Programs / Graduate

Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Admissions

What is the difference between the M.A. program and the Ph.D. program?

The Master of Arts in Hispanic Studies is a one-year, self-standing program, at the end of which candidates receive a Master’s degree. The Ph.D. is a five-year program. All graduate courses taught in the department are available to both Master’s and Ph.D. students. Please consult also the Graduate School’s Frequently Asked Questions page. Both programs can only be undertaken on a full-time basis.

If I receive an Master of Arts in Hispanic Studies at Columbia, may I continue on to the Ph.D.?

The Master of Arts in Hispanic Studies is a free-standing terminal degree program. If you wish to be considered for the Ph.D. degree you must apply formally to the Ph.D. program. If admitted, most of the work you did as part of the Master’s program is credited toward the Ph.D. degree.

May I apply to the Ph.D. program with only a bachelor’s degree?


What if I already have a master’s degree? Will I receive credit for previous graduate work if I enter the Ph.D. program?

Students who have received a master’s degree in Spanish or in a closely related field from another institution can petition to receive residence credit as well as academic credit for graduate work done elsewhere. Such students can receive a maximum credit of two residence units and academic credit for not more than four course units. The amount of academic credit is determined at the end of the first year, after a review of the student’s academic and scholarly record at the previous institution(s).

My M.A. degree (or undergraduate degree) is not in Spanish. Will that hinder my chances of being admitted?

We welcome applications from students who have had training in other disciplines. In the case of students admitted to the doctoral program, the amount of credit granted for postgraduate work done in another institution will be determined individually and will depend on exposure to Hispanic topics and larger theoretical issues received while enrolled in the previous program. The applicant will also have to show superior proficiency in Spanish.

What kind of writing sample should I submit?

The writing sample (10-15 double-spaced pages or approximately 3,000 – 4,500 words) should be an essay that shows how you approach a given text or subject and that possesses critical sophistication. It is usually—but not necessarily—a paper written as a final requirement for a course or a well-chosen fragment of an undergraduate or M.A. thesis. It should have a bibliography that evinces research and an awareness of previous critical work on the topic. It should preferably be written in Spanish, but a paper written in English that is indicative of your critical and interpretive skills will also be acceptable.

What about financial aid?

There is no financial aid from either the department or the GSAS to pursue the Master of Arts in Hispanic Studies. For information about the costs associated with this program see the relevant page in the GSAS web site.

Students admitted to the Ph.D. program are typically offered a five-year award that combines fellowships and teaching assistantships as well as full tuition and health insurance. Normally students hold a fellowship in years one and five (during which they have no teaching responsibilities) and a teaching assistantship in years two, three, and four. U.S. citizens may also secure loans or external fellowships to subsidize their graduate career.

Is there financial aid available during the summer months?

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences provides annual summer research stipends as part of the multi-year funding package for doctoral students. Students must be in good standing and making satisfactory academic progress in order to receive this funding. Students who have a strong teaching record are also eligible to serve as language instructors during the summer session administered by the School of Professional Studies.

Are there funds available to sponsor student participation in conferences and symposia?

The department awards funds annually to doctoral students who are invited to deliver a paper in a significant scholarly conference. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences also provides funds for that purpose.

May I visit the department during the year in which I apply to the program?

We regret that we cannot accommodate the large number of requests that we receive to visit the campus while the university is in session. Applicants are encouraged to contact the Director of Graduate Studies if they have questions that are not addressed in this or related pages of this site. Upon completion of the first round of consideration of applications to the doctoral program, the department invites a small number of finalists to campus in the spring semester for a visit that includes interviews with faculty and current students, familiarization with the university and its facilities, and the experience of living in New York City.

May I combine doctoral work in Latin American & Iberian Cultures with my interest in Comparative Literature, Women Studies, or Medieval and Renaissance Studies?

Applicants interested in the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia (ICLS) should apply directly to the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures, clearly indicating their interest in Comparative Literature and Society on the cover of their application or in the subfield section in the Application (Part 1). Copies of all such applications are forwarded to the ICLS, which has a separate admissions process from that of the department. Applicants are informed about the outcome of both admissions processes in due course. Students may also apply to the ICLS after having matriculated at Columbia. If accepted into the program, students receive the M.Phil. and Ph.D. through Spanish and Portuguese; Comparative Literature and Society is listed on their transcript as a certificate of concentration. Please see the ICLS page on requirements. Students can also obtain a Certificate in Feminist Scholarship through the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWAG) at Columbia, and a Certificate in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from the Interdepartmental Committee on Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Prior to receiving an offer of admission, should I contact the faculty member who I intend to request as my sponsor, so I may ask if he or she will be available to advise me?

No. Admitted students will have the opportunity to get to know the faculty of the Ph.D. program throughout the courses in which they enroll at LAIC. Beginning in the spring semester of the second year, students will engage in their dissertation research projects in collaboration with the faculty members who have previously agreed to advise them.

May I forward any application materials directly to a faculty member or to the Director of Graduate Studies so I may discuss them individually during the admissions process?

No. Each prospective student’s dossier is thoroughly reviewed by a committee, but no materials will be read in advance of the selection process.

For more information, contact Professor Graciela Montaldo, Director of Graduate Studies.

Last Updated 5 years ago