Graduate Applications FAQ

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This page attempts to clarify some of the finer details of the Linguistics graduate student application process.

Eligibility for admission

Dates and deadlines

The application and required documents

Tuition and funding

Eligibility for admission

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What degree do I need to apply to the MA program or the PhD program?

Students admitted to the MA program must hold a Bachelor's degree (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, etc.) or the equivalent. Students in the PhD program must hold a Master's degree. It is not critical that these degrees be in linguistics, but linguistics or and adjacent area (such as psychology) is recommended. We understand that a major or master's in linguistics is not offered at all universities. However, significant background in linguistics is regarded as essential to success in linguistics at the graduate level. Students with no background in linguistics (as opposed to language, language teaching, English, or the grammar of an individual language) cannot be admitted directly to either program.

What if my background in linguistics is limited? What is the pre-MA program?

In order to establish sufficient background to be considered candidates for the MA program, the Faculty of Graduate Studies offers admissions to 'pre-Masters' (pre-MA) students. Under this scheme, students are admitted as graduate students and administered by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, but undertake undergraduate-level courses for one year, full time (30 credit hours, or 10 one-term courses) in the linguistics. Courses are assigned by the Graduate Committee, although some negotiation with the student is expected. Once you establish a background, you may apply to the MA program (this is a separate application from the one which got you admitted to the pre-MA, and acceptance to the MA program is not guaranteed).

It is also possible to pursue pre-MA coursework without technically being admitted to the pre-MA program. This option is best suited to local students, who do not require admission to a graduate program as a visa condition.

Scheme 1: The pre-MA program
If you apply to our graduate program (particularly from overseas) with insufficient background, we may admit you provisionally as a "pre-Master's" student. A pre-MA student takes classes assigned by the department's Graduate Committee, usually for a full year, full time (30 credit hours). Upon successful (B or better) completion of this coursework, they may apply to the MA program. Acceptance is not guaranteed.

The advantage of the pre-MA scheme is that you have been enrolled as a full time student and you are administered by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and thus (for international students) you may be eligible to enter the country and study on a standard student visa.

To be considered for the pre-MA, you should be a strong candidate otherwise—that is, you have a clear idea of what kind of research you may want to engage in, and an interest in an area that one of our faculty members is willing and able to support. You may ask to be considered for the pre-MA, or if you apply to the MA (or PhD) program, the graduate committee may accept you provisionally as a pre-MA student.

Scheme 2: Pursue appropriate coursework on your own
If you are local to Winnipeg, you can take courses that we would recommend to pre-MA students either as part of seeking a (second) bachelor's degree, or casually. If you have a previous degree, you would want to apply to the University and the Faculty of Arts as a student seeking a second degree. Depending on your transcripts and when your previous degree(s) were awarded, some of your previous coursework (usually the equivalent of our areas of study/breadth/distribution/General Education) requirements and other coursework would transfer in, and you would be free to pursue major coursework in Linguistics (or, indeed, any field you like, but we’re assuming you want to do graduate work in Linguistics). Thus you'd work toward a BA in Linguistics and be in good position to be considered for our MA program.

You can also take courses casually, as anyone "off the street" can take courses at the university just because of interest. In this event, you would enroll through Extended (Continuing) Education as a "general studies" student "not seeking a degree". You could then pursue any coursework on any schedule you like, until you have satisfactory background to make a successful application.

You can also employ this scheme at another local school, if you happen to live/work somewhere other than Winnipeg. Just take courses (or seek a degree) appropriately.

Scheme 3: The MA+ option
If you apply to the PhD, and your Masters degree is in a related field (but not in theoretical linguistics), the Graduate Committee my recommend your admission as a 'pre-PhD' (MA+) student.  This is a special arrangement with FGS in which you are admitted to the University of Manitoba as an MA student in Linguistics, with the option to apply for transfer into the PhD program within 12 months. This gives you a chance to explore coursework in Linguistics appropriate for the MA or PhD, and gives the graduate committee time to evaluate your progress, without jeopardizing your progress to the PhD. Note that if your previous graduate work is not in linguistics or a related area, the graduate committee may ask that you be admitted into the MA program without this option, even if you are applying for the PhD.

