Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Program Category: MA Programs
Director of Graduate Studies: Susan Boynton
Degree Programs: Full-Time/Part-Time: Free-Standing MA

For the MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, students must take a combination of courses in art history, religion, history, philosophy, literature or other relevant fields offered by departments in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Students concentrate in one area while also exploring other aspects of the life, thought, and culture of the Middle Ages. 

The MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies provides the opportunity to undertake a year of graduate level work in any relevant field or fields of interest. The program is appropriate for students who will go on to apply to PhD programs as well as for those who wish to complete a terminal MA. The three central elements of the program are:

  1. language study tailored to the students’ needs and interests
  2. coursework in which students work with original manuscripts, documents, or early printed books
  3. an original research project to be presented as an MA thesis

Although most MA students attend full time, they may also obtain the MA through part-time study during the academic year; they can also enroll during the summer. But it is a requirement of the program that part-time students complete the degree in no more than four years, and that they be continuously registered.

The curriculum requires coursework totaling 30 points (credits), including an MA thesis. Students generally take four courses each semester, one of which is a language course. In the second semester, one of the three non-language courses will involve preparation of the MA thesis, which will likely be completed over the summer. The program requires one elective course focusing on the study of manuscripts, documents, or early printed books (a list of approved courses will be provided at the beginning of each term). The program’s flexible structure enables students (in consultation with their academic advisors) to design a course of study that meets their goals.

Special Admissions Requirements

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.

The statement of academic purpose allows the university to evaluate your ability to succeed academically and the reasons you wish to undertake the degree. It should describe your academic interests and plans for graduate study at Columbia; mention relevant coursework, professional experience or other activity; and explain clearly the relation of your studies to your plans upon receiving the MA.

The writing sample should be a paper of 15 to 20 pages, or a similarly-sized coherent excerpt from a longer paper that you have written for a course. Alternatively, you may provide a focused essay written in an academic style that examines an article, book, exhibit, or event relevant to your field of interest.

A minimum of two academic references are required for all applicants to GSAS. If you have not been recently enrolled in an academic program, you may submit a third, professional reference.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the TOEFL or IELTS exams. For more information, refer to the Information for International Students page.

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.


FLAS Fellowships are available for students entering in the fall. If you are applying for the FLAS Fellowship, you must submit your admission application, including the FLAS essay, by the fellowship application deadline.