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Frequently Asked Questions

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Ph.D. Program Characteristics

What are the research foci of the department?

Check out our faculty webpages to see more about current research within the department; see what affiliated faculty in other departments are working on as well. Learn more about the research facilities of the department.

What research are current and former students engaged in?

Read more about current students in the program as well as their publications and presentations. See the placement record and research interests of our recent graduates.

How big is the typical entering class for the Ph.D. program in Linguistics?

4 to 6 students.

How long will it take to earn the Ph.D. degree?

Students meeting all program deadlines earn the degree in 4 to 6 years, depending on their level of preparation when entering the program. See the Linguistics Department Graduate Handbook for more details.

Does the NU Linguistics Department offer a degree in Applied Linguistics/TESOL?

No. However, we are a strong center for basic research on second language learning. For more information about active areas of research in the department, please see our page information about research.

If I am accepted, is it possible for me to attend part-time?

Only in very unusual circumstances.

Are Ph.D. students admitted to work under a particular advisor?

While it is important to ensure that your research interests align well with current department members, admission to our department is to the department as a whole and not to work with a particular advisor. Students select an advisor for their qualifying papers at the conclusion of the first year of the Ph.D. program.

Admission requirements

Is an undergraduate degree in Linguistics required for admission to the Northwestern Linguistics Ph.D. program?

No. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of our program, successful applicants have come from a wide range of backgrounds including not just Linguistics but allied fields such as Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Cognitive Science, Foreign Languages and Literature, Neuroscience, Mathematics, Music, and Psychology. However, applicants must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of Linguistics as a field to strongly justify their career choice in applying to the program.

Is an M.A. required for admission into the Ph.D. program?

No. Some entering students have an M.A. and some do not.

Is GRE required for admission into the Ph.D. program?

No. We do not require GRE scores for our graduate applications.

Is it possible to apply for admission in a quarter other than the fall quarter?

Only in the most unusual circumstances have we ever admitted a student into our graduate program in any quarter other than the fall quarter. This is because the core courses that are required for an M.A. or Ph.D. are offered in a sequence beginning in the fall and it is impossible for a student to enter these courses in the winter and spring quarters.

How do I apply for the B.A./M.A. Combined Degree?

Undergraduate students may apply to the B.A./M.A. program. See here.

If I have my own funding (e.g., external grants or fellowships), do I still need to apply through the regular admissions process?


Am I required to contact potential advisors or faculty members prior to applying?

No, you do not need to contact potential advisors prior to applying. If you have specific questions about a particular faculty member’s lab or research, you may e-mail them with questions. If you have general questions about the Ph.D. program or application process after thoroughly checking these pages, you may contact the Admissions Officer. Whether or not you choose to contact a faculty member in advance will not help determine admission to the program.

Financial Aid

Can I get a waiver so that I do not have to pay the application fee?

The Graduate School (TGS) provides fee waivers on a first-come, first-serve basis to eligible applicants who meet certain criteria. For more information on the criteria and the process of submitting a request for a waiver please see this webpage.

What kind of financial aid is available to Linguistics Ph.D. students?

All admitted students receive a 5 year funding commitment (subject to satisfactory progress towards the degree) including both tuition and a 12-month stipend. A sixth year of funding is typically possible when needed to complete the degree. For information about general funding policies for Northwestern graduate students, please go to The Graduate School's website.

Can foreign students receive financial aid for the Ph.D. program?

Foreign students receive the same financial aid package as US students.


Can I schedule a visit or meeting with the department in advance of applying?

We cannot offer visits or informational interviews for prospective students in advance of the invited visit weekend, which occurs after applications have been submitted and evaluated.

Additional questions?

Prospective students may direct any further questions about our program or the application process to Linguistics Department.