How to Apply

Application Deadline

If you have questions about the application process, read through our FAQs below. If your question remains unanswered, please contact

The Institute of Linguistics accepts applications to the program with classes beginning in fall semester.

The deadline to apply for the upcoming fall semester is December 15th each year. To be considered for admission and fellowships, your application must be submitted by this date.

Unfortunately at this time, we cannot provide waivers for the graduate application fee collected by Graduate Admissions.

Apply Online

The Institute of Linguistics requires the following application materials:

  1. University of Minnesota Graduate School Application online form.
  2. A curriculum vitae or resume.
  3. A Personal Statement (including research interests).
  4. A writing sample.
  5. Three letters of recommendation. These are to be uploaded into the application by your recommendation providers.
  6. Transcripts from each college or university you have attended.
  7. English Language Proficiency Scores (TOEFL, MELAB, IELTS). English Language Proficiency Assessments are required of international applicants, unless the applicant has completed 24 quarter credits or 16 semester credits (within the past 24 months) in residence as a full-time student at a recognized institution of higher learning in the United States (or another English-speaking country) before entering the University of Minnesota. For more information on English Language Proficiency Assessments and how to submit the scores, visit the English Language Proficiency resource online.  

We do not require any specific BA in order to apply for admission to our graduate programs. We do not require a GRE score be submitted as part of an application.

If you are accepted into the program, you will start in the fall semester, which begins in September each year.

How do I submit my application materials?

Go to the University of Minnesota Graduate School Application online form. Create an account and follow the instructions in the application form to enter all of your personal details and attach each of the application materials. All submitted materials will be part of this online form; you do not need to email any materials separately. All materials required by the Linguistics department are listed above.

What if I won’t get some test results until after the application deadline? 

If you receive, or expect to receive, test results (like language proficiency) after the application deadline, please contact the Graduate School Admissions Office at or (612) 625-3014. They can provide further instructions on how to submit your results.

What information should I include on my curriculum vitae or resume?

Check out this site for advice on how to write and format a CV or resume.

What information should I include in my Personal Statement? 

The Personal Statement is an approximately two-page essay stating your goals and plans as to why you want to study linguistics at the University of Minnesota. There’s no one way to write this, but some good things to cover include: 

  • How did you become interested in linguistics? If you have previous experience in linguistics, what specific topics have you found most interesting, and what would you like to learn next? If you don’t have previous experience, what do you hope to learn from/about linguistics?
  • What kinds of relevant experience do you have? (This could be previous classes, degrees, or research experience in linguistics or languages; participation in immersion programs; or anything where you’ve done research, solved problems, or worked with community members, in or out of school programs.) 
  • What are your specific goals? What do you want to do after graduate school (and how can linguistics help you with it)? Are there any specific language puzzles that you are curious about that you’d like to investigate in graduate school? Anything that’s bugged you about language is probably a good research question!
  • Why do you think it makes sense to study linguistics here at the University of Minnesota? (This could be specific professors, the ability to take language courses, the location, specific classes offered in Linguistics – think about how you made the decision to apply!)

What is a good choice for a Writing Sample?

We look at the writing sample to try to get a sense of who you are as a thinker and student beyond what your transcripts can show us. We’re not expecting you to write something new just for the application. Usually, people will send a course paper that they’re particularly proud of—but it could also be a senior thesis or something you prepared as an independent research project. If you got feedback on your paper that you think would make it better, you can certainly make those changes before you send it to us, but it’s also fine to send it as is. 

Anything that relates to your interests in language and linguistics will be the most helpful—but we regularly get papers on all sorts of topics! If you’re applying to graduate school many years after your undergraduate, it’s fine to send us an old term paper. If you don’t have access to your old papers and aren’t sure what to send, your recommendation writers may have good ideas about what to send—so check in with them too!

Who should I ask to write me letters of recommendation? 

We require three letters of recommendation that speak to your background preparation and ability to thrive in our graduate program. Ideally, your recommenders will be people who know you well in a university context so they can talk about you as a student and a thinker. Consider the following:

  • Professors whose subjects are related to your graduate plans should be your top choices—if you feel they know you well enough! Their letters will have the most information that is specifically relevant to what you’d be doing as a graduate student.
  • If you don’t have (enough) professors to ask in relevant subjects, then consider asking the professors you know and like the best. Think about who might remember you well and be able to talk about your strengths. Sometimes this could also be an advisor/mentor who knows you well but who was not your instructor (including advising staff, club advisors, campus work/research supervisors). 
  • If you don’t have three people from your university who can write letters for you (which is often true for people who graduated from college a while ago), then you may need to ask people from outside a college context. Anybody who can talk about your experience doing language-related stuff is a good choice! Beyond that, think about work supervisors or community leaders who can speak to your work ethic or character.

What information should my recommendation letter writers include?

You can help your letter writers prepare their letters by giving them information about what your plans and goals are. When you first ask for a recommendation, try to give them plenty of advance warning about the deadline (4–6 weeks if possible) and a brief idea of why you want to apply to linguistics grad school. As soon as you have a rough draft of your personal statement, share it with your letter writers so that they have a better sense of how you want to present yourself in your application. (They can also give you useful feedback!) You can also send them a copy of your CV or resume so they are knowledgeable about your experiences and why you are prepared to attend graduate school.

If there are specific things that you’d like your letter writer to talk about, it’s okay to remind them or ask that they mention a particular thing. (For example, maybe you did a research project in their class that you’re really proud of; or if you had a rough semester that messed up your grades, they can help you put that in context). Be sure to follow-up with your letter writers to ensure they have submitted their letters (you can check whether this is the case inside your online application form), and be sure to thank them once their submissions are received! 

What is the Diversity Statement?

The application includes an optional “diversity statement” where students can reflect on their background, experiences, and perspective as these relate to the University’s goal to promote excellence through diversity. This statement is truly optional! Some applicants are glad to have the chance to talk more about their personal background and experiences beyond what they share in their Personal Statements, but others are not. We consider your application seriously either way. There are certain fellowships that may require the diversity statement, but anyone who is nominated for those fellowships will have a chance to write the statement later, so you would not miss any opportunities if you do not include one.

What is the Extenuating Circumstances document?

This is an optional document you can write in case you want to explain any personal matters that negatively affected your grades. Such circumstances can include mental or physical health issues, disability barriers, violence or abuse, or death in the family. If these or any other relevant life events were detrimental to your academic life, describing your situation in this document will help us understand and put in context those grades.

Can I apply with a BA/MA in a field other than Linguistics?

Yes, we will consider applicants from all academic backgrounds. We do not require any specific BA in order to apply for admission to our graduate programs. 

Is there a minimum GPA requirement for the linguistics program?

No, we do not require a minimum GPA for admission to our program. If you are concerned about your GPA, you may want to consider contextualizing it through the Extenuating Circumstances document.

Does early application submission help my chances of admission?

No, we do not observe any rolling deadlines. You are welcome to submit your application as soon as the Graduate School opens the application process, which typically happens in August.

When is follow-up admission information sent back to applicants?

After the application deadline closes on December 15th, applicants can expect to be notified of admission, denial, or placement on the waitlist by mid-March.

Can we meet virtually or in person to talk about the program and the application?

We will make every effort to assist you in the application process. But before you email us, please make sure your question is not already answered in this FAQ list or elsewhere on the LING department website! Links to information on funding, MA/PhD degree requirements, and courses can be found on our main page.

When do I need to select an academic advisor?

This is not something you need to be concerned about during the application process. Most of our graduate students do not choose their academic advisor until their third semester, when they will have had time to get to know many of our department’s professors as well as their own research interests.

Should I apply to the MA or PhD program?

 The MA is appropriate for students with little or no linguistics background, students who want to pursue a career in which advanced training in linguistics would be helpful, or students who want to prepare for future PhD work.  The PhD program is most appropriate for students who want to pursue an academic career in the research and teaching of linguistics. You can read more about our MA program here, and more about our PhD program here.

Can a PhD application also be considered for an MA application? 

The Graduate Admissions Committee may choose to consider a PhD applicant for admission to the MA program if they feel it is more appropriate.

Where can I find more information about being a graduate student at UMN?

Visit our Graduate Admissions website to access our Prospective Student Toolkit. This includes information on how to prepare for grad school, on our many graduate programs, and funding and research opportunities.

I got my BA or MA degree in a country other than the United States. Is it still valid for this application?

Anyone who has or will obtain a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in the U.S. or a comparable degree from an officially recognized college or university outside the U.S. may apply for graduate admission. You can read more about the general requirements for the Graduate School here. If you are unsure whether your degree meets these requirements, you can email copies of your credentials to the Graduate School Admissions Office ( and a member of their staff will do a preliminary evaluation.

Where can I find more information about applying as an international student at UMN?

Visit our Admissions website to find out more about application, English Language Proficiency, and transcript requirements. Recall that the Linguistics-specific requirements are listed above.