What does coursework in a pre-MA year look like?

We try to tailor pre-MA coursework (and graduate coursework for that matter) to the needs and interests of the student, and also make use of available course offerings. But a typical program would include at least 30 credit hours, drawn from the equivalents of

  • LING 1200 Introduction to Linguistics (6 credit hours)
  • LING 1380 General Phonetics (3 ch)
  • LING 2200 Syntax (6 ch)
  • LING 2420 Phonology (3 ch)
  • and 12 additional credit hours, including some of
    • LING 2460 Morphology (3 ch)
    • LING 2440 Analytic Techniques (3 ch)
    • LING 2850 Language Acquisition (3 ch)
    • LING 2620 Language in Society (3 ch)
    • LING 2640 Comparative Linguistics (3 ch)

and possibly others, depending on availability and your research interest.

By no means equivalent to BA coursework, 30 credit hours drawn from the above (or their equivalents) should provide the student with enough background that admission to the MA program is possible. Before embarking on such coursework on your own, you should discuss the options with your potential faculty advisor or the graduate chair.

Why do I need to suggest a potential advisor? How do I find one?

Because we are a comparatively small department and provide individualized coursework requirements and advising suited to each student/applicant, compatibility of research interests between the applicant and his or her potential advisor/supervisor is a key element in our admission decisions. This requirement provides applicants an opportunity to review the research interests of our faculty members (outlined on our People page) to determine which, if any, might have compatible research interests. At the application stage, this is simply a suggestion; the Graduate Committee retains discretion to make other assignments.

Potential applicants may also find it useful to review the list of previously completed theses for an idea of our current and historical strengths.

We do not typically offer graduate training in the areas of language teaching (e.g., ESL), literature, translation or second language acquisition. Although individual faculty members may indicate some interest in these areas, the department does not have sufficient resources at this time to offer complete programs in these areas. However, the department is happy to consider applications from students with interests in these areas, on the understanding that our programs, coursework, and research are primarily in the area of theoretical linguistics.

Dates and deadlines

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When is the application for admission due?

The department has set the application deadline for all students (Canadian, US, and international) on January 15th of any given year, for programs that will begin the following September. Please note, programs in linguistics follow our regular school year, beginning in September. January admissions cannot be arranged, although in extreme cases, it is possible to arrange a deferral.

When is the application for the UMGF due?

At present, the University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship deadline is set at January 15th. If you have already sent documentation to FGS as part of your application package, you must still submit the UMGF application form to the department, indicating that your documentation is in your application package. Since FGS may take several weeks to process your application documents, it is best to have arranged for all application materials to arrive well ahead of January 15th. We will arrange for your documents to be copied to the department in order to consider your UMGF application.

What if all my documents have not arrived by the due date?

We understand that it is not always possible to control when your documents will arrive. Because it may take several weeks to process your documents, the Graduate Committee (which oversees admissions, and all aspects of graduate programs) does not usually begin considering applications until the end of February. Decisions made at the department level are made with the best information we have at the time. We will consider any documentation which is available at the time of the admissions meeting. If insufficient information is available, we may have to recommend rejection of your application. However, if your application otherwise appears strong, we may defer the decision until more documentation appears. In any event, the Faculty of Graduate Studies does not act on departmental rejections until the documentation is complete and has been verified. With the online application form, it should not be difficulty to declare your intent to apply in plenty of time to meet the deadline.

How are my documents processed and shared with the department?

All documents related to admissions applications become the property of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. When received by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, your package is checked against the checklist of required documents.  FGS then sends a written letter to the address you provide indicating a) that they have received the file and b) any documents from the checklist which were not received. The documents are electronically scanned and added to a database which is made available to the Department. It can take several weeks for these documents to become available--even longer in December, January, and February when the majority of applications come in. Documents which come in later are handled first-come first-served, i.e. there is a single queue for scanning and file management serving all applications to all graduate programs administered by FGS.

Can I still be considered if my entire application is late?

We cannot guarantee that we will consider late applications for admissions. Particularly for international students, a late application means a late decision, and less time to arrange for visas, moving to Winnipeg, finding a place to live, etc. The Graduate Committee may consider late applications, but it is likely that your case will be deferred to the following year.

Similarly, UMGF applications are ranked and sent to the Faculty of Arts where they are ranked with nominees from other departments. While we can consider UMGF applications which are late, they cannot be ranked ahead of those which have already been forwarded to the Faculty for consideration.

Can I have my application considered early?

Unfortunately, we cannot consider individual applications ahead of the others. With a small program such as ours, we have to balance the needs of our students, the incoming class, faculty advising loads, and each applicant relative to the others. For similar reasons, we cannot advise you of the status of your application (beyond that it has been received) before the Graduate Committee has considered them all.

How will I be informed about my admission?

The Graduate Committee Chair will inform you of the committee's decision once one has been made, via the e-mail address provided in your application form. If no e-mail address is provided, you will be informed by mail via the mailing address provided in your application form. The committee's decision is also forwarded to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, who will formally inform you of the decision (only the Faculty of Graduate Studies can grant admission to the graduate program) by mail. The Faculty of Graduate Studies will not act until a) it receives the recommendation of the department's committee, b) it has received and verified all required documents in your application, and c) has evaluated the acceptability of your credentials.  This process rarely takes less than 8 weeks for regular applicants, and longer if FGS requires consultation with the department on any matter (as may occur, for instance, with marginal grade point averages, unverifiable or missing documents, etc.)

Please note that we will not discuss your application with anyone other than yourself, and that we have no control over FGS's process.  We can only recommend admission (or not), and try to assist FGS in interpreting any information they may question. In the end, admission (or not) to a graduate program at the University of Manitoba is entirely decided by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

When would my program begin?

Graduate programs in Linguistics begin in September (fall term) only. Several courses offered in the department (both in the Graduate Programs and in the pre-MA prep programs) run the full year, so September starts are the only practical option. In exceptional cases, four month (one term) deferrals are possible, with permission from the Department and the Faculty of Graduate Studies. In general, expect to begin in September unless circumstances absolutely prevent it.

Classes usually begin the Wednesday after the first Monday of September. Please be aware that housing in Winnipeg can be very difficult to arrange, and adjusting to the local culture, and the culture of graduate study, can be challenging. Leave yourself plenty of time to make the transition so the beginning of classes doesn't become overwhelming.

Application documentation

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How do I get application forms?

The application form is filled out and filed online at the Graduate Applications page of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  Alternatively, you may request a paper version of the application form(s) from the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

If I file the application on line, how do I send other required documents?

All other required documents, including payment of the application fee, can be mailed via the regular post or sent via courier to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. :

Attn: Applications
Faculty of Graduate Studies
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Do I need to go through an application agency?

Absolutely not. We do not usually work with agents, and we do not care to do so. The University of Manitoba's Faculty of Graduate Studies has worked very hard to create an easy-to-use on-line and paper application process. We will not discuss your application with anyone other than yourself. There is usually no need to go through an agent of any kind, and our experience suggests that most agencies are not any better at managing your application than you yourself. Going through an agency just increases the chances of a miscommunication or other problem that will just delay your application.

What is a cover letter (statement of research interests)?

A cover letter is usually a business letter detailing the contents of a package (such as the application package) and the purpose of sending it. In this case it is your opportunity to tell us who you are, what you are interested in doing as a linguist, why you chose us to work with, and why we should admit you.

The most informative letters demonstrate familiarity and past experience in the field of linguistics, linguistic disciplines or language areas you are interested in, and especially for us who among our faculty offers the kind of advising you would benefit from most. At the PhD level, and to a lesser extent the MA level, we expect students to be able to articulate issues they are interested in pursuing as research areas, and the models and methods they may use to explore them. We do not regard anything you say in this regard as a promise--you are free (even expected) to find other interests, more interesting questions, etc. during your studies with us. Primarily we need to know you understand what we do and how we do it, and why you have chosen to study linguistics at the University of Manitoba.

What are 'official transcripts'?

Official transcripts (or marks sheets) from all post-secondary institutions attended must be provided as part of the application. Transcripts must be received in envelopes which have been sealed and endorsed by the issuing institution to be considered official. In cases where the transcript does/will not clearly state that a degree has been conferred, an official degree certificate is required to accompany the transcript.

