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 What are the basic criteria for admission to the PhD program?

Competitive applicants typically have:

  • Strong overall academic preparation, as evidenced by the following:
    • High undergraduate GPA, or a reason for a lower GPA with other evidence of strong academic preparation
    • Undergraduate and/or master's major and/or quality of course work consistent with a major in psychology, including basic psychological science (affective, biological, cognitive, developmental and social aspects of behavior), abnormal psychology, statistics and research design
    • Awards, honors, leadership positions, attainment of competitive grants
    • Quality of completion of the graduate application form
  • Research preparation
    • High quality and extensive prior research experiences
    • Evidence of research productivity, such as co-authoring scientific presentations and publications
  • Clinical preparation
    • Exposure to clinical populations through volunteer positions, research, or work
  • Strong alignment with the mission and aims of the PhD program
  • Interests and experiences that closely align with interests of specific faculty members and their labs.
  • High quality personal statement
  • Strong Letters of reference
  • For international students, English proficiency
  • Completion of Supplementary Data Survey. Link for the survey will be sent to the email attached to your application. 

 Do I need to complete the Supplemental Application Survey?

Yes! To facilitate our holistic review of your application, particularly given that we are not collecting or examining GRE data, we are requiring all applicants to complete a Supplemental Application Survey. In addition to submitting your application through CollegeNet, you will be sent an email at the address associated with your application that has a link to the updated Supplemental Survey. 

 I have a three-year Bachelor's degree. Does that meet your basic requirement?

Yes, we will accept a Bachelor's degree from a three-year program.

 Do I need to take the GRE General or Psychology Subject Tests?

No, neither the GRE General nor Psychology Subject Tests are required.

 Do I need to take the MCAT?

No, taking the MCAT is not necessary.

 Do I need to take the TOEFL Test?

Our program requires that students demonstrate a certain level of English language proficiency prior to an admission offer. The TOEFL iBT minimum requirement is 90 for PhD. NOTE: Applicants with a degree from an English speaking institution will have their TOEFL requirement waived upon review of their application.

 Are there additional requirements for international students?

The program requires that students demonstrate a certain level of English language proficiency prior to an admission offer; see above.

Interntional applicants should also be aware that, as with other clinical psychology PhD programs in the United States, they may be limited in applying to internship sites. Some internship sites may not accept international students due to federal funding.

 May I take a psychology course or audit a course if I am not a current student?

Yes, as part of the Traveling Scholar Program, students from the Big Ten University Network (including University of Chicago) can take our courses. Depending on the course, you may enroll with permission of the instructor. Our courses are not open to the public.

 If I am not a psychology major, what prerequisite courses should I take?

You should take courses in basic psychological sciences (affective, biological, cognitive, developmental and social aspects of behavior), abnormal psychology, clinical psychology, experimental psychology and statistics. When not in a worldwide pandemic, you may also strongly consider taking the GRE Psychology Subject Test to demonstrate your competency with basic psychological concepts. Another option is to obtain a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology or related fields.

 Will clinical and/or research experience help me as a candidate for entry into your program?

Yes. We are a scientist-practitioner program with an equal emphasis on research and clinical training. Some experience, even experiences with limited exposure to clinical populations, is required; you need to know that you want to work with a clinical population!

Prior experience with research (e.g., volunteering on a research project during undergraduate, working on a research study, coordinating a research program) is also required to be a competitive applicant. Please note that research experience is much more strongly weighted than clinical experience in reviewing applicants.

 Will I be more competitive if I get a master’s degree before applying to your PhD program?

Not necessarily. A master's degree does not necessarily make you more competitive for our PhD program. A master's degree, especially a degree that prepares you exclusively for clinical practice, will not necessarily compensate for lower undergraduate grades, unless there is a clear and reasonable explanation for lower undergraduate grades.

Obtaining a master's degree may be helpful if it substantially increases your research skills and provides you with opportunities for research productivity (e.g., presentations and publications). Working as a research assistant or research coordinator in a lab of a well-known scientist is another way to gain this experience. A master's degree may also be helpful if you did not have an undergraduate degree in psychology or if you are unsure that doctoral study in clinical psychology is the right path for you.

 Does your program accept course credit from a master's or other graduate-level program?

