Skip to main content


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 TGS 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). 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.

I want to begin my program two years from now. May I apply for admission this year and defer to next year?

Admission is offered for a specific program and a specific quarter of entry. Deferral is only granted with the approval of the admitting program and TGS and only after you have accepted our offer of admission. You may not defer your enrollment for more than one year from the original quarter of admission.

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?

It is important that you indicate the highest degree you are seeking from Northwestern University. Many of our programs admit only those students whose ultimate goal is the PhD. In some programs, you will earn the master’s en route to the PhD; in others, this is not considered necessary.

Application fee waivers

May I request an application fee waiver code? 

Fee waiver codes are not available by request. A handful of our Northwestern campus partners provide application fee waiver codes to applicants as part of an arrangement made with The Graduate School Office of Admissions and Recruitment before the start of the application season. If you have not already been provided with an application fee waiver code, you should proceed with the application process. The option to request a waiver is built into our application form.

Are DACA participants or undocumented applicants living in the United States eligible for fee waivers?

Yes, we do provide exceptions to our citizenship requirement for DACA and undocumented applicants as long as all other criteria are met. Please contact our office directly at 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 2022. What is the cut-off date for my GRE scores?

GRE test scores for applicants applying to Fall Quarter 2022 may not be older than September 2017.

If I take the GRE in November, will my scores arrive in time for fellowship/scholarship competition?

The only answer we can give is "maybe." There have been years when the scoring by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) was delayed and the score reports were received too long after the deadline for files to be considered for financial aid. It is best to take the test three to four months before the application deadline.

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 2022, may not be older than September 2020. 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 a TOEFL score?

If you are in the process of earning a degree from an institution where the primary language of instruction is English, you do not need to submit a TOEFL score. 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 TOEFL scores?

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

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 him/her 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.