College of Arts & Sciences English

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Master of Arts FAQs

Prospective Students

  1. Application Process
  2. I've Been Accepted. Now What?
  3. Beginning the First Semester
  4. Finishing the M.A.
  5. Miscellaneous 
Application Process

What are the English Department's admission requirements?
Students are accepted into the M.A. program either fully or provisionally. Full admission may be offered to applicants with a bachelor's degree, a major or strong minor in English, and an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale). Applicants not meeting all of these qualifications may be admitted provisionally under some circumstances. See our M.A. Page.

How do I get a Graduate School catalog and application?
The Graduate School Catalog is available online. You may also request an Application to the Graduate School. See our M.A. Page for a detailed summary of application requirements.

Can I apply online?
Yes, see the Grad School's Apply Now page to apply online to the graduate program.

What is the application deadline for the master's program at USD?
Applications for the M.A. are reviewed throughout the year. However, if you are interested in a teaching assistantship, you should complete your application by March 15 for full consideration. Consult our M.A. Page for more information on admissions.

What is required to complete my application packet?
You can Request an Application Packet that includes everything that is needed to apply, or you can Apply Online.

Can recommendation letters be from anyone?
Three recommendation letters are required for all applicants to the M.A. program in English. You should ask for recommendations from those who are well situated to describe your academic background and your suitability for graduate study in English. The person providing the recommendation may either mail the completed form directly to the Graduate School or seal the completed form in an envelope, sign his/her name across the flap on the back of the envelope, and return it to you for inclusion with the application. Graduate School recommendation forms are included in the Application Packet.

What score on the GRE is required for admission?
For acceptance into the M.A. program, no GRE score is required. See our M.A. Page for a detailed summary of application requirements. All required materials can be found by Requesting an Application Packet.

For what length of time is an application/acceptance valid?
If you are accepted into the M.A. program but are unable to enroll in the upcoming semester, you should contact the Coordinator of Graduate Studies about the possibility of deferring your enrollment in the program.

Can I pay the application fee by credit card?
When Applying Online you may choose to pay by credit card or mail in a check.

When will I hear if I have been admitted to the M.A. program?
Every effort is made to inform applicants as to the status of their application. Since the M.A. program accepts individuals on a continual basis throughout the year, there is no set day at which applicants will be notified. If you have specific concerns as to your application, you should email the English Department at Ordinarily, you will be notified of an admission decision within 30 days of completing your application.

How large is the graduate program in English?
Currently there are about 25 Ph.D. students and 45 M.A. students studying for degrees in English at the University of South Dakota. You can learn more about any of the faculty members by looking at Faculty and Staff.

What resources are available for international students?
Most questions can be answered by visiting the International Graduate Admissions Page.

Are there graduate teaching or research assistantships available?
Students who are fully admitted to the M.A. program are eligible for Teaching Assistantships. Assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis and are renewable for a total of two years assuming satisfactory performance.

Beginning teaching assistants also enroll for credit in the Department's Teaching Practicum, which provides essential training and support for new teachers. The background and experience that graduate students gain in USD Teaching Assistant program offer tremendous benefits to those pursuing careers in education, business, law, or any other field which involves leadership or public speaking. The application form for the teaching assistantship is available as part of the English Department's Application Packet.

Teaching assistants receive a stipend of $12,000 for the academic year, teaching two sections each semester. They also receive tuition remission to one-third of the in-state tuition rate.

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I've been accepted. Now what?

How much will it cost to attend the University of South Dakota?
The actual cost is based on several different factors, depending on residency, assistantships, and any scholarships you may receive. The best way to figure out the cost of attending the University of South Dakota is by checking the Business Office Tuition page.

What financial support do graduate students receive?
The Department's major source of financial support for graduate students is the Teaching Assistantship. Some additional assistance is available in the form of awards to continuing students whose academic performance or creative achievements have been outstanding. Graduate students are also eligible for loans and for work-study programs administered by USD's Office of Financial Aid.

Where can I find information about scholarships?
Whenever possible, the University of South Dakota English Department recognizes and rewards outstanding students for their accomplishments and potential as scholars and writers in the field of English. More information can be found on the Scholarships & Awards Page

How will I know if my credits transfer from another college or university?
A maximum of nine graduate credit hours from accredited institutions may be transferred toward a master's degree in English. These transfer credits must have been completed no more than seven years prior to conferment of the M.A. A transfer credit approval form must be signed by the student's advisor, department chairperson, and the Graduate Dean.