The PhD program will consider accepting course credits toward the PhD from other graduate-level programs within Northwestern, after review and approval by the director of graduate studies. Although Northwestern University does not accept transfer credits from other universities at the graduate level, under certain circumstances, the director of graduate studies in consultation with the Education and Training Committee of the PhD program will accept a previously completed graduate course that will satisfy a curricular requirement of the PhD program.


 What is the ETS institution code for Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine?

The ETS code number is 1565.

 What is the ETS department code?

You are welcome to choose "Psychology, Clinical" for the department; however, Northwestern makes all scores sent to the University available to all programs, regardless of the "departments" selected on the ETS form. 

 What is the financial aid code for Northwestern University?

Northwestern's financial code number is E00617.

 What is the program code for the PhD program?

Use code number C30PH when completing The Graduate School application.

 May the referees send their letters of recommendation directly to the program?

No. The three letters of recommendation must be submitted online through The Graduate School application website.

 Are there formal materials for referees to fill out?


 When applying is it necessary to indicate a Major Area of Study?

Yes. Applicants are required to identify the Major Area of Study for which they are applying in the "Area of Specialization" question in the online application. There are five Major Areas of Study:

  • Behavioral Medicine or Health Psychology
  • Clinical Adult Psychology
  • Clinical Child Psychology
  • Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Forensic Psychology

Please note that the Major Areas of Study (MAS) are intended to be flexible and modular.

By flexible, we mean that students are never "locked into" a MAS. For example, students are free to change their MAS over the course of their doctoral education. As such, while we ask applicants to identify a MAS as a way to understand how we can meet their clinical interests, applicants should be reassured that we take an individualized approach to each student's educational plan to meet their career goals.

By modular, we mean that the MAS structure is intended to advanced students' unique career paths. As such, students are free to mix-and-match the MAS as needed. For example, a student interested in pediatric neuropsychology can elect an MAS in both Clinical Child Psychology and Clinical Neuropsychology. In addition, students do not need to select a MAS that is consistent with their research lab. For example, a student may be interested in working in a lab that is organized under Clinical Neuropsychology because of their interest in structural and functional neuroanatomy in schizophrenia; however, their clinical interest may be in the treatment of people with schizophrenia, and therefore they elect a MAS in Clinical Adult Psychology.

In short, the MAS is a way for our program to structure courses, research, and clinical experiences in recognized specialty areas and other focus areas in Clinical Psychology, while also supporting students' individualized educational plans.

We also offer Focus Areas in the PhD program in Policy, Data Analytics, and Diseemination and Implementation Science. Focus Areas provide opportunties for focused learning in areas that our not recognized specialties or subspecialties in Health Service Psychology.  The online application does not ask about Focus Areas. Applicants will be required to indicate their Area of Specialization using the Major Areas of Study listed above, regardless of their interest in pursuing an additional Focus Area. Applications can indicate an interest in a Focus Area in their Academic Statement. 


 Is it necessary when applying to indicate my choice of a research supervisor?

Yes. We are a mentor-based program, and therefore your application will be reviewed in consideration of the research of the our primary mentors that are recruiting students for their research labs. As such, you must identify at least one mentor that has research interests similar to your interests and experiences. The application provides an opportunity for you to state your preferences and demonstrate how well your interests and experiences align with the interests of our primary mentors. Please make certain that the primary mentor you select fits with the Major Area of Study that you indicated.

 Does the Program provide a waiver for the application fee?

Requests for application fee waivers are made through the Graduate School ( Please do not contact the MA or PhD program to request a few waiver; no additional few waivers are provided at the Program level. 

 How many students are accepted into your program each year?

We will accept between four and six students. We receive 600-900 applications per year.

 Do you offer scholarships?

Yes, since September 2018, all students in the Clinical Psychology PhD Program in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences receive a Research Assistant Scholarship or equivalent award that provides 100 percent tuition remission (or the equivalent) and a 12-month stipend (current stipend rates can be found at this webpage). The tuition remission and monthly stipend are provided for 20 quarters, including four academic years and four summers, as well as a funding for a fifth academic year and summer as part of the full-time clinical internship that is completed at another institution. Fifth-year stipend funding during the clinical internship year includes the stipend provided by the internship, as well as stipend support from the university that is necessary to bring the internship stipend up to the minimum stipend levels set by The Graduate School.

