Admissions FAQs

Do I apply for to 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.

Can I start in the Spring?

Graduate students are only admitted for the fall term.  The application process begins mid-August and all requirements are due by December 1 the year before you start. It is possible to defer entry to the PhD program for 1 academic year, if you are accepted.

Can I send you information, grades and a CV about myself so you can evaluate if I will be accepted?

All personal information should be uploaded on the online application.  You can also contact  a professor whose research is closely related to your interests and talk to them.

Do I have to take the GRE's?

We do not consider GRE (Graduate Record Exam) scores in evaluating applications.

What do my TOEFL or IELTS scores have to be?

There is no minimum required score. TOEFL or IELTS 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 others come in with a Bachelors degree.

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)
  • Language background

Does my writing sample have to be in English?

Yes. All entering students are required to 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 faculty research pages). 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 their languages that they speak or sign. 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 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?
  • Do you have my writing sample yet?
  • Was my application received?
  • Did you receive my recommendations?

Then please log onto the GSAS website to check the status of your application online.

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. 

Do I need to apply for financial aid?

PhD students in the program are provided financial support for up to 6 years of study, consisting of full tuition, stipend support, and comprehensive health care coverage. The department and university also provide financial support for travel to conferences and workshops. Generous funding for fieldwork and other overseas research is available through Yale’s MacMillan Center.

Director of Graduate Studies

Any questions about the graduate program can be directed to the DGS, Jim Wood, at