Am I qualified for your program? What if I have no background in linguistics?
Many successful applicants to our program have an undergraduate background in linguistics, and more and more of them also have master’s degrees in linguistics. However, we do not impose any formal degree requirements beyond those required to enroll in the Graduate School. We have admitted students from a variety of undergraduate majors and without a master’s degree. We are aware that many colleges and universities have no linguistics department or major, and that master’s degrees rarely come with funding.
You can apply even if you don’t major in linguistics. If you are at an institution that offers many courses in linguistics, it will help your application if you take them. If your school offers few or no courses in linguistics or if you otherwise have a nontraditional background, it will help your application if you show that you have done everything you could to get the background you need to succeed in graduate school. Consider taking courses in related disciplines (e.g. a course in the Spanish department on the sound system or the grammar/syntax of Spanish, or a class on Italian dialects, or the history of Russian, or grammar or history or dialects of English). We also recommend attending summer schools. The LinguistList maintains a registry of such schools around the world, and many of them offer fellowships that cover the cost of attendance.
We require evidence of familiarity with basic concepts in linguistics. Our successful applicants tend to have prior exposure to one and ideally more subfields of linguistics represented at NYU or related fields (e.g. philosophy of language). Research experience and good scholarly writing ability can convey a decisive advantage.
What if I can’t afford the application fee?
The application fee is set by the graduate school and can be waived under certain circumstances. Check the graduate school’s page for more information. You must apply for the fee waiver before submitting your application for admission. If possible, submit your request at least four weeks before the application deadline for linguistics.
Can I get financial aid?
All students admitted to our doctoral program receive full funding for five years, including tuition, fees, health insurance and a stipend. This stipend, the MacCracken fellowship, is disbursed over the 9 months of the academic year. For 2020-2021, it was $29,500. Increases in the minimum stipend are expected for the subsequent years of an award term. Fees and health insurance are covered for the duration of the stipend support, plus an additional 4 semesters. No students are admitted without financial support, irrespective of nationality. If you have access to outside fellowships (NSF, Fulbright, or similar fellowships in other countries), we are delighted if you apply proactively for additional opportunities for funding.
Do you offer financial support over the summer?
Fellowship stipends are paid over the nine months of the academic year. In addition, each MacCracken fellow may receive research funding. There are often opportunities to work as a graduate assistant during the summer, though this is not guaranteed. Some students teach an introductory linguistics course during one summer. There are some summer work options elsewhere on campus, and summer fellowships such as funds for research; these are more commonly available to more advanced students. Students can seek summer employment off-campus (for international students, subject to visa requirements).
Is student housing available?
All admitted students are eligible to apply for university housing for their first year at a somewhat subsidized rental rate. Information on this is available online from the graduate school. After the first year, everyone rents off campus.
Preparing the application
Is there a format for the statement of academic purpose?
Your statement of purpose should describe your relevant past and present work, any research experience, your educational objectives and career goals, your intellectual and professional reasons for choosing linguistics and for applying to our department, and anything unusual we should know about your application. It should not exceed two double-spaced pages. We recommend consulting your academic adviser while writing it. Statements of purpose for graduate school, unlike those for college, focus on motivations for embarking on a Ph.D. in linguistics. Thus it is more important to highlight your professional development than your personal background and experiences (if you’d like to discuss those, you may submit a separate personal history statement in addition to the statement of purpose). Effective statements typically demonstrate applicants' familiarity with the field and their interests and commitment to linguistic study, and indicate how your interests relate to the special strengths of our department. While it is helpful if you indicate current research interests, there is no need to identify specific topics for a dissertation. You may also want to provide context for any low grades or scores, and consider asking your letter writers to do the same.
What are you looking for in a writing sample?
Ideally, a writing sample should demonstrate your ability to do linguistic analysis and to apply the kinds of methodologies and techniques most relevant to your subfield, and it should give an indication of your potential to do independent scholarly work once you join the program. Typical writing samples are term papers or theses from prior study in linguistics, and contain original thought that goes beyond summarizing previous work. It may be a good idea to spend some time developing a term paper into a strong writing sample with the help of your adviser.
If you don't have such a paper, you should submit a writing sample from a related field that shows your analytical skills and writing ability to good advantage. If you have multiple equally strong papers, you may submit them as additional material.
Given the high volume of applications, we are not likely to read long documents (in excess of 50 pages) in full. The application system has no page limit, but you should consider whether such documents are necessary to support your case. If you have such a document (such as a Bachelor’s or Master’s thesis), consider submitting an excerpt that showcases your skills along with a brief summary of the omitted parts, or including suggestions about which parts readers should focus on.
What is the minimum TOEFL or IELTS score for admission? What are the average TOEFL or IELTS scores or GPAs of your entering students?
We do not track average 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 statement of purpose, have a more decisive effect on our judgment regarding the suitability of an applicant. Test scores or GPAs mainly influence admissions decisions when they are exceptionally low.
Do you require GRE scores?
The GRE is not required. Please do not send us GRE test scores. If you do, the scores will not be reviewed or considered by the department's Admissions Committee.
Will the Linguistics Department accept an application with unofficial scores for the TOEFL or IELTS? How late can I take the test?
