Your personal statement and resume/curriculum vitae can be uploaded as part of your online application. If the program you are applying to requires a writing sample, please follow any instructions on that program's website. If the program's website doesn't give specific instructions, then it should be emailed to the Graduate Admissions Office at firstname.lastname@example.org and it should have fewer than thirty pages. These documents can also be mailed or hand delivered to the Graduate Admissions Office at 530 Goodell Building, University of Massachusetts, 140 Hicks Way, Amherst, MA 01003.
How to Apply to the Ph.D. Program in Theoretical Linguistics
1. Complete Graduate School application prior to January 15 deadline.
Please visit the UMass Amherst Graduate School website for information on how to apply.
2. Applicants must have a B.A., B.S., or M.A. degree.
3. Applicants must show evidence of ability to engage in serious study of a complex subject matter.
4. Applicants must submit a Writing Sample
Applicants are very strongly encouraged to send a writing sample directly to the department. While most of your application will be submitted online, please send your writing sample by post to the department or by email to email@example.com. (If you send it to the Graduate School, it will eventually be forwarded to the department.)
The sample may be a copy of a term paper, research report, thesis, or a collection of linguistic problem sets. This writing sample should be representative of the applicant's ability to pursue serious scholarly inquiry. We read these submissions carefully and they greatly influence our admissions decisions. (Papers written in languages other than English, French, German, Spanish, or Italian should be accompanied by a summary in English.)
5. Applicants must submit GRE Scores
All applicants are required by University regulations to take the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytic sections of the Graduate Record Examination. (No GRE subject test is required.) The institution code is 3917. No department code is needed.
6. Some applicants must submit proof of proficiency in English
The Graduate School is now accepting the Pearson Test of English (PTE) for proof of proficiency in the English language, in addition to International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) and The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). One of these three tests is required of all applicants who are not citizens of the United States and whose native language is not English. (In addition, applicants from India are required to submit English proficiency test scores.) More information.
When to apply
The deadline for receipt of applications at the Department is January 15 for admission the following September. While most of your application will be submitted online, please send your writing sample by post to the department or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When will I hear about my application?
The Admissions Committee makes its decisions during the months of January through March. You will be notified as soon as the Committee has made a decision about your application.
A special note
We do not accept applications for spring admission. We do not offer classes in TESL, translation, or specific languages.
Although we do not expect every applicant to have a substantial background in theoretical linguistics, we look for evidence that the decision to pursue a Ph.D. in this field is a thoughtful one, based on reading and consultation with advisers. Please keep in mind that this is a very competitive program, receiving over 130 applications per year from the best students from around the world, many of whom do have a strong background in theoretical Linguistics.
In making admissions decisions, we place greatest emphasis on the potential to carry out significant independent research. We therefore look most of all for an inquiring mind, for an ability to formulate precise questions and arguments, for a willingness to work in areas where sometimes little is known for certain and fundamental theoretical principles may be called into question, and for an interest in abstract problems. We look too for the character that will sustain a student through the hard work that is needed to acquire the intellectual tools of the trade.
No single factor GRE scores, transcripts, recommendations, or writing sample will exclude anyone from admission, nor will any single factor ensure admission. There are no quotas or formulas. In making our decisions, we look for evidence from any source of the potential to make a contribution in theoretical linguistics.
Frequently Asked Questions
What areas of specialization does the Department cover?
Theoretical linguistics and allied fields: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, psycholinguistics, and language acquisition. If your main interest is applied linguistics or TESL, this is not the best department for you.
Can I apply to enter in the Spring semester?
No. Because of the way our courses are arranged, this is just not possible.
Do I need an MA to get in?
No. A Bachelor's degree or equivalent is enough.
How do I apply for financial aid?
Your application for admission is also an application for financial aid.
What is the current stipend?
During 2013-2014 academic year, the base stipends for departmentally-funded Teaching Assistants and Associates will be approximately $19,623 for the academic year. You will also receive a waiver of most tuition, curriculum and health fees for the year. Many students receive additional funding in the summer.
Is this enough to live on?
Yes, without difficulty. Unlike many urban areas in the United States, apartments in the Amherst-Northampton area are affordable and pleasant.
How long does the program take?
Most students take five years, and that is how long departmental support usually lasts. Students specializing in areas like psycholinguistics or phonetics, which require significant course work in other fields, can apply for and usually receive a sixth year of funding.
Will I be teaching?
Yes. All of our students are required to teach for at least one year. Typically, depending on area of specialization, a graduate student will teach for one to three years during his/her time in the program. First year students are not required to teach. First-time teaching assistant assignments are usually discussion sections for large lectures taught by faculty members. Graduate students are carefully mentored as they learn how to teach and eventually take on responsibility for a course on their own. Graduate-student teachers in our department are afforded considerable independence and assume almost total responsibility for the courses they teach. This is excellent preparation for an academic career.
What is the job placement record for UMass graduates?
The record is excellent. Detailed information can be found by looking at the alumni directory.
Why was my application rejected?
Every year we get about 150 applications, for a class of 5-8 students. This means that we sometimes have to turn down people with very impressive backgrounds. When we make our admissions decisions, we consider various factors, including:
Among applications that show all of these, we then must choose based on things like the distribution of particular interests (balance of semanticist, phonologists, etc), range of experience, apparent passion for linguistics, fit with the rest of the department and fit with the specialties of the faculty.