• Application Fee Waivers:
    • If you reside in a country designated by The World Bank as having a “low-income economy” or a “lower-middle-income economy” as described here by The World Bank, or as listed here, the SLS Program will review your application file without the application fee. Email sls.admissions@msu.edu to obtain directions. 
    • Other individuals can apply for fee waivers through the Big Ten Academic Alliance FreeApp program, the McNair Fee Waiver program, or through participation in targeted events. Information is here by the MSU Graduate School
World Bank country classification by income level. Purple and pink are low and middle low income.

Are you a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV)? RPCVs get in-state tuition at MSU! See more information in Section V of the “MSU Regulations for In-State Tuition.” Once you are admitted and well before you are billed for your tuition, fill out this form and provide MSU with a copy of your Certificate of Peace Corps Service (you submit the certificate with the form). MSU’s Registrar’s Office will then code you with the classification of “in-state tuition status,” so when your tuition bill is generated, it will be generated at the in-state rate. If you have questions, email the MSU Peace Corps Coordinator Joy Campbell (RPCV Morocco, 1998-2000).

Are you from outside the USA and looking for ways to support your studies in the USA, including in the SLS Ph.D. Program? Consider the FULBRIGHT Foreign Student Program. All graduate students supported by the Fulbright foreign student program are always provided MSU’s in-state tuition rate through an “out-of-state-tuition waiver” while on Fulbright support, whether Fulbright pays your tuition directly, or if you do with your stipend from the Fulbright.  Contact the MSU Fulbright Advisor Joy Campbell or sls.admissions@msu.edu if you have questions. 

On September 8, 2023, the Applied Linguistics (SLS & TESOL) Program faculty voted to remove the GRE requirement from the SLS Ph.D. and MA TESOL Programs. Thus, SLS (and MA TESOL) applicants do not have to submit GRE scores. If you have questions, please email sls.admissions@msu.edu

SLS Ph.D. Admissions Procedures

Application Deadline & Areas of Special Interest for the 2025 Cohort

The SLS Program will begin accepting applications for the Fall 2025 cohort when the MSU Graduate Application system opens on August 1, 2024. 

Applications must be complete and received in full (including letters of recommendations, test score(s), and official transcripts) by December 6, 2024.  If you have questions about admissions, please email the SLS Ph.D. Program at sls.admissions@msu.edu.  You are welcome and encouraged to also email any of the SLS Faculty members to ask questions about their research agendas and whether they plan to accept new advisees in Fall 2025. The SLS Ph.D. Program accepts all applications for any area of study within SLA. 

Questions about SLS Admissions? Email us at sls.admissions@msu.edu

Basic Requirements to be Considered for Admission to the SLS Ph.D. Program

To be admitted to the SLS Ph.D. Program, you must have at least a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from a recognized educational institution in a field related to applied linguistics (linguistics, a foreign language, teaching English as a second language, language education, teacher education, psychology, sociology, statistics, etc.). Most students entering the program have a Master’s Degree in a similar field, prior language-teaching experience, and experience conducting research in applied linguistics, foreign language education, or SLA. MA Programs at Michigan State University from which some of our Ph.D. students come are listed below: However, most SLS students who have obtained a MA at MSU tend to enter SLS after graduating from our own MA Program in TESOL & Applied Linguistics, in which students can center their MA thesis on English-language education, the education of any World Language, or on a topic in applied linguistics or any of its sub-disciplines. To see what degrees and backgrounds our current students have, please see the current students’ websites. A list of the required courses are in the SLS Graduate Handbook, which we encourage you to visit. 

