Earn your B.A. and M.A. degrees in just five years!


Requirements for Admission

Students are eligible to apply for the B.A./M.A. program when they have finished at least twelve credits in courses that count toward the English major, with a GPA of 3.5 or over in these courses. Students must also have an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students are also asked to obtain letters of recommendation from two professors teaching in the graduate program, which should be sent directly to the Chair.

How the Program Works

Students who are accepted into the program take four Master’s courses as undergraduates, ideally one per term during their junior and senior years. These four courses count toward the B.A. degree (12 of the necessary 36 credits) and toward the Master’s degree once the B.A. is earned. The key point to remember is this: students get double credit for four courses. When the student begins the fifth year, he or she has already completed 12 credits toward the M.A. degree, and will have only 21 credits left to fulfill (four courses in one term, three the next).

When to Apply

The English Department encourages students to begin the program in the first semester of the junior year, so the best time to apply is in the second semester of sophomore year. It is to the student’s advantage to take one Master’s course per term for two years, but students who decide to apply to the program during their junior year can complete the necessary coursework by taking two Master’s classes per term during their senior year.

How to Apply

The Combined Degree application form is available in the College Dean’s office (St John Hall, Room 135). Students fill out the top portion of the form, bring it to the Registrar’s office, and generate a transcript from the Web. Completed application form and certified transcript are then returned to the College Dean’s office. Once the applicant’s qualifications have been verified by the College Dean’s Office and the Department Chair, the student will be informed in writing of the admission decision. The process normally takes three to four weeks.








  • Qualified students can enter the B.A./M.A. program and earn two degrees in just five years.
  • Students can work at the graduate level with the same professors they’ve known as undergraduates.
  • Graduate seminars are small and focused courses that foster and active, tight-knit community of peers.
  • Graduates with a Master’s degree differentiate themselves from other candidates in a competitive job market.
  • Applicants with an M.A. in English are attractive to admissions committees at law and business schools.
  • English M.A. students are well positioned for further graduate study in literature, creative writing, philosophy, American Studies, women’s studies, and more.



Additional Information

The English M.A. Capstone Projects: Master’s Portfolio or Thesis

The 33-credit (11 course) M.A. program in English allows the student to choose their own course of study in consultation with the DGS and their adviser. There is one required class: ENG 100 Modern Critical Theories.

In addition, the M.A. at St. John’ features two different tracks for the capstone project:

  1. the option to write a three-credit master’s thesis
  2. the option to do the master’s portfolio.

Students elect to do either the MA thesis or the MA portfolio.

The master’s thesis will take the place of one course; students who elect to do the portfolio track will take 33-credits worth of coursework and write the master’s portfolio.

M.A. Thesis

The M.A. thesis is a capstone project of the M.A. student’s devising. It is an independent project written in consultation with a faculty mentor and at least one other faculty reader. The student registers for ENG 900/Master’s Research; when s/he does this, it means that you’ve found a faculty mentor who has agreed to advise the project. Typically the M.A. thesis student registers for the course in the fall of their final year of the M.A., having approached a possible adviser for the M.A. thesis in the spring of their first year. It’s a good idea to begin planning for it over the summer.

Typically the student will not complete the thesis in one semester. The professor will give an Incomplete and the student will continue to work on it over the winter break and spring semester; the final draft of the thesis is due before the “incomplete” has to be resolved, which usually is in mid-March. Deadlines for final submission of the M.A. thesis to the Dean’s office follow the deadlines established by the Graduate Office each year.

Students will be mentored by one thesis adviser, and will have second readers who will also follow the progress of the writing, offer advice, and evaluate the thesis for quality.

The M.A. thesis at St. John’s is typically 40-60 pages plus a bibliography.

Students who take ENG 900: Master’s Research in the fall should register for ENG 105T Master’s Thesis defense in the spring. Note, there is no formal M.A. defense at St. John’s, but you should register for placeholder designation.

M.A. Portfolio

What is the portfolio? The portfolio is composed of four representative samples of graduate student writing:

  1. one revised and expanded seminar paper or final project, plus the earlier draft of this paper;
  2. two additional seminar papers or final writing projects (unrevised);
  3. one ten-page critical preface that discusses your intellectual development as an English graduate student.

Portfolios do not need to be bound; a manila envelope or folder will suffice as a container.

Students who elect the portfolio track register for ENG 105: Comprehensive Portfolio in their final semester of coursework. This is a zero-credit course that is in addition to your 33 credits of coursework.

Portfolios are read on a Pass/Fail basis, based on the whole package. Portfolios should show:

  1. graduate level research and writing skills, including professional use of authorities (MLA format) and grammatical English;
  2. thoughtful response to outside comments on the revised essay or final project; and
  3. critical awareness of the writing samples’ value in contexts beyond the class and/or professor for which it was originally written.

Failing the Portfolio

Portfolios will fail as a result of the failure to meet professional writing standards, plagiarism, lack of familiarity with the critical discourse pertinent to a given topic, or failure to discuss your writing samples in the critical preface. Students who also do not adequately revise the one paper will be asked to redo the work in order to pass the exam.

Select Papers that mean something to you

Prior to submitting the portfolio, students should meet with their professors to choose which papers or final papers they will submit. Most importantly, they should decide which paper or project they will revise. Choice of papers should not be based simply on which papers received the highest grade. Rather, you should select papers that demonstrate your most meaningful work, as you will discuss in your critical preface.

Revising Papers

After choosing which paper or final project to revise, students should substantially revise and expand it for the portfolio. Revision strategies should begin by considering final comments on the paper from the professor for which you wrote it, but you are not limited to those suggestions. The purpose of the revision is to expand the context of the seminar to consider a broader professional audience and purpose for your writing. The revision stage is where you show all your growing professional skills, which means that your revision should be more substantial than simply copyediting or adding scholarly references to your earlier draft.

Writing the Critical Preface

The critical preface to your portfolio should discuss your intellectual development as an English graduate student, with reference to the writing samples as evidence of this development. While there are not prescribed rules for this essay, it should demonstrate how you understand yourself as a scholar in English studies. The essay should be as compelling and distinctive as possible in discussing your development, rather than just a summary of the written work that you are submitting for your portfolio. Consider the following questions as you begin to think about your critical preface:

  • What intellectual advances have you made?
  • What critics or critical schools do you tend to use and why?
  • How has your relationship to interpretation or reading changed?
  • How has your teaching changed?
  • How have your writing practices changed?
  • How has your sense of audience changed?

Capstone Courses

ENG. 900: Master’s Research (3 credits)
M.A. thesis; capstone project of the M.A. student’s devising, written in consultation with a mentor and several faculty readers.

ENG 105T: Master’s Thesis Defense (0 credit)
Placeholder designation for students who have written the M.A. thesis in the previous semester and who are in their last semester of coursework. Register for this class if you have already registered for ENG 900 in the previous semester and have completed or are intending to complete the thesis as your capstone project for the MA.

ENG. 105: Comprehensive Portfolio/Masters (0 credit)
Course designation for MA students in their last semester of coursework if they choose the Portfolio option rather than the M.A. thesis.