Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Admission for Degree Students

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Reed welcomes applications from adults who wish to pursue interdisciplinary graduate work in a program that is both flexible and rigorous. Those applicants are accepted who, in the view of the Committee on Graduate Studies, are most likely to become successful members of and contribute positively to the MALS community. Admission decisions are based on many factors. We recognize that qualities of character—in particular, motivation, intellectual curiosity, and openness to constructive criticism—are important considerations in the selection process, in addition to a demonstrated commitment to academic excellence.

Application Materials
Initial, provisional admission to the MALS program requires submission of the following materials:

  • Completed application form with personal statements. (We encourage applicants to submit a writing sample from recent academic, personal, or business-related work.)
  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate and post-baccalaureate work from the originating institution, including evidence of completion of a bachelor's degree. (Please note: GRE scores are welcome but not required.)
  • Two letters of recommendation. The recommendations should be from either a faculty member who recently taught the applicant in an academic subject, or from someone who is familiar with the applicant's intellectual and personal abilities, motivation, and accomplishments.
  • $75 non-refundable application fee
  • Interview with the program director and a faculty member of the Committee on Graduate Studies, upon completion of the above materials.

Time Frame
Students may apply to enter in the fall, spring, or summer terms. Applications should be completed by the following deadlines:

  • Fall entrance—applications due no later than July 1
  • Spring entrance—applications due no later than December 1
  • Summer entrance—application due no later than April 1

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis throughout the year, and applicants are notified of the admission decision accordingly. Given enrollment limitations, we encourage applicants to request official transcripts and letters of recommendations several months in advance.

Deferral of Entrance
Students accepted for admission may request a deferral of entrance for up to two terms and should attach a letter of intention to the enrollment form explaining their reasons for the deferral. If students wish to enroll in courses elsewhere during the deferral term, they must notify the MALS office of their intention and submit an official transcript of the completed work for additional review.

Candidacy Application
MALS students are admitted initially to the program on a provisional basis. Students must apply for formal candidacy after successfully completing two successive or concurrent Reed courses—at least one of which should be a MALS Liberal Studies Core class. To continue in the program, the candidacy student must submit to the Committee on Graduate Studies within one term of completing the second provisional course a self-evaluation, outline of course progression and completion, and a class paper. The program director will solicit comments from the student’s provisional course instructors, including an assessment of the applicant’s ability to write a thesis. If the student’s candidacy is accepted, credit for the provisional courses will be applied to the MALS degree requirements.

After candidacy acceptance, the student should consult with the faculty adviser and program director to plan a program of study consistent with the goals of the program, leading to the completion of all requirements for the MALS degree.


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Reed’s focus in the MALS program is simply to create an environment that maximizes the opportunity for learning. While many colleges feel the pressure to ensure that an educational program be restricted to that which reflects quantifiable student progress, Reed makes the assumption initially that students have already made the commitment to learn before walking into their first class, so both teacher and student can then get on with a more pure form of education. The borders of learning are stretched to include whatever it takes for the student to absorb as much as possible, without restraint. To accomplish this, the MALS program offers incredibly diverse courses, to shatter any sense of myopia. Still, there is surprising continuity to the learning: each subject is examined in-depth, but the education that is gained is as much about how to learn as it is about what to learn. Reed’s method allows the education to continue, long after one closes the books for a particular class, and even long after one has closed the final Reed book. My time at Reed could not have been better. The program itself, the dedicated faculty, and the rigorous environment that defines Reed, all contributed to exceed every expectation I had of a graduate program.

MALS ’07