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Applicants to the graduate program in Performance Studies are expected to submit the following materials:

  • a graduate school application
  • a statement of purpose addressing research interests
  • a sample of scholarly writing
  • two (2) letters of recommendation
  • transcripts
  • application fee
  • TOEFL scores are required for international applicants from locales in which English is not a primary language, unless the international applicant has completed a graduate degree in an English primary program. The expected score is 90 or more points.


Applications for the PhD programs must be received by December 31st.

Financial Aid

Admitted doctoral students currently receive a five-year funding package that includes full tuition coverage with benefits (health, dental, etc.). During those five years students also receiving a living stipend which is tied to graduate assistantship duties (generally as a research support or teaching) during their course of study.

Minority PhD students may be eligible for funding through the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois program, a state-funded, need-based program awarding fellowships that provide a stipend, with tuition scholarships provided by the Graduate School. To be eligible, minority students must be Illinois residents and intend to seek faculty positions in Illinois upon degree completion.

General Information

General information on graduate study at Northwestern University is available from The Graduate School.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a MA program?

The PHD program is the only one that is fully funded. An MA is earned on track to the PHD.

Do you require the GRE?

We do not require the GRE to apply for the graduate program.

Is there a separate application for funding?


What kind of writing sample should I send?

We are looking for a sample of scholarly writing, on any subject, of sufficient length to demonstrate your ability to develop an idea thoroughly (typically 5-20 pages).

How do I know if my work would be a good fit in the department?

In general, the best way to get a sense of whether the work you are interested in pursuing might resonate with the work of the department is to learn about our faculty and their published research, as well as current student’s research and/or creative practices and teaching areas. Presently, the core performance studies faculty consist of Bimbola Akinbola, Dotun Ayobade, Joshua Chambers-Letson, Nadine George Graves, Marcela A. Fuentes, Shayna Silverstein, Cristal Chanelle Truscott, and Mary Zimmerman. Other affiliated faculty and our students are listed on our website.

Do I apply to work with specific faculty?

Applicants apply directly to the program, and not to individual faculty, though it’s always good to have in mind multiple faculty members with whom you could imagine yourself working. Matches with doctoral advisors typically occur at the end of the first or second year of study.

What other elements are you looking for in an application?

Among our top considerations when reviewing applications are the following:  We’re interested in what qualities and experiences students have that have prepared them for graduate study in the field of performance studies. We also want to know if the prospective student can provide an idea of what they intend to study in graduate school and the specific research questions they can see animating their progress through the program. Can they articulate their understanding of the field of performance studies (and performance studies at Northwestern), while showing how the field (and department) is the right place to undertake their course of study? We also look to see if the prospective student’s interests resonate with multiple faculty across the department and university, to know if we can collectively support the student’s areas of research interest. The best way to forward one’s candidacy is to submit materials that holistically demonstrate answers to such questions. Writing samples should demonstrates the applicant’s capacities as a writer and researcher with an aptitude for scholarly form and innovating thinking. Letters of recommendation are most helpful to us when they come from people who can assess the candidate’s qualifications for graduate study and scholarly research, making professors, teachers, and mentors (past and present) ideal references.

Whom should I contact with additional questions?

  • Marcela A. Fuentes, Associate Professor of Performance Studies and Director of Graduate Studies