Graduate Admissions FAQs

Much helpful information about the application process is available on the Graduate School’s FAQ.

Do I apply for the whole program or should I apply for one specific subfield?

You apply to the whole program. The application requires that you specify the subfield that is of primary interest to you, and you may also specify another.

Do I have to take the GRE’s?

Yes, GRE (Graduate Record Exam) scores are necessary to be considered for admission.

What do my GRE scores have to be?

There is no minimum required score. GRE scores are only one consideration in evaluating applications for admission.

Do I need to take the TOEFL examination?

The TOEFL can only be waived if you received (or will receive) a baccalaureate degree or its foreign equivalent from a college or university where English is the primary language of instruction. The degree must have been awarded before matriculation at Yale. (This is a Graduate School requirement.)

Do I need a master’s to get into the PhD program?

No. Some of our students have taken Masters degrees before applying to the program, but most have not.

What factors are considered in admitting students to our program?

We want to find the best students who are equipped for graduate school, and a good fit for our program. Factors considered (NOT in order of importance) include:
   - Personal statement 
   - Research experience (this is not a requirement, but we find that the students who are best prepared for graduate school have had some research experience, either through a senior project, independent study, or as a research assistant to a faculty member)
   - Submitted writing sample (we want to see that you can write an academic essay)
   - Match between interests of students and Yale Linguistics faculty
   - Content of letters of recommendation
   - Coursework and grades at previous institution(s)
   - GRE scores
   - Language background

Does my writing sample have to be in English?

Yes. All entering students are required to speak, read and write English fluently.

Can my writing sample be over the required pages?

Yes, you can send a longer paper if you think that is represents your best work. Note however that we are looking for quality in the writing sample, not quantity. If you are including a Masters or Senior thesis, you could consider including an excerpt and providing a link to the full version.

What are you looking for in the personal statement?

Your statement should convey your reasons for wanting to pursue graduate study in linguistics. You should outline your areas of research interest, what kinds of questions you would like to pursue, and why you are in a good position to answer these questions. What kinds of linguistics questions interest you? Why do you think they are good to study? Be as specific as you can. We are interested in candidates with strong analytical abilities, and laying out research questions and ideas in a clear and compelling manner is a good opportunity to demonstrate such abilities. Your statement should also address the issue of fit between your interests and those of the faculty members in Linguistics at Yale (hint: spend some time looking at their webpages). Applications from candidates, however strong, with research interests far removed from those of the department faculty are not likely to be successful.

What languages do I have to be proficient in before I enter?

None in particular (apart from English). Languages provide the data for linguistics, and linguists often crucially exploit their knowledge of languages that they speak. Obviously, then, proficiency in some language or languages other than one’s native tongue is a helpful resource to draw upon during graduate school and beyond, and is one of many factors taken into account during the admissions process. At the same time, proficiency in speaking a language doesn’t always translate into insight into theoretical issues. In addition, since research is typically guided by theoretical questions, one can’t ensure that the languages in which one has expertise match those one is led to study.

What classes should I take to prepare for a PhD in linguistics?

There are no specific courses that we require. Students come to PhD programs in linguistics with a variety of academic backgrounds, including, of course, linguistics, but also psychology, computer science, philosophy, classics, anthropology, mathematics, cognitive science, music and others. These fields provide different aspects of the foundation for work in linguistics, like formal and analytical skills, experience in working with patterns in language data, and training in experimental methods. Of course, some coursework in (theoretical) linguistics is helpful, both for students to ensure that they know what they are getting themselves into, and for the admissions committee, to get a sense of students’ promise and commitment to the field.

Can I take classes that I am deficient in while I am getting my PhD?

The amount of work in the graduate program does not permit first year students to do much remedial work. That said, the coursework is largely self-contained: the core requirements do not presuppose any specific background.

What is the status of my application?

If you are an applicant seeking answers to any of the following questions:

- Do you have my letters of recommendation?
- I took the GRE’s late–are my scores there?
- Do you have my writing sample yet?
- Was my application received?
- Did you receive my recommendations?

… please log onto to check the status of your application online here

Where do I send my application?

Do not send any materials (via mail or email) to the department or to the admissions office.  

You must apply online. All materials must be uploaded onto your online application.

Why wasn’t I accepted? I didn’t get admitted and I was wondering why …

It is not our practice to tell each applicant the reasons for not being accepted. We have many applicants, and they are competing for a small number of positions. In a typical year, we make offers to about 10% of the applicant pool.

Can I reapply?

Yes, if your application is unsuccessful one year, you can reapply the following year if something has materially changed in your application. 

Further questions?

If you need more information about the graduate program and Linguistics at Yale, please contact Mr. Chris McDaniel.