Admissions Procedures

Application Deadline

We welcome you to be considered for the Fall 2022 cohort of students! To be considered, your application must be complete and received in full (including letters of recommendations, test score(s), and official transcripts) by December 10, 2021.  Michigan State University is current revising its application system, so please check back here for updates in the early fall. If you have questions about admissions, please email the SLS Program Director, Dr. Paula Winke ( 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 2022. In August or September of 2021, we may post information on efforts to recruit SLS Degree Candidates with specific skills sets or areas of research. Please check back here at that time for targeted recruitment updates. 

Basic Requirements to be Considered for Admission

To be admitted to the SLS 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, 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. To see what degrees and backgrounds our current students have, please see the current students’ websites.

Application Summary Sheet

For a summary of the application steps, download the PDF of the SLS Steps in the Application Process. The steps are also presented below, and with additional information on sending in e-transcripts and transcripts from China.

Financial Aid/Graduate Assistantships

The Second Language Studies Program administers Graduate Assistantships. These awards include a stipend and a tuition waiver of up to 9 credits per semester. The Second Language Studies 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 and Languages, The Department of Romance and Classical Studies, the Center for Language Teaching Advancement, and the English Language Center) the Second Language Studies 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 Program are automatically considered for these awards. 
  • 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 students are asked to directly apply for these through an application due around February 1 of each year. On the application, all available positions will be listed (pending funding), and you may select the positions for which you would like to be considered. Please ask Paula Winke if you have more questions about this application.
  • Graduate Technical or Administrative 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 Technical or Administrative Assistantships not in the SLS Program but to which SLS students are encouraged to apply will be listed on the Graduate Teaching Assistantship application due around February 1. 
  • Graduate Editorial Assistants (serving as an assistant to an editor): Currently, several students hold Graduate Editorial Research Assistantships. These graduate students assist the editors of TESOL Quarterly (Peter DeCosta and Charlene Polio), Studies in Second Language Acquisition (Susan Gass), The Modern Language Journal (Shawn Loewen), and Language Testing (Paula Winke). These positions are appointed, in conjunction with the SLS Director, by the journal editors. 

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 Program may apply to teach a variety of different languages and language-related courses using the application with the deadline of February 1. The Second Language Studies Program in particular works closely with Dr. Patti Spinner, the incoming Head and supervisor of the Undergraduate English as a Second Language (ESL) Program in the Department of Linguistics and Languages, to train and guide SLS students in teaching the following undergraduate “Language Learning & Teaching (LLT)” methods courses for undergraduate students at MSU. 

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 na execution. 

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.

Steps in the Application Process

(1)  Submit a Graduate School application: Select “Fall 2022” as your “First Semester to Enroll.” Under “Major Preference,” under “College of Arts and Letters” select the code 5642. In addition to answering all questions, prepare to submit these:

  1. Personal statement: Your personal statement should include information about how your background and life experiences, including social, economic, cultural, familial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges motivate you to pursue a doctorate in Second Language Studies. Write in first person. Enter it in the text box. If you are applying for a specific GAship, list that at the top. This year additional space is provided in a second text box for explaining anything you would like, including ways COVID-19 has affected you.
  2. Academic statement: Please provide a concise academic statement, in first person, of 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 current work and research agenda. Enter it in the text box; do not mail it.

(2) Test scores: (i) Enter your GRE test score information, but also officially submit your GRE test scores  to MSU (MSU institution code=1465) through ETS, as described here. If you are unable to take the GRE due to COVID-19’s impacts (closed test centers, inability to take the test due to limited seats), please email the SLS Program Director (Dr. Paula Winke; to ask about how to obtain a GRE waiver. (ii) Also submit official English-language-proficiency test scores (TOEFL or IELTS) if you are a non-native speaker of English. While the SLS Program officially requires TOEFL or IELTS scores, other test scores can be used to replace those with approval from the SLS Program Director (Dr. Paula Winke; Other English exams that you may be able to take are listed here on the MSU Graduate School website (

Normally, outside of COVID-19, the SLS Program expects a TOEFL score of 600 on the paper TOEFL, 250 on the CBT, or 100 on the iBT or higher, or an IELTS score of 7.5 or higher (MSU institution code=1465). Normally, the TOEFL or IELTS test must have been taken within two years of the application. Please email Dr. Winke if you have questions.

(3) References: In the application, you will be directed to the “graduate education” student portal 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. At this same “graduate education” portal, you should upload the following SLS required files, as described below. Note: international applicants 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 on the “File Uploads” page of the “graduate education” portal.) 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. 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 (and they will not be needed at all if you are offered and accept funding from MSU). If you have questions about this, email us. 

(4) Resume: Under “File Uploads” in the “graduate education” portal, select “File Uploads.” Document Type “Resume” and upload your required Resume  (or CV, which is a curriculum vitae).

(5) Academic Writing Sample: Under “File Uploads” in the “graduate education” portal, select Document Type “Writing Sample,” and upload your MA thesis, a class paper, or a publication.

— You may optionally submit under “File Uploads” copies of your personal and academic statements (as PDFs, please), copies of your transcripts (these will be considered unofficial; your institutions still must send them in), and one or more “Supplemental Application” materials that you believe will help the admissions committee understand your unique strengths or promise as a graduate student in the SLS program.  Examples of “Supplemental Application” files are below:

  • 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 may submit more than one “Supplemental Application” material. International applicants, you may need to upload a copy of your completed financial proof “Affidavit of Support” document and associated “Official Bank Statement.” Again, the Affidavit is for international applicants who are not seeking funding from MSU.

(6)  You can uploaded copies of your transcripts in the “graduate education” panel/portal, but you still must request Official Transcripts from places where you got a higher education degree. Because MSU has a decentralized graduate admissions process, have these institutions send them directly to Mr. Ben Lampe (address below). If your transcript is from China, you must submit transcript verification, as described below.

Additional information on sending transcripts: If your prior university sends electronic transcripts from their admissions office, ask them to send your e-transcript to Lucinda Low in the MSU Office of Admissions at this email address: If your transcript is from MSU, you do not need to submit it; we have access to it. If your transcript is from China, you must submit transcript verification from the CDGDC, as described below.

Additional Transcript-Submission Step for Applicants from China:

Post acceptance to the SLS Program, MSU requires an additional step to verify transcripts for applications for admission from students 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). The report must be mailed directly to Mr. Benjamin Lampe, the Program Coordinator for the Second Language Studies Program (his address is below), by the CDGDC, rather than by you or any third party. If you are accepted into the program, after admittance, you will need to undergo this additional step.

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) 

QUESTIONS?  SLS Admissions Contact Information:

Dr. Paula Winke, SLS Program Director,

Mr. Ben Lampe, SLS Graduate Coordinator
Michigan State University, B-331 Wells Hall, 619 Red Cedar Road, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA