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How to Apply

Applications may be submitted via the Application for The Graduate School portal. The deadline for all applications is December 21st. All documentation required in the application must be submitted in the portal. The program will not accept any mailed or emailed documents. 

Application Opens:

Applications for the program are typically slated to open within the first week of September.

In the 2023 application cycle for Fall 2024 matriculation, the application will open on September 13th, 2023.

Application Deadline:

The Application Package deadline for the program will typically fall in late December.

In the 2023 application cycle for Fall 2024 matriculation, the Application Package must be submitted by 11:59 PST on December 21st, 2023.

Application Prerequisite / Eligibility:

Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution (or international equivalent) is required.

A Complete Application for Admission Consists Of:

All application materials must be submitted online through The Graduate School’s CollegeNET portal. A complete Application for Admission consists of:

One copy of each of the following:

  • Essays
  • Unofficial transcripts from all higher education institutions attended. (Submission of official transcripts will be required upon successful admission to the program) — read more about this here.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • A resume or curriculum vitae.

In addition, please individually label and upload the following (into the appropriate section) on the Online Application:

  • A production sample (upload into Portfolio Supplemental section 3) that includes up to 10 minutes of material. You may submit documentary, experimental, or fiction work, or a combination of the three. The material may comprise complete works or excerpts from one or more works — whatever gives us the best sense of your potential. Upload your material to either Vimeo or YouTube and copy and paste the video URL into the document. Please make sure that your video is set to public or unlisted or alternatively, if you send a private link, make sure to provide the password. If you are submitting an interactive piece such as a game or website, and the work does not adhere to a linear model, we will play or view for a maximum of 10 minutes.
  • A short written summary describing your sample material (upload into Portfolio Supplemental section 3). Please indicate your role(s) in each component of the work sample (director, producer, cinematography, sound recordist, editor, etc).
  • A one- to two-page single-spaced synopsis of a documentary or documentary-based project you would like to pursue while in the program (upload into the Writing Sample section). You will NOT be required to make this proposed documentary while at Northwestern.
  • A short critical reflection on a film, work of art, or conceptual orientation relevant to your development as a filmmaker, and with which your proposed documentary/documentary-based project is in dialogue: Why is this work meaningful to you?  (upload into the Writing Sample section).

Note: The GRE is not required.

Via the online application is the preferred method for receiving all supplemental materials including transcripts. Portfolio materials will not be returned.


For International Applicants

  • The TGS school code for TOEFL is 1565.
  • Test takers may be asked by ETS to choose the “department” to which they want their scores sent; find more information here
  • Please find application information tailored especially for applicants to TGS programs who are citizens of countries other than the United States here

Applicants who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States must certify language proficiency in one of three ways:

  • Providing acceptable Foreign Language (TOEFL) iBT, International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic, or Michigan English Test (MET) test scores — Tests must be taken within two years of the intended quarter of entry.
  • Earning an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited, four-year institution or equivalent, where English is the official language of instruction.
  • Earning a graduate degree from a regionally accredited institution where English is the official language of instruction.

For non-native speakers: the TOEFL, IELTS, or MET (not less than two years old). The minimum score for the TOEFL is 600 paper / 250 computer / 80 Internet, 7.0 for the IELTS, and 54 for the MET.

Nonnative MFA applicants wishing to be considered for appointment as a teaching assistant must submit a minimum score of 50 on the Test of Spoken English (TSE) or 26 on the TOEFL speaking section, taken no more than two years before consideration for appointment.  You can find more information on this requirement here. The TSE is not required for admission.

We cannot accept DuoLingo or TOEFL Essentials as documentation of English proficiency.

You can find more information on Test Scores and The Graduate School’s English Proficiency Requirement here.


Fee Waiver Information

For Domestic Applicants & U.S. Citizens:

The Graduate School (TGS) is able to provide a limited number of fee waivers* to eligible applicants — find more information here

For International Applicants:

There may be some cases where we may not be able to grant application fee waiver requests from all eligible applicants due to the volume of requests we receive. As a result, we encourage applicants to begin their applications as soon as possible, since application fee waiver requests are reviewed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please note that the below details how to submit a request for a waiver and that the waiver is not guaranteed.

To request a fee waiver, you must:

  • Start an application for the MFA in Documentary Media program and complete at least the first three pages
  • Complete the Documentary Media- Fee Waiver Request Form for International Applicants: [The Documentary Media MFA program can no longer issue fee waivers for the current application cycle.]
  • And meet the following criteria:
    • Started an application for a TGS PhD or MFA program
    • International applicant 
    • A low-income individual as defined by the US Department of Education (converting international currency to U.S. currency in the review process using OANDA). 

We look forward to receiving your application!

For additional questions regarding admissions procedures or application requirements, visit the TGS applicant FAQ page.