Where academic records are produced in a language other than English, the applicant must arrange for the submission of official literal translations. To be official, original language documents and English translations must arrive together in envelopes which have been sealed and endorsed by the issuing institution. If the transcripts use a grading system other than letter grades or percentages, applicants should include on a separate sheet information as to how grades are to be interpreted. Name changes/differences on documents must also be substantiated by appropriate documentation.

Transcripts and Degree Certificates submitted in support of an application become the property of the University of Manitoba and will not be returned.

Separate transcripts are not required for fellowship applications if you are applying for admission at the same time.

What is needed in a letter of recommendation/reference?

Letters of recommendation allow us to assess your abilities, strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of past professors (or employers as the case may be). It is usually written in the form of a business letter from the referee to the Graduate Committee, and includes such information as how well and how long the referee has known you, in what capacity they are able to assess your abilities, and of course their assessment of how suited you are for graduate study in general, and for study with us in particular. For your (and their) convenience, a standard form is provided, but its use is optional. (The form is in PDF format, and you may need Adobe Acrobat Reader to access it.)

Must letters of recommendation/reference have to be sent separately?

Letters of reference may be included in your application package, or your referees may send them directly.

If they are included in your application package, please ask your referees to provide you with their letters already sealed in (a) separate envelope(s), with their signature (or other endorsement) over the seal to indicate that the letter has not been tampered with.

If being sent directly, please ask your referees to mail the letter to to the Faculty of Graduate Studies) and to mark the letter "ATTN: Linguistics application" so that we know it is in reference to an application.

Do I need an additional letter of reference for the UMGF application?

At present, no, you do not need an additional letter of reference to accompany the fellowship application, as generally speaking letters of reference that come with the application are adequate. In addition, generally an assessment of your fellowship application will be written by the Graduate Committee.  If you are not well-known in this department, you will need to have part III of the fellowship application "Confidential Report on Candidate" completed by a faculty member from any academic institution who has special knowledge of you and your work. This form should also be clearly sealed and endorsed by the individual who completes it.

The process for applying for the UMGF changes slightly from year to year. As documents are shared between the department and FGS, we hope to continue the policy of using the same letters for both applications. However, you should be aware that the deadlines for the applications are different, so please be certain that letters are posted in time for the earlier deadline. (Continuing students who apply for the UMGF will require a new letter, preferably from within the department, with every UMGF application.)

What kind of writing sample is appropriate?

The purpose of the writing sample is twofold. First, it allows us to evaluate your ability to write in academic English. Further, it gives us a chance to evaluate your ability to formulate an argument and to present evidence in support of that argument.

With these two requirements in mind, you can see that the best writing samples are in English, and present a scholarly argument with evidence. Thus a paper for a course or a chapter of a thesis is the most appropriate sample. If one of these is not available, we can accept translations of papers written in other languages (assuming you are the translator of your own work), and papers in disciplines other than linguistics. However, please be aware that work in other fields may not be able to adequately demonstrate the clarity and structure of your academic English in a way the admissions committee will be able to evaluate.

How do I pay the Application Fee?

Please do not send cash of any kind. Applicants may send a cheque or International Money Order, ensuring that the name and address of the financial institution is shown in English. Cheques must be MICR micro-encoded with the cheque number, transit number (usually 8 digits) and bank account number. MICR encoding is the preprinted numbers on the bottom left hand side of the money order, bank draft or cheque.

You may send your fee in equivalent US funds. Check with your local financial institution to determine the current rate of exchange for CAD vs. USD. Some international students find it convenient to arrange to have this looked after by a friend or relative in Canada or the States.

Applications can be considered by the department but will not be processed by the Faculty of Graduate Studies until an acceptable fee payment is received. 

What is a CV?

CV is short of "Curriculum Vitae", Latin for 'list of a life'.  In academics, a CV is a document that outlines all your academic and scholarly training and accomplishments. It usually includes sections including your Research Interests, Education, Positions Held, Publications and Presentations, and other relevant factors.  Many of our faculty members provide samples of their own CVs. 

What if my native language is not English?

