Admissions and Aid
Before You Apply: Is this Linguistics program right for you?
Candidates should consider the following recommendations when preparing their application to ensure they are sufficiently demonstrating their commitment to research and suitability for our program.
The Linguistics Program at The Graduate Center welcomes your application and offers the following tips to prepare a strong application.
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To begin, consider your professional goals. An M.A. degree, whether in General Linguistics or Computational Linguistics, may be appropriate for some goals. For other goals, such as a research and teaching career in academia, a Ph.D. is appropriate. Whether you choose an M.A. degree or a Ph.D., you will be involved in research at CUNY. Note that M.A. degrees are usually funded by the student; Ph.D. degrees are funded either in whole or in part by the institution. (See tuition and aid information below for more information.)
The MA is not a necessary stepping stone to a PhD; many students go directly from an undergraduate degree to a PhD program. But if you have not been a student for a long time, or were not a linguistics major, or are simply unsure if linguistics is right for you, application to a PhD program may not be a good first step for you. You may want to consider applying to the MA program or taking courses as a non-degree student. It is possible to enroll in a maximum of 2 courses as a non-degree student at the CUNY Graduate Center. Advance planning is necessary, so be sure to read the information provided the Registrar’s Office carefully and check by contacting the Program Office.
Your application package, whether to the Ph.D. program or one of the M.A. programs, should show that you are serious about academic work in linguistics and are likely to do well at it. Because the goal of the program is to provide students with research tools in linguistics, applicants must demonstrate a commitment to research and some evidence that they understand what is involved in making such a commitment. We make use of the following considerations to assess your overall research potential: your statement, your letters of recommendation, your writing sample, your fit with our faculty and students, and the contributions you can make to diversity and inclusion.
Statement of Interests
Your statement should emphasize your intellectual background and interests. Discuss issues and concepts in linguistics that interest you; show how you have thought about them, being as specific as possible. If you have performed research, include a description of that research and the conclusions that you drew from it. If you have ideas about what research questions you would like to work on in the future, describe them and explain their importance. Your work in graduate school will include original research projects, so the more information you can provide us about your research interests and experience, the better.
Indicate why the Linguistics Program at The Graduate Center is attractive to you.
Identify by name faculty whom you would be interested in working with, indicate an area of common interest, and, ideally, show some familiarity with their work.
If relevant, please indicate ways that you might contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of linguistics.
If there is anything in your background that you think needs explanation, do so briefly in your statement. Proofread your statement to eliminate errors of grammar, spelling, or punctuation.
For the M.A., a less detailed statement is expected, but be sure to tell us about your intellectual interests in general linguistics or computational linguistics, and indicate how your background is appropriate if you are considering computational linguistics.
Letters of Recommendation
Solicit letters from faculty who can write in detail about your academic achievements, the likelihood that you can successfully complete an M.A. or Ph.D. program, your ability to work in a sustained fashion, and your potential to carry out research projects. Consult our document on tips to writers of letters of recommendation for more information.
Letters from faculty who cannot talk about your scholarly or research potential or ability are usually not helpful. Similarly, letters from friends, family, or coworkers are usually not informative, but for the computational M.A. program a letter from a supervisor or coworker may be relevant.
If you have been out of school for a while, that is a good reason to take one or more courses and participate actively, so that your instructor will agree to write you a letter and will be able to write you a letter with substance.
Give your recommenders all the information about yourself that will be helpful.
Classes you have taken with the recommender
Resume or CV, including awards or special achievements
Research experience and internships
If you have carried out research with your recommender, summarize all of your activities and what you learned in the course of the research
Remind your recommender about any written work you submitted or any other activities that you think are relevant
We require a writing sample, which may be a squib, a paper, or a chapter from a longer document. If a writing sample is not possible, please explain why in your statement. Your writing sample will ideally reveal your knowledge of a topic and your approach to analyzing it. It could, for example, try to resolve a contradiction in the literature, or analyze a linguistic phenomenon, or develop a new approach to solving a linguistic problem, or report on an experiment. An academic writing sample from another field could also be useful.
Completing an independent research project or doing independent study is helpful background. Many faculty are willing to sponsor students in projects, depending on the student's interests and the instructor's current projects. If you have the time and the means, working 10-15 hours per week with a faculty member for one or more semesters is an excellent way to get research experience. Research experience will give you a deeper and richer understanding of a particular area in linguistics, provide you with research skills, give you good material to talk about in your statement, and make it more likely that a faculty member will get to know you well. This faculty member can write you a more informed letter of recommendation. Research experience will also allow you to find out how much you like research. Some students discover that they love research, while others learn that research is not for them.
