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Master of Arts in American Culture Studies


The Master of Arts in American Culture Studies addresses the intellectual and moral questions of American identity and belonging that no single disciplinary perspective can comprehensively and satisfyingly resolve. What does it mean to live and work in an American culture devoted to individual success and autonomy and at the same time be a citizen of a nation devoted to collective needs and well-being?

Program Objectives

The American Culture Studies graduate program provides the instruction, both in specific disciplines and in cross-disciplinary conversations, to help you answer important questions about American society. It also introduces some of the social, political, and cultural issues that have shaped American culture and identity. Most fundamentally, it provides a critical skill set that fosters analysis of an array of cultural objects — a place, an event, a work of art, a political institution — from a rich and diverse foundation of knowledge and perspectives.

Your studies culminate in a self-directed project that allows you both to explore an area of personal interest and to participate in a multidisciplinary scholarly community. Part of the excitement of this kind of learning is the opportunity to engage in creative, rigorous exchange with the faculty in the humanities and social sciences at WUSTL, and with leading practitioners in the St. Louis professional and policy world.

Studies may span American literature, history, politics, religion, philosophy, art, music, and film.

Who Should Apply?

The American Culture Studies program attracts students from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds, including humanities and social science fields as well as education, public history, nonprofit management, business, and journalism.

Applicants returning to formal academic study after a number of years’ absence must have an appropriate undergraduate background, and strong writing and analytical skills.


Our advisors go the extra mile to help you navigate your path and needs. We will provide you with the tools to make each moment spent on your education as valuable as possible. Students will receive:

  • individual appointments with an experienced advisor;
  • career planning services to prepare you for opportunities after graduation;
  • a partner throughout your journey to ensure success.

Schedule an Appointment

We have suspended in-person advising appointments temporarily according to the university’s response to COVID-19. Students should not come to campus, but advisors are still available to help you by email, phone or Zoom.​​​​ 

Student advising is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. 

Rebecca O'Laughlin
Meet with Rebecca

required course work

Home-based courses in American Culture Studies generally cover material from a range of disciplinary fields and areas. The category of a particular course is determined by the discipline that is most heavily weighted in the class and/or by the nature of the core questions around which the course revolves. The distribution of each home-based course will be noted in its description. The Master of Arts in American Culture Studies degree requires a total of 30 units.

Required courses: 18 units

Choose six units from each of the following distribution areas:

  • Humanities
  • Social Sciences
  • Arts
Elective Courses: 6-9 units

  • Introduction to American Culture Studies (U89 445) is recommended for all students.
  • Choose additional courses from any distribution area.

Students may, with permission, count a limited number of graduate-level courses from related departments toward their degree.

Writing Intensive & Research Methods Courses

Among the required and elective seminars, some will be noted as “writing intensive” and “research methods.” These courses are intended to hone graduate-level writing and research techniques, preparing students for their final written projects. Students are required to complete at least one writing intensive course and one research methods course.

Final Written Project: 3-6 units

All students are required to complete a final written project. Normally completed during the final semester of the program (or, in some cases, the final year), the project entails substantial research and analysis on a topic determined by the student in consultation with the program coordinator.

Learn more about the American Culture Studies final written project.


Take a course today. Apply later.

At University College, students can take courses without applying to a degree program. If you are interested in taking a class to get to know University College, to fulfill credits, for professional development, or to follow a passion, the non-degree option is for you. Learn more.

admissions requirements

American Culture Studies courses normally are offered once a week in the late afternoon or evening. Students may start the program in the fall, spring or summer terms. Admission to the American Culture Studies graduate program is open on a selective basis to:

Transferring Credit

A maximum of six units of related, comparable graduate-level course work may be transferred from another university or from a related graduate program at Washington University with the approval of the program director. These must be graduate-level units not used to fulfill undergraduate degree requirements. Transfer credit may be granted only for authorized courses for which the student received a grade of B or higher. 

A Minimum Cumulative GPA of 3.0

Applicants should have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution and a minimum overall grade point average of 3.0.

Strong Undergraduate Background

Applicants who are returning to formal academic study after a number of years' absence must have a strong undergraduate background in one of the disciplines represented in the American Culture Studies program, strong writing and analytical skills, and a clear understanding of their reasons for pursuing this degree.

application requirements

Application Deadlines

Admission decisions are made on a rolling basis and typically take four to six weeks. Applicants are encouraged to submit all materials by the following dates:

  • SPRING 2021: DEC. 30, 2020
  • SUMMER 2021: APRIL 15, 2021
  • FALL 2021: JULY 15, 2021
Completed application form

The online application is available online on our Apply page. Applications are ready for review when all fields on the application form are completed and the required documents have been received.

Official transcripts from all previous college work

Transcript from the institution where you received your bachelor's degree or a higher-level degree was conferred. Official transcripts must be sent directly from the registrar to University College. Electronic transcripts should be forwarded to For transcript questions, please contact our Admissions Coordinator, Patricia Agnew, at

Non-United States course work transcript verification
If the transcript you submit for consideration is from a college or university outside the United States, a course by course transcript evaluation is also required. Evaluations will be accepted from World Education Services (WES) or another member institution of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES).

Personal Essay

Tell us about yourself in a brief essay (about 250 words). Why are you applying to University College? What are your goals, both academic and professional? Is there additional information we should know about you when considering your application?

TOEFL/IELTS scores (if applicable)

All international students are required to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores at the time of application. The TOEFL and IELTS may be waived for applicants who, immediately prior to their application for admission, have done both of the following:

  • Lived for three years or longer in the United States or another country where English is the primary language of daily life (e.g. Canada or United Kingdom).
  • Completed three or more years of study at a college or university which is located in that country and where the language of instruction is English.

This policy applies to all international students, even those who have earned a degree from a United States college or university.

If an applicant moves away from an English-speaking country after living and studying there for three years or more, the TOEFL or IELTS is then required for admission. 

For international student application deadlines, please click HERE.

Additional TOEFL and IELTS information for international students adversely affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found on University College’s International Student Information webpage.

Three Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should be completed by teachers or professional associates. Letters can be submitted through the online application or mailed by the recommender.

Writing Sample

Please submit a writing sample that is research-based if possible. If not, please submit a sample that discusses your motivations for continuing your education, and why this program interests you.

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alumna Terri Williams

"I chose University College because I found it to be a great opportunity to get a world-class research degree from an amazing institution. Washington University is one of the most prestigious universities in the world."

―Terri WilliamsMA in American Culture Studies

See Terri's story

Still have questions?

Program Coordinator: Noah Cohan |

Academic Advisor: Rebecca O'Laughlin | (314) 935-6742 | ROLAUGHLIN@WUSTL.EDU