Notes on MA TESOL Thesis Plan Admissions for Fall 2025

Please note that in Fall 2024, the larger Applied Linguistics Program that houses both the SLS and the MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics Programs will have a number of fully-funded, 2-year MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics positions. The applications for the fully-funded MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics positions are due the same day as the SLS application (Dec. 6, 2024). The MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics Program itself additionally has two two-year Graduate Teaching Assistantships to award for MA TESOL students to teach in the English Language Center on campus during the duration of their MA degree. Thus, we are actively recruiting for several fully-funded MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics positions in the Applied Linguistics Program, which houses MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics and SLS. In your SLS application’s Academic Statement of Purpose (ASOP), if you write that you would be interested in being considered for a fully-funded MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics position if you are not admitted to the SLS Program, the Applied Linguistics faculty will consider your application for the MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics Program if (and only if) you are not admitted to SLS. Indicating that you would be interested in the fully-funded MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics positions would in no way affect your application for admission into the SLS Program. You would be fully considered for the SLS Program first. If you would like us to consider you for both programs (SLS first, and then MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics), you would not need to submit a separate application to the MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics Program, and also you would not need to pay an additional application fee nor submit any new materials: We would roll your application from SLS to MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics internally, at no cost to you if and only if you are not admitted to SLS. If you have questions about this, please ask Dr. Charlene Polio (MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics Program Director starting in Fall 2024) and Dr. Shawn Loewen (SLS Program Director starting in Fall 2024). Information on the Applied Linguistics Program’s MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics degree is here: https://lilac.msu.edu/tesol/ma-program/ 

Financial Aid/Graduate Assistantships

The Second Language Studies Ph.D. Program administers Graduate Assistantships. These awards include a stipend and a tuition waiver of up to 9 credits per semester. The Second Language Studies Ph.D. Program internally awards Graduate Research Assistantships. Studies who are Graduate Research Assists are assigned to assist a Second Language Studies faculty member on projects that further the faculty member’s research agenda. All applicants whose admissions’ files are submitted and complete by the application deadline will be considered for the SLS Program’s Graduate Research Assistantships. In cooperation with the other language units in Wells Hall (Global Studies; The Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures; The Department of Romance and Classical Studies; the Center for Language Teaching Advancement; and the English Language Center) the Second Language Studies Ph.D Program can also award Graduate Assistantships that have the work assignment (teaching or administrative Graduate Assistantships) in those language units.  The SLS Program additionally works in conjunction with the other language units to offer a separate application for Graduate Assistantships that are for teaching or administrative work. 

To summarize, the Graduate Assistantships available are of the following nature: 

  • Graduate Research Assistants (working on faculty research and/or faculty members’ grant-funded research projects): These are directly within the SLS Program. All applicants to the SLS Ph.D. Program are automatically considered for these awards. Currently,
    several students hold Graduate Editorial Research
    Assistantships through SLS or through the College of Arts and Letters: These graduate students assist the editors of 
    TESOL Quarterly (editor Peter DeCosta and Charlene Polio)The Modern Language Journal (associate editor Shawn Loewen), or TASK (editor Koen Van Gorp). These positions are appointed, in conjunction with the SLS Director, by the journal editors.
  • Graduate Teaching Assistants (teaching undergraduate applied linguistics courses, foreign language courses in the two language departments (Linguistics & Languages and Romance and Classical Studies) and adult ESL courses in the English Language Center): These positions are offered through joint cooperation among all of the language units in Wells Hall. Prospective SLS Ph.D. students are asked to directly apply for these through an application due around February 1 of each year (although SLS applicants may be directly considered for ELC Teaching Assistantships, prioritized after MA TESOL applicants, without the additional application). On the application, all available positions will be listed (pending funding and availability), and you may select the positions for which you would like to be considered. 
  • Graduate Non-Teaching Assistants (creating curricular content, assessments, research applications, assisting in program administration, or with academic programming): These positions are assignments within SLS or within other language units in Wells Hall. Graduate, Non-Teaching Technical or Administrative Assistantships not in the SLS Ph.D. Program but to which SLS students are encouraged to apply will be listed on the Graduate Teaching Assistantship application, which is due around February 1. 

Assistantships may be available through other graduate programs at Michigan State.

