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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. TSB is currently accepting applications for Fall 2024 admission.

Prospective Student Information Session

Please join us for our upcoming Technology and Social Behavior (TSB) PhD program information session on October 26 at noon Central Time. Please register here: We hope to see you there!

How to Apply

To apply, you must use the online application form at The Graduate School web site. This online application includes an Academic Statement and a Personal Statement. The following supplemental materials will be required in addition to your online application form:

  • At least two letters of recommendation
  • Original transcripts from all universities previously attended
  • Resume/CV
  • If your native language is not English, you must certify your proficiency in the English language (See below for details on how to do so)


The online application and all supplemental materials must be received by December 1, at 5 PM (CST).

Admissions Profile

Admission decisions are based on the overall academic record, quality of the school attended, 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)
  • TOEFL (for international applicants): 100+ on the TOEFL Internet Based Test or 7+ on the International English Testing System (IELTS) or 61+ on the Michigan English Test
  • Demonstrated research experience in a relevant area (e.g., as an undergraduate RA, summer intern, or post-graduate position)
  • Some form of technical background that indicates preparation for graduate-level technical coursework.

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.

If your native language is not English, you must certify your proficiency in the English language. Please see The Graduate School’s Guidance on English language tests for details on requirements. In short you must either (1) Provide official transcripts verifying an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year institution or equivalent, where the language of instruction is English; (2) Provide official transcripts verifying a graduate degree from an accredited institution or equivalent, where the language of instruction is English; or (3) Have an official score of 7 or higher on the IELTS or 100 or higher on the Internet Based TOEFL (IBT), with a score of 26 or higher on the Speak section; these scores may not be more than two year old. Have ETS send your official scores to institution code 1565 (the NU Graduate School).


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 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.


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, though they are extremely competitive.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Which PhD Program should I apply to?

  • The School of Communication also accepts students in the Media, Technology, and Society PhD Program. The difference is that TSB tends to attract students with more of a technical background who are interested in designing and building new technology as a component of their research, whereas MTS may be appropriate for students who are interested in studying communication technologies (but not necessarily building them). TSB is joint with and draws on expertise from the Department of Computer Science in the McCormick School of Engineering, whereas MTS is wholly a School of Communication Program.

What level of technical preparation is necessary?

  • The TSB program includes graduate level coursework in Computer Science and so incoming students should have sufficient preparation in a technical field (e.g. math, statistics, engineering, data science, information science, data science, etc) such that they have the basis for success. Such preparation can take different forms and need not be a formal course or degree provided that there is sufficient evidence in the application of technical competence.

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.

What financial support is provided? 

  • Admitted students are provided with 5 years of support either as research assistants, teaching assistants, or on fellowship. Please see here for more details on financial support from Northwestern.

Should I specify the MS or PhD degree?

  • TSB currently only admits to 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.

Do I need a Masters degree already?

  • A Masters degree is not required to apply to the TSB program.

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

  • The institution code for Northwestern University is 1565. For the TOEFL, use 99 (“department not listed”).

Do I have to submit GRE scores?

  • No. Applicants are not required to submit GRE scores, and we will not use GRE scores in our admissions process.

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?

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

  • You may contact the Director of Graduate Studies for the TSB PhD program, Professor Nicholas Diakopoulos ( for program specific questions. For general inquires including application questions please contact: tsb [at] northwestern [dot] edu.