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International Students

The Religious Studies Department welcomes international students, who are able to enrich the intellectual community at Northwestern University.

The International Office at Northwestern University provides information for obtaining a visa, employment eligibility, government regulations (including immigration status), and other resources for new and current international students. It also offers a variety of cultural adjustment seminars, ESL classes, workshops, and orientations for new students.


The online application will prompt you to pay the application fee after all required questions have been answered. The application fee is $95 and must be paid via credit card at the time of application submission. Your application can not be processed without payment of the fee. 

The Department of Religious Studies at Northwestern University has a limited number of fee waivers for international students. These are available on a first come, first serve basis. To request a fee waiver, you will need to do the following: First, reach out to a prospective advisor in the department to indicate your interest in our program and your interest in a fee waiver. The prospective advisor must be a tenured or tenure-track member of the department who is currently accepting graduate students. If you are unsure if a faculty member is accepting graduate students, please ask. Next, you will need to begin your application and submit an Academic Statement. (You only need to start the application and upload an Academic Statement; do not submit the application. If you submit the application, you will have to pay the submission fee and will not be reimbursed.) Finally, the prospective faculty member will read and evaluate the Academic Statement. If the faculty member determines that there is sufficient overlap between their expertise and the research interests of the prospective student, and determines that the Academic Statement shows academic merit and scholarly promise, the faculty member may grant you a fee waiver.

Language Requirements


Foreign applicants from non-English speaking countries are required to take TOEFL  iBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS Academic test (International English Language Testing System exam) or MET (Michigan English Test) to certify their proficiency in the English language. Official scores must be taken no more than two years before the intended quarter. For example, to be considered valid for Fall 2024 admission, IELTS scores must be no older than September 2022.

For the TOEFL, the minimum score for PhD applicants is 90. The school code for the TOEFL is 1565.

For the IELTS, the minimum score for PhD applicants is 7.

For the MET, the minimum score for PhD applicants is 61.

Applicants that are citizens from the following countries where English is the native language will have the requirement automatically waived upon submission of the application: Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Great Britain, Gibraltar, Israel, Jamaica, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands.

Applicants may receive a waiver if they have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree from an institution that instructs primarily in English. Documentation may be requested and waiver approval is at the discretion of our program and The Graduate School.

ELP Foundations

In addition to the services the International Office provides, students may request to be nominated for ELP Foundations prior to beginning graduate study. This hybrid course pairs a five-week online summer orientation course with in-person experiences in Evanston and Chicago, typically in September. The summer course, Foundations of American English and Academic Culture, provides linguistic, emotional, academic and practical support to new students. The course covers topics such as: essential functions of American English, presentation skills, advice for integrating into an American university and the local culture, and more. Students who complete the online course will meet their cohort in person, attending social events and exploring Evanston and Chicago together with English Language Programs staff and current students who will serve as Event Guides. Tuition for ELP Foundations is completely covered by The Graduate School.

English as a Second Language (ESL)

Northwestern University offers a variety of ESL classes and workshops to assist in your mastery of the English language, including Pronunciation and Intonation (beginning and advanced), Conversation and Fluency, Culture and Fluency, American Academic Culture, Academic Writing, and Academic Presentations. Free Test of Spoken English preparation workshops are also offered on a non-credit basis. In addition to these classes, you are welcome to participate in free weekly tutoring sessions aimed at refining your speaking and writing abilities.


The academic records we refer to as transcripts should provide a listing, year-by-year, of all courses taken and the grade or marks received for each one. It is helpful to have the grading scale of the institution and the student¹s rank in class included when such information is available. Do not submit secondary school records. Secondary school records will not be reviewed and will be discarded.

Electronic copies of transcripts are acceptable for admission, but paper copies are required before matriculation. If your college or university will not mail original official academic documents to you, you may send exact copies that have been verified as "Certified True Copies" by the appropriate institutional official of each institution you have attended. Uncertified photocopies are not acceptable. To be considered, all documents not in English must be accompanied by official English translations.

The Graduate School requires literal, certified translations for all documents issued in a language other than English. We accept translations from the institution issuing the transcript, ATA certified translators, or from the consulate. You may find an ATA translator at the following web site: Plain translations, notarized translations, and translations done by someone other than a certified translator are not acceptable. The Graduate School will accept applications from international students earning three-year bachelor's degrees.


All international students admitted to our PhD program are eligible for Funding. The Graduate School provides a minimum of five academic years and five summers of guaranteed financial support to students in the humanities.

Applying for a Visa

All international applicants must apply for a visa to study in the United States.
They need to complete a Request for Visa Form and send it to The Graduate School, with accompanying evidence of support. After this form has been received and processed, the information will be sent to the International Office, who will process I-20 or DS-2019 and send it to the admitting department. Your admitting department will then send you your I-20 or DS-2019. You will use this document to obtain your visa.

If you have questions regarding choosing the proper visa or errors in your visa document, please contact the International Office via email

Questions regarding International Credentials should be directed to Nick Alena, Associate Director of Admissions and Recruitment, at, or call 1 847 491 3421.

Please note that I-20 and DS-2019 paperwork takes, on average, 5-6 weeks to process from the date the Request for Visa form is received. Please be sure to submit your Request for Visa forms as soon as possible. Should you experience any unusual delay in the processing of the I-20 or DS-2019, please contact the Department of Religious Studies.

For additional information see Applying for a Student Visa.


If you plan to work, and certainly before your second-year teaching assistantship begins, you must have a Social Security number. Social Security numbers are issued by the Social Security Administration (part of the U.S. Government) and used for identification purposes, employment, paying taxes, obtaining a driver's license and/or a state I.D. You can obtain a support letter for the application at the International Office and apply at one of the offices in Chicago area. A representative from the Evanston Social Security Office will be on campus two days during the first week of classes in the fall quarter. Check your orientation schedule for date, time, and location. However, it is advisable to apply for a Social Security number during the summer before your second year of study so that your fall stipend checks are not delayed.

For additional information see Employment.


Many international students choose to live in Northwestern graduate student housing their first year and then rent apartments during the summer before their second year. For more information on housing, both on campus and off campus, see Graduate Housing.