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.  If you have questions about admissions, please email the SLS Program Director, Dr. Paula Winke ( or the SLS Program Coordinator, Mr. Ben Lampe ( 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.

Tips on Applying to the SLS Program

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

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. 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), Studies in Second Language Acquisition (editor Susan Gass), The Modern Language Journal (associate editor Shawn Loewen), TASK (editor Koen Van Gorp), and Language Testing (editor Paula Winke). 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 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 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 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. Information about that application will be posted here in late fall 2021.

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

To apply, read and/or download the PDF tips on applying, and then apply at

An application to the SLS Program requires these elements:

  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. 
  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.
  3. You may optionally submit a COVID-19 impact statement, which is explained in the application system. 

(2) Test scores: (i) Enter your GRE test score information, but also officially submit your GRE test scores to MSU (MSU institution code=1465, Department/Field code=2902) 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 (and we are accepting home editions of these tests, such as the TOEFL iBT Home Edition), other test scores (Cambridge English, Duolingo, or PTE) can be used to replace those with approval from the SLS Program Director (Dr. Paula Winke; If you would like to obtain a waiver of the English language proficiency requirement, please email Dr. Winke. A common automatic waiver that Dr. Winke gives is if the applicant has a master’s degree from an AAU institution on a U.S. campus.

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 any questions.

(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. If you have any questions about this, email Dr. Paula Winke. 

(4) Resume: You will need to upload your resume  (or CV, which is a curriculum vitae).

(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. 

(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 Mr. Ben Lampe if you are admitted to the SLS Program (address below; but note U.S.-institution-generated e-transcripts now are to go to; don’t worry if you already sent e-transcripts to Ben, he will get it and upload it for you, but if you have not sent yet, send e-transcripts directly to 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: 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 Ben Lampe ( or Dr. Paula Winke ( 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) 

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

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

MSU Office of Admissions,