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2010 Update

It’s been just two months since I first put together the Linguistics PhD Programs – Application and Review, but in that time I have learned more about the process that I thought would share. At some point, I may incorporate this into a newer version of the guide, but for now it’s going to act as a blog-addendum.

The disclaimer about this guide and addendum is that I make no claims on how to gain admission into a PhD program. The guide that Rebecca Star originally developed and that I helped improve still provides valuable information on the application process for PhD Linguistics programs in the United States.

For the 2010 application year I was accepted into one of the programs to which I applied. All of the schools shared with me that because of the “economic crisis” admissions committees had their strongest field of candidates to choose from ever. Some of the schools said that my candidacy was strong, but it wasn’t quite the right fit. And one top school even shared with me some specifics about why my application wasn’t strong enough to warrant admission into a PhD program in linguistics. That information serves as the core of this update.


What is crystal clear to me now and wasn’t apparent ahead of time during the application process is the absolute value programs place in research. This might seem like a factor too obvious to mention. For some students already groomed at a major research universities (R1), getting some research experience is probably more attainable.

Now to the uninitiated … The question is: How do you get research experience if you don’t have it? How do you get research experience when there are few opportunities to acquire it outside of the small group of R1 programs who offer linguistics programs? This is a chicken-and-egg question.

The answer is not easy. Because even if you submit your papers to journals, you really need an advocate, mentor, and a university name to give yourself the best chance at that valuable “research experience.”

Also, make sure you understand what most programs mean by “research interests.” Let’s say you can define your interests as broadly as “psycholinguistics.” And let’s say you can even say you would like to combine psycholinguistics with computational linguistics with Professor LING at University U. You may think that you have expressed your “interests” to the admissions committee. And you should feel proud that you’ve discovered that kind of information, which, in all honesty takes some pretty good detective work to track down. But what universities often mean when they ask you to talk about your research “interests,” are not your aspirations, but rather an account of your perspirations. “What research work have you done,?” is really the question when a program asks you to list your “research interests” in an application.

If you have research experience going into a PhD program, then you have a good chance at getting in as long as the rest of your application is strong. And I’m guessing if you have research experience, the rest of your application is strong. However, if you’re like me, then maybe I have a few bits of wisdom that may help you get into a program or save a few dollars (more like $75 per application) while you’re “beefing up” your research experience. Remember that he number of people usually accepted equals 6-8 out of 100+ plus applications. The competition is always stiff. But it will be stiffer, if you do not bring a wealth, and dare I say it, a PhD experience to the application process.

Et al.

What are the other factors that will help your chances in getting into a PhD in Linguistics? The usual suspects.

1. Research

2. Statement of Purpose

3. Recommendations

4. GRE

5. Good grades

6. Connections


Written by applelinguist

February 25, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized