The Ph.D. Application
Find important details on the process of applying for graduate study in linguistics at Maryland below.
Application materials for the Ph.D. Program in Linguistics should be received by the first Friday following January 2. Although the Admissions Committee is able to consider materials received after this date, applicants whose materials are received later than early January may have fewer opportunities for financial aid.
(If you have been assuming the inaccurate Graduate School target date of February 1 and discover this after our department deadline of the first Friday following January 2, please contact the graduate admissions director by email.)
In principle, the university accepts applications for graduate admission for the fall semester as late as August 15. However, potential applicants are advised that financial aid is typically awarded to students who apply by the early January target date. For international students, application by early January is particularly important in light of recent changes to U.S. immigration policies, which have increased the time that it takes to process and obtain a valid U.S. student visa (e.g., F1, J1 visas).
Applicants are encouraged to submit the initial online application in advance of the application deadline, preferably at least one week before the target date. This form requires minimal information but is important for enabling the rest of the application process. After the initial application has been submitted, an applicant may submit additional information and upload files via the Application Supplemental Form (ASF). The ASF is also used to submit names of recommenders, who are then invited to submit electronic letters of recommendation.
Letters of recommendation may, in principle, be submitted either electronically or via mail. However, the department has a strong preference to receive electronic letters, as all files are reviewed electronically. Letters submitted by mail should be submitted at least two weeks before the target date, in order to ensure that they are processed by the Graduate School in time for the early January target date. If the ASF is submitted shortly before the target date then recommenders will have little time to submit their letters—applicants are responsible for keeping their referees informed about the application timetable and for providing advance notice of when letters will be required.
Initial offers of admission and financial aid for the fall semester are normally made in late February-March. Times vary depending on the confirmation of the department's budget. The department will hold an open house for invited prospective students in late February or early March. (Participation in the open house is recommended, although it is neither necessary for admission nor a guarantee of admission.) Further offers of admission and financial aid are sometimes made at a later date, if additional funds become available. In recent years, five-10 new students have started the Ph.D. program each year. Students who receive financial aid offers are required to accept or decline the offer by April 15.
Note that the Graduate School's website allows applicants to check on the status of their application automatically. Applicants should not rely on this status check for reliable information. Applications are often marked as incomplete when they are, in fact, complete, because some electronically transmitted files are not reflected in the status check. The department has access to more accurate records on what materials are missing and contacts applicants when critical materials fail to arrive. The only time to contact the department with a concern is if no ASF invitation is received. Note also that admitted candidates are contacted by the department long before this is reflected in the online status check, so there is little value in regularly checking the online application status.
An applicant who is considering a late application and who considers themself to be a strong candidate for admission should contact Professor Bill Idsardi to inquire about whether financial aid is likely to become available. Students with external sources of funding (e.g. government fellowships) are also encouraged to apply early.
The Department of Linguistics only accepts students for fall semester admission. The department does not accept students for January admission, due to course scheduling constraints.
Requirements for Admission
The Department of Linguistics strongly encourages all applicants to submit an online application. It is now possible to submit most application documents online, including writing samples and letters of recommendation. All application materials are distributed and reviewed electronically, including documents submitted as hard copies, which are scanned. The admissions committee will not directly access hard copy documents. Here is the university's step-by-step guide to applying.
Wherever possible, all uploaded files (writing samples, personal statements, CVs, etc.) should be submitted in PDF format. This allows for more reliable distribution of materials to reviewers and saves many hours of work for the graduate admissions director. Free tools for converting word processor files to PDF format are available for most operating systems. Also, please use transparent file names that begin with the applicant's last name. For example, Mary Smith's personal statement, CV and writing samples would be called smith_statement.pdf, smith_cv.pdf, smith_sample1.pdf, and smith_sample2.pdf. Use of PDF format and consistent naming is extremely useful for reviewers, who must consult hundreds of files.
A complete graduate application has these 10 parts:
- Application Form: The Graduate School strongly prefers that this form be submitted online. Here is the university's step-by-step guide to applying. The Linguistics Department encourages applicants to submit this form at least one week before the target date, in order to make it easier to submit other files electronically.
- Application Fee: See the Graduate School website for information on current fees. The fee may be submitted online. The Linguistics Department and the university are committed to reducing barriers to applying to the doctoral program for Black, Indigenous and People of Color, as well as those facing financial hardship. In order to request a fee waiver, please follow the instructions on the Graduate School website, https://gradschool.umd.edu/feewaiverinformation.
- Transcripts: Admission and enrollment require one complete set of official transcripts for completed and in-progress undergraduate and graduate degrees. Unofficial transcripts may be submitted during the process of application solely for the purposes of review. But official admission, and also enrollment, cannot be completed without transcripts that are official. Transcripts should be submitted in hard-copy form and sent to the Enrollment Services Office at the following address: University of Maryland College Park, ESO - Application for Graduate Admission, 0130 Mitchell Building, College Park MD 20742, USA.
Applicants can upload scans of their transcripts during the application process, but if admitted then they need to provide official transcripts in order to enroll in the program.