English is the language of instruction in most units of the University of Manitoba and in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  You will need to provide proof of English proficiency if your previous education (high school or undergraduate diplomas) are from non-'exempted' countries.  ('Exempted' here means 'exempted from the requirement to prove English proficiency'.)  The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is the most common, but a number of other exams may be used to satisfy this requirement.  Please see FGS's International Students - Admission Requirements page for further information on acceptable exams, scores, and a link to the list of exempted countries.

Do I need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)?

Neither the Faculty of Graduate Studies, nor the Department of Linguistics requires the GRE.

Fees and funding

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How much are tuition and fees for graduate study at the University of Manitoba?

Information about tuition and other incidental fees can be found at the University's Registrar's Office. Fee schedules are determined by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and are not under the control of the department.

What funding is available? Are there TAships or RAships available?

The Department does not offer any specific funding in advance of admission. A number of fellowships (scholarships/bursaries) are available from various units of the UofM (Graduate Studies, Arts, etc.). The application for the UMGF is the application for all of these awards. When you apply for the UMGF, if you are not awarded one, you remain in line for the next set of awards, in the order that you have been ranked at the Faculty level.

In addition, there are various grants, travel fellowships, and other available funding for specific projects available. See our Funding and Awards page for more information about some of these, or see the Funding and Awards page of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Teaching Assistantships, Marker/Grader positions, and Research Assistantships become available at various times of the school year. You will be informed of any opportunities available to you when they become available.  Please note that the Department does not receive any money for the employment of students as part of our regular operating budget.  TAships and marker/grader positions are granted by the Faculty of Arts as they are needed (and as their budget allows); money for RAships becomes available sporadically from various sources, particularly from the winning of Research Grants by faculty members, for which specific skills will be required for employment.  "Ad hoc" RA-ships, for small, on-the-fly projects within the department, used to be granted occasionally by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, but as of last year that money has been redirected to other programs.  It is possible that such funds may become available to us through other sources (e.g. the Faculty of Arts), but we do not know when, or how much.

What is the University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship (UMGF) and who is eligible to apply?

At present, the UMGF is the only regular source of multi-year funding available to graduate students administered at the Univeristy of Manitoba.  MA students may hold the award for up to two years, and only during the first two years of their programs.  PhD students may hold the award for up to 4 years, and only during the first four years of their programs.  Students who do both masters and PhD work at the University of Manitoba may receive UMGF funding for a maximum of four years total.  The annual stipend associated with the award is currently $14,000 CAD for MA students, and $18,000 for PhD students.  Fellowships of this sort are not taxable in Canada, and cannot be held with other fellowships awarded by national or provincial entities. They may be held alongside regular employment earnings, other grants and scholarships/bursaries/fellowships administered by other agencies.

At present, the entire fund available for graduate student fellowships is devolved throught he UMGF program (in previous years, some funds were directed to other entities of the University, for instance the Faculty of Arts, which made a separate awards).  The number of new awards changes from year to year, depending on available funds and the number of existing awards which are renewed.  In the Faculty of Arts, UMGF allocations are shared among department, such that Linguistics is not guaranteed any new UMGFs in any given year (although in the past several years, at least one new award has been won).

Any full-time registered student in a graduate program may hold a UMGF (provided they do so within the limits stated above), regardless of national origin or citizenship status.  At present, applicants must have a 3.75/4.5 GPA or the equivalent to be eligible. 

At the University of Manitoba, 'fellowship' refers to a stipendary payment, i.e. a scholarship or bursary, not to a position in a program, faculty or college. Thus no additional benefits (housing, tuition books) are included in the UMGF.

How do I apply for the University of Manitoba Graduate Fellowship (UMGF) or similar awards?

The UMGF (and related award) process changes from year to year. The current application form and instructions are available online

Where can I find out about other possible awards?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies maintains a page devoted to graduate funding and awards. Please see that page, and contact Graduate Studies.

One other source of research funding is the Faculty of Arts Endowment Fund, which offers (usually in January or February) a competition for 'small' grants (less than $3000) in support of research.  In the past, students who have applied for such funds for very small amounts (under $500) have almost always gotten them, as long as the rest of the rules are followed.  The grants are paid out of interest accrued from the Fund, and there are regular fund raisers to build the Fund (and thereby increase the availabe for distribution every year).