Ph.D. Program in SLA

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Program Focus and Structure

The Ph.D. program in SLA at the University of Maryland, College Park has a strong cognitive science and research focus for students working in English as a foreign language and less commonly taught languages. A major program focus includes preparation for those working, or intending to work, in programs for tertiary students and adults studying English as a foreign language and less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), e.g., East-Asian and Middle-Eastern languages, and such modern European languages as Spanish, French, Italian and German. The program draws upon the expertise of a distinguished cadre of faculty in the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and in affiliate departments such as LinguisticsMeasurement, Statistics, and Evaluation; Hearing and SpeechPhilosophyPsychologySociology; and Curriculum and Instruction.

There are four areas of specialization: second language learning, second language instruction, second language assessment, and second language use. Students select two courses in each of two areas (for a total of four courses), plus two additional electives in the area of their proposed dissertation work. In addition, all students will take two courses in quantitative and/or qualitative research methods. The eight courses (total) represent the minimum coursework requirement; some students may need remedial coursework prior to undertaking the set of eight courses, and many will wish to take courses beyond the minimum eight, based on their interests.

Current Courses in Second Language Acquisition*

AREA 1: Second Language Learning
SLAA 610 Research And Theories Of SLA
SLAA 611 Fundamentals Of Language Acquisition And Instruction
SLAA 640 Psycholinguistics
SLAA 650 Second Language Analysis
SLAA 740 Research Issues In Second Language Learning
SLAA 741 Cognitive Processes In Second Language Learning
SLAA 742 Second Language Processing
SLAA 743 Interlanguage Studies
SLAA 744 Age Effects/Maturation Constraints
SLAA 749 Special Topics In Second Language Learning

AREA 2: Second Language Instruction
SLAA 750 Instructed SLA
SLAA 751 SLA Classroom Research
SLAA 754 Task Based Language Teaching
SLAA 759 Special Topics In Second Language Instruction

AREA 3: Second Language Assessment And Research
SLAA 620 Second Language Research Methodology
SLAA 630 Second Language Testing and Assessment
SLAA 760 Research in Second Language Assessment

AREA 4: Second Language Use
SLAA 770 Sociolinguistics In Second Language Acquisition
SLAA 771 Developmental And Cross-Cultural Pragmatics
SLAA 772 Bilingualism And Multilingualism
SLAA 773 The Heritage Language Speaker

Prior to being accepted to candidacy for the Ph.D. (i.e., before writing the dissertation), students must write two qualifying papers deemed of publishable quality for a major refereed SLA journal by the examining committee of three faculty members. These papers are in lieu of comprehensive examinations. They will be presented publicly and must be approved by the committee after the presentation. They need to be in two different areas; there can be some overlap, however, between two qualifying papers or between a qualifying exam and the dissertation (the qualifying paper research can serve as a pilot study for the dissertation, for instance). A committee of three faculty members is required for each paper.

1) The student develops a topic with the advisor for the paper and consults the other two committee members.
2) The student and the committee meet and the proposal gets approved (with revisions if necessary); once approved all committee members sign the form designed for this purpose and kept by the SLA PhD program director.
3) The student gets IRB approval.
4) The student collects data.
5) The student writes paper.
6) The first reader approves draft for defense.
7) The other readers approve the draft for defense.
8) The defense is scheduled in consultation with student and all three committee members.
9) A public defense takes place (advertised to SLA students and faculty).
10) The student either passes or is asked to revise.
11) Once the student passes, i.e. after the defense or after the revisions have been approved, all committee members sign the qualifying exam form kept by the SLA PhD program director.

Once admitted to candidacy, a student will write and then defend a dissertation proposal before five faculty members, who will serve as the dissertation committee. Once the proposal is approved, the student will register for SLAA899 credits while writing the dissertation, which must make a substantial and original contribution to knowledge in the SLA field. The chair of the student's dissertation committee, in consultation with the other committee members, will determine when the dissertation is ready to be defended publicly at an oral examination. The dissertation must be approved by the five-member committee.


Foreign Language Requirement

Before graduation, all students completing the PhD in Second Language Acquisition must demonstrate three types of experience with non-native language: learning a non-native language, using a non-native language, and teaching a language to non-native speakers of that language. All three types of experience will be verified through official documentation and/or assessment as follows:

1. Language Learning.
Students must have spent at least two semesters as a student of a non-native language in a post-secondary classroom environment (6 total credits minimum) verified through transcripts. SLLC will provide this experience for any student who needs it.

2. Language Teaching.
Students must have taught a language to non-native speakers of that language for at least 1 semester, or the equivalent of 45 hours verified through contract, letter, etc. SLLC will provide this experience for any student who needs it.

3. Language Use. 
Students must show that they are able to communicate in a non-native language at the intermediate-low level on the ACTFL scale through an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI). Students whose native language is not English will be able to satisfy this requirement through their competency in English. 

These three requirements do not necessarily have to be met in the same language.


Students are required to meet with their advisor before they can register for classes. At the Ph.D. level, students are initially advised by the Director of the Program in SLA until they choose their own academic advisor (not necessarily the same as their advisor for their qualifying papers or dissertation). By the end of their second semester in the program, students should choose a permanent advisor and register this choice with the Director of the Program in SLA. In all cases, final responsibility for meeting Graduate School requirements and deadlines rests with the student, not with the advisor. Students should regularly check the graduate school website for all official deadlines. For more details on specific program requirements and procedures, please see the PhD Advising Sheet.

