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Frequently Asked Questions

Any questions not answered below can be directed to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

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Does the English department offer either part-time or online graduate degree programs?

No.  All three of our graduate degree programs require full-time enrollment and residency. The School of Professional Studies offers part-time MA programs in Literature and in Liberal Studies, as well as a part-time MFA program.

Do you offer application fee waivers? How do I apply for one?

Our Graduate School has a limited number of fee waivers to offer.  Information can be found on their website here.

May I apply to more than one degree program at Northwestern?

No.  You can only apply to a single degree program in a single department at Northwestern in any given year.

Do you ever accept late applications?

No.  The time constraints of the admissions season make it impossible for us to accept or review late applications.  Our application deadlines are listed in the How To Apply section for each degree program.

Master's application deadlines

MFA+MA application deadline

PhD application deadline

Do I need a Master's degree to apply for a Ph.D. in English at Northwestern?

No. Though it can prove to be an important factor in some cases, around half of the applicants we admit on average have only an undergraduate degree.

Can I apply for the MFA+MA program if I have a previous graduate degree?

Yes.  Students with prior MA and MFA degrees are welcome to apply.

How many credits from prior coursework can I transfer towards a graduate degree in the English department?

We don’t accept transfer credits from other institutions in place of coursework offered in our own program. 


Can I submit letters of recommendation from Interfolio?

You may enter the Interfolio assigned document e-mail address into your application, and follow Interfolio’s process for submitting a letter directly. If you are unable to submit directly from Interfolio for any reason, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator to let them know that they will be receiving something from Interfolio. Please wait until after you've started the online application to have any letters sent. Do not under any circumstances have your letters of recommendation sent to the Graduate School. They will not forward them to the department.

Can one of my letters of recommendation come from my supervisor, or other individual not related to my academic career?

Recommendations that cannot speak specifically to your academic work and training cannot provide us with the textured intellectual evaluations we need to make admissions decisions.

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 try to reconnect with your undergraduate and/or graduate professors.  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.

If you’re ultimately unable to find previous professors willing or able to write letters of recommendation on your behalf, you should consider taking graduate-level coursework in a part-time program.  Your instructors in such courses will often be better situated to write on your behalf than those you haven't worked with in a long time.


Does the English Department require GRE scores?

GRE scores are neither required nor accepted as part of the application for any of our three graduate programs.

Am I required to take the TOEFL or IELTS exams? Are any applicants exempt?

Applicants from most non-English speaking countries are required to take either the TOEFL or IELTS exam.

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.


I have application materials that can't be uploaded to the online system. How can I have them included in my file?

If you or your recommenders are having trouble uploading your transcript(s), GRE score report, letters of recommendation, or any other pdf document, they should be sent via email directly to the department's Graduate Program Coordinator

Under no circumstances should any application materials be sent to Northwestern's Graduate School or their Office of Admission.

When should I visit campus?

Prospective students are welcome to visit campus informally, but you should not assume that staff or faculty in the department will have the time available to meet with you in person. 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 PhD and MFA+MA students to attend a formal campus visit, 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.

What funding is available to graduate students in the MFA+MA program?

Funding is provided for 3 full years, summers included.  The stipend amount is the same listed for the PhD program here. The summer stipend is identical to that provided during the academic year.

Tuition is covered by a tuition scholarship during any quarter in which you are receiving a stipend.

What funding is available to graduate students in the MA program?

No funding is available for students in the MA program.  Information about tuition and other fees can be found here.

Note that the part-time option listed there does not apply to the English department’s graduate program.

What funding is available to graduate students in the PhD program?

Information on the stipend package offered to all PhD students can be found here. The summer stipend is identical to that provided during the academic year.

Tuition is covered by a tuition scholarship during any quarter in which you are receiving a stipend.