Spanish and Portuguese Graduate Admissions FAQs
Thank you for your interest in pursuing graduate study at Illinois!
Below is a list of the most common questions that applicants have. Please take a moment to look them over, and if you do not find the answer to your question here, please feel free to contact the Director of Graduate Studies at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Do I need to take the GRE?
- Does your department/program have minimum required scores on the GRE?
- Do I need to take the TOEFL or IELTS and what are the minimum required scores on the TOEFL or IELTS?
- Do I need to do anything special to be considered for scholarships (fellowships) and teaching assistantships?
- Can I start your MA or PhD program in Spring rather than Fall?
- How many students do you accept each year?
- What do the profiles of successful applicants look like?
- What application materials do I need to submit? / How do I apply?
- What is the application deadline?
- What happens if I miss the priority deadline?
- Do I need to submit official transcripts with my application?
- Do I need to submit a certified English translation of my transcripts with my application?
- I am still working toward my BA or MA. Can I still apply or do I need to wait until my degree has been conferred?
- Do my recommendation letters have to be written in English?
- How do my recommenders submit their letters?
- When will I find out whether I have been accepted to the program?
- How much will it cost me to complete an MA or PhD?
- What is the yearly stipend for teaching assistants?
- Can I live (well) on the teaching assistant stipend?
- What research resources are available in your program?
- What kind of research support/funding is available to students in your program?
- Why should I choose Illinois over other programs?
- What is the job placement rate for graduates from your MA and PhD?/ What kinds of jobs do graduates from your MA and PhD get?
- How long does it take to complete the MA?
- How long does it take to complete the PhD?
- What are the requirements of the MA program?
- What are the requirements of the PhD program?
- I don’t have an MA. Can I apply directly to the PhD?
- I’m not sure whether to apply to the MA or the PhD. What should I do?
It depends on whether you are a U.S.-born or international student.
It is recommended that U.S.-born students take the GRE. However, if you were born and raised in Puerto Rico, you do not need to take the GRE unless you attended schools that used the English language as the medium of instruction.
International students are not required to take the GRE.
2. Does your department/program have minimum required scores on the GRE?
The Department does not have minimum required scores on the GRE. We have found that the GRE is not the best predictor of academic success in our programs, so we do not weight it heavily in admissions decisions. If you happen to have very high scores on the GRE, it could help you to be more competitive for campus-level fellowships, however. But if you don’t have high scores on the GRE, don’t worry, as long as your letters of recommendation, writing samples, and statement of purpose are strong.
3. Do I need to take the TOEFL or IELTS and what are the minimum required scores on the TOEFL or IELTS?
Nonnative speakers of English need to take either the TOEFL or the IELTS, unless they were
--raised in one of the countries on this list or
--have completed at least two years of full-time study at an English language medium of instruction university in an English-speaking country no more than 5 years prior to the semester of first enrollment at UIUC.
In order to be able to be admitted, students must have a minimum of 88 total on the TOEFL iBT or a 6.5 total with a score of 6 or higher in all sub-sections on the IELTS.
However, in order to hold a teaching assistantship, by Illinois law, students must have at least a 24 on the speaking section of the TOEFL, or an 8 on the speaking section of the IELTS.
4.Do I need to do anything special to be considered for scholarships (fellowships) and teaching assistantships?
No. We automatically consider every applicant for all possible forms of financial aid, including scholarships (fellowships) and teaching assistantships. In the online application system, you will be asked to indicate your preference in rank order, but be assured that we consider all students for all funding possibilities.
5. Can I start your MA or PhD program in Spring rather than Fall?
No. All incoming students join the MA or PhD program in Fall.
6. How many students do you accept each year?
Because we accept only as many students as we can support with financial aid (fellowships, teaching assistantships, or research assistantships), the exact number of students we can accept varies from year to year. It is determined primarily by how much funding we have available and how many students graduated during the previous academic year. In recent years, we have typically accepted 10-20 students per year in total, across all of our MA and PhD programs.
7. What do the profiles of successful applicants look like?
There is no one profile that describes our students. That said, all of our students have strong language skills (in writing and speaking) and come highly recommended by their letter writers.
At the MA level, we accept students with a range of academic backgrounds. Usually MA students have majored in one of the languages of our program, although this is not always the case. The MA provides broad training in the areas of Hispanic Linguistics, Spanish Literatures/Cultures, or Portuguese, so no special focus is expected for students coming into the MA.
