Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Frequently Asked Questions

Our FAQs comprise two sections: admissions and academics. The Admissions tab covers topics such as admissions requirements and transfer credits, while the Academics tab answers questions ranging from the nature of interdisciplinary learning to types of coursework offered. Should you have additional questions, please contact our office at (518) 580-5480 or

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Admissions FAQs

I live far away from Saratoga Springs. Can I pursue a MALS degree from a distance?

Our students live all over the United States and work with their advisors and faculty by email, telephone, and surface mail. All of our students take at least two of their courses in traditional graduate classrooms—often at schools near their homes, but sometimes at other universities where they've found a faculty member with whom they especially want to study.

When can I apply?

Students may apply at any time throughout the year. Students matriculate in the program in either January or July each year with the required introductory seminar.

Do I have to take the GRE in order to apply?

We do not require the GRE because it does not measure the qualities that contribute most substantially toward success in the MALS program: dedication, intelligence, passion, flexibility of mind, and intellectual courage.

I graduated from college a number of years ago, and I'm no longer in contact with my former professors. May I ask professional colleagues to write letters of recommendation for me?

Skidmore's Master's program is designed for adults who may have been out of school for awhile, and many of our candidates ask for references from non-academic sources. Letters of reference should address the qualities it takes to flourish in this program: the ability to collaborate in the design of one's own concentration, the self-discipline to work independently, and the intellectual power to read, write, and think at the graduate level.

I've taken several courses toward a degree that I never completed, and a few classes at the community college level. Should I include those transcripts in my application?

Yes. The admissions committee requires transcripts of all completed undergraduate and graduate coursework, whether or not it contributed toward a degree.

How many credits can I transfer into the program?

When deciding whether to assign students credit for prior graduate coursework, the faculty advisor considers whether that coursework will significantly contribute to the focus of the work the student plans to do in his or her MALS program. There is no limit to the amount of relevant coursework that can be transferred into a student's program; however, students must complete at least 24 credits of new coursework while enrolled at Skidmore.

How much does the program cost?

Studying part-time, students take an average of three years to complete the program's 30 credits, and it costs those students approximately $12,000 per year. Because the program's flexibility enables each student to move at his or her own pace, the cost varies depending on how many courses a student takes during any given enrollment year and how quickly he or she completes the program's overall requirements. Visit Tuition and Fees for more information.

Academics FAQs

Are you a distance program? And what exactly is a distance program?

In a distance program, students pursue their studies without setting foot on a school's physical campus. Nowadays, most distance programs offer their courses through the internet.

Skidmore's program is different: we offer working adults the chance to pursue a rich, rigorous graduate education without having to uproot themselves from their homes, their jobs, or their families. Our students start out their studies with an intense, one-week immersion course on the Skidmore campus (the introductory seminar), and then take the rest of their courses through independent studies and classes at universities near their homes. Once they have completed their coursework, students return to campus to review their program of study and discuss their final project proposal with a faculty steering committee.

If there are no standard concentrations or required courses, how do I know which courses to take?

Each of our students works with two advisors, a Skidmore faculty member whose academic expertise resonates with the student's specific area of interest, and a member of the program's advising staff. Through an ongoing conversation, the student and his or her advisors clarify the particular focus of the student's concentration and develop an integrated set of courses that explore this central focus.

What makes a student's program of study "interdisciplinary"?

Our program is based on the idea that real curiosity is messy—that the answers to the most interesting kinds of questions are not found in any single academic department, but in the work of drawing connections between the particular truths that each has to offer.

Our students work with their advisors to choose a set of courses that explore their central curiosity from a number of different disciplinary perspectives. One of our new students, for example, is examining the ways in which the on-court psychology of female athletes differs from that of male athletes, and exploring the origins of those differences. Her investigation will lead her to courses in women's studies, psychology, and sociology.

How long does it usually take students to complete the program? Can I study part-time?

Some of our students begin the program right after college, but most have been out of school for a while—and are often deeply involved in careers and family. Because the program is not bound to a traditional academic calendar, our students have the freedom to start and end courses throughout the year and to shape the schedule of those courses to match the pace of their lives. Students must complete a minimum of two courses within each 12 month enrollment year.

