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Can one be admitted to the program without an undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders?
Yes, many students entering the PhD program have degrees in various fields such as cognitive science, education, engineering, linguistics, psychology, or neuroscience.

Can I apply to the PhD Program without a Master’s or other graduate degree?
Yes, applicants with a Bachelor’s degree may apply; many students enter the program without a graduate degree.

What is the average grade point average (GPA) for students admitted to the program?
Over the past few years, the mean GPAs of admitted students are above 3.7 out of 4. Importantly, we do not use minimums or cutoffs, and consider multiple factors when evaluating GPAs from undergraduate and graduate programs.

Is the GRE required?
The GRE is not required for application for the CSD PhD program. GRE scores are not seen by admission committee members and are not used in the review of any applicants.

What is the process for PhD application review and admissions for Northwestern’s CSD department?
Each application is carefully reviewed by multiple members of the PhD Admissions Committee as well as the student’s stated primary mentor(s) of interest. We consider all aspects of the student’s application, including fit with the department and allocation of students across likely labs. After application review, the faculty select a list of candidates for interviews, which are conducted over Zoom, typically in January. After Zoom interviews, the faculty make admissions decisions. Admitted students are notified and invited for a recruitment weekend, which typically occurs in February. There is sometimes a short wait list, depending on the target cohort enrollment and other factors. Students submit their enrollment decisions before April 15.

How long should my personal statement be?
There is not a specific minimum or maximum length, but about 1.5-2 single spaced pages typically works well to allow you to cover the topics listed above.

Any advice about what I should highlight in my personal statement?
Your personal statement/statement of purpose should highlight your motivation for graduate study, how your research and other experiences prepare you for graduate study, your research interests or questions, and how our program fits with your interests and goals. In the statement, please note the primary mentor(s) with whom you hope to work. The personal statement is more effective when it’s just not a narrative form of your resume/CV.

Any advice for my CV/resume?
Use your CV/resume to list specifics of research experiences and skills, whereas your personal statement can highlight things like how these experiences prepared you for your current path.

If you have received awards or honors, it is very helpful to provide context for us about what they mean. For example, listing that you received the “Departmental Excellence Award” doesn’t provide much context to readers; it is more helpful when you then specify “awarded to one student for exemplary research promise among graduating class of 200+ seniors.”

Should I submit a writing sample?
Though optional, the writing sample helps the committee understand your ability to communicate your ideas. It is ideal to submit something written solely by you, rather than a published paper (which can be linked in your resume/cv), a paper that has been written with and/or edited by colleagues or collaborators. This could be a paper from a previous course. There is no length requirement.

Who should write my letters of recommendation?
Letters of recommendation should be from individuals who can assess your ability to be successful in a PhD program. Ideally, letters come from those who know you well in a research and/or academic context. If you have been out of school or research for a while, someone who knows you in your current context is also helpful.
In the rare instance that your letter writer has a personal relationship with you (they are a family member or close friend), that should be stated in the letter.

Are there resources for developing a personal statement or other aspects of my application?
Yes, there are many great resources out there! Just a few are below (with no specific endorsement of their advice).

Project SHORT

Purdue OWL


What funding support do students receive?
All students in the PhD program currently receive full tuition support, a living stipend, and health insurance, year-round, for five years from the Graduate School at Northwestern. Funding is contingent on serving as a Teaching Assistant or obtaining an external fellowship for funding, as well as meeting program milestones.

How long does it take to earn a PhD in the CSD program?
Students entering the PhD program typically require a minimum of 4 years to complete the PhD program, with 5 years being very common, and other students extending into a 6th year or further.

Is it possible to begin my graduate studies in a quarter other than Fall?
No, a Fall quarter start is required.

Can I enroll in the PhD program part-time?
The Graduate School at Northwestern does not offer financial support for part-time study. PhD students who, in exceptional cases, have received written approval of the program and Dean of The Graduate School to study on a part-time basis, must meet the continuous registration requirement as well as all degree requirements, including coursework and milestones.

Will I serve as a Teaching Assistant during my PhD program?
Teaching is an essential element of the professional development and training experience of PhD students at Northwestern. The Graduate School requires that all PhD students serve in some instructional capacity for at least one academic quarter during their graduate education at Northwestern. Typically, students have a TA assignment two quarters per year, of up to 15 hours per week, in the first four years of their studies.

CSD PhD Admissions Coordinator Ms. Cindy Coy, or 847-491-5073