Below is a list of requirements for acceptance into the certificate program. For specific questions regarding the admissions process, contact an adviser at 312-503-2579.

Application Requirements

Applicants to this certificate program must hold a graduate degree from an accredited U.S. college, university or its foreign equivalent. A competitive graduate record that indicates strong academic ability is required. Work, internship, or research experience is highly desirable, but not a requirement.

Please note that courses completed in the certificate program cannot be transferred to the corresponding graduate degree.

Application Deadlines

  • Fall quarter: July 15
  • Winter quarter: October 15
  • Spring quarter: January 15
  • Summer quarter: April 15

If an application deadline falls on a weekend, supplemental materials will be due the next business day. Applications are accepted year round and are reviewed by the faculty admissions committee once a quarter. Applicants will be notified of their admission status approximately four weeks after the deadline.

Application Checklist

Statement of Purpose

Applicants must submit a 300-word statement of purpose explaining how the degree program will help them meet their academic goals. Applicants who did not major in English or a closely related field should explain how other experiences, academic and nonacademic, have prepared them to undertake graduate study in creative writing.

Applicants must supply a sample of writing in the genre of study (creative nonfiction, fiction or poetry) selected on the application for admission. The portfolio should consist of one or more works totaling approximately 20 typed, double-spaced pages of prose, 15 to 20 pages of poetry or the equivalent in published work. The quality of the writing portfolio is the primary (though not exclusive) basis on which admissions decisions are based.

Applicants also must submit a brief analytical paper demonstrating the ability to critically evaluate and analyze literature.

Supplemental Materials

Supplemental materials, with the exception of transcripts, must be uploaded to the online application. Official transcripts may be sent to our Admissions office at or mailed to our Chicago office. Please be sure to include the name of your intended program when addressing transcripts. Applicants will be notified once all materials have been received and the application is complete.

  • One sealed copy of an official transcript from a previously attended college and/or university showing a completed graduate degree. Official transcripts must arrive in our office in the original sealed envelope issued by the institution. Northwestern University School of Professional Studies accepts electronic transcripts from U.S. institutions via secure electronic transcript providers. Consult with your institution to see if they are part of a secure e-delivery network. All electronic transcripts should be sent to Please note transcripts are not accepted by fax or email. If you are currently enrolled, please submit an official transcript showing courses in-progress. Applicants with international transcripts must request an official course-by-course evaluation of transcripts from a NACES member such as WES or ECE. A course-by-course evaluation will translate courses, degrees and grades to U.S. equivalency.
  • One letter of recommendation focusing on academic achievement and ability
  • Statement of purpose
  • A 20-page writing portfolio in the selected genre of study
  • A brief (5-10 pages) critical essay on a major work of fiction, creative fiction or poetry
  • Current résumé or curriculum vitae
  • (optional) A separate written description of any additional study or experience in creative writing

Transcript mailing address:
Writing COAGS Graduate Admission
Northwestern University School of Professional Studies
Wieboldt Hall, Sixth floor
339 E. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611-3008

Application Tips

Applications will be evaluated by a team of faculty and Admissions representatives. The following considerations will guide the Admissions Committee in reviewing your application:

  • The writing portfolio demonstrates an applicant’s creativity, ability to develop voices, mastery of English grammar and fundamentals of style, as well as their potential as a writer. The quality of the writing portfolio is the primary (though not exclusive) basis upon which admissions decisions are based. Writing submissions should be in the same genre as the intended area of focus.
  • The statement of purpose should reflect what you are currently reading, what authors inspire you and why; it should also include where the creative writing degree falls within your future career or personal goals.
  • The analytical essay is used to evaluate one’s ability to critique literature using the tools of the trade. A strong essay will analyze themes used in the author's work, literary history, comparisons with additional literary pieces and any combination of these elements. Submissions should not be opinion based and should have citations.
    • If you choose to write a craft essay instead, it should outline how another author's short story, novel, poem or essay achieves its effects (what particular elements of the craft of writing does the author use in order to achieve its effect).
  • The letter of recommendation should come from academia. If an academic recommender is not available, it is also acceptable to have a creative recommender who is in authority submit a letter.
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