Because of this flexibility, different students move through the program at very different rates. The average time it takes students to complete the 30-credit requirement is three years. Students may take up to five years to complete the program.

What are Independent Studies?

Most MALS students take the majority of their courses as independent studies. These courses are designed to allow students to pursue serious graduate study without having to disrupt their careers or families, or to move from their homes in order to live near a school's campus.

Each independent study is handcrafted: students collaborate with faculty members to develop a course that explores the questions at the heart of his or her program of study. Working together, students and teachers craft the particular form and content of these courses, choosing materials (novels, paintings, essays, films, case studies, etc.), agreeing on the course's requirements, its dynamic (whether the course will be conducted by e-mail, phone, in-person visits, or some combination of the three), and its pace. A MALS independent study must be completed within six months of its start date.

Can I study with people who aren't part of the Skidmore faculty?

Our students take independent studies with professors from Skidmore and from other colleges and universities—as well as with other accomplished scholars and artists. Our advisors' capacity to review the credentials of instructors on a case-by-case basis enables MALS students to set up independent studies with well-known authors, documentary filmmakers, theatrical directors, and others whose qualifications equip them to direct rich and rigorous courses of study.

Can I take online courses? Can I do an internship?

The program's flexibility allows students to take graduate-level courses—whether in-class or on-line—offered by any regionally-accredited graduate school. These courses, like all those our students take, are approved beforehand through discussion between students and their advisors.

Students may also balance theoretical and practical investigations by working with their advisors to design structured internships.

Do you offer an MBA? An MEd? An MFA?

Although we offer none of the above degrees, per se, many of our students take courses in business, education, and the arts as part of their concentrations, always in combination with other disciplines. By incorporating coursework in two or three different disciplines, students examine a central question from a range of different angles—and thereby develop a richer understanding of the multi-dimensionality of the subject at hand.

What makes a MALS degree different from more traditional degrees?

Every one of our students does the same degree—in a completely different way. Each degree is custom-designed for a particular student, emerging from that person's specific questions and concerns, and charting an individualized path to explore them. Students who commit themselves to this process learn an immensely flexible type of thinking rather than a set of static skills that might be required for a particular job or profession at a specific point in time. The MFA, MBA, and MAT train their students for a particular profession or job; the MALS develops intellectual powers that can be applied to a variety of professional situations.

I'm interested in getting a Ph.D. after I complete my Master's. Will the MALS program take me toward this goal?

Students regularly graduate from the Master's program and continue into Ph.D. programs. Often they enter the MALS program to measure their readiness for doctoral-level work, to clarify their area of focus, and to hone the academic skills they will need to continue further.

What else can I do with an MALS degree? What are some of the other reasons that students come to this program?

Students put the MALS degree to a wide range of uses. Some students come to the program because they need a Master's degree to continue in their current job or to qualify for a promotion. Often, they are hoping to start a new career, and they are drawn to this program when they realize that the standardized requirements of a traditional degree (for example, an MBA, MEd, or MSW) won't give them the chance to do what they really want to do.

Many students are attracted by the chance to develop an individualized concentration tailored to the specific challenges of the career they are hoping to enter. A MALS student who wants to become a speechwriter, for example, might combine work in politics, history, and writing in a way that she could not in a graduate history or political science or journalism program.

(Click here for more examples of the kinds of concentrations that MALS students develop.)

Nor is it uncommon for our students to be looking to do something different in the next stage of their professional life—and to be hoping that their work in the program will help them identify this new direction.

We also work with a number of students who do not need the degree. Many are retired, some are homemakers whose children have left for school, and more than a few already hold advanced degrees. These students—like all our students—are looking for a certain kind of personal fulfillment, for the chance to explore dimensions of their intellectual and artistic lives and discover who else they might be next.

Is the MALS program accredited?

The College is fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, and the MALS Program operates under the authority of Skidmore's faculty. We are also a member of the National Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs.