MA in French

The MA in French trains scholars in the literature, culture, and history of France and the Francophone world. If you have any questions about the application process, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies.

Message to Potential Applicants

The Department of French is committed to admissions that are free from bias and discrimination. We welcome applications from talented, passionate individuals from all backgrounds and strive to build a community that is diverse and inclusive. Our admissions committee approaches each application holistically, taking into consideration factors that may have had an impact on an applicant’s academic history. Admissions are not a one-size-fits-all process in which we look for a single applicant profile – rather we embrace the fact that applicants bring different skills and life experiences to the study of French and Francophone literature, history, and culture. Successful candidates come from many different national and educational backgrounds but generally have strong written and oral skills in both French and English and a record of success in the study of French and Francophone literature, culture, thought or history or in an adjacent academic field.

    MA Program FAQs

    Our students take courses on a wide array of literary, theoretical, historical and sociological topics relating to France and the Francophone world. Coursework explores different historical periods, world regions and disciplinary methodologies. For current courses, see the Columbia University Directory of Classes site.

    Our students are inspired by their enthusiasm for Francophone literature and culture and the history of the French-speaking world, but they are also training for a future career. Many are planning to apply later on to PhD programs. Others are building careers in other fields, e.g. translation, diplomacy, arts administration, secondary education, the non-profit sector, and business.

    The MA degree consists of (a minimum of) 24 credits—usually 8 graduate-level courses—and a 25-40 page thesis, written in French. The MA degree can be completed in one year or two. Students who select the one year option often write their thesis over the summer.

    The freestanding MA program is completed in 1-2 years whereas the PhD program is a 5-6 year commitment (PhD students receive their MA as the first stage of their doctorate). Students who do not wish to commit to a PhD or who feel that they need more training before they apply to PhD programs should consider applying to a freestanding MA programs.

    Unlike PhD students, MA students at Columbia do not have teaching obligations.

    See below on differences in tuition and financial packages.

    Unlike the PhD program, the MA program does not include a tuition waiver package or a stipend to cover living expenses, though the French Department is able to offer partial financial aid to qualified applicants.

    The one exception is the fully-funded MA Access Program in Modern Languages and Literatures, which serves applicants from under-represented groups or who are low-income or first-generation college students. Details of this competitive program can be found here.



    In addition to the application form required by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciencesapplicants are required to submit:

    1)    Curriculum Vitae (CV) or résumé

    2)    Statement of Academic Purpose

    The statement should explain your motivations for applying to the MA program, connecting them to previous studies or other relevant life experience. You do not have to outline a future dissertation project, but you should identify a few questions/areas of study that are of interest to you. It is important to explain why you are applying to Columbia specifically and to show that you are familiar with our program and the areas of expertise of the faculty.

    3)    Three letters of evaluation

    We prefer that your letters come from current or former professors who know your academic abilities well. It is also a firm requirement of Columbia’s Graduate school that at least two of your letters come from academic institutions.

    4)    Two writing samples

    One of the samples should be in English, the other in French. Each submission should be 10-15 pages long. Please choose work that reflects your analytical and interpretative strengths. It is fine to send an excerpt from a longer piece of work, e.g. a section of a Senior or Master’s thesis.

    5)    Toefl/IELTS scores

    All international students whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country where the official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

    Please note: for 2024 admissions, we are not requiring the GRE exam. You may submit GRE scores if you wish, but there is no requirement to do so.