Applied Linguistics Courses Taught by SLS Teaching Assistants

As described above, graduate students in the SLS Ph.D. Program may apply to teach a variety of different languages and language-related courses at MSU. All applicants are automatically considered for positions teaching Language Learning & Teaching (LLT) courses within the Applied Linguistics Program, which are listed below. Applicants can apply for teaching other courses in other graduate programs (sometimes there is broader language-teaching need, e.g., in Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Turkish, etc.). The Second Language Studies Program in particular works closely with Dr. Patti Spinner, the Director and supervisor of the Undergraduate English as a Second Language (ESL) Program in the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures to train and guide SLS students in teaching the undergraduate Language Learning & Teaching (LLT) courses for undergraduate TESOL and K-12 ESL endorsement students at MSU. MA TESOL and SLS students are also preferred candidates for teaching-assistantship positions in the MSU English Language Center (ELC), which is directed by Dr. Dustin De Felice. An application to the SLS Program is also an application for TA-positions within the ELC. If you have questions about these positions and applications, please feel free to ask sls.admissions@msu.edu

LLT 306: Methods of Teaching Adult and Community English to Speakers of Other Language

Course Description: Methods for teaching English as a second language to adult learners in a variety of domestic and international contexts. Focus on communicative and task-based methods involving both oral and written skills. Objective writing, lesson planning, and teaching toward objective goals. 

Course Description: National and international approaches, methods, materials, settings, needs, and characteristics of ESL and foreign language students. Survey, evaluation, and application of major effective methods and materials.

Course Description: Teaching grammar to English-as-second language (ESL) students. Grammar lesson plan development. English grammar, error identification, common English-as-second language errors, evaluation of grammar textbooks, and the role of error correction in English-as-second language teaching.

Course Description: Basic principles of learning a second or foreign language. Issues in first language acquisition. Theories of second language learning. Aptitude, motivation, attitude, learning grammar, age, learning in a classroom, myths, and facts about second language learning.

Course Description: Observation-based and principled theories on child second language learning. Effective practices in teaching second and foreign languages to children. How teaching and evaluation must align with children’s maturational, cognitive, psychological, and developmental needs. 

Steps in the Application Process

Read text below, then apply at https://admissions.msu.edu/apply/graduate-students

An application to the SLS Program requires these elements:

  1. Academic Statement Of Purpose (ASOP): Your Academic Statement of Purpose (ASOP) should include information about how your background and life experiences, including, if you’d like, your social, economic, cultural, familial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges, motivate you to pursue a doctorate in Second Language Studies. Write in first person. This Statement should also include your plans for graduate study, your career goals, and how MSU’s SLS Ph.D. graduate program will help you meet your career and academic objectives. Discuss specifically with whom you would like to study in the SLS Program and how your research interests align with that person’s (or faculty members’) current work and research agenda(s). These Statements are normally (we find) around 600 to 800 words, but statements of any length are accepted. 
  2. You may optionally submit a COVID-19 impact statement, which is explained in the application system. 

(2) Test scores

(i) IMPORTANT INFORMATION: The Program faculty voted on September 8, 2023 to drop, effective immediately, the requirement for applicants to have to submit GRE scores for entrance into the SLS Program. Thus, no GRE scores are required for the SLS Program

(ii) English language test scores. Submit official English-language-proficiency test scores (any from this list: https://grad.msu.edu/english-language-competency) if you will be an international student at MSU whose first language is not English. As of August 2023, the SLS Program accepts English language test scores from any of the standardized English language tests listed on the MSU’s Graduate School English Language Competency Website.  If you have a master’s degree from an AAU institution on a U.S. campus, then you do not have to take an English-language test. See the MSU Graduate School’s English language competency website for more information. If you have an MA from a U.S. institution that is not an AAU institution, you can ask the SLS Director to request a non-automatic English test waiver for you through the process outlined here: https://grad.msu.edu/procedure-request-waiver-english-language-competency 

(3) References: In the application, you will be directed to register names and email addresses for three recommenders who are familiar with your academic and professional accomplishments and potential for success. At least one recommendation letter must be from a former professor, academic advisor, or other individual familiar with your academic background and abilities. The letters of recommendation must be current and specifically for the MSU SLS Ph.D. Program. After you submit your online application, the system will send an email to each reference containing a link so they can upload their letter of recommendation directly into your application file.  Note that all recommendation letters are due by the application deadline.

