We are sorry to inform you that we are unable to accept PhD applications for this term. We just discovered that we will be unable to support an incoming Ph.D. class due to budget cuts about which we were recently informed. We are still accepting M.A. applications and encourage applicants to this program. We regret this late change in our doctoral admissions process this year and warmly encourage you to apply again next year for admission to our Ph.D. program in the Fall of 2025.


Admission to the MA or PhD degree program in Linguistics or the MS CLASIC program is through online application to the Graduate School of the University of Colorado.

Application requirements

  • statement of purpose
  • unofficial transcripts
  • three letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores (optional)
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores (for applicants from non-English speaking institutions)
  • writing sample (for PhD applicants)

The statement of purpose should explain your interest in pursuing a graduate degree in linguistics. It might include a description of your background or past work that led you to your current interests, as well as a discussion of where you see your interests developing now and in the future. You might have very specific plans to describe, but such detailed, specific plans are not necessary. It is most useful for the admissions committee to have your thoughtful reflection on the issues you are passionate about within linguistics and the ways in which our graduate program will support those passions.

You are required to upload an unofficial copy of the transcript from each undergraduate and graduate institution that you have attended, including community colleges, summer sessions, and extension programs, regardless of the length of attendance and whether or not courses were completed. Failure to list and submit transcripts from all institutions previously attended is considered to be a violation of academic ethics and may result in the cancellation of your admission or dismissal from the university. See instructions for uploading unofficial transcripts to your application. Only after you are recommended for admission will you need to provide official transcripts. 

Your letters of recommendation should come from faculty or mentors who know your work and can speak to your past performance as well as their assessment of your promise as a student and researcher. Our advice is to confirm with each of your potential recommenders (well in advance of the application deadline) that they are able and willing to submit a recommendation for you. The most impactful letters are those written by recommenders who have information about your preparation and goals for graduate study. You should share your draft statement of purpose with each of your recommenders, as well as any other information that might inform their recommendation. 

In addition, applicants may optionally submit GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores. Visit the Educational Testing Service GRE website for information about the format of the GRE, exam dates and locations, registering for the exam and ordering score reports.

Applicants whose language of post-secondary education was not English must in addition show evidence of English proficiency by earning a score of 90 or higher on Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). If the IELTS is used in place of the TOEFL, the minimum required score is 7. At this time, the Department is also accepting the Duolingo English Test (DET) as evidence of English proficiency; the required score on the DET is 120. 

Please note, it is not enough that a program was taught in English to meet the English proficiency requirement. To meet this requirement, you must have studied in a country in which English is a primary language for at least one year and within two years of your desired start term at CU Boulder. Full information on CU Boulder's English proficiency requirements for international students, including the exceptions to these requirements, can be found here.

PhD applicants are required to submit a writing sample of 15 pages or less. (If you submit more than 15 pages, no more than the first 15 pages will be reviewed.) Your writing sample might be a term paper from a previous class or an excerpt from a BA or MA thesis. You are welcome to, but not required to, edit the paper from its previous version as a term paper or thesis.

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Current Students

You can apply to the PhD program after having been admitted to the MA program, generally in your second year of matriculation in the MA program. If you are a current Linguistics MA student seeking admission to the Linguistics PhD program, submit the hard copy internal application, available from Linguistics staff. The internal application must be accompanied by a statement of purpose and three letters of recommendation (sent directly to the Department by the recommenders); internal applicants may also submit a writing sample, but this is optional.