Prospective Graduate Students

How to Apply
Frequently Asked Questions

Graduate Admissions

The UCSB Department of Linguistics seeks highly qualified, research-focused graduate students with a commitment to understanding the diversity of the world's languages through empirical investigation of the functions of language in social context. The department accepts students only for the Ph.D. or the M.A./Ph.D. It does not offer a terminal M.A. degree.

The M.A. program in linguistics is oriented toward the Ph.D. program and is viewed as an integral part of preparation for the doctorate; students normally apply to both programs. Students intending to pursue only an M.A. degree will not be accepted into the graduate program.

Admission into the graduate program is based on past academic record, intellectual promise, and programmatic fit. Students entering the program have typically completed a linguistics B.A. or the equivalent of a linguistics minor with a major in a related area, such as anthropology, psychology, or language, with a minimum grade point average of 3.5. The minimum recommended courses for admission are an introductory course in linguistics and at least one course each in phonetics/phonology, historical/comparative linguistics, and syntax. Note that courses focused exclusively on English are less appropriate than those that focus on a range of the world's languages.

Students who do not already have a master's degree should apply to the M.A./Ph.D. program; those with an M.A. degree should apply directly to the Ph.D. program.

Admitted students for whom English is not their native language must take the English Language Placement Examination upon arrival at UCSB to determine speaking and writing ability. Depending on test performance, students may be required to take courses in English as a Second Language.

Note: Students whose primary interests are in foreign language pedagogy and/or English as a Second Language are advised that the UCSB Department of Linguistics does not award degrees in these fields; students with these interests should apply to a more suitable program.

Only online applications will be accepted. Applicants for admission must submit the following materials: (1) unofficial transcripts of all previous academic coursework (official transcripts will be required for final admission); (2) a Statement of Purpose of approximately two pages, single-spaced, describing the applicant's background for graduate study in linguistics, immediate and long-range goals in the field, and reasons for wishing to pursue graduate study in the UCSB Ph.D. program in linguistics; (3) a Statement of Personal Achievements/Contributions of approximately one to two pages, single-spaced, providing background information about any obstacles the applicant has overcome in seeking a higher degree, how the applicant will contribute to diversity on campus, and/or the applicant's commitment to using a Ph.D. in linguistics to promote cultural diversity and social equity; (4) a curriculum vitae or résumé, (5) three letters of recommendation (preferably from scholars in linguistics or a closely related field); and (6) a writing sample that demonstrates the applicant's capacity to carry out original analytic research on linguistic data. Students from countries in which English is not the primary language of communication must also submit official TOEFL scores. Those international students who have received a bachelor's or master's degree from a college or university in the United States are exempt from the TOEFL requirement.

The new annual deadline for applications to the graduate program in linguistics is mid-November. For more information about the department's current application requirements and this year's deadline, see the linguistics graduate program description on UCSB's Graduate Division website. Students may enter the program only in the fall.

For more information, contact:

Lal Zimman, Director of Graduate Studies

Kelly Almeida, Staff Graduate Advisor
Department of Linguistics
South Hall 3432
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3100
Fax: (805) 893-7492

Graduate Division
Attn: Graduate Admissions
Cheadle Hall 3117
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-2070

Visit the Graduate Division Application Page to learn more about the application process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I apply for admission to your graduate program?
A: For details about the application process, see the department’s admissions page
Q: Do you require the GRE?
A: No. GRE scores are not considered and should not be submitted.
Q: What sort of funding do you have available for graduate students?
A: Most of our students are funded through some combination of fellowships and teaching or research assistantships. Admitted students who do not receive university-level funding may be awarded department-level fellowships. 
In general, we aim to fund every admitted student, although because funding decisions are not fully within the department’s control we cannot always guarantee full funding. We are strongly committed to ensuring that every student has sufficient funding and time to focus on their studies, and we actively guide students through the process of securing prestigious external fellowships and grants; we have a strong track record of our students receiving such funding.
Q: Are individual faculty members currently accepting advisees in my area of specialization?
A: Admissions decisions are not made by individual faculty based on research area but by the admissions committee based on the quality of the applicant; students select an appropriate advisor after entering the program. We are always looking for excellent graduate students in all areas of linguistics. 
We are unable to consider application materials sent directly to individual faculty. All application materials must be submitted online as described on the department's admissions page.
Q: I do not have a degree in linguistics. Am I still eligible to apply?
A: Generally speaking, students who do not have a B.A. or M.A. in linguistics are at a disadvantage in the admissions process. If admitted, such students typically need to make up a good deal of coursework. In order to be competitive with other applicants, it is advisable to take as many courses as possible in core areas of linguistics as well as your area of specialization, and to specify any current and planned linguistics coursework in your application. 
To be fully competitive, all applicants should have the minimum prerequisite courses described on the department’s admissions page.
Q: I would like to earn a master’s degree but not a Ph.D. Can I do so in your program? 
A: No. The department does not offer a terminal M.A. but only a Ph.D. (for those entering with an M.A. in linguistics) and a joint M.A./Ph.D. (for those entering without an M.A. in linguistics). For more information about our degree programs, see the current UCSB catalog
Q: I’m primarily interested in English as a Second Language and/or language pedagogy. Is this something I can study in your department?
A: No. The linguistics department focuses on empirically grounded theoretical explanations for linguistic structure and use, and students are expected to concentrate primarily on those issues in their research. Students whose primary interest is in English as a Second Language and/or language pedagogy should seek a more suitable program.
Q: Is the TOEFL or IELTS required of all international applicants who are not native speakers of English?
A: Yes, unless the applicant holds a degree from an institution where English was the medium of instruction. For more information, see the requirements for international applicants.
Q: Do you have minimal requirements for TOEFL or IELTS?
Q: Can I be considered for conditional or deferred admission?
A: No. The department does not permit conditional or deferred admissions.  
Q: I missed the admissions deadline. Can I still be considered in this admissions cycle?
A: No, the deadline is firm. 
Q: I would like to apply for winter or spring admission. Can I do so?
A: No. Admission is for fall only.
Q: I submitted the application fee but my application is incomplete. Can I still be considered in this admissions cycle?
A: Yes. Paid applications will be considered based on the submitted materials. Materials can still be submitted after the deadline, but may not be given full consideration. 
Q: I would like to schedule a campus visit. How do I do so?
A: All applicants who are short-listed for admission are invited to campus for a visit in January. Prospective applicants interested in visiting before applications are due should contact the Faculty Graduate Advisor to arrange a visit. Depending on scheduling constraints, the Faculty Graduate Advisor and/or the Graduate Program Assistant will meet with you during your visit to discuss the program and application process with you. You may also have the opportunity to sit in on one or more graduate classes, and you may take a self-guided tour of the campus. Because of the large number of prospective applicants who visit us each year, we are generally unable to schedule meetings with individual faculty and current graduate students before admissions decisions are made.