International individuals who are admitted to the program will have to additionally upload a completed “Affidavit of Support” if they are not offered funding from MSU, or if they are not seeking funding from MSU. Click on “Financial Proof” here for info. (The Affidavit form will appear for international applicants but not for others.) For the SLS Program, because all applicants are considered for various Graduate Assistantships, which offer funding support, applicants to the SLS Program only have to upload the “Affidavit form” and corresponding “Official Bank Statement” if the applicant is not seeking funding from MSU, or if the applicant does not receive funding from MSU and still wants to attend with their own funding. Thus, you can wait to upload your “Affidavit” and  “Official Bank Statement” (if needed) after you have been accepted into the program. Likewise, international students are asked to upload a photo of their passport information. The SLS Admissions Committee does not need to see your passport information, thus for SLS you do not need to upload the photo of the passport information until after you are admitted. In sum, if you are applying for funding from MSU, the “Affidavit” and “Official Bank Statement” are not needed until we tell you they are needed.  

(4) Resume: You will need to upload your resume  (or CV, which is a curriculum vitae). Please upload this as part of your additional (supplemental) materials. 

(5) Academic Writing Sample: You will need to upload a “Writing Sample,” which can be your MA thesis, a class paper, or a publication.

— You may additionally upload other materials, such as a diversity statement; foreign or second-language teaching materials; course evaluations; syllabi; or examples of your prior work with technology (e.g., website link(s); link to an electronic portfolio, etc. You will see in the online form that you can “Add another” after you upload an additional (supplemental) material. You can also preview or delete files you have uploaded as you prepare your application. 

(6)  Transcripts: You can upload unofficial copies of your transcripts for the SLS Admissions Committee to review. Admission is a two-step process: SLS must first admit you, and then MSU and the MSU Graduate School must admit you based on the SLS Program’s recommendation. If you are admitted to the SLS Program, then you must request Official Transcripts from places where you got a higher education degree before MSU/The Graduate School will act on the SLS Program’s recommendation to admit you to the SLS Program & thus to the University and Graduate School. Because MSU has a decentralized graduate admissions process (this two-step process), the SLS Admissions Committee will ask you to have these institutions send the official transcripts directly to the Second Language Studies Ph.D. Program in the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures (LiLaC) if you are admitted to the SLS Program (address below; but note U.S.-institution-generated e-transcripts are to go to admis@msu.edu. If your transcript is from China, you must submit transcript verification if you are admitted, as described below. 

Additional information on sending transcripts: Michigan State University accepts electronic and hard copy transcripts from US universities and colleges. If your previous US institutions send electronic transcripts (e-transcripts) from their registrar’s or records office, ask them to send your e-transcript to the MSU Office of Admissions at this email address: admis@msu.edu. International transcripts and diplomas are NOT accepted electronically; the MSU Office of Admissions will require the SLS Program to submit hard copy transcripts and diplomas in sealed institutional envelopes to complete the admissions process for an SLS applicant, and certified translations will be required if these documents are NOT issued in English. Please contact sls.admissions@msu.edu if you anticipate difficulties in obtaining official documents from your institution. If your transcript is from China, after admission, you must submit transcript verification from the CDGDC and CHESICC as described below.

Additional Transcript-Submission Step for Applicants from China: MSU requires an additional step to verify transcripts for applications for admission from students from China. If you are from China, enrollment in the SLS Program will depend upon a verification report of your university academic records with the China Academic Degree and Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC) and a transcript verification report from the China Higher Education Student Information and Career Center (CHESICC) no later than the middle of the first term of enrollment. If you are admitted, then we encourage you to collect these materials and have them sent to Michigan State University Office of Admissions well before you arrive in the East Lansing area.

China Academic Degree and Graduate Education Development Center
Verification Division

B-17, Tongfang Scientific Plaza 
No.1 Wangzhuang Road, Haidian District, Beijing, 100083, P.R. China 
Tel: +86-10-82379480 
Fax: +86-10-82378718 (24 hours) 
Email: cqv@cdgdc.edu.cn 
Website: www.chinadegrees.cn wh

QUESTIONS?  SLS Admissions Contact Information:

SLS Admissions: sls.admissions@msu.edu

Having an e-transcript sent in for you from from a US-based University? — Remember to have that sent to admis@msu.edu 

Official Transcripts in hard copy can be mailed to:

The Second Language Studies Ph.D. Program: Attn: Transcripts
Michigan State University, LiLaC Dept., B331 Wells Hall, 619 Red Cedar Road, East Lansing, MI 48823 USA

If you have additional questions, you may contact the MSU Office of Admissions: https://admissions.msu.edu/