Students receive a full health insurance subsidy, if enrolled in the Northwestern Student Health Insurance Plan (NUSHIP), for the first four academic years and four summers. Please note that NUSHIP is active for 12 months, from September 1 through the last day of August. Health insurance during the clinical internship year is provided by the internship site; the PhD Program does not provide a health insurance subsidy during the clinical internship year, although students are able to purchase the NUSHIP plan out of pocket.

 I finished my application and I see in the PDF that I am missing information about my Research experience. Is something wrong with my application?

No, there is nothing wrong with your application! We do not use the research questions that are within the ApplyWeb/CollegeNet portal. Because we don't use these questions, the fields will show up as blank or missing in the final application.  But don't worry! We collect information about your research experience in the Supplemental Survey, not in the ApplyWeb/CollegeNet portal.

Interviews & Meetings

 Are interviews conducted via telephone or video?

Under normal circumstances, all interviews take place on the Chicago campus in early March. Some interviewees may also visit the Evanston campus, depending on the faculty involved in the interviews.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, all interviews will be conducted remotely via video between February and early March 2022.

Please note that interviews are by invitation by the PhD program only; we will not honor any requests for interviews.

We plan to offer an in-person open house for applicants who are ranked for admission into our program. The open house will not be available to general applicants. We will also not conduct any in-person tours or meetings outside of the admissions process.

 Do you offer informational interviews?

No. We do not have the resources to provide informational interviews for applicants.

 Can I schedule a time to talk with the director of the program or one of the faculty members?

Unfortunately, no. The director and other program faculty do not have the time to meet with potential applicants. We have 500-600 applicants a year, and we just cannot spend the time away from our other activities to meet with potential applicants. Although you are welcome to send a faculty member an email, please do not be offended if they do not respond; our faculty are very busy. You are always welcome to email the director of the program with any specific questions or concerns that are not already answered by our website. Please make sure, however, that your question or concern cannot otherwise be answered!

 Do you conduct campus tours?

No, but you can find maps and other information about Northwestern’s Chicago campus on the university’s website.

Miscellaneous Questions

 What is the Student-to-Faculty Ratio?

Approximately 200 faculty members are within the Division of Psychology, approximately half of which are involved in the PhD program as core, affiliated, or other faculty.  The PhD program’s student-to-faculty ratio specifically for core faculty is 2.1 students to 1 core faculty.

 Is a Master's degree available within the PhD Program?

Yes, all PhD students are eligible for a Master of Science (MS) in Clinical Psychology in the second or third year of the PhD program. Completion of required course units and a successful oral defense with a faculty committee of the Research Qualifying Paper is required for the MS to be awarded. 

 What is the residency requirement? Can I take the PhD program part-time?

The PhD program requires fulltime attendance, in-person, in our downtown Chicago location. In-person attendance on campus is required for at least four years of the program. There are no part-time options for the PhD program.

 Is the Program in-person, remote/virtual, or hybrid?

The PhD Program is an in-person program.  When not under University, local, state, or federal restrictions, all PhD students are expected to be on-campus and in-person for courses, research, clinical work, and all other aspects of the program until their clinical internship (which is in-person at another site). The PhD Program does not offer remote/virtual learning. Hybrid is also not available on an ongoing basis, but may be available for PhD students who are experiencing acute illnesses.   

Chicago & Evanston Clinical Psychology Programs

Our Clinical Psychology PhD Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (in Chicago) is differentiated from the Clinical Psychology program at Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (in Evanston) in several ways. The Chicago program is a scientist-practitioner program that places an equal emphasis on research and clinical training. Our goal is to prepare students for research and clinical careers in academic medical centers and similar healthcare settings (e.g., VA medical centers, research hospitals, large health systems). Read a description of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences program on the Evanston campus.


Clinical psychology doctoral students live off campus. Our campus is centrally located one mile north of the Loop on Chicago’s lakefront, just blocks from the Magnificent Mile. Chicago offers numerous residential neighborhoods within a short commute, either by walking/biking (e.g., Streeterville, Gold Coast, River North) or public transportation and university shuttle bus (e.g., Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, West Town, Boystown, Wrigleyville). More information about housing can be found on The Graduate School’s website.

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