- Letters of Recommendation
Applicants should solicit letters of recommendation from at least three people who are familiar with the applicant's work and who can offer a detailed, honest assessment of the applicant's abilities, experience and suitability for an advanced degree in linguistics. These letters should be confidential. Non-confidential letters generally carry much less weight. These letters may be submitted online by the recommender following submission of the initial online application form and receipt of the ASF (see below). Alternatively, hard copies may be mailed directly to the Enrollment Services Office (address listed above). However, hard copies are not preferred and may lead to a delay in the processing of an application. Letters that are submitted online are immediately accessible to the admissions committee, whereas letters that are submitted in hard copy are often delayed by two weeks or longer.
- Statement of Goals, Experiences and Research Interests
This should provide a clear explanation of the applicant's objectives in pursuing an advanced degree in linguistics and at Maryland in particular. Specific interests or relevant experience should be mentioned where applicable. The Statement of Goals is not a literary contest or an invitation to flatter the department or its faculty, and there is no “recipe” for a strong statement. The statement allows the department to better understand an applicant's goals, interests and how well the applicant will be served by the department's strengths and emphases. The statement should be submitted online via the ASF. Note that the department does not have a length limit for the statement (contrary to statements on the Graduate School site).
- Writing Sample(s)
Applicants should submit one or more pieces of written work with their application. This should preferably represent work done in linguistics, but work in other fields showing evidence of careful analysis and independent thought is also acceptable. The writing sample may be mailed directly to the Department of Linguistics, but it is strongly preferred that applicants submit writing samples online as part of the ASF. Any hard copy documents will be scanned and reviewed in electronic form. Any bound hard copy documents may be ignored, since they are very difficult to scan. Applicants who submit writing samples online should bear in mind that the file(s) will be made available to multiple readers who may use different computer platforms. Files should be kept to a reasonable size (< 1Mb wherever possible), and care should be taken to ensure that any embedded graphical objects are no larger than necessary. Please send PDF format files, following the naming conventions above.
An up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV, or resume) is preferred. This may be submitted as part of the ASF.
- GRE General Test
The Linguistics Department does not use GRE scores in the application process, even if an applicant includes a GRE score in their application.
- TOEFL Test (or CTOEFL) for international students
The TOEFL test is a requirement of the university, not the department. Questions about the test should be directed to the International Education Services (IES) office. Students are normally expected to achieve a score of at least 575 on the TOEFL or 232 on the CTOEFL. International students who have a degree from a university in an English-speaking country are not required to submit a TOEFL score. Applicants from francophone Canada who have questions about this requirement should contact the graduate admissions director.
- Application Supplemental Form (ASF)
The online application involves a two-step process. In the initial online application students are asked to provide basic personal and academic information. After the initial online application has been processed applicants are invited to submit additional information and electronic documents via the Application Supplemental Form (ASF). At this stage students may submit a personal statement, writing samples, CV and contact information for individuals who can submit online letters of recommendation. Electronic documents (in PDF format) are strongly preferred.
Financial Aid and Support
The University of Maryland Graduate School application forms seek information about an applicant's ability to pay for graduate studies. This is a requirement for securing a U.S. student visa. Please do not be alarmed by these questions. Almost all Ph.D. students in the Department of Linguistics receive full financial aid for five years, covering tuition and stipend, from one or more of the following: (i) Teaching Assistantships, (ii) Research Assistantships, (iii) University Fellowships, (iv) external fellowships (e.g. Rotary, Fulbright, NSF, SHHRC, etc.).
The Department of Linguistics encourages students to seek external fellowships, but does not expect students to fund their Ph.D. from personal funds. For this reason, it is not necessary for applicants to provide a detailed justification for why financial aid is needed. It is sufficient to write: "Personal funds are insufficient; financial aid is required.” Applicants who are supported in full or in part for their studies should explain this in the personal statement.
International students who receive a form requesting information about sources of financial support may enter in the table row labeled "University of Maryland Assistantship" $36,000 for the first year, with the increases specified in the form for subsequent years. If funding is provided by a full or partial fellowship from external sources, then the University of Maryland total may be reduced accordingly, and the amount of the external fellowship should be entered in the relevant row of the form.
Financial aid (tuition + stipend) is available on a competitive basis. The department funds Ph.D. students for up to five years, provided that the student makes satisfactory academic progress. Graduate funding comes from a number of sources, including:
- Graduate Assistantships (GAs)
These typically involve teaching service in undergraduate linguistics courses such as LING 200 and LING 240, or teaching more advanced undergraduate courses and seminars.
- Research Assistantships (RAs)
These typically involve research associated with a grant-supported faculty research project.
- University Fellowships
The university offers a number of these fellowships to outstanding applicants, releasing the student from GA or RA responsibilities for up to two years of study.
- Other sources of funding are occasionally available through the department or university, including dissertation fellowships.
- A number of graduate students in the department are supported in whole or in part by fellowships from external organizations.
What Not To Do
Each year the department receives many email inquiries from applicants that are transparently “form letters” sent to many different programs, listing very general questions that are already answered in this document. Such inquiries are rarely an effective route to admission to the Ph.D. program. Also, please do not send an email inquiry that says "I am interested in your graduate program - please send me more information.” Such inquiries do not convey the impression that the prospective applicant has done their homework.