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School of International Service Admissions

Grad Admissions FAQs: BA/MA Program

Why do the BA/MA Program?
The BA/MA program is a distinctive opportunity reserved for top BA students currently in SIS to pursue advanced studies and complete both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree consecutively. There are several benefits to the program. First, students applying to the BA/MA in any SIS field are not charged an application fee, and do not need to take the GRE or submit GRE scores. Admitted students are not required to pay a deposit, and are able to share up to 9 credits between the two programs, effectively reducing the time required in the graduate program by one semester. Additionally, students may be able to take MA-only courses (known as reserved credits) and pay for them at the undergraduate tuition rate, further reducing the amount of work required to complete the MA.

I’m interested in the BA/MA Program. What should I do?

  1. Make sure you meet the requirements

    Students interested in applying for the BA/MA program MUST have at least a 3.5 GPA to receive consideration. You should be applying through the BA/MA admission cycle in the summer between your junior and senior year. If you don’t meet either of these criteria, you are still welcome to apply to an SIS graduate program, but would need to go through the normal application process.

  2. Plan ahead

    Review the degree requirements for the MA program in which you’re interested (you can view these requirements online at the SIS Web site, or in the University Catalog, or you can pick up a program worksheet in the SIS Graduate Academic Affairs Office in SIS 12). If you’re not sure which program you’d like to pursue, contact the SIS Graduate Admissions Office (Clark 101, X1646, sisgrad@american.edu) to schedule an appointment with an admissions counselor to discuss your options.

    Also, be sure to look into taking upper-level courses (300-, 400-, and/or 500-level) before applying, as your performance in those classes will usually impact your admission. They are also great opportunities to work with faculty who will be able to furnish you with stronger letters of recommendation. Speak with your undergraduate advisor about taking higher-level courses that fulfill your degree requirements.

When do I apply? How do I apply?
You should apply in the summer before your senior year (or the summer the year before you graduate if you’re finishing in a fall semester). BA/MA applications are due June 15, and admissions decisions are sent in early August. This will give you at least one semester to work with a graduate advisor and determine what courses you can share between your two degrees. 

To apply, you’ll need to submit a completed Application for Graduate Admission to the Graduate Admissions Office (be sure to check the BA/MA box) along with your other application materials (two letters of recommendation, at least one of which must be from an SIS faculty member, a personal statement, and any other supporting documentation as specified in the Application.) BA/MA applicants do not need to take the GRE or pay the application fee (you may submit your GRE scores if you wish, but it is not required).

I’ve applied to the BA/MA program. Can I take 600-level courses?
You can take 500-level courses, but 600-level courses are reserved for current graduate students. If you are admitted to the MA, you’ll be able to take 600-level courses. PLEASE NOTE: you will not be able to take an internship for graduate credit until you complete the BA and one semester solely in the MA program.

I’ve been admitted to the program. What do I do next?
First, you’ll need to confirm with the Graduate Admissions Office that you accept the offer of admission. You do not need to pay a deposit, but you do need to submit your confirmation in writing. Once you’ve done that, you will need to meet with your undergraduate advisor to complete a BA/MA advising worksheet. You then should contact the SIS Graduate Advising Office (SIS 12, X1690, sisgradadvising@american.edu) to schedule an appointment to speak with your Graduate Academic Advisor. Be sure to bring your BA/MA worksheet with you to your initial appointment with your graduate advisor, as your graduate advisor will need that to know about availability of double-counted and reserved courses. Your graduate advisor will go over the program with you and discuss what courses you can double-count, and if you can reserve any credits.

How many courses can I bring in from my BA?
You can double-count 9 credits into any of our graduate programs. Students who are admitted to International Development or International Economic Relations program and need to take the introductory Economics course (ECON-603) may double-count up to 12 credits. 

If you have space, (i.e. that you have registered for everything you will need for your BA but still have room to pursue additional study) you may also be able to reserve up to 6 additional credits. Reserved credits are 500- or 600-level courses taken while you’re in both programs but that are used ONLY towards your MA degree. You cannot reserve a course that in any way fulfills a requirement towards your BA. You should speak with your undergraduate advisor to see if you are eligible to reserve credits. If you are, you will need to submit a request to your undergraduate advisor to have those credits reserved.

Federal Financial aid is not available for students to reserve credits—i.e. you will not be able to use your undergraduate scholarship or financial aid to pay for any credits that you’ll be reserving for the MA program and you will not be eligible for graduate financial aid until you have completed your BA, so make sure you will be able to pay for the tuition (which will still be lower than the graduate tuition for the same course) for any credits you seek to reserve.

The maximum number of credits anyone can bring in to an SIS Master’s program is 15 (18 if you are in a 42 credit program).

While I’m a student in both programs, which advisor should I see?
Until you are admitted, you would work exclusively with your undergraduate advisor. Once you are admitted, you should continue working with your undergraduate advisor AND start work with your graduate advisor. Once you complete your BA you’ll be working exclusively with your graduate advisor.

Can I defer my BA/MA admission?
BA/MA students are not permitted to defer their admission. Should you change your mind and opt not to pursue graduate study immediately after completing your BA, your BA/MA status is lost. To later enter a Masters program at SIS, you would need to apply as a regular graduate student, and you would not be eligible to double-count or reserve any credits.

Can I take a leave of absence from the MA program the semester after I graduate from the BA?
No. While you are eligible to take a leave of absence later in your graduate program, you must be enrolled in the first semester in which you will only be a graduate student to maintain your BA/MA status.

I’ve changed my mind about what program I want to do. What can I do?
It is extremely important to make sure you know which MA program you want, as you will have a hard time double-counting or reserving any credits if you change programs. In the event you still want to change, you will need to spend your first MA-only semester in the program to which you are admitted. After that you can submit a Field Transfer Application to the field into which you would like to transfer. If your request is accepted, you would then switch and start working in the new program (and with the graduate advisor for that program), but there is no guarantee that credits earned as a BA/MA student will apply to your new program, and you’ll have very little flexibility in your course selection if you change.