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Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I obtain an application for admission or program information?

As of this year, all applications to Northwestern's French and Francophone Studies program must be submitted electronically. The application can be found here. We also require official transcripts from each post-secondary institution attended, three letters of recommendation, a French writing sample, and an electronic recording if you are not a native speaker of French. You may submit the recording in a digital format, via e-mail to Lisa Byrnes, Graduate Program Assistant. Acceptable formats include MP3 files and any files compatible with the iTunes application. For alternative arrangements please contact the graduate program assistant.

Questions not covered here can be directed to Lisa Byrnes, Graduate Program Assistant,, (847) 491-4148, or

When can I apply for the Ph.D. program?

Applications are accepted beginning in September (the date varies) and ending in mid-December via the CollegeNet website.

Can I apply to start your Ph.D. program in the spring?

No, students are only admitted once a year, for matriculation in the fall quarter.

How do I find out the status of my application?

Applicants will be notified by Professor Christopher Davis, Director of Graduate Studies, as soon as a decision has been reached, which generally takes place in the middle of February. If you have not received notification by March, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Doris Garraway, at

Is a Masters degree required in order to apply to the Ph.D. program?

No, a Masters degree is not required, though many of our students do come to us having completed an M.A.

If I completed an M.A. or another graduate degree elsewhere, can I transfer those credits toward my Ph.D. at Northwestern?

No, the Department of French and Italian does not award residency credit for graduate work completed at another university. However, the program is designed to allow students to complete the Ph.D. in five years, and in some cases, students may request permission to reduce their total seminar requirement by two courses.

Can I earn a Masters in French or Italian at Northwestern?

A Masters degree is not offered as a terminal degree except in the hypothetical event in which a student encounters difficulty passing his or her departmental exams, which generally take place early in the third year.

Is it necessary to hold a B.A. in French to be admitted to the Ph.D. program?

While most students entering our program hold previous degrees in French, we frequently accept students who have completed undergraduate degrees in areas other than French (philosophy, for example). All applicants should maintain a strong command of the French language and have completed extensive course work in French.

I'm primarily interested in teaching. Can I get a Masters in French with a teaching certificate at Northwestern?

The Department of French and Italian does not offer such a program. However, the School of Education and Social Policy offers a Master of Education with a concentration in foreign languages. Please contact SESP at 847-491-8193 or for more information.

Is the GRE required?

No, the GRE is not required. You may, however, opt to submit your scores if you wish.

I am a non-native speaker of English. Do I have to take the TOEFL?

Non-native English speakers must take the TOEFL unless they have either a 4-year undergraduate degree or a graduate degree awarded by an English-speaking institution. If you are a non-native speaker and are accepted, you will also be required to take the TSE in your first year unless you meet the requirements detailed above.

How long should the French writing sample be? Should it be an original copy of a graded paper, or should it be a corrected copy without comments on it?

There is no specified page length; however, most papers submitted range from 10-20 (or more, if needed) pages in length. The paper should be representative of the work you can produce, and will be able to produce at a graduate level. A clean, corrected version is best, as long as the revisions aren't significantly different from the work you submitted.

How many students are accepted to the Ph.D. program each year?

The number varies, though the department generally funds three to five students per year.

What types of funding are available for incoming graduate students?

All students who are accepted into the program are accorded five years (including four summers) of guaranteed support, which generally takes the following form: a first-year fellowship, three years of teaching assistantships, and a second year of fellowship, all of which carry full tuition and stipend. Support beyond the fifth year can be secured in a variety of forms, including research fellowships and adjunct lecturer positions.

What is the Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative?

The Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative is a program designed to help graduate students during their academic career at Northwestern by fostering connections with students and faculty in other programs with whom they might have natural intellectual affinities. Interdisciplinary clusters in different areas of intellectual inquiry have been developed by faculty across schools and programs and provide a second intellectual home for incoming and current graduate students. Clusters offer their own discrete courses as well as sponsor a number of activities and events for students and faculty. Students interested in choosing their electives so as to pursue dedicated interdisciplinary study in this program should visit for more information about the intellectual activities of the various clusters. Prospective students have the opportunity to select on their application to graduate school the cluster with which they would like to affiliate, though choosing a cluster is not a requirement for admission. Students may affiliate with a cluster at any point during their study at Northwestern.

Current interdisciplinary clusters that may be attractive to French Ph.D. students are:

  • African Studies
  • Asian Studies
  • Classics
  • Comparative and Historical Social Science
  • Comparative Race and Diaspora
  • Critical Studies in Theatre and Performance
  • Critical Theory
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Jewish Studies
  • Latin American and Caribbean Studies
  • Medieval Studies
  • Middle East and North African Studies (MENA)
  • Poetry and Poetics
  • Rhetoric and Public Culture