Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African Languages
Home > Degree Programs > Linguistics > Graduate Programs > Graduate Admission

What follows is an overview of the requirements for graduate degrees in the Linguistics Program. These requirements are laid out in full in the program's handbook. Please address email inquiries concerning admission to the graduate program to either the director of the graduate program, Suzanne Wagner, or to the program’s graduate secretary.


Admission to the M.A. program. Applicants should have completed at least an introductory course in linguistics. Students with an otherwise appropriate background may be provisionally admitted without this, but they must then enroll in LIN 401.

Admission to the Ph.D. program. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree (or a foreign equivalent) in linguistics or related field. 

Admission and B.A.-M.A. dual enrollment. If you are currently a linguistics major at MSU, you may be eligible for dual enrollment in the undergraduate and M.A. programs. This makes it possible for certain courses to be counted toward satisfying the minimum credit requirements for both degrees. Further information can be found in the Academic Programs Catalog


  1. Application form.  Complete the online application form. In the process, you will be asked to submit an ‘personal statement’ and a distinct ‘academic statement’. You can fill these in on the form or submit them as a separate document. (If you do the latter, please indicate on the form that you will submit your statements separately.) These statements should reflect the following information:

    • Personal statement. This should include a summary of your academic and personal background, with a special emphasis on aspects of it that might be relevant to graduate work in linguistics. Of course, any previous study of the subject should be mentioned. You should also indicate your reasons for wanting to pursue a graduate degree in linguistics.
    • Academic statement. This is a statement of purpose that characterizes your intellectual goals. 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 papers or even the topic of your thesis or dissertation. (If admitted, you will not be required to do precisely what you describe. Your plans may change.)

    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 500–700 words; for applicants to the Ph.D. program, 700–1,000 words.

  2. Recommendation letters.  Ask three people who are well-acquainted with your qualifications for graduate study in linguistics to send letters of recommendation directly to the department. These may be submitted via the online application system.  If you find yourself unable to submit the letters in that fashion, sending them by post or by email to the graduate secretary for linguistics is also suitable.
  3. Transcripts.  Arrange for each college or university you have attended to send two official transcripts to the department.
  4. Graduate Record Exam. Take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test and have scores sent to the MSU Office of Admissions.[1]
  5. English-language test.  If you are an international student and not a native speaker of English, take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and have your score sent to the department.[2] The English-language testing requirement is waived if you have a bachelor’s degree from a four-year US university or if you have a master’s degree from one of the approximately 60 members of the Association of American Universities. It may be waived in certain other circumstances, including if you have received an M.A. from an English-speaking institution outside of the AAU. Nevertheless, even if you have previously done work in an English-language environment, it may increase your probability of admission if you can clearly demonstrate your English skills with a good test score because it would put to rest any doubts the admissions committee might otherwise have about your English ability.
  6. Writing sample.  If you are applying to the Ph.D. program, submit a sample of written work such as an M.A. thesis or research paper. This must be written in English. You may provide more than one paper if you wish. (Applicants to the M.A. program may submit a writing sample as well, but are not required to do so.)
  7. Additional STEP for Applicants from China: MSU requires admitted Chinese students who earned bachelor’s degrees in mainland China to submit a bachelor’s degree conferral verification report from the CDGDC as well as a transcript verification report from CHESICC. Both of these reports must be sent electronically to MSU’s Office of Admissions during the first semester of enrollment.

    More information is available from: Verification of Transcripts and Degrees from China


The official deadline for admission for fall semester is December 15. However, you will be eligible for additional funding opportunities if you submit your application before November 30.

Although students normally begin their course of study in the fall semester, it is technically possible to start in the spring semester as well. This is strongly discouraged except in truly exceptional circumstances. If you think you might need to pursue this possibility, email the graduate program director to discuss it BEFORE submitting an application. The deadline for spring admission is September 15.


A few fellowships, scholarships, and other funding opportunities are available for incoming students (including notably teaching assistantships in Asian languages). Applicants should indicate in their applications if they wish to be considered for such appointments. However, they are encouraged to seek outside funding for their graduate studies as well. Internal funding is frequently available for incoming Ph.D. students but cannot be presupposed.

[1]    There is no fixed minimum score you must achieve on the GRE, but scoring below the 50th percentile would significantly reduce the probability of your admission. All portions of the test—including the analytical and quantitative—are taken into account. It may help to know that MSU’s ‘institution code’ is 1465, and our ‘department code’ is 2903.

[2]    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. Applicants with slightly lower scores may be granted provisional admission.