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FAQs – Master of Liberal Arts Program

Who applies to the Master of Liberal Arts program?
MLA students come from many professional, academic, and personal backgrounds. Artists, police officers, physicians, detectives, homemakers, judges, bankers, retirees, translators, scientists, accountants, writers, and teachers are just some of the professions of our students. Academically, our students may have recently received their bachelor’s degree. The program also includes students who already hold master’s and doctorate degrees. Some have been out of school for years.
Why should I apply to the University of Chicago MLA program?
Students come to the program seeking many things: to study a subject they haven’t had time to before, to sharpen their writing and critical thinking skills, or to study with world-renowned University of Chicago faculty. The MLA program can be used to bolster an application to another graduate program, to join the University of Chicago community in a flexible setting, or to explore new interests. If you are considering applying to the MLA program, we are happy to discuss the process with you.
How many students are in a class?
Class sizes generally average 10–12 students. Occasionally, some courses may have up to the maximum allowed enrollment of 25 students.
Will there be a lot of writing assignments or tests?
Liberal arts courses tend to require one or two papers.
What kind of financial aid is available?
In general, MLA students who are U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents who are enrolled at least half-time (2 courses per quarter) are eligible to apply for a federal student loan, such as Perkins and Direct Stafford Loans, at low-interest rates. Student Loan experts will assist accepted students work through the loan process. Some students have tuition reimbursement available through their employer. Others may wish to sign up for monthly tuition plans.
Where and when do classes meet?
All classes meet once a week at the downtown University of Chicago Gleacher Center on either weekday evenings or Saturday mornings for three hours.
Is there someone who can help me with my writing?
Yes. We have an excellent writing preceptor who is available to work with students individually who also hosts workshops each quarter, including in the summer. The workshops cover topics such as “Getting Started on Your Thesis Proposal,” “Commas for Meaning,” “Building a Thesis Proposal Argument” and more. Also, when you are ready to start your thesis, you will work with the preceptor on your proposal. They will guide you as you refine the topic and argument that is central to your thesis.
How much does it cost to complete the program and get my degree?
Tuition for the 2016–2017 academic year is $3,185 per course. At that tuition rate, a student who finishes the MLA program in one year, taking three courses per quarter, would pay approximately $28,665, plus the cost of books and other course materials. There are typically modest tuition increases from one year to the next.
How much do books cost?
This cost depends on the course and instructor, since some courses require one book while others will require more. However, our faculty is very aware of the need to contain student expenses, so they make a point of assigning paperback versions, which cuts down on the quarterly costs considerably. Professors may also post short readings online for students.
How many courses do students need to take to graduate?
Nine liberal arts courses are required: 1 core humanities course, 1 social sciences course, 1 physical science course, 1 biological science course, 4 electives (one of which must be non-Western), as well as a thesis research/independent study course.
How long does it take to get a Master of Liberal Arts degree?
There is great flexibility in this program. You can complete the MLA program in as little as a year or take up to five years, depending on your individual circumstances. Most students graduate in about three years.
How many students are in the MLA program now?
We currently have 110 students in the program. Approximately 25% of them are working on their thesis, while the rest are concentrating on their courses.
Is the MLA degree equal to other University of Chicago master’s degrees?
Yes. MLA students are required to complete a challenging and enriching course of study in order to obtain a degree and are entitled to all the benefits of a student or alumni in any other degree program at the University. They also participate in the University-wide convocation ceremony on the Hyde Park Campus.
How much time should I allow for reading assignments each week?
This can vary greatly depending on how many courses a student is enrolled in. Most enroll in one course per quarter, for which we recommend budgeting 3–6 hours a week for reading. Those with busy schedules may get their reading done during their daily train or bus commute or lunch breaks. Some, if they live out of state, even use the time on flights to and from Chicago once a week to keep up with the reading. Students look forward to the readings and want to be prepared for the class discussion, so they find ways to fit the readings into their schedule.
My previous degree was in a field unrelated to the liberal arts. Do you have other students like me?
Absolutely! Many students come to the MLA program because they have not been able to study the liberal arts before, instead focusing on obtaining an education that was immediately relevant to their chosen profession. We have often been told by students that they came to this program to “fill in the gaps” in their education.
Is credit from another college or university transferable to the MLA program?
Master of Liberal Arts courses are designed to be program-specific. We do not accept outside course credit.
Are MLA courses offered in the summer?
Yes, the MLA program currently offers courses in the Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarters, and will be offering Summer Quarter courses starting Summer 2016.
When do I have to begin working on my thesis/special project?
This varies from person to person. For example, someone who is committed to completing the program in one year needs to start working on the thesis proposal, and have it approved by the writing preceptor, during their first quarter so that they can write the thesis over the remaining two quarters of attendance. In general, though, students begin the thesis proposal and writing process when they have completed five or six courses.
Do MLA students go on to PhD programs or other degree programs?
Yes, some of our students have gone on to PhD programs either at the University of Chicago or other educational institutions. For example, one of our graduates was admitted to the University’s Divinity School and is now working on her doctorate, while another was awarded her PhD in Disability and Human Development by the University of Illinois. A current student plans to go on to advanced studies in Criminology. Others have gone on to pursue another master’s degree because they became interested in a specific topic while in the MLA program. One graduate went on to receive her Master of Education in Organization and Leadership. For some, getting an MLA from the University of Chicago was seen as a way to improve their chances for admission to another degree program, while others view a graduate liberal arts education as strong foundation that will enhance and inform their doctoral studies.
How would the MLA degree help me in my career?
The University of Chicago is a world-renowned educational institution, and our graduates receive the same degree and privileges of the rest of the students at the University. Graduates have found that they have learned how to draw from a range of possibilities when problem solving because they have learned how to think differently and communicate more effectively. Others have been inspired to change careers, or have rejuvenated their careers with this credential. We have graduates who decided they wanted to teach and are now sharing their love of the liberal arts with others at community and four-year colleges. One graduate wrote his thesis about stage fright and has gone on to build a career centered on counseling other musicians who are hampered by their fears and insecurities and has also published a book on this topic. Others gained the confidence and recognition to achieve higher positions in their chosen career, such as the graduate who was recruited by the University of Illinois to be a project coordinator in the Department of Disability and Human Development as a direct result of receiving her MLA. A lawyer rediscovered her love of art, which had been set aside for years, and is again actively engaged in creating and exhibiting her work. Yet another, because of his deep commitment to his homeland and education, opened a school for girls in India. Students have gone on to become authors, writing career-related books or works of fiction. These are only a few examples. The possibilities are truly endless.