Five-year Combined BA/MA Program


MESAAS offers students interested in a Master’s degree the opportunity to begin studies towards that degree while still enrolled as undergraduates. The M.A. is a stepping stone to a variety of careers related to the cultures, ideas, and politics of the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, as well as to further academic research in the those fields. The early admission program can save time and money in the transition to graduate study.

The department encourages applications to the BA/MA program not only from qualified majors and concentrators in MESAAS but also from students in any other major who have completed appropriate coursework and have strong academic records. The program is open to all students enrolled at Columbia College, SEAS, Barnard College, and the School of General Studies.


MESAAS is a unique department, different from almost any other program in the North American academy. There are several reasons for taking advantage of its BA/MA option:

  • The early admissions program allows Columbia students to earn credit towards a graduate degree while completing their undergraduate studies—an option unavailable to students from other universities. Depending on courses completed as an undergraduate, students may be able to complete the M.A. in one year rather than the standard 1.5 or two years.
  • The Master’s degree provides a strong foundation for careers in political advocacy and social justice, journalism and the arts, and teaching and academic research. Alumni have also gone on to work in many other careers — in consulting, business, government, and the non-profit sector — that value the ability to learn from other cultural and political worlds and think critically about one’s own.
  • The MA can also serve as preparation for entering a Ph.D. program. As an interdisciplinary department, MESAAS attracts students who are undecided between a number of academic fields, such as the study of history, politics, political theory, anthropology, religion, or law, as well as those seeking further preparation in the study of non-Western languages and textual cultures. Students can choose to do advanced work in one of these fields, to combine work in more than one, or to explore a new direction departing from their main disciplinary training as an undergraduate.
  • MESAAS is not merely an area studies program, with a focus on just one region of the world. While most faculty and students specialize in one region, the intellectual life of the department is built around the crossing of conventional regional boundaries and the conversations that result from bringing specialists on different regions and periods together. Many of our courses develop these cross-regional possibilities, shaping the department’s distinctive intellectual experience.
  • MESAAS is a full-sized academic department with its own permanent faculty. This makes it different from many M.A. programs in regional or interdisciplinary studies, which are often based in non-departmental centers that draw on the permanent faculty of other departments and on part-time instructors. In MESAAS, academic advising and teaching is largely carried out by full-time faculty whose professional home is within the department. Students benefit from the opportunity to work closely and continuously with some of the world’s leading scholars in their fields.


Students interested in the BA/MA option should apply during the semester before the one in which they intend to begin taking courses that will count toward the M.A. This means applying either by November of the senior year or, preferably, April of the junior year. Students in the final semester of their senior year are not eligible for the BA/MA option, but may apply for regular M.A. admission.

For application forms and deadlines and other information about the combined BA/MA Option at Columbia, see the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences page here.


Successful applicants for early admission will have:

  • Maintained an overall GPA of at least 3.50
  • Completed at least one year of study in a MESAAS language, or passed an equivalent test.
  • Taken an introductory lecture course such as ASCM UN2003 Islamic Civilization, MDES UN2357 Indian Civilization, HSME UN2195 Africa Before Colonialism, or another approved intro course.
  • Taken a seminar based on the reading of major texts: either AHUM UN1399 Colloquium on Major Texts, or CC1020 African Civilizations.

Credit points and registration

The requirements for the MESAAS MA degree are listed here.

In meeting these requirements, students in the BA/MA program:

  • May count a maximum of three courses, at the 4000 level or higher, taken before the end of the senior year. The courses must be taken for a letter grade, receiving a grade of B or better. A non-MESAAS course can be counted towards the degree only with approval from the Director of Graduate Studies
  • May not count as one of these three courses any course taken to satisfy requirements of the undergraduate degree – i.e. courses taken to complete a major, a concentration, the global core requirement, or the 124-point requirement. An undergraduate advising dean will certify which excess courses did not count for the BA degree and can therefore be applied to the M.A.

Students should consult with their undergraduate advising dean and the MESAAS director of undergraduate studies as they enter the BA/MA program, to design a program of study for completion of the B.A. and then the M.A. degree.

Students who receive early admission to the MESAAS M.A. program will have up to one residence unit of advanced standing credited towards their M.A. degree, depending on the number of courses they take toward the M.A. degree before receiving their bachelor’s degree.

Students entering the M.A. program through early admission must register as full-time M.A. students when they enter their fifth year at Columbia. Upon completing the two Residence Units required for the M.A., students who have not yet completed all course requirements register for Extended Residence.

Housing, financial aid, and academic rules and conduct

After students enrolled in the B.A./M.A. program complete their fourth year of study, they lose the right to undergraduate housing and undergraduate financial aid. In the fifth year they become graduate students enrolled in GSAS and are eligible for M.A. student housing and financial aid.

Admission in the M.A. program may be revoked if after admission students fail to maintain a 3.50 GPA or are found to have violated College or University rules (for example, rules of academic integrity).

For more information and to apply, click here.



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