The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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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 2016-2017 academic year, the base stipends for departmentally-funded Teaching Assistants and Associates will be approximately $22,500  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.

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 130 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:

  • Did the application show clear evidence that the applicant has been very successful so far?
  • Did the application show that the applicant has a strong capacity for doing linguistic research?
  • Does the essay show that the applicant has interests that match what our program offers?
  • Does the application show that the applicant has the dedication and ability to excel in our graduate program?
  • Does the application show that the applicant can explain things well and would probably become a good teacher?

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.