General admissions information, instructions about applying, and the online application for admission can be accessed by visiting the Graduate Admission web site.

Applications for admissions will open on September 26th, 2023.

Application deadline: Applicants to the Ph.D. program should submit their materials to USC by December 10th, 2023.

Admissions Criteria

Applicants for admission to the graduate program are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics or other appropriate field. At the least, applicants are expected to have completed an introductory course in general linguistics. The Department of Linguistics accepts applications for admission to the fall term only.

How to Apply

To apply, prospective students must first complete the USC online graduate application. In addition to the standard information required by the University, applicants must upload all supporting documents to this online system.

After completing the online graduate application, applicants must also send certain materials to USC Office of Admission (see below). All applicants are required to complete the following:

The following application materials must be uploaded and submitted through the on-line web application system:

NOTE: The online graduate admission application will say that certain materials must be submitted “directly to the school, academic department or program to which you are applying.” You can and should submit all required items through the online system, however, for example under the heading “Documents.”

Please be advised that the USC Department of Linguistics does not require GRE scores for applications to the graduate program. 

  • USC Graduate Admissions online web application.
  • $90 USD application processing fee (pay on-line). Please click here for information regarding the fee waiver process.
  • Personal Statement:
    • The personal statement should provide specific information about your research interests and goals. Please limit your statement to 2-3 pages (approximately 1,500 words). An effective statement will explain the following.
  1. What intellectual interests or research questions lead you to pursue a PhD in linguistics, and what your background and goals are for graduate study in the field.
  2. Why you are interested in pursuing your studies at USC; for instance, the research emphases and the faculty members that may fit with your interests.
  3. Additionally, feel free to share autobiographical material that may help us understand what inspires you to pursue a PhD in Linguistics, beyond the research questions discussed in 1 and 2 above.
  • Curriculum Vitae/Resume
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation from academic sources. Recommenders must submit their recommendations through the on-line system. Hard copy letters will not be accepted.
  • TOEFL, IELTS or PTE scores (required for international students from non-English speaking countries, see here for more information)
  • Upload your official university-issued transcripts from all institutions attended as part of your online application. However, transcripts uploaded by students to the online application are considered unofficial. You must also send Graduate Admissions (not the department) official transcripts as instructed here.  We also recommend you review the video tutorial titled, “The USC Graduate Application: Entering Your Academic History
    (International students must include all your transcripts, degrees, and diplomas in both their original language and in English translation.)
  • One research paper:
    • A research paper is required that demonstrates an applicant’s ability to pursue serious scholarly inquiry. Ideally, this paper should be on a topic in linguistics, and demonstrate your ability to do linguistic analysis. Most often, a writing sample is a course paper or thesis from prior study in linguistics.  If you do not have such a paper, then you should submit a writing sample from a related field that displays your research abilities, analytical skills and writing ability.  The purpose of the writing sample is to give us a sense of your capacity to do independent and original research: how you might describe a problem, and the approach you might take in your investigation of it. A strong writing sample will demonstrate the logic and reasoning that forms the basis for your approach to a problem. The paper does not need to be lengthy; approximately 10 to 15 pages is standard.  If you have a B.A. or M.A. thesis, this would also be appropriate. The paper should be written (or translated by the applicant) in English.
  • Optional: Statement on contributions to DEI:
    • This document is optional and is not required for a complete application to the linguistics PhD program. USC is an equitable and diverse research university, and we recognize the many ways inclusivity strengthens our campus community. Applicants are invited to submit a statement that addresses any contributions towards a diverse, inclusive, equitable and just society, including past experience regarding the awareness of challenges and inequities faced by underrepresented populations, past activities (e.g., mentoring, research, service, community outreach) that address these challenges, and any plans for continuing or new activities that are important to your graduate school goals.

Important Application Instructions

  • Sending official scores (TOEFL) to USC: USC must receive scores electronically from the testing service for them to be considered official. Photocopies or paper copies of scores are not acceptable. USC’s institution code is 4852. (No department code is required).
  • Please click here for e-transcripts instructions
  • Please click on “Ask USC” to get up to date answers to Graduate Admissions and application questions. Here, you also have the option to click on “Email Us” to ask specific questions to Graduate Admissions about your application.
  • International students, please click here for information on submitting financial documents and passport.
  • Here is the contact information for Liaison’s Tech Support:
    Phone Number: 857-304-2092
    Hours of Operation:
     Monday through Friday (9 am to 5 pm Eastern Time)
    Email: When contacting via email, please include full name, USC ID number and detailed question.

IELTS: Select “University of Southern California” from the list of available institutions when you register to take the IELTS test. Alternatively, provide this information to your testing center after you have taken the test. Contact information for the USC department to which you are applying is not required. No department code is required. 


Items sent via regular mail, should be addressed to:

USC Office of Admission
University Park Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915


Any materials sent via Fed Ex, DHL or other express mail services must be addressed to:

USC Office of Admission
3601 South Flower Street
Tyler 1
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0911

Financial Support

Students admitted to the Ph.D. Program in Linguistics at USC are offered five years of financial support consisting of a minimum of two years of fellowship support plus teaching assistantships and/or research assistantships.

More information on fellowships and financial aid in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences is available here.


Many of your your questions can be answered by typing them into the: portal.  

Below are a few of our most common questions:

Does USC require any minimum TOEFL, IELTS or PTE scores?

  • Although international applicants are required to demonstrate their level of English-language proficiency during the application process, USC does not set minimum scores for admission purposes. The posted scores are used only to determine if an admitted student will need to take the International Student Examination (ISE) upon arrival at USC. For detailed information about English proficiency criteria, please visit the English Proficiency page on our website.

We also recommend you review our video tutorial titled, “English Proficiency Requirements for International Students.”

Does USC have a masters program in linguistics?

  • At the graduate level, the USC Department of Linguistics only has Ph.D. programs; there is no masters program, although the M.A. degree is available for students working toward the Ph.D.

Who can I contact for admissions questions related to the Ph.D. in Linguistics?

Admissions Contact
Professor Stephanie Shih
Admissions Chair