Courses in Linguistics or Related Fields
If your degree is in the natural or social sciences or the humanities, indicate how that background will be suitable for a degree in linguistics. If you plan to specialize in computational linguistics, courses in that field or related areas (such as programming) are highly recommended.
Applicants: We suggest that you share this guide with anyone you have asked to write a letter of recommendation.
Download the PDF Guide »
We are interested in learning about the applicant's potential to carry out research projects, their academic and research achievements, the likelihood that they can successfully complete an M.A. or Ph.D. program, their commitment, and their ability to work in a sustained fashion. You may find it useful to have the applicant supply you with the following pieces of information about themselves:
- Classes they have taken with you
- Resume or CV, including awards or special achievements
- Research experience and internships
- Academic goals
- If they have carried out research with you, a summary of their activities and what they learned in the course of the research
It will be helpful to us if you include the following relevant information about yourself and your experiences with the applicant:
- Your title and how you know the applicant
- How long you have known the applicant
- Your personal and professional relationship with the applicant
- How the applicant impressed you – what qualities of mind, work habits, and participation distinguish the applicant compared to other people for whom you've written letters
- How you know what you know about the applicant – specific details are helpful
- How the applicant is qualified for graduate school
The Graduate Center, CUNY asks recommenders to rate the applicant on one dimension. Recommenders choose:
- recommend without reservation
- recommend with reservation
- do not recommend.
Other graduate schools may request more detailed ratings. It may be useful to have an idea of the kinds of characteristics graduate schools may ask you to rate because they may suggest qualities for you to describe for a CUNY application. Here are some examples: verbal ability, writing ability, research skills, critical thinking, analytical ability, motivation to succeed, dependability, originality, ability to work independently, ability to work collaboratively, work habits, likelihood that the applicant will successfully complete graduate school. You may also want to indicate where the student stands compared to other students you have observed.
There are data suggesting that letter writers might unintentionally write more positive letters of recommendation, especially when describing their potential for research, for men than for women. (See Stewart & Valian, 2018, for a summary.) Similarly, there are data suggesting that recommenders in the US write more favorably for white students than students of color (Houser & Lemmons, 2018).
Sources: We used material from several websites as background in writing our suggestions.
Houser, C., & Lemmons, K. (2018). Implicit bias in letters of recommendation for an undergraduate research internship. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 42(5), 585-595.
Stewart, A. & Valian, V. (2018). An inclusive academy: Achieving diversity and excellence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
December 15 (Fall Enrollment only)
December 15 (Fall Enrollment only)
M.A. with concentration in Computational Linguistics
December 15 (Fall Enrollment)
Applicants complete online Application for Admission and provide required supplemental materials including transcripts, letters of recommendation, statement of interest, writing sample, *standardized test scores, etc. Applications and supplemental materials are collected and processed by the Office of Admissions and then reviewed by the Linguistics Program's Admissions and Awards Committee.
Ph.D. applicants offered acceptance to the Program should expect to be interviewed by faculty members of the Program’s Admissions Committee and relevant faculty members during the application review process.
*TOEFL and IELTS requirements for international students from countries in which English is not the primary language. ETS now offers online versions of both tests that can be taken at home
It may be helpful for you to speak with faculty and other students as you make your decisions about graduate study.
The Graduate Center is currently conducting business remotely so in-person visits are not currently available. However, if you would like to speak with someone at the program as you consider your application, please contact Executive Officer, Prof. Cecelia Cutler, Deputy Executive Officer, Prof. Christina Tortora or email@example.com.
The program also hosts an annual prospective student open house during the fall semester.
Tuition and Fees
Tuition rates for doctoral programs at The Graduate Center are based on a student's “level,” which is determined by a combination of the number of graduate credits completed (including, in the case of transfer students, credits accepted by the student's degree program and the Registrar) and specific academic accomplishments.
The fee structure is also affected by a student’s resident status.
Master’s students at The Graduate Center who are residents of New York State and registered for a minimum of 12 credits per semester will pay a flat fee for tuition. Out-of-state residents and students taking less than 12 credits will be charged on a per-credit basis.
Each student will be billed for a Graduate School student activities fee, a University student senate fee, a University consolidated services fee and a technology fee. These fees are not refundable.
Fellowships and Financial Aid
Every applicant to The Graduate Center’s doctoral programs will automatically be considered for five-year institutional funding packages. The aid we offer — including fellowships, tuition awards, and assistantships — is based on merit.
Federal aid for doctoral students includes Federal Work-Study, Federal Direct Loans, and Federal Perkins Loans. New York State provides the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) for eligible graduate students who are New York State residents. In all cases, federal and state aid is based solely on financial need.
While The Graduate Center does not currently offer full-tuition scholarships or additional stipends for living expenses, there are funding opportunities available to master’s students that can help cover the cost of attendance, including scholarships, federal and private loans, and federal work-study.