MM & DMA Frequently Asked Questions

Fall 2021 Admission & COVID-19 Top

How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect the Bienen School of Music admissions process?

The coronavirus outbreak has clearly affected how applicants navigate the graduate school admission process. We understand that many communities have experienced school closures or restricted activities, and that families around the world are enduring financial strain and loss of loved ones. We are committed to working with applicants to ensure all candidates receive full consideration for admission to the Bienen School of Music.

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Is the Bienen School planning to change fall 2021 application deadlines due to COVID-19?

The Bienen School has no plans to change fall 2021 application deadlines.

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My prescreening/audition requirements normally require that I collaborate with another musician(s) or use several instruments. How should I record my prescreening or audition?

The Bienen School does not expect any applicant to stray from CDC guidelines in order to record prescreening or audition materials. Please see your program/instrument’s Audition & Program Requirements for comprehensive information about this year’s requirements.

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Will you be having on-campus auditions?

The Bienen School has not yet made a decision about holding on-campus auditions. All applicants will be contacted once the Bienen School and Northwestern have made a decision about this year’s audition format.

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In what format will auditions take place?

Faculty and staff are working to determine best practices and options for applicants and faculty. All applicants will receive information about this year’s audition process via email. Each program/instrument’s Audition & Program Requirements page also will be updated with information about audition repertoire and procedures.

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What should I do if I encounter trouble submitting documents (e.g., a transcript, recommendation) or these documents are not available?

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students and communities in unexpected ways, disrupting the day-to-day processes for many schools and universities. We believe that students should not be penalized for things that are outside of their control. If you anticipate challenges submitting items to complete your application, please contact us at so that we can work with you to gather the necessary documents.

We also recognize that COVID-19 may impact the ability of students to request letters of recommendation. While we still require two letters of recommendation, we will not penalize applicants if recommendations are especially brief or arrive late due to circumstances outside of students’ control.

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Can I take a virtual trial lesson?

Lesson requests with faculty members are made directly through the faculty members themselves. Visit our Faculty Profiles to find contact information for individual faculty members.

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How can applicants let the Bienen School of Music know about ways they have been impacted by the pandemic?

Please feel free to upload a statement about how you have been impacted by the pandemic to your application, or include information in your Personal Statement. Please note that including information about your experience with the pandemic is optional.

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Are international applicants still required to submit a TOEFL score or TOEFL waiver application if English is not the applicant’s first language?

Yes. The TOEFL test is available online, and TOEFL waiver application information and TOEFL submission timelines can be found here. More information about English-language tests will be posted on our International Students admission page soon, and we will update this FAQ section.

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How can prospective students learn more about the Bienen School without visiting campus in person?

Contact the Office of Music Admission at with any questions, or to make a Zoom appointment with a Bienen admissions counselor.

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Applications Top

What are the TOEFL requirements/minimum scores for graduate applicants?

Master of Music: 85iBT
Doctor of Musical Arts:  95iBT

See more information about TOEFL requirements

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Does Northwestern waive the TOEFL score for international applicants who have received a bachelor's degree in the United States?

If English is not your native language, you will be required to submit a TOEFL score or apply for a TOEFL waiver.

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Do you accept MyBest TOEFL scores?

MyBest TOEFL scores are not accepted.

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Are GRE scores required for the graduate program (MM/DMA)?

GRE scores are not required to apply to the MM or DMA program. There also is no minimum score requirement.

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Financial Aid Top

Is there financial aid available/how do I apply for financial aid?

All admitted MM applicants are automatically considered for merit scholarships, graduate assistantships, and work-study assignments. The most aid an MM student can receive in financial aid is equivalent to the full cost of tuition.

All DMA applicants offered admission are automatically offered a full-tuition scholarship, stipend, and subsidy for the Northwestern University Student Health Insurance Plan. This package will be renewed for the second year of coursework.  

For domestic students with U.S. citizenship, we recommend completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to be considered for student loans to supplement aid provided by the Bienen School.

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Is there financial aid for international students?

There is no difference in the merit-based scholarship process for international applicants. International students are ineligible to apply for federal student loans through FAFSA, however. There are some options for international students to receive a private loan, however many of them do require a U.S. citizen to act as a co-signer. More information can be found here.

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How much does it cost to attend Northwestern University/Bienen?

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Are there graduate assistantships?

Yes. All admitted applicants are considered for graduate assistantship positions.

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