Financial Assistance

Students admitted to the Ph.D. program may be eligible for funding in the form of graduate assistantships or research assistantships within SLLC or on grants and contracts from the UMCP-affiliated Center for the Advanced Study of Language CASL) or the National Foreign Language Center (NFLC), depending on language expertise and the availability of positions.  There may also be stipends for participation in special research projects.  Please note that in order to be considered for any financial support, students must be full-time and their GRE scores must be on file.  If you would like to be considered for support, please indicate this on the graduate school application, downloadable at

Some limited funds for travel to national conferences may be available through SLLC when the student is presenting a paper.  However, students should also explore other possibilities for funding available through the conference organizers, external agencies or institutions, as well as the graduate school.  For more information on travel funds available through the graduate school, please visits

For students interested in the interdisciplinary study of language the Language Science Fellowship on the UMd campus offers opportunities for funding and academic development. For more information please visit Language at Maryland


Requirements for Admission

Note that prior to admission to the program, applicants must have successfully completed a bachelor's degree from an accredited university in a relevant field, e.g., SLA, linguistics, education, psychology, or applied linguistics.

General information about the admissions process to the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) is available at the Graduate School. However, some details specific to our program differ from what is posted on that site, so please be sure to follow the instructions below regarding where these materials should be sent, and what is required for admissions consideration.


Fall admission deadline: January 16th (all documentation MUST be in by this date!)

Materials Required for all UMCP Applicants

1.      An application form is available at ApplyYourself
Please use the code "SLPH" to indicate your choice of program.

2.      A non-refundable $75 application fee. If you use a credit card, you can pay for the fee online when you submit your application. Otherwise please submit the fee to the Enrollment Services Office by regular mail. Their address is:

University of Maryland College Park
Enrollment Services Operations
Application for Graduate Admission
Rm 0130 Mitchell Building
College Park, MD 20742

3.      College/university transcripts from all institutions previously or currently attended. These should be submitted to the Enrollment Services Office.
Each transcript must bear the signature of the Registrar and the seal of the granting institution, and should include the years of attendance, courses taken, grades received, class standing and the degree, certificate, or diploma received. [If you attended the University of Maryland, College Park, the Graduate School will obtain your records of courses completed on the College Park campus, but you must send the Office of the Registrar a written authorization to release the transcripts.] To facilitate the processing and review of an application, unofficial copies of transcripts from institutions other than the University of Maryland, College Park may be used for review processes.
Official transcripts are required before full admission can be granted.

4.      A Maryland In-State Status form, if you wish to apply for Maryland residency status. Students who apply online do NOT have to submit this form in hardcopy as well. Note that F-1 visa holders are not eligible for this status. For questions regarding eligibility, please contact the Residency Classification office at (301) 405-2030.


Supplemental Materials Required by the SLA Program

The SLA program requires the following supplemental materials to be uploaded as part of the application:

1.      Three letters of recommendation, preferably from faculty members who have taught you recently and who can attest to your scholarly potential in the field of SLA. References from those who know you professionally are acceptable as well. 
Be certain that your full name is included on each recommendation. 
You may download blank recommendation letter forms on the Graduate School website or set up electronic submission through the ASF.

2.      A statement of purpose, in English, describing your academic and career background and future plans, specifying why you believe the UMCP program is suitable for you, and you for it, and how you would expect to use the training received at College Park. The statement of purpose is in lieu of the separate "Statement of Goals and Research Interests" and "Statement of Experiences" listed on the Graduate School website.

3.      Writing sample: Evidence of an ability for, and desire to undertake, scholarly work appropriate for the heavily research-oriented Ph.D. in SLA, as demonstrated through a writing sample such as an excellent M.A. thesis, a seminar paper, or published articles.

4.      Verbal and quantitative GRE scores are required for all applicants. Please have ETS send your GRE scores directly to the university; the institutional code for UMCP is 5814.

5.      A TOEFL score of 620 or higher on the paper-based version [260 or higher on the computer-based version; 105 on the internet version] for students whose native language is not English,unless they completed their master's degree at an English-medium university within the previous three years. The TOEFL must have been taken within the last two years for it to be valid. Applicants should arrange for scores to be sent directly to UMCP by ETS; the institutional code for UMCP is5814.

An admissions interview may be required and will be conducted in-person or by telephone. On your application, please be sure to provide a current telephone number and e-mail address where we can reach you.

The electronic submission of application materials helps expedite the review of an application. Completed applications are reviewed by an admissions committee in each graduate degree program. The recommendations of the committees are submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School, who will make the final admission decision. Students seeking to complete graduate work at the University of Maryland for degree purposes must be formally admitted to the Graduate School by the Dean.  To ensure the integrity of the application process, the University of Maryland authenticates submitted materials through TurnItIn for Admissions.

Applicants are encouraged to contact the Hobsons online application’s helpdesk for any technical issues.  For questions related to the admissions process, prospective students may contact the Graduate School


Information for International Graduate Students

The University of Maryland is dedicated to maintaining a vibrant international graduate student community. The office of International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) is a valuable resource of information and assistance for prospective and current international students.  International applicants are encouraged to explore the services they offer, and contact them with related questions.

The University of Maryland Graduate School offers admission to international students based on academic information; it is not a guarantee of attendance.  Admitted international students will then receive instructions about obtaining the appropriate visa to study at the University of Maryland which will require submission of additional documents.  Please see the Graduate Admissions Process for International applicants for more information.


Prof. Kira Gor, Graduate Director