The English Department offers cooperative M.A. programs with five institutions in the region: Black Hills State University, Dakota Wesleyan University, Morningside College, the University of Sioux Falls and Wayne State University. Through these cooperative programs, students can use 12-15 credits of graduate coursework at any of the five institutions towards a master's in English from USD.

A Transfer Equivalency Request Form is available on the registrar's Website. For more information, contact the Coordinator of Graduate Studies at

What is the availability of on and off campus housing for graduate students?
Help for both On-Campus and Off-Campus housing is available through the University.

Where do I find a list of all the dates and deadlines for the Graduate School?
Most deadlines set by the Graduate School can be found on the Graduate School Deadlines Page. Please note that earlier deadlines may be set by the English Department.

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Beginning the First Semester

I was admitted to the program. What courses should I take? Who will be my advisor?
To learn more about M.A. program requirements, consult the Department's Graduate Student Handbook. All new students are assigned the Department's Coordinator of Graduate Studies, Dr. John Dudley (, as their initial advisor. You should discuss program requirements and course selection with him before registration.

How do I register?
For your first semester, the Department will register you for classes. In subsequent semesters, you will complete your own registration. Before you can be registered, however, you must submit the immunization form sent to you by Student Health Services. To download an immunization form, or for more information, see the Student Health Services Website.

To confirm or change your registration, and to register in subsequent semesters, you will need to establish an account on WebAdvisor. To set up your account and use WebAdvisor for the first time, go to the Technology Website.

How many credits do I need to be taking to be considered full-time?
If you are awarded a teaching assistantship and are teaching two sections, full-time is six credit hours per semester. All other English graduate students are considered full-time with nine credit hours. More information on requirements and full/half time status can be found on the Requirements Page.

Where do I find a list of all the dates and deadlines for the Graduate School?
Most deadlines set by the Graduate School can be found on the Graduate School Program Application Deadlines Page.

What is the availability of on and off campus housing for graduate students?
Help for both On-Campus and Off-Campus housing is available through the University.

Do graduate students who have been accepted need to attend an orientation?
New teaching assistants must attend orientation meetings conducted by the Graduate School and the English Department. An orientation for all English graduate students is held at the beginning of each fall semester. You should receive an email from the department as well as the Graduate School as to the time and place of the orientation.

How do I set up an email account through USD?
You should be able to activate your USD email account through the ITS Help Desk. Your username and password will also provide access to on-campus computers, as well as library databases and other online services. The standard email address will look like this:

How will I receive news and information from the English Department?
All M.A. students are subscribed to an email listserv, through which you should receive messages about events, courses, deadlines and other relevant information. If you are not receiving regular emails from the listserv, or if your email address has changed, contact Dr. Dudley at

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Finishing the M.A.

What do I need to do to graduate?
Our Degree Requirements and Options Page can answer questions about what courses are needed for graduation. More detailed information about written and oral examinations is provided in the annual English Graduate Student Handbook. You can find graduation Deadlines on the Graduate School Website.

How and when do I form a graduate committee?
Forming a graduate committee can begin at any time. First, you will want to discuss your plans with the individual you want to chair your committee. This will be the professor with whom you will have the most contact concerning your comprehensive exams and (for plan A students) thesis. The other two members of your committee will then follow. One must be from the English Department, and the other will be from another department outside of English. Finding someone from outside of the department may be difficult depending on your experience with professors from other departments. In this instance it is best to get help from the chair of your committee and/or the Coordinator of Graduate Studies.

How long does it take to write a thesis?
Students generally register for the six required hours of thesis credit during their final semester of full-time study. Writing a thesis, however, is a demanding and complex process, and the time required for completion varies considerably. Students writing a creative thesis generally begin with a core of written work, often prepared for a graduate seminar, which they then expand and revise into a larger project. Critical theses, which require substantial research, may also begin with work completed for a course. Often, however, students who embark on a new project for the thesis find it difficult to complete the work in a single semester, particularly if they are taking M.A. written exams during that semester. For this reason, it is imperative that students who plan to write a thesis begin the process as early as possible - certainly, during the semester before registering for thesis hours - in order to meet the deadlines for graduation in their final semester.

