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Master of Liberal Arts (MLA)


The Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) program fosters intellectual breadth through courses that address a broad range of cultural issues from different academic perspectives. Students may explore questions of identity through art, literature, and religion. They may analyze the politics of race in fiction, historical documents, the visual arts, and music. They may debate ethical choices presented by fiction writers, jurists, philosophers, and scientists from antiquity through the present. MLA seminars examine literary, artistic, and cinematic masterpieces; historic moments of discovery and change; traditions of thought; cultural differences; and civic responsibilities.

MLA students sharpen their thinking about contemporary values and choices through courses that ask them to reflect on the individual's relation to society, technology and the spread of ideas, challenges to freedom, inspiration, and creativity.

Students pursue course work and independent research with Washington University scholars from a number of academic disciplines, including architecture, art, film, history, literature, music, philosophy, religion, and science.

The MLA program emphasizes critical thinking and inquiry, close reading, intensive writing, and problem-solving, all hallmarks of a liberal arts education and essential skills for a range of professional contexts.

Who Should Apply?

The Master of Liberal Arts program is designed for the experienced adult learner who wishes to pursue interdisciplinary study along with scholarly reading and research.

There is no single profile of the typical MLA student. Students range in age from their 20's to their 80's, and they come from various backgrounds and professions.


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


Rebecca O'Laughlin
Academic Advisor

Meet with Rebecca


required course work

Required Courses: 30 units

30 units total, including at least 15 units of core MLA interdisciplinary seminars, one writing intensive course, one research methods course and a final research project that typically earns 3 credits.

Core MLA Seminars

The Master of Liberal Arts program consists of seminars that introduce students to the methods and questions of different disciplines. Planned and taught by full-time Washington University faculty, these seminars cover a wide variety of topics and issues. Most core seminars are held one evening a week during the fall and spring semesters and twice a week during the summer term.

Among the 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 research projects.

Some students take all required courses in the seminars that are designed specifically for the MLA program; others augment a particular interest by taking related courses drawn from different departments with MLA department approval.

Final Project

A 3-unit final research project, developed under the supervision of a Washington University faculty member, is required for the Master of Liberal Arts degree. This project presents an opportunity to explore independently and extensively an area of personal interest and must be completed at the conclusion of a student's course work. Under special circumstances and with permission, some complete a final project comprising two semesters of research and writing for 6 units.

Learn more about the final project.

admissions requirements

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. 

Bachelor's Degree

Admission to this program is on a selective basis to qualified persons with a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution.

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), Spantran or another member institution of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). For Spantran evaluations, you must use this form


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, IELTS or Duolingo scores at the time of application. The TOEFL, IELTS and Duolingo requirement 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, TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo scores are 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 recent academic writing sample. If one is not available, please submit an original essay that answers the following question: What important idea, discovery, or work of art (including music and literature) has made a difference in your life, and why?

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Master of Liberal Arts student, Shonda Gray

"The Master of Liberal Arts program is something totally different than I have previously experienced. The program has allowed me to grow as a person, both mentally and emotionally, and learn about various cultures in the world."

―Shonda GrayMaster of Liberal Arts

See Shonda's Story

Still have questions?

Program Coordinator: Stephanie Kirk | (314) 935-5175 |

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