Frequently Asked Questions

The M.A. in Global Thought program welcomes applicants who have performed well in any academic discipline, and who demonstrate an interest in the study of global issues in an interdisciplinary setting. Given the thematic and disciplinary breadth of the program, applicants from a range of professional backgrounds and undergraduate experiences are invited to apply. Applicants should demonstrate an interest in global issues through professional, international, research, or other experience.

General Questions

How long will it take me to complete the M.A. in Global Thought?

Students must finish the M.A. within two consecutive semesters by completing 30 credit units and their M.A. essays. To support the pursuit of original research for the essay on this schedule, students enroll in two semester-long M.A. seminars, which constitute 20% of the course load for the degree.

What is the timeline for applying to, enrolling in, and completing the M.A. in Global Thought?

Applications are open each year from October through March. Accepted students begin the program in September and graduate the following May. Due to the highly structured nature of the program, we do not offer a spring semester start.

What are the research and writing requirements of the M.A.?

In addition to successfully completing their courses, students submit the M.A. essay, a research paper of the length and quality of an article in a scholarly journal (approximately 35 pages) by mid-April of their Spring semester. Students collaborate with faculty as they articulate and pursue their research topics.

What are the language requirements for completing the M.A.?

To complete the M.A. degree, students must demonstrate intermediate proficiency in a language other than English upon arrival in the fall by completing the Columbia language placement exam, or an ACTFL or IETLS recognized qualifying exam in their language of proficiency. Language study is not recommended during the program, as the curriculum leaves little space for courses that do not count towards the 30 credit degree requirement. Further details are available upon admission.

Students whose native language is not English may meet the language requirement by producing documentation of their secondary schooling (high school) or tertiary studies (bachelor’s degree) in an institution where the ordinary language of instruction is not English. Alternatively, they may submit evidence of professional translation work.

Can I transfer credits to fulfill the requirements of the M.A. in Global Thought?

The M.A. program is composed of core courses and electives. All students must complete the core courses and M.A. seminars. Columbia’s policy permits the transfer of qualifying graduate-level credit units earned at Columbia that have not been applied to a previous degree. If you have such credit units, you must complete the Application for Transfer Credit form and submit it to the M.A. Academic Coordinator. The application of transfer credit units to the M.A. in Global Thought is subject to the approval of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

What types of careers can I pursue with an MA in Global Thought?

Students will acquire a strong background in the political, economic, and cultural processes that shape the contemporary world, and will be prepared to contribute to a range of fields at the conclusion of their studies. They pursue careers in development, nongovernmental organizations, education, research, government, public policy, and the private sector. This program also prepares students for further study in professional schools and Ph.D. programs.

Are there university resources available to international students?

Columbia University has an International Students and Scholars Office that assists foreign students with visa issues and other transition questions. The ISSO has compiled a handbook which provides necessary visa and immigration information for incoming international students. Students should contact with any additional questions.


What should my statement of purpose include?

There is no single template for an effective statement of purpose, but those that work best present a clear voice and individual, demonstrate why the M.A. in Global Thought is a good fit for the applicant’s goals, and discuss well-researched plans for a year at Columbia University.

What type of writing sample should I submit?

You can submit any type of writing sample that is no longer than 10 pages. Extracts of longer pieces are also acceptable. The writing does not need to be about your proposed research area or Global Thought, but it does need to demonstrate your ability to think critically and write clearly.

Your writing sample should be maximum 10 pages (double spaced) in English, composed of one piece or a combination of up to three pieces or selections showing critical thinking and analytic capability. The topic of the writing sample does not need to speak directly to Global Thought, but we do recommend work that reflects a Social Science or Humanities approach, if possible. Extracts of longer pieces are also acceptable. References/Bibliographies do not count towards the 10 page total.

Who can write my letters of recommendation?

Letter writers should have a direct knowledge of your academic background and abilities. One letter can be submitted from supervisors or colleagues at a place of employment, but the other two should be from your educational preparation.

How do I know if I have to fulfill the TOEFL or IELTS requirement?

Applicants must complete the English proficiency requirement if their native language is not English and they have received an undergraduate degree from an institution in a country where the official language is not English. See for more information.

What is the minimum required TOEFL or IELTS score for consideration?

The minimum score for TOEFL is 100 on the internet-based test and 600 on the paper-and-pencil test. Students must reach 7.5 if they opt to submit the IELTS test.

I would like to provide GRE scores to supplement my application. When should I submit these?

You may choose to include a GRE score report to supplement the required application materials, but please note that GRE scores are not required to apply. If you would like to provide GRE scores to supplement your application, we recommend that you take the GRE as early as possible, and provide your results as soon as you have them. However, you should not delay submitting your application due to pending GRE scores. To submit your scores to Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, select 2162. Because Global Thought is interdisciplinary, we do not have a department code. You may select 0000.

Financial Aid


Priority for partial fellowships will be given to applicants who submit all requisite application materials by February 1, 2021. Partial fellowship applications received after February 1, 2021 will be considered depending on the availability of funds. We encourage applicants to seek external funders where practical, and to start looking as early as they can.

To apply for a partial fellowship, please first create an application through the GSAS application portal.

For other questions about the M.A. program, please write to