Master of Liberal Arts (MLA)


This program is moving from The School of Continuing & Professional Studies (CAPS) to a new home in Arts & Sciences (A&S). Consequently, CAPS is no longer accepting applications. For information about applying at A&S, please contact Michelle Rabe, director of academic initiatives and special projects in the Office of Graduate Studies:

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 They may analyze the politics of race in fiction, historical documents, the visual arts and music.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 of which are hallmarks of a liberal arts education and essential skills in 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.

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.”

Master of Liberal Arts
Admission 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 one to two weeks. An application is incomplete and will not be reviewed until all of the application requirements have been received or processed.  Applicants are encouraged to submit all materials by the following dates:

  • Summer 2024: April 30, 2024
  • Fall 2024: July 31, 2024
  • Spring 2025: Nov. 30, 2024
Completed Application Form

The online application is available 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

Transcripts are required from each institution that you have attended and taken courses, received your bachelor’s degree, taken post-graduate courses, or where a higher-level degree was conferred.  Official transcripts must be sent directly from the school’s registrar to CAPS.  Electronic transcripts should be forwarded to  For transcript questions, please email

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 WashU School of Continuing & Professional Studies? What are your goals, both academic and professional? Is there additional information we should know about you when considering your application?

Three Letters of Recommendation

A college instructor or professional associate should complete letters of recommendation. If an instructor cannot be contacted, applicants may submit a waiver request to provide three professional recommendations. 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?

Enrolling in School of Continuing & Professional Studies (CAPS)

We are here for you every step. Getting started at CAPS is easy.

1. Meet with a Recruiter
2. Start Your Application
  • Applying is easy, and our advisors are here to help you find the path that fits your needs. Apply Today!
3. Plan Ahead

Take a course today. Apply later.

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

Course Work


Student complete 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.


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.


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 for the student to independently and extensively explore an area of personal interest; it 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.

Student Success Navigators

Every CAPS student is paired with a Student Success Navigator at the time of admission 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 Student Success Navigator;
  • Career planning services to prepare you for opportunities after graduation;
  • A partner throughout your journey to ensure success.

Student Success Navigators are available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.

Still have questions?

Program Coordinator: 
Karen Skinner

Academic Advisor: 
Rebecca O’Laughlin