Frequently Asked Questions for Graduate Applicants

Q: Am I qualified for your program? What if I have no background in linguistics?
A: We cannot comment specifically on an applicant's qualifications or chances of admission without seeing the full application. Many successful applicants have an undergraduate background in linguistics. However, people also enter graduate programs in linguistics with a variety of undergraduate majors, in part because there are many undergraduate colleges and universities that have no linguistics department or major. Two common undergraduate paths into linguistics (for people who DON'T major in linguistics) are languages and math/logic/computer science.

One basic prerequisite for a strong application is evidence of familiarity with basic concepts in linguistics. Our successful applicants typically have a strength in at least one field of Linguistics that this department specializes in, or in a related field (e.g. Philosophy of Language). In addition, they are either familiar with basic linguistic theory in phonology and syntax or demonstrate the ability and interest to engage these subjects. If you haven't had previous courses in these areas, you may gain some exposure to these topics in courses in related disciplines such as language courses (e.g. a course in the Spanish department on the sound system or the grammar/syntax of Spanish, or a class on Spanish dialects, or the history of Spanish), or English courses (e.g. grammar or history or dialects of English).

If your prior study does not involve any specific linguistic analysis, you would be well advised to seek some exposure to these topics before applying, such as by additional coursework, reading, or attending a summer program such as the Linguistic Institute of the Linguistic Society of America.

Q: What is the minimum GRE or TOEFL or IELTS score for admission? What are the average GRE or TOEFL or IELTS scores or GPAs of your entering students?
A: We do not track average GRE or TOEFL or IELTS scores or GPA and we do not have a fixed minimum for admission. Other components of your application, such as the writing sample, reference letters, and candidate statements, have a more decisive effect on the judgment of our admissions committee regarding the suitability of an applicant. Test scores or GPAs mainly influence admissions decisions when they are exceptionally low or high.

Q: Will the Linguistics Department accept an application with unofficial scores for the GRE or TOEFL or IELTS? How late can I take the test?
A: Admissions decisions are typically made in late January and early February. The Graduate School does not permit us to offer admission to a candidate who does not have all the necessary documentation including test scores. Therefore, although your application can be considered with unofficial or late-arriving scores, you cannot actually be admitted until we receive all necessary scores.

Q: Do you accept transfer credits?
A: Transfer credits are rarely approved; students are generally expected to take a full set of courses for their degree at NYU, and receive tuition exemption for all required graduate credits.

Q: How competitive is your program?
A: Admission to our program is highly competitive. We take in an average of about seven new students per year in the doctoral program, but we typically receive approximately one hundred applications. Therefore, there are many highly qualified applicants who are not offered admission.

Q: Can I get financial aid?
A: All students admitted to our doctoral program receive full funding for five years, including tuition, fees, health insurance, and a stipend which currently amounts to about $25,000 /year. Students who are admitted with external funding (e.g. NSF or Fulbright fellowships), also receive university support on somewhat different terms. No students without financial support are admitted, irrespective of nationality.

Q: Do you offer financial support over the summer?
A: The MacCracken fellowship stipends are paid over the nine months of the academic year. In addition, each MacCracken fellow will receive a total of $5,000 research funds that they may use in one summer or spread out over multiple summers. Occasionally, graduate students get summer teaching or work as graduate assistants, but that will not cover living expenses for the remaining summers. There are some summer work options elsewhere on campus, and there are some summer fellowships that students are eligible to apply for, such as funds for research; however, these are more commonly available to more advanced students. Otherwise, students often seek summer employment off-campus.

Q: Is student housing available?
A: All admitted students are entitled to apply for university housing for their first year at a somewhat subsidized rental rate -- information on this is available on line from GSAS. However, university housing is only available for the first year of study. After that, everyone rents off campus. Most of our students are renting apartments around the city, many in Brooklyn, for example, and they generally seem to be able to find suitable places that they can afford within their stipends.

Q: Can I apply for an MA?
A: We are no longer accepting applications for the MA degree alone. All prospective students must apply for the doctoral program.

Q: Is there a format for the statement of academic purpose?
A: There is no set format for the statement of academic purpose. Effective statements typically demonstrate applicants' familiarity with the field, and their interests and commitment to linguistic study. It is more important to highlight your professional development than your personal background and experiences. You should indicate how your interests relate to the special strengths of our department, so that we can get a sense of how you would fit in here, and benefit from studying at NYU. It is also helpful if you indicate whatever research plans or interests you have in mind at present (although of course there is no need to identify specific topics for a dissertation or qualifying papers at this stage!)

Q: What are you looking for in a writing sample?
A: Ideally, a writing sample should demonstrate your ability to do linguistic analysis. Typical writing samples are course papers or theses from prior study in linguistics. If you don't have such a paper, then you should submit a writing sample from some related field that shows your analytical skills and writing ability to good advantage.

The length of the writing sample is not limited, in principle. However, the professors who read your application are not likely to read extremely long documents in full (considering that they may have 100 other applications to read). The application system has no page limit; it is limited to 1MB per file. Longer writing samples can be divided into smaller pieces, as you are allowed to submit three, plus three other supporting documents. But you should consider whether documents in excess of 50 pages are really necessary to support your case.

Q: Can I reapply?
A: Admission to our graduate program in linguistics is highly competitive. If your application was unsuccessful in a previous year, it is unlikely that you would be admitted in future years unless something about your application changed substantially-- for example if you did further study elsewhere in linguistics, or wrote a strong new paper that was submitted as your writing sample. If you are serious about pursuing graduate study in linguistics, your best options would be either to apply for admission to a graduate program at some other university, or take further course work in linguistics at the undergraduate or graduate level before re-applying to NYU.

Q: Questions that are addressed on the GSAS website: GSAS Application Resource Center

  • Can you send me a paper application?
  • Questions about applying for admission to NYU/any general application questions
  • What are the application deadline dates? What are the specific requirements for applying to Linguistics?
  • Questions about GRE/TOEFL/IELTS
  • Questions about whether supporting documents have been received (recommendations/scores/writing sample, etc.) (The Linguistics department does not receive any application materials directly; these are all received initially by GSAS and then forwarded to the department).
  • When will I get an admissions decision?
  • How do I use SMTS (Supporting Materials Tracking System)?
  • Do you offer deferrals?
  • Questions about transcripts