Admissions

The goal of our graduate program is to educate scholar-technologists capable of performing cutting edge research and development, and pushing the boundaries of interdisciplinary scholarship. Students interested in a joint Computer Science and Communication degree will come from diverse backgrounds and be looking for the chance to explore research beyond traditional department boundaries. The best and brightest students with a desire to marry a technological background with social science and humanities training are ideal candidates for the TSB program.

Admission Profile

Admission decisions are based on the overall academic record, quality of the school attended, Graduate Record Exam scores (GRE), grade point averages (GPA), strength of letters of recommendation, work experience, and match with faculty research interests. While no strict rules exist for minimum admission standards, admitted students will generally have at least:

  • GPA: 3.0/4.0 (undergraduate) or 3.5/4.0 (master's degree, if applicable)
  • GRE: While there are no strict cutoffs, admitted students typically score in the 80th percentile or above in all three areas of General Test (no subject test required)
  • TOEFL (for international applicants): 600 (paper-based), 250 (computer-based)
  • Demonstrated research experience in a relevant area (e.g., as an undergraduate RA, summer intern, or post-graduate position)

We expect that the majority of students will already hold a master's degree or equivalent experience, although exceptional candidates may be admitted directly after the BA.

International applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The Graduate School considers 577 to be the minimum acceptable paper-based TOEFL score, 233 to be the minimum acceptable computer-based TOEFL score or 90 to be the minimum acceptable internet-based TOEFL score. Alternatively, applicants may certify proficiency by providing official transcripts verifying an accredited four-year undergraduate or graduate degree, where the language of instruction is English.

How to Apply

To apply, you must use the online application form at The Graduate School web site. The following supplemental materials will be required in addition to your online application form:

  • statement of purpose
  • at least two letters of recommendation
  • original transcripts from all universities previously attended
  • official copy of GRE scores sent by ETS to institution code 1565, the NU Graduate School. These scores must be taken within five years of the intended quarter of entry
  • official copy of TOEFL scores sent by ETS to institution code 1565, the NU Graduate School (for all applicants who have completed their undergraduate degree outside of the U.S.)

Deadlines

The online application and all supplemental materials must be received by December 31st, 5 P.M. (CST).

Financial Aid and Funding

There is no separate financial-aid application. You only have to indicate that you want to be considered for financial aid by checking the appropriate box on the admission application.

We generally admit Ph.D. applicants only if financial support is available, in the form of assistantships or fellowships from our program or the University, or in the form of permanent support from a company or government. Support from personal or family funds is not considered sufficient for admission to the Ph.D. program.

Assistantships

Assistantships are of two types: teaching assistantships and research assistantships. Students who are awarded teaching assistantships are generally responsible for grading and staffing of laboratory sections of undergraduate classes as well as for leading discussion sections of some courses. In order to be appointed a TA, international applicants must take either the Test of Spoken English (TSE) and receive a score of 50 or higher or take the TOEFL IBT and receive a score of 26 or higher on the speaking section. Applicants who want to be considered for TA support in the first year must have the TSE score before April 15 preceding the Fall quarter in which they intend to enroll.

Students who are awarded research assistantships work on research grants and contracts. In most cases, RAs work on projects that lead to thesis or dissertation topics. Applicants with strong research experience can contact individual faculty and inform them of their interests and experience. Please be selective and contact only faculty members whose interests match your own; otherwise you do not stand a good chance of receiving a reply.

Fellowships

Besides assistantships, fellowships are available for students who are exceptionally well qualified. Unlike assistantships, fellowships usually do not require the student to perform any duties. Fellowships are extremely competitive and generally applicants will need to have exceptional GRE scores and GPAs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for financial aid?

There is no separate financial aid application; you only have to indicate in the appropriate place on the admission application that you want to be considered for financial aid. If you do not request aid, please include a separate page with your application materials explaining how you will support your graduate studies.

Should I specify the MS or PhD degree?

TSB currently only offers a PhD program. For this reason, applicants pursuing a doctoral degree should select the PhD option. All students pursuing a doctoral degree may also obtain a masters degree during their doctoral career at Northwestern University.

What institution and department codes should I use for the GRE and TOEFL?

The institution code for Northwestern University is 1565 for both exams. No department code is needed for the GRE. For the TOEFL, use 99 ("department not listed").

The application fee is expensive, and I don't want to apply if my chances aren't good. Can you look at my resume and tell me if you think I should apply?

We receive hundreds of requests, so regrettably we cannot individually assess an applicant's chances. If you feel strongly about your qualifications, we encourage you to apply.

I'm an international student, but I don't have a visa yet. What can I do?

You must first be accepted by the University before any visa processing work can begin. Please read details on the Northwestern University International Office page.

Whom do I contact if I have questions that are not answered here?

You may contact the director of admissions to the TSB PhD program, Professor Darren Gergle.