At the PhD level, we look for students to have a clear idea of the specific area in which they intend to focus their research (although this may change during the course of the PhD.) We accept PhD students when there is a clear synergy between the research interests of one or more of our faculty and that student.
8. What application materials do I need to submit? / How do I apply?
Unless you are currently a graduate student in a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign program, you will complete your application and submit all materials online, through Apply Yourself. If you are a current graduate student in a UIUC program, contact the DGS for application instructions at email@example.com.
In addition to filling out demographic information about yourself, the application will require you to submit the following:
- 2 statements of purpose: 1 Academic and 1 Personal
Academic: Please use the Academic Statement of Purpose to describe (within 1000 words): (1) your academic interests, (2) your academic background, preparation, and training, including any relevant professional experiences, (3) your reasons for pursuing graduate studies in this specific program, and (4) your professional goals. Your academic statement may be written in either English or the language of specialization.
Personal: Please use the Personal Statement to describe (within 500 words) how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Provide insight on your potential to contribute to a community of inclusion, belonging, and respect in which scholars with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn and collaborate productively and positively together. Your personal statement must be written in English for fellowship consideration.
- CV/resume (optional)
Provide scanned copies of your transcripts (a complete list of all the courses you’ve taken and the grades you received) and any certificates of degree completion or diplomas for all post-secondary schools attended (undergraduate and graduate programs). English translations should be provided when applicable, preferably from the school attended. We will accept translations done by the applicant. They should follow the same format as the original document. Official documents (original or “attested” copies) will be required if you are admitted.
- Writing sample
About 20 pages of writing from one or two sources (e.g., term papers or research papers; it's fine if the two papers are longer than 20 pages). It is best to send a sample in English and another one in the language of the program to which you are applying (Spanish or Portuguese), so that the committee can judge your writing in both languages. Please upload to the online application in the Program Specific Question 1 section.
- Letters of recommendation
We require 3 letters, preferably from professors familiar with your work. When you fill out the online application, you will include email addresses for all of your references. They will automatically receive emails from Apply Yourself with instructions on how to upload their letters of reference to your online application. If they don’t receive this email or have trouble uploading their letters, they should contact SLCL Grad Student Services.
- GRE scores (domestic students)
Current GRE scores are recommended from all domestic applicants who are native English speakers. GRE scores are recommended for non-native speakers of English only if they have earned a degree in an institution of higher education in which English is the primary language of instruction. The exam must have been taken no more than 5 years prior to the start of your first semester at UIUC. Applicants should have their scores sent by ETS to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, institution code #1836, dept. #0000. (We do not use department codes here, but ETS will ask for one.) No minimum scores required.
- English test scores (international students)
All applicants whose native language is not English are required to submit a TOEFL iBT or Academic IELTS score report. The test must have been taken no more than 2 years prior to the start of your first semester at UIUC. Minimum score requirements for admission are 88 total on the TOEFL iBT, or 6.5 total with a score of 6 or higher in all sub-sections on the IELTS.
This requirement may be waived if you have completed at least 2 academic years of full-time study (or have completed a graduate degree) at an English-language university in an English-speaking country no more than 5 years prior to your first semester at UIUC. The requirement may also be waived if you were raised in and/or went to school in one of the countries on this list.
These waivers are for admission purposes only and do not provide an exemption from the English proficiency requirement for international teaching assistants.
In order to hold a teaching assistantship (our most widely available source of financial aid), all applicants whose native language is not English must pass the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT with a minimum score of 24, or the speaking section of the IELTS with a minimum score of 8. If you have taken the TOEFL in the past, please email the old results to the DGS to see if there is a way to waive this requirement (even if previous TOEFL scores will have likely expired, there might be other options depending on the scores your received in the past).
This requirement is not waived like the admissions requirement above, and no teaching assistantship will be awarded prior to passing one of these exams.
We would appreciate receiving your official score report by the application deadline or shortly thereafter, so please arrange to take any of these tests as early as possible in the application process. Have ETS send the TOEFL iBT score report to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, institution code #1836, dept. #00. If you took the IELTS, please upload the score report to your online application.
- Application fee
You will be able to pay the application fee ($70 for US students, $90 for international students) through the secure website by credit card.
