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 Cultural Studies is a one-year, self-standing program, at the end of which candidates receive a Master’s degree. The Ph.D. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures 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 a Master of Arts in Latin American and Iberian Cultures with a concentration in Hispanic Cultural Studies at Columbia, may I continue on to the Ph.D.?

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

May I apply to the Ph.D. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures 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. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures 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 about financial aid?

There is no financial aid from either the department or the GSAS to pursue the Master of Arts in Hispanic Cultural 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. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures 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, Professor Alessandra Russo, 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 will interview the short-listed students by Skype or Zoom. The interviews will take place between the end of January and mid-February.

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 (LAIC), 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. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures degrees at LAIC. Comparative Literature and Society is then 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.

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.

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.

Is it a problem if the results of my English proficiency tests will not be available before the admission’s deadline?

Schedule your tests as soon as possible. The test scores must be available for the review committee in early January.

For more information, please contact Professor Alessandra Russo, Director of Graduate Studies.

Last Updated 6 years ago