Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy Admissions Requirements

The M.S. in Applied Human Development and Family Sciences, Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy is a two-year, 54-credit hour program that prepares you for a career as a licensed couple and family therapist.

To apply, please complete the online application or view more information on the Graduate School website.

The priority deadline for application to the fall 2024 cohort is December 15, 2023. The SMFT program will continue to accept and consider applications through mid-July or until the cohort is full.

Application Requirements

The program application is comprised of the following components:

  • Graduate School application
  • Unofficial transcripts
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Current resume

Please direct questions to:

DeAnna Harris-McKoy, Ph.D., LMFT
SMFT Program Director

Application Process

Letters of Recommendation

  • Select recommenders who will provide strong support for your decision to become a marriage and family therapist.
  • It is recommended that at least one letter come from a professor who supports your ability to complete graduate-level work.
  • If you have worked or volunteered in a setting that provides patient care, then a recommendation letter from a supervisor is valuable in communicating your passion for helping others and your ability to relate to clients.

Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose is an important component of the admission process for the SMFT program. The writing sample serves as a forum to express your ideas, self-awareness and professional goals. Through your statement of purpose, faculty involved in the decision-making process have an opportunity to get to know you as a person and to understand your interest and commitment to the program. The writing sample also illustrates the ability to organize your thoughts and communicate effectively which are essential skills for success in the program and as a marriage and family therapist.


Using the following questions as a framework, write a three-section paper that is typed, double-spaced and is a maximum of eight (8) pages in length.

Section 1: Personal Philosophy
  • Discuss your personal philosophy of life. What ideas, values and preferences guide you?
  • What people and/or experiences have been major influences in your life?
Section 2: Marriage and Family Therapy
  • What are the factors and experiences that motivate you to become a marriage and family therapist?
  • What are the most important qualities of a successful marriage and family therapist?
  • Describe your professional goals. How do you envision using your skills as a therapist? What will you be doing five years and 15 years after graduating from this program?
Section 3: Education
  • What attracted you to the SMFT program at NIU?
  • How do you learn most effectively? Describe your ideal learning context.
  • Describe why this is a good time in your life to pursue this graduate-level education.

Admission Process and Acceptance into the Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy Program

Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy faculty review all applications to the program. In late January, qualified candidates are invited to NIU for an interview day in February. Acceptance decisions are made shortly after interviews are completed. Candidates are informed of the acceptance decision in writing.


There are no course pre-requisites for admission into the SMFT Program. Once admitted, students are expected to have successfully completed three (3) undergraduate courses; one course in each of the following areas:

Course Topic NIU Course
Introduction to Family Relationships HDFS-284 or equivalent
Child Development or Human Development HDFS-230 or 280 or equivalent
Theories of Child Development or Family Theories HDFS-432 or 484 or equivalent

No-cost proficiency exams are also available for HDFS 230, HDFS 280 and HDFS 284. Read more information on proficiency testing.

Upon acceptance into the program, your undergraduate transcript(s) will be reviewed for courses that meet these requirements. Courses from other universities and majors (e.g. psychology) often are accepted. The acceptance letter into the SMFT Program will notify you if you have not met one or more of these required courses. Ideally, incoming students will complete the deficient courses prior to entering the program in the fall semester. You may complete them, however, in your first semester in the program. The courses may be taken at NIU or at another university or community college.

Contact Us

Family and Consumer Sciences
118 Wirtz Hall
DeKalb, IL 60115

DeAnna Harris-McKoy, Ph.D., LMFT-S
Director, Marriage and Family Therapy Program

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