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Admissions FAQ

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Can I apply for spring or summer admission?

We admit students only for the fall quarter.

What is the deadline for submitting an application?

The deadline for Fall 2024 admission is December 15, 2023.

Can I apply for an application fee waiver?

Yes, please review the criteria for a fee waiver at the The Graduate School and apply here

Where should I send my supporting documents?

Any supporting documents that cannot be attached electronically to the application (transcripts, recommendation letters, writing samples with photos or unsupported fonts) or any scores not reported directly to Northwestern by an outside testing agency should be sent directly to the Department of Religious Studies, to the attention of the Graduate Program Assistant. Do not mail any supporting documents to The Graduate School.

To whom should my letters of recommendation be addressed?

Letters of recommendation should be addressed to the Director of Graduate Studies.

What if I didn't major in religion? What if I don’t have an M.A. in religion?

Students who have not undertaken significant study of religion as undergraduates benefit from taking a master's degree in religion before or during the application process. Students who took an undergraduate major in religion sometimes take a master's degree in religion or another field before applying. If in doubt, contact the Director of Graduate Studies.

When are admissions decisions made?

Normally initial admissions decisions are made by late February. However, if we receive extra funding we may make additional offers in late March or early April.

How many students do you admit each year?

In most years we admit 3-4 students.

How can I find out about the status of my application?

To check the status of your electronic application, go to Online application. Department of Religious Studies staff will contact you by the beginning of the second full week of January if any elements of your application are missing.

Will I be able to receive credit for prior graduate courses taken?

Students who have done two years or more of Ph.D.-level work occasionally receive one year of advanced residency at the end of their first year of study at Northwestern. Students who arrive with master's degrees do not receive credit for courses taken, but they typically finish their studies about a year earlier than students who arrive with bachelor's degrees only.

Will I have opportunities to teach during the program?

Students in the Ph.D. program have the opportunity to serve as teaching assistants, to take seminars at the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence, and (as a part of its programs) to teach an undergraduate course. See Teaching.

Can I study part-time?

The Graduate School funds full-time study only. No unfunded study is permitted.

Is there funding available for conference travel for graduate students?

Students in their second year of study and above can apply for conference funding from both the department and The Graduate School. See Funding.

I have been out of college for quite a few years. What should I do about letters of recommendation in order to compile a competitive application?

Recommendations from mentors in your most recent academic program are still helpful. It is a good idea to send them copies of the papers you wrote for them or copies of your more recent scholarly writing; also provide them with your curriculum vitae and your draft statement of purpose. Established scholars whom you have met at conferences or with whom you have been in steady correspondence can be good sources of letters. Try to avoid employers or faith community leaders unless you have done significant sophisticated writing, research, or teaching under their guidance.

May I take classes at other institutions while I’m studying at Northwestern?

Northwestern doctoral students may also take courses at CIC institutions, including the University of Chicago. Please see CIC Traveling Scholars Program.

May I visit the department?

You are welcome to visit the department at any time, although early October through mid December and early January to mid June are the best months to meet both faculty and students. Contact the Director of Graduate Studies for advice on when to visit. Also contact the professors in both Religious Studies and other departments with whom you would like to meet.