Master of Liberal Arts

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I already need to have a degree in the liberal arts to apply?

MLA students are a diverse group, united in their commitment to developing their critical thinking and writing skills through pursuing a rigorous, multidisciplinary graduate program. Many MLA students are mid-career, and take advantage of the program’s flexibility. All MLA students have their bachelor’s degrees. Beyond this, students in the program span a wide range of age and experience levels.

When can I apply to the MLA?

The MLA accepts applications for Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarter. Students are able to begin their studies during any of these quarters. Please consult the How to Apply page for specific application deadlines and requirements.

When will I find out if I was admitted?

We review applications on a rolling basis. On average, candidates are notified of their admissions decisions about one month after submitting their applications. This can be longer during busy periods, specifically in the months leading up to Autumn quarter, which is when we typically see our largest pool of applicants as well as our largest incoming class size.

What elements of the application are most important?

We give special weight to the statement of purpose and letters of recommendation. Your transcript and writing sample are also very important.

Can international students apply?

Yes. We welcome international applicants. However, due to visa regulations and the fact the MLA program will be a majority remote-learning program, the MLA does not sponsor student visas for international students. International students are welcome to apply, but if admitted, they would be pursuing the MLA in a remote-format from their home countries.

Do I need GRE or GMAT scores?

No. GRE and GMAT scores are not required for admission to the MLA program. Applicants may submit test scores as supplemental materials with their applications, but this is optional and does not necessarily have a bearing on the admission process.

Can I pursue the MLA degree part-time?

Yes. Many MLA students pursue their degree part-time, taking one or two courses per quarter.

How long will the program take to complete?

That depends. Full-time students, taking 3 courses per quarter, can finish the program nine months, or three academic quarters. Most students, however, take longer than this. The average length is two to three years, and we allow students up to five years to complete the program.

Once admitted, am I required to enroll every quarter?

No. Students have up to five years to complete the program. Within this period, students often take quarters off from their MLA coursework.

Is tuition assessed on a class-by-class basis?

Yes; students pay for the MLA program on a class-by-class basis. Students only pay tuition during quarters when they are enrolled in classes.

Is financial aid available for the MLA?

No; the MLA program does not award financial aid. However, two important avenues are available to many students. Employers frequently offer benefits in the form of annual tuition reimbursement stipends. Tuition reimbursement benefits offer substantial assistance for many MLA students. In addition, students who are US citizens, nationals, or permanent residents who are enrolled at least half-time (two courses per quarter) are eligible to apply for a federal student loans.

What is the quarter system?

Quarters are shorter academic units than semesters and allow a school to offer three to four different sessions of classes per year. A quarter lasts ten weeks. The MLA holds classes in Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters each year (there are no classes during the summer).

How many students will be in each of my classes?

Classes are capped at twenty-five students. The majority of MLA classes have between ten and twenty students. All courses are taught as seminars; we believe that the small seminar format is essential for the development of strong intellectual exchange among students and with faculty.

Are all of the courses taught by University of Chicago professors?

All MLA courses are taught by University of Chicago faculty. They are internationally renowned experts at the tops of their respective fields, and believe very strongly in their roles as teachers.

When and where do classes meet?

Classes are currently only offered in a remote format.

What are the degree requirements?

To receive the MLA degree, students complete nine courses: four core courses, four electives, and a thesis. Please see the Program Structure page for detailed information.

How many courses are offered each quarter?

Five to six courses are offered in a typical quarter; course offerings can be explored in greater detail on the Curriculum page.

Are there any concentrations available within the program?

Yes. The MLA Ethics and Leadership Concentration launched last year. More information about this program can be found here.

Is writing assistance available?

Yes. The MLA has resident writing advisors, who are available to assist students with writing, research, revising, editing, proofreading, and more. They meet with students individually and through group writing workshops. The MLA writing advisors also guide students through the thesis proposal process, from brainstorming and proposal revisions to securing a Faculty Advisor.

What sort of technology is required for remote classes?

You will need either a computer or tablet with a connection to the internet and a webcam. While not exclusive to the remote courses, because our classes have graded paper requirements, you will also need access to a word processor, like Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or Google Docs.

Do remote classes require special technological knowledge or skills?

Not really, no. Students only need to be able to click a hyperlink to enter our Zoom classrooms. Once in the Zoom room, there is very little by way of technological skill required.  Your computer and the Zoom platform take care of the rest.

Having said that, both MLA Program Staff and UChicago’s IT Department are available to help students with any technology problems that may arise.

Are MLA remote classes synchronous or asynchronous?

Our remote coursework is all synchronous, which means classes meet live for seminar discussions.

The seminar conversation has been a hallmark of the MLA since our program’s inception, and it was therefore important for us to maintain that dynamic in our remote coursework. Our students approach their remote classes just as they would in-person classes: by gathering together one night per week for three hours of instruction and discussion.

Can I complete the entire degree remotely?

Yes. Since moving our classes online as a result of the pandemic, we’ve attracted talented new students from all across the world. These students will complete their entire degree without ever setting foot in Chicago.

Even after the public health situation allows us to resume in person classes, the MLA will continue offering a permanent online option.

In the post-pandemic world, will classes be a hybrid of in-person and online?


When we are able to again offer in-person classes, our schedule of classes will include courses that are either fully online or fully remote. That means that a class will meet for its ten weeks fully in person or online. There will not be a hybrid model.

It will be possible for students to pick and choose at their convenience.  For example, a student will be able to take a fully in-person class one quarter, then enroll in a remote class the following quarter.  But individual classes will be offered as one or the other: in-person or remote.

Will I work with an individual faculty thesis supervisor?

The MLA writing advisors guide students through the thesis proposal process. Once the proposal is approved, a Faculty Advisor will guide students through the writing process. Faculty from across the University may serve as thesis advisors, though most MLA students work with faculty who teach in the program.

How long do I have to complete my MLA thesis?

For most students, the MLA thesis is a two-quarter commitment from proposal to submission. Arrangements can be made, however, for students who require additional time to complete their projects.

What kinds of things do MLA students write about?

MLA thesis topics reflect a broad range of interests, disciplines, and methodologies. Some recent titles include:

  • Microbrew Economics: Solutions for a Slowing Craft Beer Market
  • Structural Violence and the Decline of the White Working Class
  • Pandemic and Plague: Trauma, Guilty, and Distortion in Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year.
  • Does the United States Have an Anti-Slavery Constitution?
  • Know Thyself: Self-Awareness in Wuthering Heights
  • Economic Survival of Small Chicago Area Farmers During COVID-19: Leadership Skills that Enabled Success in the Pandemic
  • American-Born, Confused-Desi: Perspectives on Establishing a Hybridized Indian-American Identity
  • Harriet Hosmer’s Zenobia and a New Model of Womanhood
  • Foregrounding Control in Father-Child Relationships: A Close Analysis of Three Short Stories and a Film

How many students are currently in the program?

There are approximately one hundred students currently enrolled in the MLA program.

Where are your students from?

The majority of MLA students live in the Chicagoland area. However, as a diverse group, they have lived all over the country and internationally before their time in the program.  This is even more true since we’ve begun offering our classes online.  We now have students from all across the nation and world.

How many students take the program part-time?

The majority of MLA students take the program part time, completing the degree in two to five years.

What do MLA graduates do with their degrees?

MLA alumni have professional careers in many different fields. Many alumni use the degree to explore career change options, to advance in their current careers, or to pursue field interests that lie outside their professions. See the range of MLA student careers on the Where to Find Our Students page (coming soon).