1. Complete the Graduate School application prior to the December 20 deadline.

Please visit the UMass Amherst Graduate School website for information on how to apply.

Note: Any discrepancy between the requirements as stated here and those found on the Graduate School website will be resolved in favor of the Graduate School.

Frequently Asked Questions about the graduate school application process »

Additional requirements

2. Applicants must have a BA, BS, or MA degree.

3. Applicants must show evidence of ability to engage in serious study of a complex subject matter.

For example:

  • high-quality academic work of theoretical analysis in the humanities, natural sciences, or social sciences;
  • original research (publications, projects, etc.); and/or, 
  • mastery in the depth of a language or a group of languages.

4. 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 the 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.

NOTE: The linguistics department no longer requires GRE scores as part of the application packet.

When to apply

The deadline for receipt of applications at the department is December 20 for admission the following September. 

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.

Decision process

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 PhD 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 the 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 (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