Skip to main content

Application Process

Applications, found here, are accepted online only. The application website will go live in early September. Please check back soon for further instructions on how to access and use the application website.

When reviewing applications to the Art History Program, the Department considers the applicant's:

  1. Strength of the statement of purpose, which should demonstrate the applicant's ability to compellingly frame his or her intended intervention within the discipline.
  2. Fit with the geographical, temporal, and methodological orientation of our tenured and tenure-track faculty.
  3. Abilities in art historical research and independence of thought, as demonstrated in the writing sample.
  4. Breadth and sophistication of undergraduate (and master's level) art historical training.
  5. Extent of foreign language preparation in French, German, and other languages appropriate to area of concentration.

N.B.: If you are interested in learning more about the program in a general information session with the Director of Graduate Studies Prof. Krista Thompson, you are welcome to register for any of the dates below.

General Information Session 1, October 11, 9–10am CST

General Information Session 2, November 8, 12–1pm CST

General Information Session 3, November 29, 6–7pm CST

You may contact members of the Department in advance of submitting your application, but please note that both faculty and graduate students are very busy; they might not have time to respond in depth or at all to your inquiries. Before contacting anyone, you should thoroughly familiarize yourself with all of the materials contained on this website. You will also want to be sure to engage the work and writing of those faculty—both in Art History and beyond—with whom you are most interested in studying. In reaching out to prospective advisors, you want to be as informed as possible in order to make the best first impression and to use your time and the faculty member's effectively. Acceptance to the program is highly competitive and is granted by the faculty as a whole (with The Graduate School), not by individual faculty members. For all administrative and application questions, please contact

Application Checklist

  1. Completed application. This must be received by December 1 for admission the following September, and includes a mandatory application fee that must be paid online.
  2. Be sure to fill out the Academic Statement portion of the online application. The Personal Statement is optional.
  3. For foreign applicants: TOEFL or IELTS scores. TOEFL or IELTS must have been taken no more than two years before the intended quarter of entry. Send scores to The Graduate School with Institution Code 1565. For more information about test scores, see The Graduate School’s website, here. For Teaching Assistantships, applicants must fulfill The Graduate School’s spoken English proficiency requirement. For more information on this requirement, click here.
  4. Writing sample such as a research paper demonstrating the applicant's abilities and interests. Sample must be under 30 pages long and must be submitted online. Writing samples sent directly to the department will not be accepted.
  5. Two letters of recommendation. Recommendations for applicants from non-English speaking countries must be submitted in their original language, with an English translation appended. Letters of recommendation must be submitted online.
  6. Electronic copies of transcripts from all colleges and graduate programs attended by the applicant will be submitted during the online application process. These may be official or unofficial transcripts. Please note that, while unofficial transcripts will suffice for the application, all admitted and enrolled students will turn in official, hardcopies of their transcripts before beginning courses at Northwestern University.
  7. All applications must be completed and submitted by December 1 to be considered. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions about this process. 

Residency Credit

All students are required to complete three years of coursework in the department. In exceptional cases, up to one year of residency credit may be granted to students who have earned an M.A. in Art History elsewhere prior to admission.