Admissions decisions are typically made in mid-February. The Graduate School does not permit us to offer admission to a candidate who has not submitted all necessary documentation including required test scores. While your application can be considered with unofficial or late-arriving scores, you cannot be admitted until we receive all official score reports.
How competitive is your program?
We typically receive approximately 140-150 applications per year. In typical years, we are permitted to admit about a dozen applicants. Unfortunately, this means many highly qualified applicants are not offered admission.
Do you have a waitlist?
It depends on the year.
Can I reapply?
If your application was unsuccessful, it is unlikely that it would be accepted in future years, except if something about it changed substantially -- for example if you did further coursework elsewhere in linguistics, received an additional degree, and/or wrote a strong new writing sample. We recommend you highlight such changes in your statement of purpose.
Do you interview candidates?
In January we select about a few dozen applications for closer consideration. We interview these candidates, typically via Skype, though phone interviews are also possible. These interviews tend to take 30-45 minutes and involve 1-3 faculty members, sometimes in multiple sessions. They are an opportunity for us to gather additional information before admissions decisions are made, and for candidates to ask questions about the program.
What is the timeline for your admissions decisions?
We typically decide on admissions and contact applicants by mid-February.
Do you have an open house?
Yes, we offer an open house for prospective students who have been admitted to the program, typically on a Thursday and Friday in early or mid-March. Attending the open house is not a precondition for joining the program, but many prospective students find it useful as a way to make a more informed decision.
What are the program rules and requirements?
Here are the program requirements for the Ph.D. program.
Do you accept transfer credits?
Transfer credits are rarely approved; students are generally expected to take a full set of courses for their degree here, and receive tuition exemption for all required graduate credits.
Do I have to teach?
Teaching is a vital part of the doctoral degree. Unlike at many other programs, teaching is voluntary and fellowships are not contingent on it. All students are encouraged to serve as TAs for undergraduate courses. TAs are compensated on top of fellowship stipends; if you would like more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Teaching opportunities are relevant to linguistics and structured to support students’ academic progress.
Does the NYU Linguistics PhD program have STEM designation?
Yes. Because our program is designated as STEM eligible, F-1 students may apply for 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization plus an additional 24-month extension of OPT authorization (up to 36 months in total). The program's STEM designation is indicated by the "Major" code listed on the form I-20 issued to marticulating F1 students. Please see the Office of Global Services website here for more information on eligibility for the STEM OPT extension.
Can I apply for an MA?
We do not offer an MA degree in Linguistics. All prospective students must apply for the doctoral program. An MPhil degree is conferred to students accepted as candidates in the doctoral program who have fulfilled all doctorate requirements except the dissertation and its defense.
I would like to work with Professor X, who teaches in your department. Should I apply by writing to Professor X, or by submitting an application through the regular system?
You should submit your application through the regular system, so we can evaluate your application along with its letters of recommendation and compare it with other applications. Our department does not accept candidates to work with particular faculty members, and we don’t have an admissions committee. Applications are approved by the faculty as a whole, across the various fields that our faculty address. No single faculty member is in a position to admit you. The application form asks you to indicate subfield(s) of interest as well as the NYU faculty most directly responsible for your decision to apply. We encourage you to use this to make sure your application is noticed by the most relevant faculty. Your expression of interest is not a commitment on your part. We know you are bound to discover new topics in various fields, and if we admit you we will not hold you to any initial preference you express in your application. Students who have been admitted to the program will not be limited to working with just the faculty they have mentioned in their application.
What if I don’t know yet which faculty member I would like to work with?
This is fine. We do not expect you to know this before you apply. Ph.D. students choose faculty members as program advisers by the end of their first year. These advisers help students progress through the program. In their second and third years, students choose chairs for their qualifying paper committees, and by their fourth year, for their dissertation committees. These roles can be filled by different faculty, though typically there is overlap. Students are not expected to know who they might want to work with in subsequent years, and are free to switch program advisers throughout the Ph.D.
Will I be able to work with Professor X if I am admitted to the program?
This is decided by students and faculty together after students join the program. If for some reason a professor becomes unavailable, we are a large department and most of our subfields are represented by multiple faculty, so you should still be able to find other faculty to work with.
What is your placement record? What kind of job am I likely to get after graduating?
Our alumni page lists where previous Ph.D. students are now working.
Do you have any other suggestions for how to be a successful applicant?
You may be interested in reviewing the Linguistic Society of America’s archived webinar on this topic. In this video, representatives from five major linguistics departments' admission committees, along with a Ph.D. student, discuss their experiences and take questions. While different departments’ application processes and selection criteria vary, many graduate applicants find this to be a useful resource. An in-depth look at the graduate admissions process across universities and disciplines can be found in Dr. Julie Posselt’s book Inside Graduate Admissions. (Our department is not among those actually studied in that book, but it is similar.)
What should I do if I have a question not answered here?
If your question is about the application process, program or Graduate School admissions requirements, please contact email@example.com. If you have a question for an individual faculty member, we would appreciate if you checked whether the faculty member’s personal website (accessible via http://as.nyu.edu/linguistics/people/faculty.html) answers it before you write to us. Please do not send the same email to multiple faculty. For additional application instructions, deadlines, and program-specific information, see the GSAS Application Resource Center.