Columbia SPPO

Frequently Asked Questions about Graduate Admissions

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

The M.A. 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 Hispanic Studies is a five-year program, at the end of which students receive the Ph.D. degree. All graduate courses taught in the department are available to both Master's and Ph.D. students. The deadline for receipt of applications to the Ph.D. program in Latin American and Iberian Cultures is December 18th, 2013; the Master's in Hispanic Cultural Studies has an application deadline of April 1st, 2014. 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 M.A. in Hispanic Cultural Studies at Columbia, can I continue on to the Ph.D.?

The Master's in Hispanic Cultural 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.

Can I apply to the Ph.D. program with only a bachelor's degree?

Although proportions change with every incoming class, roughly half of the matriculants in the doctoral program apply after having finished just a bachelor's degree. Such students have no difficulties in fulfilling the program's requirements.

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 Master's 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) should be a paper that shows how you approach a given text or subject and that possesses critical sophistication. It is usually—but not necessarily—an essay written as a final requirement for a course or a well-chosen fragment of an undergraduate or master's 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.

How important are the GRE scores?

GRE scores are one of a number of elements that are taken into consideration when evaluating an application for the M.A. or the Ph.D. programs. They are not insignificant, but neither are they fully determinative. The faculty is also cognizant of the fact that test-taking is a culturally-sited skill.

What about financial aid?

There is no financial aid from either the department or the GSAS to pursue the M.A. 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. program are typically offered a five-year award that combines fellowships and teaching assistantships and which also includes 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. Doctoral students who enter with a Master's degree from another institution receive advanced standing and are therefore offered four years of support. U.S. students may also secure loans to subsidize their graduate career. Fellowship and Teaching Assistantship stipends for 2009-10 will be $22,500.

Is there financial aid available during the summer months?

Every year the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences makes available funds to the department to sponsor summer research projects by doctoral students. Students are asked to submit detailed and reasoned research proposals to the department, and awards are made based on the merits of the project. Students who have a strong teaching record are also eligible to serve as instructors of language and culture courses during Columbia's comprehensive summer session.

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.

Can 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.

Can I combine doctoral work in Hispanic Studies 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.

What are the areas of interest available in the department?

The department recognizes a number of general areas of interest: Medieval, Early Modern Peninsular / Colonial, Modern Peninsular (XVIII-XXI centuries), Modern Latin American (XIX-XXI centuries), Transatlantic Cultural Relations, and Hispanic Media Studies. These rubrics are meant to provide intellectual foundation and guidance, not to serve as limits for work undertaken by individual students. The faculty is very responsive to specific needs that students may have in pursuing their intellectual projects within and outside the department. The department does not offer a graduate program in Portuguese; it does, however, offer graduate-level courses in Luso-Brazilian culture. Students—especially those concentrating in Latin American culture—are strongly encouraged to take these courses.

For more information, contact the department's Director of Graduate Studies.