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American Studies is a selective honors program which typically has more applicants than available space; therefore, admission depends in part on academic distinction and on demonstrated interest in comparative American cultures.  First- and second-year students apply for admission to the major early in spring quarter.

Study abroad and upper-level language proficiency are strongly encouraged.

All majors must plan to take one (1) approved course from African American Studies, Asian American Studies, or Latina and Latino Studies; to be taken the same year as AMER_ST 301: Seminar for Majors.

Because of the limited space in its seminars, the American Studies Program is relatively small. There are normally between 30 and 35 sophomore, junior, and senior majors enrolled in any given year.

Admission to the major is through an application process. Students apply early in the spring of their first or sophomore year. In addition to filling out an information form, students submit samples of their writing in Northwestern courses and a few short essay responses to questions. They also sit for an interview with Program faculty. Students are selected based on their academic record in courses relevant to the kind of work they would do in the major, their demonstrated interest in American Studies as a field, and the likelihood that they will contribute to and benefit from a curriculum that emphasizes small classes, active participation and interchange, and intellectual independence. While the number of applicants and openings varies from year to year, there are generally several more applicants than can be accepted.

Applications due April 8th - deadline extended. Check the American Studies 2023-2024 calendar for dates and deadlines.

Questions? Please contact the American Studies Program via Julie Lavin at


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Frequently Asked Questions

What does the application process entail?

We ask you to fill out a simple one-page form asking about your research interests and any American studies-related courses you have taken at Northwestern. We also ask you to write brief answers to two essay questions. Each applicant will be interviewed by the Program Director and by faculty members of the Program Committee.

Can I apply as a First Year?

Yes, first-years may apply during spring quarter.

If I don’t get accepted, can I reapply the following year?

Yes! We encourage you to reapply.

I also plan to be a Brady Scholar. Can I still apply to the American Studies major?

No. Although we have had some students who participated in both programs, we have adopted a new policy of encouraging applicants to choose either the Brady program or American Studies. The required seminars for the two programs overlap, and make completion of requirements for both programs nearly impossible.