What is involved in a thesis "defense"?
The defense is an opportunity for your committee to ask questions about your thesis and for you to explain and expand upon the ideas contained in your thesis. You should schedule a defense when you and your thesis director agree that your thesis is in final, or near-final, form. You should leave your committee ample time before the defense to read and respond to your thesis. It is often useful to schedule an earlier "workshop" meeting with your committee to discuss a draft of the thesis. You should discuss this possibility, and other details about the revision process, with your director.

Can I complete and defend my thesis during the summer?
It is often possible to schedule a defense during the summer months. Before planning to do so, however, you should inquire as to the availability of your committee members, since most faculty are not on contract and may be out of town.

What is a prospectus and how do I submit one?
A prospectus is a brief synopsis of your thesis, accompanied by a bibliography. Your prospectus must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator, along with the English Department's prospectus approval form, signed by the members of your committee. The due date for the prospectus is at the end of the semester prior to the one in which you expect to graduate. See the Graduate Student Handbook for more detailed information about the prospectus and the thesis process.

Where can I find the proper formatting for style and layout for my thesis?
All theses should conform to MLA style, as defined by the latest edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Information on the physical formatting of your thesis manuscript, including margins, paper, etc., can be found in the Graduate School's thesis guide. See the Graduate Student Handbook for more detailed information about formatting your thesis, according to the guidelines of the discipline.

How much does it cost to have my thesis prepared?
It can depend on the length and quality of paper. The thesis guide will help answer any questions as to specific costs for binding. The Graduate School requires two copies and the English Department requires one additional copy for its archives. Personal copies can also be bound through I.D. Weeks Library. The on-campus printing office Campus Copy can help with paper choices and printing of your thesis.

Where do I get the application for graduation?
The application for degree and other necessary forms are available from the Graduate School.

How long do I have to finish my graduate degree program?
Most full-time students are able to complete the M.A. program in about two years. Students who are not Teaching Assistants may be able to do so in one calendar year, depending on the availability of courses. It is possible to complete some of the requirements for the M.A. during the summer. At least two graduate-level courses in English are usually offered each summer.

Important Note: All courses listed on your program of study, which must be submitted no later than the semester before graduation and which must include all courses required for graduation, must be completed no longer than seven years before your date of graduation. The M.A. program is designed to accommodate part-time as well as full-time students. Graduate seminars meet once a week and are scheduled in the late afternoon or evening to allow students with work or family responsibilities to attend. Other graduate-level classes are offered earlier in the day. Students who have been admitted into the program may begin their studies in September, January or any of the summer terms.

I have finished all of my required credit hours. However, I am not done with my thesis and do not expect to finish in the next semester. Do I need to request a leave of absence from the Graduate School?
If you are still an active student in the M.A. program, but are not registered for course or thesis hours, you should register for ENGL 700: Program Sustaining (master's). This is a zero-credit course which will not cost you anything, but will allow you to retain email and library privileges, and will allow the English Department and Graduate School to accurately track your status and progress toward the degree. You should be aware, however, that student loan providers, health insurance companies, and other entities that require proof of student status do not necessarily accept registration in ENGL 700 as evidence of enrollment.

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If I send application material ahead of time (e.g., letter of recommendation, transcripts, GRE scores), how long do I have to submit the application itself before the material is discarded?
The English Department creates and maintains a folder for each applicant. The Department generally keeps application files open for one year. If you have questions or would like the Department to retain application material longer, please contact the Coordinator of Graduate Studies.

How do I apply for a leave of absence from Graduate School?
Instead of applying for a leave of absence, students who are not registered for coursework, but who wish to maintain their status as active students, register for "sustaining" hours. These are zero-credit courses which will not cost you anything, but will allow you to retain email and library privileges, and will allow the Department and Graduate School to accurately track your status and progress toward the degree. You should be aware, however, that student loan providers, health insurance companies, and other entities that require proof of student status do not necessarily accept registration in ENGL 700 or ENGL 800 as evidence of enrollment.

What is WebAdvisor?
WebAdvisor provides registration, course listings, grade, and program evaluation information for all USD faculty, students and their advisors. WebAdvisor can be accessed on any computer that is hooked up to the Internet from the USD home page. To set up your account and use WebAdvisor for the first time, go to the Technology Website.

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