Linguistics Undergrad: UMass Amherst vs. NYU

Hi all! 22F here; I left my HWC in 2019 and have been working for the last two years. I’m hugely into linguistics and have been researching at a language acquisition lab alongside my other various jobs. I’m finally getting around to finishing the last two years of my undergraduate linguistics degree and was accepted to two incredible choices: UMass Amherst and NYU.

I have my own list of pros, which I’ll share at the bottom, but there are no serious cons to either one and I wanted to see if anyone had any guidance on how to go about making this decision (I have to choose in 72 hours which is stressing me out). I would also appreciate any insight about the undergrad experience at each one, especially for a student starting in their mid-20s! NB: I would like to go into sociolinguistics

NYU Pros:

  • Interdisciplinary, experimental department
  • Well-funded, highly specific research laboratories (including a sociolinguistics lab!!)
  • Has specialized classes that fit my interests perfectly
  • Has the language support I need to research my thesis (Dutch via Columbia, Portuguese, Yiddish)
  • New York City (a huge pro in itself) and out of state
  • Unmatched Jewish community
  • Family nearby
  • Current students have confirmed that the department is caring, understanding, and accessible
  • BIG PRO: S.O. of 5 years lives 20 min from campus (and we’ve been long-distance forever)

UMass Pros:

  • Excellent instructors
  • Strong linguistics community
  • Also has well funded, highly specific research laboratories (and gorgeous facilities)
  • Focus on generative grammar (something I’m bad at and want to improve upon)
  • Strong Portuguese program (that was my initial minor)
  • STPEC program is something I would love to learn
  • In-state tuition
  • Far enough away from home that it’s not a huge issue (I prefer NYU location though)
  • Top 3 Linguistics program globally

The only con I can think of is that UMass has a slightly more rigid understanding of linguistics than NYU and not as many sociolinguistic opportunities. I am privileged enough that money is not a massive issue at either school, but it is definitely something to take into consideration. I’m currently slightly leaning toward NYU. TIA for your help with this decision!!

girl do NYU you know you want to and the ling program is incredible but NYU overall cmon

Congratulations in getting into two great programs!

If you really think hard, what is the main reason you haven’t just gone ahead and chosen NYU already. Is it that UMass ranks higher?

Because based on everything else, it sounds like NYU fits your needs and wants more than UMass, and that includes being close to your SO, which is no small thing.

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If finances aren’t a huge difference/concern, then the choice is easily NYU.

If the money REALLY makes absolutely no difference to you, and you are absolutely sure that NYU’s department meets your needs, then I’d say that being in NYC and being near your sig other (finally!) wins out for you. But if you’re in-state for UMASS, you’re looking at a difference of almost 50K/yr for NYU vs UMASS. Assuming someone were going to hand you a 100K check at graduation from UMASS, and not at graduation from NYU, would it have been worth it? Is 100K chump change for your family? If the answer is no, it’s not chump change, then you really have to seriously consider UMASS.

UMass Amherst’s linguistics undergrad is possibly the best in the nation, even in the world. The campus is lovely, the food is great, they’ve got some really nice dorms. There’s a good Hillel and a decent-sized Jewish community. There is a large group (for linguistics) of undergrads, all ling-nerding together about their favorite ling-nerd topics. Plus UMass Amherst is really good on foreign languages, too. Hampshire college has the Yiddish book center, and I don’t think that a language exists that is not taught at one of the 5-college consortium schools.

Honestly, I think that the strongest reason for you to choose NYU is location. Question is, is it worth 100K to you to be in NYC for the next 2 years? No one would have anything other than respect for an undergrad degree in linguistics from UMass Amherst, even though NYU is overall ranked more highly, in general. But in linguistics, UMass Amherst’s department is at the top of the heap.

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Ha! I just saw that your screen name is ling-nerd! Please tell me that you don’t call toddlers ‘language acquisition devices’.

About being an oldster at UMASS vs NYU. I think that you probably wouldn’t be thrilled as a person 4-5 yrs older, to be living in the dorms at ANY college. But living off campus in NYC is SO much more expensive, space is at such a premium, that unless your family is very wealthy, and you don’t mind living in a room made out of walling off part of the living room in an apartment, and paying through the nose for it, you’d probably be better off in terms of living quarters at UMASS Amherst, where there are better and cheaper off campus options. There are grad students galore at UMass, so I don’t think you’d feel as weird as you would, say, returning to a LAC at age 22.

FYI, Dutch is taught only as Supervised Independent Language via 5 college consortium. What they do is get a grad student or prof who knows Dutch, and they supervise you doing it as an independent study with them. If you’re highly motivated, and you have a good grad student or prof to work with, it goes well. If you need classroom structure to keep you going, not so much.

NYU due to the cultural opportunities in NYC, including the UN and Portuguese cultural center.