Frequently Asked Questions

Any other questions?
We welcome you to contact the Graduate Program Assistant with any further questions you may have at
Am I required to take the TOEFL or IELTS exams? Are any applicants exempt?

An applicant will be considered exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement if they can certify their proficiency in English in one of the following ways :

  • Providing transcripts verifying an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year institution or equivalent, where the language of instruction is English.
  • Providing transcripts verifying a graduate degree from an accredited institution where the language of instruction is English.

Only an unofficial transcript will be required at the time of application. Students choosing to matriculate must submit official copies of the transcript verifying this information.

Does your department offer a Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing?
No, the English Department does not offer a graduate program in creative writing. However, the School of Continuing Studies offers a part-time Master's in Creative Writing.
Do you have a part-time and/or correspondence Master's degree program?
Our graduate degree programs require full-time enrollment and residency. The School of Continuing Studies offers part-time Master's programs in Literature, in Creative Writing, and in Liberal Studies.
When should I visit campus?
Prospective students are welcome to visit campus informally and to stop by the department for general information. Because admission into our program is highly competitive, however, we ask that prospective students wait until admissions decisions have been made before making formal visits to meet with faculty and current graduate students. In March, we invite admitted doctoral students to attend a Visiting Weekend, during which they meet with faculty and current graduate students, tour the department, and sit in on graduate seminars. There are no formal visits for prospective Master's students.
When will I be notified about a decision?
Notification of Ph.D. decisions will normally occur in early to mid February. Decisions for the M.A. program vary, but we aim for 4-6 weeks after each application submission deadline (November 1st, February 1st, and April 1st).
How many recommendations do I need? And should these recommendations appear on special forms?
Two are required and three are recommended. All letters of recommendation must be submitted online through the ApplyYourself application system.
I am a transfer student, and I took a course similar to English 206 at another university. Do I have to take it at Northwestern?
Yes. English 206, 207, 208 and 306, 307, 308 may be repeated twice for credit as long as the course content is different from what you have already taken.
What kind of financial aid does your department provide?

We receive as many as 350 applications for the Ph.D. program each year, and admit only those to whom we can offer full funding. We look for an entering class of 6 to 8 Ph.D. students. As long as students remain in good academic standing, funding is provided for total of 57 months, including four 3-month summer research fellowships, three 9-month academic years of funding as a graduate assistant, and two 9-month academic years of fellowship funding (with no remunerative work required).

We are unable to offer to Master's students financial aid of any kind, whether in the form of fellowships, teaching assistantships, or research fellowships.

What is the last date by which I can take the GRE and still make the Ph.D. admission deadline?
We strongly advise applicants to take the test no later than in October. When applicants take the GRE in November or later, Northwestern sometimes receive the results after the deadline.
Does the English Department require the GRE English Literature Subject Test?
Whether you are applying to the Ph.D. or Master's Program, we require only your official scores from the general GRE. The subject exam remains optional.
Do I need a Master's degree to apply for a Ph.D. in English at Northwestern?
No, a Master's Degree is not a prerequisite for admission into our Ph.D. program.
Do you ever accept late applications?
The time constraints of the admissions season make it impossible for us to accept or review late applications.
What is the application deadline?

For the Ph.D. program:

The deadline for Fall matriculation in the following year is listed on the How to Apply page.

For the Master's program:

Applications will only be considered for matriculation in the following Fall quarter. However, we will be reviewing applications on a semi-rolling basis, based on when the application has been submitted. Our admisisons committee will be reviewing files, and issuing admissions decisions, after the following dates:

  • November 1st of the current academic year
  • February 1st of the year of intended matriculation
  • April 1st of the year of intended matriculation
Can I use a paper application instead of the on-line application?
No. The Graduate School and English Department accept only online applications submitted through the Apply Yourself online application system. Paper applications are no longer available, and as such, we are unable to fulfill requests to mail them to prospective students.