Frequently Asked Questions

Can I submit letters of recommendation from Interfolio?

Northwestern's online admissions system is not able to directly accept any documents sent via Interfolio.  If you are applying to the PhD or Master’s program, you will need to have the letters emailed directly to the department, at; the Graduate Program Assistant will then have to upload the letters manually to your application. If you are applying to the MFA+MA, please send your letters to the Assistant Director of Creative Writing at

To find the most up-to-date contact information, check this page, and please write in advance to let the program administrator know that Interfolio will be sending something in.  Please wait until after you've started the online application to have any letters sent.
Can one of my letters of recommendation come from my supervisor, or other individual not related to my academic training?
No.  References from work situations cannot provide us with the textured intellectual evaluations we need to make admissions decisions. 
What is the application deadline?

The deadlines for application submission to the PhD and MA can be found here.

The deadline for the MFA+MA can be found here.

The online application system itself will be available early in September.

I have been out of school for several years, and no longer have a close connection with any of my old professors. Who should I approach for letters of recommendation?
We advise you to reconnect with your undergraduate and/or graduate professors over email.  Explain what you’ve been doing, remind them of your work for their courses, describe your plans, and ask for a letter.  It's very important as well to gather old papers and materials that you can provide to help refresh their memories.
Can I use a paper application instead of the on-line application?
No. Northwestern accepts only online applications.  Paper applications are not available, and as such, we are unable to fulfill requests to mail them to prospective students.  See The Graduate School's Admissions page for details about the online application process.
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.
Does your department offer a Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing?
Yes, The Litowitz Creative Writing Graduate Program is a dual-degree program aimed at students with strong creative and critical talents. The new MFA+MA program combines an MFA degree with our renowned creative writing faculty with our already established, highly regarded MA in English.
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 Professional 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 and MFA+MA 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.
Do you ever accept late applications?
The time constraints of the admissions season make it impossible for us to accept or review late applications.
When will I be notified about a decision?

Notification of Ph.D. decisions will normally occur in early February.
Notification of the MFA+MA will normally occur in late February.

We aim to have decisions about M.A. applications sent no later than 8 weeks after each application submission deadline. 

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.
What kind of financial aid does your department provide?

Students admitted to the doctoral program receive full funding (full tuition remission and a living stipend) for a total of 5 academic years and 4 summers, as long as they stay in good academic standing.

Students admitted to the MFA+MA program receive full funding (full tuition remission and a living stipend) for a total of 3 academic years and 2 summers, as long as they stay in good academic standing.

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