Tips for Applying



Before applying for admission, please review the helpful tips below:

  • If you are applying as a student at-large, you must follow exact directions for students-at-large when applying.
  • All application materials (except art portfolios and music auditions) must be uploaded through the CollegeNet, our application system. To submit an application, you must provide the required information, trigger email messages for your referees to write on your behalf, and upload a statement of purpose. Also, if the program to which you are applying requires a writing sample, you must upload it before submitting the application.
  • Know the application deadline for the program to which you are applying. The deadline is not a target date for getting started or the date by which you must hit the submit button and pay your application fee. The deadline is the date by which all application materials must be received.
  • All application materials, except portfolios and audition materials, must be uploaded through the application system. The Graduate School does not accept paper application materials or electronic materials submitted by applicants or others through any means other than the application system. Learn about the format of electronic files to be submitted on the file upload requirements page.
  • We do not accept materials that are not required either by the Graduate School or by the program to which you are applying. For example, if the program requires two letters of recommendation, we will not accept an additional one. Do not upload materials that are not specifically required or permitted (i.e. high school transcripts, certificates, photographs, etc). We encourage you to systematically organize, save, and label electronic copies of your application materials. For example, establish an electronic file folder for your NIU application materials. You can save your GRE score to a file called “GRE for NIU,” and your unofficial baccalaureate transcript to a file called “BA Transcript for NIU.” Getting organized before you get started and remaining committed to your organizational structure throughout the process makes the application process much easier.

Test Scores

To complete your application, the program to which you are applying may require a prerequisite test. You may upload a student copy of any required prerequisite tests: the GRE/GMAT/MAT. To determine which test is accepted by the program to which you are applying, see the page of the master’s or doctoral program in which you are interested.

  • International students who have not received or will not first receive a baccalaureate or higher degree from an institution in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, must provide TOEFL or IELTS scores. Likewise, applicants who indicate that they are planning to enroll in the Intensive English Program at ELS DeKalb are not required to provide TOEFL, IELTS, or GRE/GMAT scores.
  • When preparing your score report for upload, make certain that your name and all scores are legible. If you are admitted, all test scores MUST be sent directly from the testing center (GRE and TOEFL test takers: use institution code 1559. NIU does not require department codes; neither does the testing center.)
  • For admission, NIU requires an 80 (TOEFL) or 6.5 (IELTS). 


Upload an up-to-date copy of transcripts for all colleges and universities attended (except community colleges from which you transferred courses to a four-year degree). If you are admitted, you will be required to submit official copies of transcripts. You may submit official copies at any time, but NIU will not acknowledge receipt of the official transcripts until after admission. Before submitting transcripts, international applications must read and understand the information about transcripts. Failure to upload the proper academic record will delay consideration of your application and incur additional costs.

Letters of recommendation

As you complete the application, you will be required to provide the names and email addresses of individuals who will write a letter that speaks to your academic ability and your ability to complete the program to which you are applying. When you complete the application, you can trigger an electronic message to each of your referees to submit a letter on your behalf. If you trigger the communication to go out to your referees as you fill out the application, you should submit your application as soon as possible.

  • The Graduate School encourages you to communicate with prospective referees prior to starting the application to ensure that they are willing to write a letter for you. Tell them when to expect the invitation to submit the letter, the program to which you are applying, and the date by which NIU must receive the letter.
  • Be aware that services like Sendio and Boxbe will block emails from the application system. We cannot respond to requests to be an approved sender. Make certain that the email address you provide is not designed to block unknown or unapproved email correspondents.
  • On the application, you must determine if you wish to waive your right to see the letter submitted on your behalf or not. Some referees, even those who can sing your praises, will not consent to write for you, if you do not waive your right to see the letter. Planning to retain your right to read the letter? Talk to your referee first.

Statement of Purpose

All applicants are required to upload a statement of purpose, sometimes called a personal statement. Your statement should describe why you wish to pursue the degree that you have indicated and why you wish to do so at NIU. Most statements of purpose are between 250 and 750 words in length.

Resume/Curriculum Vitae

 A resume or curriculum vitae should outline your education, work experience, and other achievements that reflect upon your ability to complete the program to which you seek admission. Not all programs require a resume or curriculum vitae, but many applicants wish to upload one. You will have the opportunity to do so.

  • International students may also upload a copy of their passport during the application process. A passport is required to be issued an I-20, but not for admission purposes.
  • Before you submit your application, double-check your work. Make certain that you have chosen the correct program of study. With the exception of your resume/cv, we will not accept revised documents. Once an application is submitted, it is considered final.
  • If you save your application prior to submitting it, you can log in to CollegeNet and manage your account. Once you submit your application, you can log into CollegeNet, view your checklist, and upload any required materials not previously submitted.
  • Please note that duplicate materials and items that are not required as part of your application will not appear on your checklist.
  • Checklists are only updated after you submit your application.