9. What is the application deadline?
There are two application deadlines: one in early December and one in early February. In order to be considered for the full range of funding opportunities, you are encouraged to apply by December 1st, 2021. Applications will still be considered, including TAships, until February 1st, 2022. Please try to have all of your application materials (including your letters of recommendation) in the system by this time.
10. What happens if I miss the priority deadline?
We do not close the application portal on the early December priority deadline. Instead, we continue to accept applications until all of our available spots have been filled. So don’t worry if you missed the priority deadline. Some fellowships are no longer available after the priority deadline, but we still accept (and fund) students (with fellowships and/or teaching assistantships) who apply after that date.
11. Do I need to submit official transcripts with my application?
No. For application purposes, you are free to submit unofficial transcripts. If you are accepted, you will then be asked to provide official transcripts just prior to enrolling your first semester on campus.
12. Do I need to submit a certified English translation of my transcripts with my application?
No. If your transcripts are in a language other than English, we request an unofficial translation, which you are free to do yourself. We ask that you follow the format of the original document so that we can see a line-by-line comparison of the original and translated document.
If you are admitted to our program and your final official transcript is not in English, you will be asked to provide a translation and have it verified here. (You can do the translation yourself, or have it done professionally, but either way it must then be verified by faculty on campus.)
13. I am still working toward my BA or MA. Can I still apply or do I need to wait until my degree has been conferred?
You do not need to wait until your degree is conferred to apply. As long as you complete all of your degree requirements by the Fall you begin our program, it is OK. At that point, if your degree has not yet been conferred, we would need documentation stating that you have completed all degree requirements.
14. Do my recommendation letters have to be written in English?
Strictly speaking, no. Our admissions committee members can read Spanish and Portuguese, so for consideration by the committee, the letters do not need to be written in English. However, if you are nominated for School or campus-level fellowships, other committees will evaluate your application package, including your letters of recommendation. So if at all possible, have your recommenders write in English.
15. How do my recommenders submit their letters?
In the online application system, you will enter the contact information for your letter writers, including email addresses. Once you submit your application, the system will automatically send an email containing a link to each recommender. S/he will use the link to upload a letter to your file.
If your recommenders do not receive the link or have trouble uploading the letter, they should contact SLCL Graduate Student Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
16. When will I find out whether I have been accepted to the program?
We notify students (by emailed letter) as soon as we can. Because admissions is a “rolling” process, meaning that we continue to accept students until we have filled all of our available spots, it is unfortunately not possible to give you a set date by which you will hear from us. If you have not heard from us by mid-February, please feel free to write to the Director of Graduate Studies (email@example.com) to check the status of your application.
17. How much will it cost me to complete an MA or PhD?
Because we only accept as many students as we can support financially, there is very little cost to you to get an MA or PhD here. All students have a teaching assistantship, a research assistantship, a fellowship, or a combination of them and receive a stipend in the form of a monthly paycheck. Students are responsible for paying fees in the amount of approximately $500-$530 per semester, and these fees cover access to student services, such as the gym and the health center.
18. What is the yearly stipend for teaching assistants?
The minimum stipend for teaching assistants for academic year 2021-2022 will be $19,300. It typically increases by a small percentage each year.
19. Can I live (well) on the teaching assistant stipend?
Yes! Living in Champaign-Urbana is significantly cheaper than living in the areas where many of our peer institutions are located. Keep this in mind when you are comparing offers from other programs. We recommend that you look at a cost of living calculator to make an informed decision. Many are available free on the internet, and you can find some by Googling “cost of living calculator”.
In our experience, students can live comfortably (albeit frugally) on the teaching assistant stipend.
20. What research resources are available in your program?
No matter which program you are considering, Illinois has an excellent array of resources to help you do world-class research. Here are just a few highlights:
- Illinois has one of the largest university libraries in the country, with more than 20 million volumes. Many collections (e.g., our holdings on Brazil) are world-renowned. You will rarely find that you can’t find what you are looking for at our library, and if you should need something not in our collections, you have easy access to request materials from interlibrary loan.
- Our students have access to a number of research labs (in our own building) with state-of-the-art equipment for conducting scientific research:
21. What kind of research support/funding is available to students in your program?
There is a wide array of research support/funding available to our students, almost all of it on a competitive basis.
In the period from 2010-2015, graduate students in Spanish and Portuguese won a total of $1.26 million in funding to support their research!
Here are some of the most common sources of funding that our students receive:
- Conference Travel Awards (to provide funds for students to travel to conferences to present their research)
- CLACS Tinker Grants for Summer Field Research in Latin America (to provide funds toward travel expenses for research in either linguistics or literatures/cultures in Latin America)
- Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships (summer and academic year fellowships to enable students to focus on studying critical, less commonly taught languages). Students in our programs often get these to study Brazilian Portuguese, Quechua, and other indigenous languages that fit with their research interests.
- Graduate College Dissertation Travel Grant (to help cover the cost of travel related to dissertation research , at either the dissertation proposal stage or at the final data collection stage)
- Graduate College Dissertation Completion Fellowship
- SLCL Dissertation Completion Fellowship
Both Dissertation Completion Fellowships are open to students during the last year they will be writing their dissertation. The awards provide a generous stipend ($17,000-20,000) to enable students to focus solely on their dissertation, without having any teaching or other work obligation.
22. Why should I choose Illinois over other programs?
Please take a look at this short presentation about what makes Illinois a great place for graduate study.(link)
Here are just a few reasons:
- Excellent research facilities
- Dedicated, well-published faculty
- Affordable cost of living
- All accepted students receive funding so out-of-pocket costs are minimal
But the best reason of all is that our PhD graduates GET JOBS!!
- We have a 100% placement rate from 2010-2015 in our PhD programs. (All of our students who got PhDs during that time got jobs in the year immediately after graduation!)
23. What is the job placement rate for graduates from your MA and PhD?/ What kinds of jobs do graduates from your MA and PhD get?
MA: We have not tracked our M.A. graduates’ placement systematically, although anecdotally we can say that many go on to jobs in the private sector, as well as in education, both as teachers at the K-12 level and at the post-secondary (community college and college) level.
PhD: In the past five years, 100% of our PhD graduates who sought employment in the year following graduation found it. In no small part because students graduate with very strong research backgrounds, excellent teaching profiles, and notable service experience, the doctoral programs in Spanish and Portuguese have an excellent job placement record. The 100% placement rate and the fact that our graduates are placed in a range of academic institutions, from large research universities to liberal arts colleges, as well as in government and private sector jobs, speaks to the depth, breadth, and portability of our students’ graduate training. To see where our PhD graduates are now, take a look at our placements page.
24. How long does it take to complete the MA?
Our MA programs are designed to be completed in four semesters (2 years).
25. How long does it take to complete the PhD?
Students typically take 4-6 additional years beyond the MA to complete the PhD. The timeframe depends largely on the extent to which the student knows what s/he wants to focus on when s/he begins the program and on the nature of the research required.
26. What are the requirements of the MA program?
The requirements of the MA programs are detailed here. All of the MA programs require a minimum of 32 hours of coursework (where each course is worth 4 hours). In the fourth semester, students in the MA in Spanish Literatures and Cultures or the MA in Portuguese take MA examinations based on MA reading lists, whereas students in the MA in Spanish Linguistics write a research paper, which must be turned in during the fourth semester. A passing result on the MA exams (Literatures and Cultures) or the research paper (Linguistics) is required for graduation.
27. What are the requirements of the PhD program?
The requirements of the PhD programs are detailed here. All PhDs require 64 hours of coursework (where each course is 4 hours). In practice, students often take many more hours of coursework, as recommended by their advisor, to ensure that they have appropriate breadth and depth in the field. Students in Literatures and Cultures complete written preliminary exams after finishing their coursework and must pass these to continue on to the dissertation proposal and the dissertation, the defense and deposit of which are the final requirements for the PhD. Students in Linguistics complete two qualifying papers after finishing their coursework and must pass these to continue on to the dissertation proposal and the dissertation, the defense and deposit of which are the final requirements for the PhD.
28. I don’t have an MA. Can I apply directly to the PhD?
No. If you do not have an MA in the field in which you intend to pursue a PhD, you should apply to our MA program. This is to ensure that you have sufficient background to be successful at the PhD level. If you are in one of our MA programs and you decide to apply to one of our PhD programs, you can do so through an internal (free) application process during the Fall of your second year in the MA program.
29. I’m not sure whether to apply to the MA or the PhD. What should I do?
Typically, if you have a MA in the field or in a closely related field, you should apply to the PhD. If you do not have an MA in the field, you should apply to the MA program. If you are unsure which to choose, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies at firstname.lastname@example.org for guidance.