International Students

Undergraduate Applicants

Northwestern University has adopted a SAT or ACT test-optional policy for the 2020-21 admission cycle. Click here for more information about this year's test-optional policy.

Applicants for whom English is not a first nor primary language, or whose schooling has been in a language other than English, must submit results from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IETLS).

International applicants must demonstrate a high level of English proficiency. An evaluation of English proficiency includes reviewing all test scores, grades in classes taught in English, writing samples, and comments by recommenders.

Learn More about Undergraduate International Requirements

Graduate Applicants

TOEFL Requirements

All graduate applicants to the Bienen School of Music whose native language is not English, regardless of citizenship, are required to submit a TOEFL score.

To be considered official, a TOEFL score report must be delivered to our office directly from ETS, and cannot be more than two years old. For example, if your application is submitted on December 1, 2020, then your TOEFL report cannot be older than December 1, 2018. It is recommended that you take the TOEFL exam at least two months before the application is due, to ensure that your scores arrive by the deadline.

Photocopies, student copies, faxes, and email attachments will not be accepted. Test scores arriving after the deadlines listed below will not be accepted.

The Bienen School of Music does not accept scores from other English proficiency exams, including the IELTS or ITP, for applications to the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees. 

Use TOEFL School Code: 1565 (Northwestern University)

Required Minimum Scores

Master of Music Applicants

Required minimum score for admission:

85 iBT

Doctor of Musical Arts Applicants

Required minimum score for admission:

95 iBT

Master of Music applicants who wish to audition on campus:

August 1
Graduate Application available online
December 1
Graduate Application due
December 1
Prescreening (if applicable) due
December 1
TOEFL score due

NOTE: Applicants whose TOEFL scores are not received by December 1, 2020 will not be able to audition on-campus. Jazz Studies applicants are required to have an on-campus audition, so be certain to send your TOEFL score before December 1, 2020.

Master of Music applicants who cannot visit campus and will upload a recording to the application:

August 1
Graduate Application available online
December 1
Graduate Application and Audition Recording due
February 1
TOEFL score due

Doctor of Musical Arts applicants:

August 1
Graduate Application available online
December 1
Graduate Application and Prescreening due
December 1
TOEFL score due

TOEFL Waiver Policy

The Bienen School of Music does not offer ESL coursework and so must evaluate English proficiency either through the TOEFL exam or through documentation provided in a request for a TOEFL waiver. Applicants who have substantial training or education in English may request a TOEFL waiver on the Graduate Application. Do not request a waiver if you are sending recent TOEFL scores with your application. We do not grant waivers based upon citizenship.

All application materials, including transcripts and letters of recommendation, must be submitted by the application deadline of December 1, 2020 in order to evaluate a TOEFL waiver. If the requirements listed below are not received by December 1, your request for a TOEFL waiver will be denied.

Applicants requesting a TOEFL waiver must do the following:


IMPORTANT: A request for a TOEFL waiver must be accompanied by a letter of recommendation from an academic (non-performance) teacher. This person ideally will have taught you in at least one course and should have experience grading your written work in English. If the academic course did not require at least a 10-page paper, you should find another person to recommend you.

You will be contacted by the Office of Music Admission and Financial Aid if your request for a TOEFL waiver has been approved. MM applicants whose request for a TOEFL waiver is denied will not be able to audition on campus. DMA applicants whose request for a TOEFL waiver is denied will not be invited to campus for an audition, and the application will not receive further review.

Financial Aid

There is no difference in the merit-based scholarship process for international applicants. International students are not eligible to apply for federal student loans through FAFSA.  There are some options for international students to receive a private loan, however, many require a U.S. citizen to act as a co-signer.