Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions graduate degrees in the Linguistics program  (PhD, MA, BA-MA).

If you are looking for information about the MA or PhD programs in applied linguistics, please go to the websites of the Second Language Studies PhD program or the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program.

Phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, neurolinguistics, and first-language child language acquisition. To get a better sense of what we do, visit the faculty pages and the websites for our groups and labs.

Please check our Funding page for details.

No, our graduate students come to us from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds. For the M.A. program, we welcome applications from people whose background in linguistics is relatively modest. The crucial requirements are, first, an introductory class in linguistics; and second, academic and personal statements that reveal that you understand what linguistic inquiry entails and that you’ve thought realistically about what you might do here. Unsure about what we mean by “linguistics”? Check out the Linguistic Society of America first. For the Ph.D. program, a more extensive background is expected, but you do not necessarily need to have a BA or MA degree specifically in linguistics.

Yes, it is sometimes possible to waive the test requirement. These conditions change from time to time, so please review the most up-to-date information from the MSU Graduate School on English language competency requirements and waivers.

The minimum TOEFL score for regular admission to the program is 100. The minimum IELTS score its designers characterize as acceptable for ‘linguistically demanding’ programs is 7.5. But anyone can have a bad day, so if you get an unexpectedly low score on either of these tests, you will want to explain in your personal statement (or ask a recommender to explain in their letter) why the score does not reflect your actual English competence.

Note: On August 2nd, 2021, MSU switched to a new online admissions system. The system will prompt you for documents. For your initial application, you are likely to only need to provide a PDF of an official or unofficial transcript. If you are admitted to the Linguistics program, you will be asked to provide a physical copy of your official transcript following the instructions below. However, as the new system is rolled out, the guidance might change. The most up-to-date instructions will be contained within the online application system itself.

Arrange for each college or university you have attended to send an official transcript to the department and an unofficial copy. If your previous institution(s) will only send a transcript to the MSU Admissions Office, this is also acceptable. A transcript is a record of all the courses you have taken at that institution, including the grade you obtained for each course. 

Please note that “official transcript” means that the institution has sealed the transcript in a physical envelope and directly mailed it to the department and/or the institution has directly emailed the transcript to Michigan State University. An unsealed transcript submitted or uploaded by the student directly invalidates the “official” status of that transcript.

The personal statement should include a summary of your academic and personal background, with a special emphasis on aspects of it that might be relevant to graduate study in linguistics. Any previous study of the subject should be mentioned. You should indicate your reasons for wanting to pursue a graduate degree in linguistics.

The academic statement is a statement of purpose that characterizes your intellectual goals. If you are applying to the PhD program, it should indicate your specific area(s) of interest in linguistics and what you hope to focus on in the program. It’s entirely appropriate to speculate about potential topics of future research. (If admitted, you will not be required to do what you describe.) If you are applying to the MA program and you have little prior experience with the study of linguistics, it may be more difficult for you to identify areas of focus. Nonetheless, you should attempt to describe any aspects of language structure and use that you find especially interesting, perhaps giving us an example or two of something that you’ve observed or learned.

It is typically difficult to disentangle your background and personal intellectual history from your plans and goals, so the two statements may partly overlap.

For applicants to the M.A. program, each of these statements should be about 500–700 words; for applicants to the Ph.D. program, 700–1,000 words.

If you’re an M.A. applicant, no. You may not even be in a position to select a subfield, much less an advisor. Nevertheless, you should be in a position to speculate about the issue. Speculating about your possible choice of subfield would, with some research on the department’s website, also help you identify faculty members relevant to that specialization. If you’re a Ph.D. applicant, you don’t necessarily need to know who you’d like to work with, but it would help to have a general idea. Either way, these should be discussed in your academic statement.

We have chosen to retain our requirement that applicants submit GRE scores, even though other graduate programs have removed this requirement. In our experience, GRE scores continue to differentiate generally excellent candidates from other applicants, at least for now, especially with regard to readiness to undertake quantitative/analytical work. 

There is no fixed minimum score to be eligible for admission, but scoring below the 50th percentile on any section of the test may raise red flags with the admissions committee. If you do have especially poor scores for any reason, we recommend that you address this in your personal statement and if possible, ask one of your recommenders to explain the score in their letter as well. 

Technically, yes, but we strongly discourage it. Entering in spring deprives you of the opportunity to begin a multiple-semester series of courses from their intended starting point at the beginning of the first year. Promising applications for spring admission are typically transferred to the following fall. Spring admission is only considered in unusual circumstances, typically for students already at MSU. If you think your circumstances may be exceptional in a relevant sense, it’s advisable to contact us in advance.

No. We welcome students with their own funding, and it is definitely something that should be reported in the application. It will certainly not, however, guarantee admission into the program. Admission is based on intellectual merit.

The graduate secretary for linguistics and the program’s director, Suzanne Wagner. You may also refer to the website of the Graduate School.