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Columbia University Course/Program Name
Application closes on
National :02 Feb 
International :02 Feb 

MA American Studies (Part-Time)

 Course Level
Masters / PG
Part Time

4 Years
 Start month

 Tuition fee

27180 USD
27180 USD

Application fee

International 105 USD
National 105 USD
Institute for Research in African-American Studies
Scores accepted
IELTS (min)7.5
TOEFL-IBT (min)100
TOEFL-PBT (min)600
GRE (avg)315

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About this course

The M.A. program in American Studies at Columbia is the only graduate degree in American Studies housed in an Ethnic Studies center. This unique vantage affords a view of American life from outside, and recognizes the fundamental importance of race and ethnicity as organizing categories in American culture and society.

Students design their own curriculum from across Columbia's course listings with the help of the program director. At the end of their matriculation, students write a thesis under the advisement of faculty specialists in their area of interest.

The M.A. provides an introduction to graduate work in American Studies and its related fields. It also works as professional development for secondary educators, public historians, or culture workers from a variety of backgrounds.

The program offers opportunities to think about New York City as frame for American Studies. We regularly hold events in partnership with local cultural institutions to augment student research.

Check further details on University website

Eligibility Criteria

The admission standards and selection procedures are identical to those followed by the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences for all of its M.A. Programs (with the exception of the Liberal Studies Program). Applicants must provide a 10-15 page writing sample, three (3) letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with their academic work and history, and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

Check further details on University website

Course Modules

The program is designed with three goals in mind: to orient students within American Studies as a field, to deepen their strengths in a related disciplinary practice, and to provide space for them to conceive an interdisciplinary research agenda.

The requirements are as follows:

  • CSER 4000: Introduction to American Studies
  • CSER 4001: Methods in American Studies
  • 3 courses in a discipline traditionally associated with American Studies
  • 3 courses centered on an interdisciplinary theme or idea
  • CSER 4999: Supervised Individual Research (thesis)

The required courses can vary in content and orientation depending on the professor. Some recent versions are visible here and here.

The “Introduction to American Studies” focuses on the interpretation of primary sources, and how to write about the different genres of American culture and history. “Methods in American Studies” focuses on the history of the American and Ethnic Studies as areas of academic inquiry. Here students address issues in their own practice as researchers in relation to the major debates in the field.

With these two courses as a foundation, students design their own curriculum from courses across the university with consultation from the program director.

The three courses in a “disciplinary concentration” are chosen from one discipline related to American studies, usually corresponding to a department at Columbia. Americans Studies originated at the intersection of Literature and History, but is now is practiced in a wide variety of institutional contexts. Many of our students go on to Ph.D. programs in these fields, and it is crucial that they become competent in a form of disciplinary practice during their time here.

The three courses in an “interdisciplinary theme” allow students to pursue an idea that will form the basis of their thesis research across the disciplines. This idea should be broad enough that it will appear on course listings in multiple departments. Interdiciplinary themes should also be chosen as an opportunity to build a foundation for the thesis project. In the past these have included: "Public Housing in America," "Drug Use and Drug Policy," and "The U.S. and Globalization."

Students must consult with the program director before registering for classes each term, and formulate their trajectory according to the course offerings. A minimum of 30 points is required to graduate. You cannot take more than two 3000 level classes, and you must take at least one 6000 level class. All of these courses must be taken for letter grades (grade option "L" in SSOL).

To track your progress, use the following form: Degree Checklist
Foreign language courses may not be counted toward the American Studies M.A. degree. However, given that important work in American Studies relies on research in foreign languages, students are welcome and encouraged to enroll in Columbia language courses.

At the 6000 level and above, courses may require instructor permission. Students should provide the instructor with a cogent story of their background and/or how they figure the course fits into their intellectual trajectory.
TIME-TO-DEGREE and the Residence Unit System
The MA program has traditionally accommodated students who are working full-time and getting their degrees part-time, as well as students who are working on their degrees full-time. It is possible to do the degree in a full-time academic year, but it is a very busy year, and does not leave a lot of extra time to work on research outside of the classroom. Most students, even those who are dedicating themselves substantially to their studies, tend to take at least three terms, with the idea of devoting special attention to their thesis work in the last term. The extra time also allows people to take advantage of extracurricular and community activities around Columbia which can be so important to life as a graduate student. However you choose to approach this is your decision, but do seek the advice of your teachers and advisors about getting the most out of your time here.
The first place to begin strategizing your time as a student is the residence unit system, which is the how registration at Columbia works. This is explained at much greater length on the GSAS website here. You can also find the current fees attached to each enrollment category in that link. The relevant registration categories are as follows:
Residence Unit (less than or equal to 20 points)
Half Residence Unit (three or fewer courses)
Quarter Residence Unit (two or fewer courses)
Each of these has a corresponding call number which you can find in the course listings. You may choose to approach the program at any reasonable pace, within the parameters set by this system, and in no more than three academic years. International students are required by U.S. law to maintain full-time status, and so must enroll in full residence units for the whole of their time at Columbia (except in the final term during thesis research).

Internship Points
Some students choose to a ugment their studies with internships either on campus or at institutions around the city. Since students are required (by law) to receive college credit on the way to doing unpaid internships, the MA program offers a course structure through which students can receive credit towards their MA degrees for work done in relevant internship. The course number is CSER 4997 "Internship." It is only available through consultation with the director, and involves a review process by a Columbia faculty person. A sample syllabus, describing the review process, can be viewed here. Students have done internships, through this course, with documentary film companies, artists, and especially with the Wallach Art Gallery here at Columbia, with which who we maintain an internship program, sending at least one student per year to help out with research and administrative work around the gallery's many exhibitions. If you are interested in this, please see the director.
Academic Progress
Students must maintain an average of B (3.00 GPA) or higher to remain in good standing. Those who do not make satisfactory progress may be placed on probation or dismissed from the program.

Check further details on University website

How to Apply

All prospective students must apply using the online application. Printed applications are not available.

You must specify in your application the department, doctoral program subcommittee, or free-standing master’s degree program in which you wish to study. If required, you must indicate the sub-field of study and the term for which you are applying. A complete application includes:

  • transcripts of all previous post-secondary education
  • a statement of academic purpose
  • a curriculum vitae or résumé
  • three letters of recommendation from academic sources
  • GRE scores and, if applicable, results of the TOEFL or IELTS examination to fulfill the English Proficiency Requirement
  • a sample of scholarly writing, if required by the department or program
  • payment of the application fee

Check further details on University website

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