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Review the frequently asked questions below for answers to common questions about admissions procedures and application requirements, such as fees, transcripts, test results and letters of recommendation.


May I apply to more than one program?

You may only submit one application to one TGS program per academic year. Additional applications will not be reviewed and application fees will not be refunded.

May I apply for admission in any academic quarter?

Most departments admit students to fall quarter only, although a very few will consider applications for other terms. Please consult your chosen program for its policy. (See your specific program webpage for its contact information). For applicants to PhD and MFA programs, keep in mind that because most financial aid awards are made to students who matriculate in the fall, funds may not be available to you if you enroll in another quarter.

If I am admitted to a program, am I able to request to defer to start the program one year later?

Admission is offered for a specific program and a specific quarter of entry. We recommend that you only apply for a term that you are available to enroll in. However, if you are admitted to a program and are no longer able to start the program in the term you were accepted for, you may request to defer for up to one year. Please contact your program directly with an explanation of your need to defer. Your program and TGS will then review your request and will notify you if your request has been approved or denied.  

Where can I find statistics regarding the program to which I am applying?

TGS's Program Statistics page posts valuable information regarding program admission statistics, completion rates, placements, etc. 

Can I apply directly to a PhD program, or must I apply to study toward a master’s degree first?

In some PhD programs, you will earn the master’s en route to the PhD; in others, this is not considered necessary.

Application fee waivers

May I receive an application fee waiver?

TGS is able to provide a limited number of application fee waivers to applicants who meet the criteria described on the TGS application fee webpage

Are undocumented applicants or applicants with DACA status eligible for application fee waivers?

We encourage all individuals who are undocumented or have DACA status to refer to our application instruction page for Undocumented/DACA Applicants. If you are in need of an application fee waiver, please contact for more information.


Should I mail TGS my official transcripts?

All applicants should upload a copy of their transcript or academic record to the online application. Official transcripts are only required for applicants that have been admitted and have chosen to enroll at Northwestern. Official transcripts received before an offer of admission has been made will be discarded. 

Do I have to include my non-degree transcripts?

Yes. All post-secondary transcripts are required, unless class titles and grades earned at one institution appear on another school’s transcript that is already being included in your application.

My transcripts are from a foreign country and are not in English. What should I do?

If an institution's transcripts are only available in a foreign language, please include an English translation completed by a verifiable, neutral third party (i.e. ATA translators, a transcript evaluation service, etc.) in addition to the original copy.   

GRE tests

I am applying for admission to Fall quarter 2024. What is the cut-off date for my GRE scores?

GRE test scores for applicants applying to Fall Quarter 2024 may not be older than September 2019.

I sent my GRE score to Northwestern University, but the institution code I used was not 1565. Can you retrieve my scores from the other school?

No. We will only receive your scores if they are sent to the appropriate code.

My name has changed since taking a required test for admission. What should I do?

It is extremely important that the name used on your application exactly matches the name used on your test score reports. If the name on your application and test score reports are not exactly the same, we will not receive your test scores. If your name has changed since taking a required admission test, be sure to indicate your original surname in the space provided on the online application.

What are TGS's school and department codes for the submission of GRE scores?

TGS's school code is 1565. You may use any department code.

English language tests

I am a foreign student. My TOEFL/IELTS score is more than two years old, so the Educational Testing Service will not send official scores to you. Will you accept a photocopy?

No. TOEFL and IELTS tests must be taken no more than two years before the desired quarter of entry. TOEFL test scores for applicants applying to Fall quarter 2023, may not be older than September 2021. Photocopies are not acceptable evidence of your TOEFL or IELTS score. 

I am a foreign student who completed a bachelor’s level program in the U.S. Will the TOEFL or IELTS score requirement be waived?

TGS does not require English language testing scores from those who have earned an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution where the language of instruction is English. Be sure to confirm the English proficiency requirements for your program. See the Explore Programs page for a list of all programs and their websites.

I am a foreign student who completed a master’s level program in the U.S. although my undergraduate work was taken at a non-English speaking institution abroad. Because I have a U.S. master’s degree, will the TOEFL or IELTS score requirement be waived?

TGS does not require English language testing scores from those who have earned a graduate degree from an accredited institution where the language of instruction is English. Be sure to confirm the English proficiency requirements for your program. See the Explore Programs page for a list of all programs and their websites.

I am in the process of completing my degree from an English speaking institution. Do I need to submit English language proficiency test scores?

If you are in the process of earning a degree from an institution where the primary language of instruction is English, your program may choose to waive the English test score requirement for you. However, you must earn the degree BEFORE you enroll in classes at Northwestern. If you do not earn your degree, you will not be permitted to register.

What are TGS's school and department codes for the submission of English Language Proficiency scores?

TGS's school code for TOEFL is 1565. The Graduate School's department code is 01.

For submitting Michigan English Tests Scores, you will need to share your results with our organization, Northwestern University, The Graduate School.

Letters of Recommendation

May my recommender send you a hard copy of the letter rather than use the online system?

No. All letters must be submitted via the online application.

May I use Interfolio (or a similar service) to submit my letters of recommendation?

It depends on your program of interest. While a few of our programs continue to accept letters of recommendation from Interfolio, a growing number of our programs are using a version of the online recommendation form that is inherently incompatible with third-party uploading services. We recommend contacting your department of interest to confirm whether or not they accept letters of recommendation submitted via Interfolio.

I have been out of school for several years and there is no one left who can write an academic recommendation for me. May my employer write one?

The purpose of submitting letters of recommendation is to give program faculty and TGS an indication of your ability to do scholarly research. Current or former professors in your major-field have the best idea of your research potential. If, however, such persons are no longer available to ask, anyone who you think can best assess your potential for graduate study can be asked to write the letter.

I want to send more than the required number of letters of recommendation because I feel this will enhance my chances of being offered admission. Is this true?

Letters of recommendation are all about quality over quantity. Send the required number (two or three), and choose your recommenders well. If you do choose to send more than the minimum, make sure that your additional letter will include new information above and beyond what your other recommenders have already said. 

How do I edit my recommender?

If you need to edit a recommendation request you've submitted, you can do so from your user activity page. While you can only edit your recommender's name and email address from this page, once your recommender accesses the form they will be able to edit all of their contact information. You can edit your recommender's email address or name from here:

A new email is automatically sent when you edit the email address. Please note that you cannot change the information of a recommender who has already started or submitted their letter of recommendation. If your recommender has started the form but will not be completing it, please have them contact us directly at to request that the form be reset.

The information you edit will only update on your activity page, and any changes made here will not be reflected in the application itself.  This is normal system behavior.