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Graduate Admissions

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The department welcomes applications from those seeking a graduate program that allows students to craft individualized programs of study within broad guidelines and provides them with considerable flexibility in developing their research directions. Through course work, dedicated faculty advising, and collaborative projects, our students learn how to approach significant theoretical questions using diverse empirical methodologies and detailed linguistic description. They are encouraged to undertake original research that spans subfields of linguistics or makes contact with neighboring disciplines.

The department receives approximately 130 applications for the Ph.D. program each year, from which, on average, 7 students are admitted. The department does not admit external applicants to the M.A. program.  

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Admissions Deadline

The Stanford Department of Linguistics considers graduate admissions applications once a year.  The application opens in mid-September and the deadline to apply to the Ph.D. program is December 4, 2018 for study beginning in the 2019-20 academic year.  

In addition, the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program is designed to build a multidisciplinary community of Stanford graduate students dedicated to finding creative solutions to the world's greatest challenges. The program awards up to 100 high-achieving students every year with full funding to pursue a graduate education at Stanford, including the Ph.D degree in Linguistics. To be considered, you must apply to Knight-Hennessy Scholars by September 12, 2018, and separately apply to the Department of Linguistics by November 14, 2018.

Common Questions

Many common questions about the programs and the application process are addressed under About the Programs and Application Process.

General admissions information and the online forms can be found at the University Graduate Admissions website

Application Components

The following materials are required components of the admission application.  The entire application and supplemental materials are submitted online and due by the deadline stated above. 

1.  Application Form

The application form is completed online through the University Graduate Admissions website.

2.  Application Fee

There is an application fee of $125.  Fee waivers are available for eligible students.

3.  Statement of Purpose

Submitted as part of the online application, the statement of purpose should be designed as a narrative presentation of yourself.  Your statement should thoughtfully and clearly convey (1) what you have accomplished thus far in linguistics or in related fields, (2) why you are applying for a Ph.D. program in Linguistics (i.e. why you want to study linguistics and why you need a Ph.D. to achieve your goals), (3) why Stanford is the place you want to carry out your studies, and (4) what your research interests in linguistics are, or if they are not yet defined, what the possibilities might be.  Don’t use your statement to repeat information that we will learn from other parts of your application, such as your transcript, but do highlight things you think are particularly important, and do feel free to explain any things in your other materials that you are less proud of.  Caution:  avoid telling us too much about your childhood and your fascination with language.

4.  Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test is no longer required for admission to the Department of Linguistics.

5.  Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required of all applicants whose first language is not English.   Official scores from a test taken within the last 18 months must be sent from ETS to Stanford using the Institution Code 4704.  The University sets the minimum TOEFL score requirements which can be found on the University Graduate Admissions website.

The Department of Linguistics does not require the Test of Spoken English (TSE).  For more information about these required tests and minimum scores for admission, please visit the University Graduate Admissions website.

6.  Official Transcripts

Transcripts are required from all prior college level schools attended for at least one year.  A scanned copy of the official transcript is submitted as part of the online application.  Please do not mail hard copy transcripts to the department at the time of application.  We will contact you at a later date if we need an official transcript; if you are contacted, you will be asked to provide two hard copies of your official transcript or to have an electronic transcript sent directly to linguistics@stanford.edu by your degree granting institution.   

7.  Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation are required.  Recommenders submit their letters through the online system.  In deciding whom to ask for letters of recommendation, give preference to people who have taught you and/or directed your research activities, people who know you and your work well, and/or people who know what linguistics is and who understand what you’re getting into.

8.  Writing Sample

A writing sample is required, preferably on a linguistics topic, but in any case something that displays your research abilities and writing skills.  The writing sample is also submitted with the online application.  The purpose of the writing sample is to give us a sense of your ability to do independent research: how you might approach a problem and work through it. That is, it should convey not only the way you write but the way you work and think.  Send a paper that you are proud of.  If possible, this should be a paper in Linguistics or in a related discipline (such as logic or anthropology).  The paper does not need to be lengthy; approximately 10 to 15 pages is standard.  If you have a B.A. or M.A. thesis, this also would be appropriate, but please designate no more than 25 pages that the Admissions Committee should focus on.