How to Apply

Requirements for Admission

The graduate program in Linguistics admits only students whose goal is the Ph.D. degree. We do not offer a stand alone M.A. program.

Students are admitted with a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent, typically in Linguistics or a related cognitive science. Some students have a Master’s degree already, but an MA is not required for admission to the program.

The statement of purpose (also called a “personal statement”) is considered carefully to ensure that the applicant’s goals are compatible with the strengths of our program. See Preparing for Graduate Study for more information about preparing your dossier, including tips for writing your statement of purpose.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with our faculty and areas of research expertise, and state clearly who you want to work with at UW-Madison and why.

Your writing sample should be a sample of your academic writing in linguistics or a related field.

Your letters of recommendation should come from people familiar with your academic strengths and research promise, as well as your overall character.

Note that as of the Fall 2022 admission cycle, GRE scores are no longer required as part of the application to the Linguistics PhD program.

Application Items

  • Your statement of purpose
  • A writing sample
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Academic transcripts
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores, if applicable (See the Graduate School’s requirement page to check if English proficiency tests are required for your situation)
(Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

How to Apply

Timeline: New students are admitted for Fall term only. The deadline for receipt of all materials is December 23. The admission portal usually opens each year in October.

Online application: Application materials are submitted online directly to the Graduate School. For links to start the application process, see the Graduate School’s Admission page:

Start the Application Process

Application fee waivers are available for U.S. residents (including DACA students) from low-income backgrounds. Please note that international applicants are not eligible for fee waivers. See the Graduate School’s Applying for a Fee Grant page for more information about eligibility and a form to apply.

Interviews: Some applicants may be contacted by faculty for virtual interviews.

Notification: Students receiving a decision in the first round of review are usually notified of their status in February. Admitted students have until April 15 to accept their offer. A small number of students may be placed on a waitlist for admission; offers may be extended to students on the waitlist if spots become available, up until April 15.

International Students

Please note that international applicants are required to have sufficient funds to cover expenses completely while attending the University of Wisconsin–Madison. International applicants are not eligible for application fee waivers. For more information specific to international applicants, see the Graduate School’s International Students page.


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What is your acceptance rate?

You can see current data about all graduate programs at UW-Madison here, including statistics such as acceptance rates, demographics of students in each program, and more!

Admission is competitive. Our capacity is limited and we are only able to accept a small number of students each year.

Do I need to have a Master's in Linguistics to apply?

No, a Master’s degree is not required, but it may be helpful for students who did not take much linguistics during their undergraduate degree. Our program includes both a Master’s and PhD degree together, so a Master’s is not required before entering. A successful applicant will typically have strong preparation in linguistics, at either the undergraduate or Master’s level.

What should I put in my personal statement?

Write about your research goals for graduate school. You don’t have to know the exact topic of your thesis at this point, but you should identify a specific area within linguistics, sample research questions you are interested in pursuing, and research methods you plan to employ. Make sure to name specific faculty in our program who you would be interested in working with, and why their research excites you. (Do your homework and read our faculty’s published research!) Why do you want to complete your degree at UW-Madison specifically, rather than another institution? Talk about your academic background and how this and other life experiences have prepared you to become an independent researcher.

Do I need to meet with a faculty member before applying?

Some students want to reach out to a specific faculty mentor before applying to learn more about their research and decide if UW-Madison is a good fit. You are welcome to do this (although keep in mind that faculty do not always have time to respond to all inquiries). But not all students reach out in this way and it is not necessary. You should definitely do your homework on our faculty and familiarize yourself with the research of potential mentors before applying.

Can I do interdisciplinary research at UW-Madison?

Yes, our program consists of faculty from across campus with expertise in various aspects of linguistics. Students are welcome to form advisory committees that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, and to utilize innovative, intersectional research methods. Our program includes a breadth component in the form of the Ph.D. Minor, which allows students to select courses in a wide variety of topics such as second language acquisition, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and more. See the Linguistics Graduate Handbook for more details of our program requirements.

Can I transfer credits if I have prior coursework from another institution?

Yes, up to 9 credits taken at the graduate level can be transferred from another institution, with approval from the Language Sciences Degree Programs Committee. For prior undergraduate coursework, students can request to waive out of a particular required course with similar content, and to replace the credits with a different UW-Madison graduate level course. See the Linguistics Graduate Handbook for more information.

What about funding?

All accepted students in our program (domestic and international) receive a full 5-year funding package. See the PhD program page for more details on types of funding included.

Do I need to submit results of an English proficiency test such as the TOEFL or IELTS?

See the Graduate School’s requirement page to check if English proficiency tests are required for your situation. This is dependent on several factors, including what country you are from and what language was used as the primary means of instruction in your educational background.

Can I have an application fee waiver?

Application fee waivers are available only to certain groups of qualified U.S. residents. International students are not eligible for fee waivers. See the Graduate School’s Applying for a Fee Grant page for more information about eligibility for U.S. students and a form to apply.

Additional Questions? Contact Academic Advisor Becky Shields.