PhD Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for the PhD program?

All application guidelines can be found here. Additional information may be found on The Graduate School website.

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Am I required to submit a GRE score?

The Bienen School of Music has adopted a GRE-optional test policy for fall 2025 PhD admission. Applicants may submit a score if they wish, but scores are not required.

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Are TOEFL or IELTS scores required for international applicants?

If your first and primary language is not English, you must certify your proficiency in the English language in one of the following three ways:

  1. Provide official scores electronically for either the TOEFL or IELTS exam. The test must be taken no more than two years before the intended quarter of entry. For the TOEFL, you must receive a score of 577 or higher on the paper-based test, or 90 or higher on the internet-based test. For the IELTS, you must receive a score of 7.0 or higher.

  2. Provide unofficial transcripts verifying an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year institution or equivalent, where the language of instruction is English.

  3. Provide unofficial transcripts verifying a graduate degree from an accredited institution where the language of instruction is English.

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What are the funding opportunities for PhD students?

All students who enroll in one of the PhD degree programs in music will receive a full tuition waiver for five years, a monthly living stipend, and a subsidy for Northwestern student health insurance. The living stipend is paid as a fellowship during the first year of study for twelve months. Graduate students must remain in good academic standing and demonstrate satisfactory academic progress to be eligible for all forms of financial aid. After the first year, years two, three and four are paid as a graduate assistantship for the nine-month academic year. PhD students on graduate assistantships have the opportunity to teach coursework in their field, assist with faculty research, or pursue clinical and field studies. During the summers of years two, three and four, students are paid as a graduate assistantship based on their performance evaluation at the end of each academic year. During year five, students return to a fellowship stipend for twelve months without a work requirement.

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Are there fellowship and grant opportunities for PhD students?

Yes. For more detailed information, see The Graduate School website. 

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