projects, and hear about current doctoral work, tour the department and the campus, sit in on graduate seminars, and to look at some of the many advantages that Evanston and Chicago have to offer.

MA and Non-Degree Applicants

Applications for the Master's degree are considered for Fall admission only.  They are accepted throughout the academic year, however, and reviewed three times during that period (see the schedule above). Students admitted to the Master's program currently average GRE Verbal scores of 160.  This is not a requirement to be considered for admission, but serves as a good target.  We offer only a full-time Master's Degree Program in English; applicants interested in a part-time degree should contact School of Professional Studies for information about its Master's in Literature, in Creative Writing, and in Liberal Studies.