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Application FAQ

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Most Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find out more about your graduate program?

This website contains a host of information about our program. Please continue to read this FAQ page and peruse other areas of the site, including sections on interdepartmental strengths, degree requirements, scholarly environment, and recent graduate awards and placements. You may also find it useful to consult the web sites of Northwestern's Graduate School and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Do you offer a terminal Master's program?

We do not offer a separate Master's program. Students in the Ph.D. program earn a Master's degree after a year of satisfactory work toward the Ph.D. degree. Northwestern's School of Professional Studies offers several part-time master's programs, including the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) and a Master of Arts in Literature (MALit). To find out more about these programs, visit their website at:

Can I start your program in the Winter, Spring, or Summer quarter?

No, we only admit for the Fall quarter.

Do you have a part-time and/or a correspondence program?

We do not. Northwestern's School of Professional Studies offers several part-time master's programs, including the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) and a Master of Arts in Literature (MALit). To find out more about these programs, visit their website at:

Do you require a major in History for admission?

We do not require a major in History as a prerequisite for admission. However, a background in some form of historical analysis is an asset with regard to preparation for graduate work.

How good is your department in…?

If you wish to know more about a specific field, please contact individual faculty directly. You will find descriptions of interests and current work, as well as e-mail addresses, in the Faculty section of our website.

 Can I visit the campus and meet with faculty and graduate students?

We organize a group visit in the spring for all students admitted into our program. Faculty and graduate students make a point of being available at that time. In addition, the Graduate School helps partially defray the cost of the trip. If you wish to visit us at a different time, you should contact faculty and graduate students directly. You will find contact information in the Faculty and Current Graduate Students sections of this website.

Am I too old to attend your program?

Age is not a factor in the admission process. Admission is solely based on academic merit.

How long does it take to complete your Ph.D. program?

Most graduate students complete the program in five to seven years. A few students take more time.

What can I do with a Ph.D. degree?

Our program is designed to train teachers and scholars for faculty positions at colleges and universities.

Financial Matters

How do I apply for financial assistance?

The regular application serves as the application for financial aid.

What kind of financial aid does your department provide?

All admitted students receive a five-year financial package that provides a stipend and pays tuition. Please see the Admission and Financial Aid section of our website for details. The first-year fellowship pays tuition and currently provides a stipend of $36,960 for twelve months.

Can I work part-time or full-time while in the program?

Our graduate program requires a full-time commitment. Outside work is prohibited by the terms of the financial package offered to admitted students (exceptions are made in rare cases, when it complements a student's academic pursuits).

Do you offer application fee waivers?

US citizens and permanent residents can apply for fee waivers through TGS. These waivers often run out before applications are due, so apply early if you need a waiver.

The History Department fee waiver application for qualified non-citizens and non-permanent residents has now closed.

Foreign Applicants

What is the TOEFL, IELTS or MET requirement for foreign applicants?

The Graduate School has established English language requirements for foreign applicants.  For more information visit the Graduate School's website for test scores here.  Foreign applicants who have attended English-speaking universities may be exempt from the TOEFL, IELTS or MET requirement. For more information about exempt universities, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator, Julie Hoather.

Do I need to submit TSE scores?

The TSE is not required for admission and financial aid in the first year of graduate study. However, a minimum score of 50 is required on the TSE in order to obtain funding in the second and subsequent years (for Teaching Assistantship).

 As a foreign student, am I eligible for the same funding as American students?

Yes, all entering students receive the same funding regardless of citizenship.

Previous Graduate Work

Do I need to have a Master's degree in order to be accepted into your program?

No, a Master's degree is not a prerequisite for earning entry into our Ph.D. program.

I have a Master's degree in History. Will I still need to take courses?

About half of our entering students hold a Master's degree from another institution. While previous graduate work often helps students complete their degree requirements faster, all students in our program have to complete two years of coursework. In specific cases, and with permission of the department, a student may use a graduate course taken at another institution to satisfy a departmental requirement. The course is replaced by one that better serves the student's academic needs.

What is the department's policy on transferring credits into the Ph.D. program from another institution?

We do not grant transfer credit for courses taken at another institution.

Application Requirements


What documents do you require for admission?

In addition to the application form, we require: a) the application fee; b) an academic statement; c) personal statement; d) three letters of recommendation; e) transcripts from all college/university work; and f) a writing sample. All applications must be submitted electronically through the Graduate School.

Can I apply at any time?

We are now accepting applications for admissions for Fall 2024.  Application deadline is December 1st, 2023.

What is the History department code?

The History department application code is "H20PH."

Do you require GRE scores?

We do not require the GRE for Admission. Although Northwestern's Graduate School permits you to submit GRE scores along with your application, you are not required to submit your scores, and our admissions process does not take your GRE scores into account. Since there is no reason for you to submit your GRE scores, our advice would be not to submit them.

Do you require the GRE History Subject test?

We do not.

What is your "institution code"?

The institutional code number for reporting GRE scores to Northwestern's Graduate School is 1565. There is no separate code for the History department.

 What languages do I need?

Your application should make clear that you are proficient in the primary language(s) required for your research. Please consult the Degree Requirements section of this website for details. You may also contact faculty you are interested in working with for specific expectations pertaining to your chosen field of study.

Do you require an interview as part of the application process?

We do not, at this time, require a formal interview as part of the application process. Occasionally, faculty contact applicants (via e-mail, phone, FaceTime or Skype) to clarify information provided in the application or to get a better sense of a student's interests and preparation.

When will I be notified of a decision?

The Director of Graduate Studies contacts fellowship recipients in February.


What is the application deadline?

The application deadline is December 1.

Will you accept documents that reach you after the deadline?

Faculty start reviewing files as they come in. No applications submitted after December 1 will be considered. Letters of recommendation received after the deadline may be added to the files.

Application Form

How do I select a quarter of entry that is not showing as an option in the online application?

There are two possible problems: 1) you are trying to apply for an inappropriate quarter (we only admit for the Fall), or 2) if you know that the quarter you are trying to select is appropriate, you may be using an outdated application. You will need to start a new online application (set up a new account).

Writing Sample

What type of writing sample should I submit?

To support the assessment of applicants' analytical and writing abilities, the Department requires that a writing sample accompany each application. We prefer papers written for history courses or on historical topics, but applicants should submit whatever sample they believe best exhibits their skills of analysis and exposition.

How long should the writing sample be?

There are no length restrictions. However, most applicants submit papers between 15 and 35 pages. When submitting a longer writing sample, please indicate which section(s) you wish readers to focus on.

Can I submit more than one writing sample?

Yes, but please indicate which section(s) you wish readers to focus on.

Recommendation Letters

How do my recommenders submit letters on my behalf?

Letters of recommendation must be submitted online. When applicants enter their recommender's contact information on the online application, an email is immediately sent to their recommender with instructions. Applicants can view the status of online recommendations and send reminders to recommenders via their Activity Page in CollegeNet. If you encounter a recommender that refuses to use our online system, please contact The Graduate School. Such issues will be handled on a case-by case basis.

How many letters of recommendation do I need?

Three letters of recommendation are required.