Credentials and Experience
Applicants to the MA in Science Writing or Graduate Certificate in Science Writing should possess some familiarity with or interest in journalistic or creative writing and reading in the area of science, medicine, nature, technology or related fields, although they need not be published or professional writers. A background in science is useful but not required. Some applicants might receive permission to take a core course or two as a Provisional Student or to take courses without seeking a degree or certificate as a Special Student. (See Admission Status below.) Applicants must be proficient in grammar, punctuation, spelling and usage. The program does not require a graduate entrance examination or proficiency in a foreign language.
Application materials are submitted online. See “Apply Now” for more information. Admission is based on a competitive evaluation of the Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) standard application materials, including an application, application fee and transcripts of previous study, plus the following Science Writing Program materials. Applicants should closely examine the information below; improper or incomplete applications are major reasons for delay or rejection.
- A creative, well-crafted Statement of Purpose explaining the applicant’s aspirations as a writer or editor in the field and describing the applicant’s recent reading.
- Recent writing samples demonstrating the applicant’s promise and current development as a journalist, creative writer, or communications writer.
- Résumé or biographical sketch.
The Science Writing Program also will review up to three recommendation letters if they directly relate to the applicant’s experience or promise as a writer. Letters of Recommendation are optional.
Statement of Purpose
The Statement of Purpose should describe the applicant’s education, experience and interest in writing or editing about science, medicine or technology. Statements of Purpose are reviewed for creativity, content and the level of interest in the field, so we appreciate originality and professional or personal reflection. The statement also should describe the applicant’s recent reading (books, periodicals, digital sites or other works). The statement should be at least one and no more than three typewritten pages, single- or double-spaced. If the applicant wants permission to take only a course or two as a Special Student, the Statement should specify the desired course or courses.
The most important parts of an application are the writing samples, which should be the applicant’s best attempt at creative, communication or journalistic writing in medicine, science, technology, nature, health or related fields. Any form or combination of forms, including news or feature article, commentary/blogs, communication feature, memoir, travel, essay, newsletter article, review, profile, humor, news release, speech, book chapters and creative nonfiction, is permitted. Applicants lacking samples about science, medicine or technology may submit writing about other topics, although some kind of explanatory or analytical writing is useful. The samples should total 20 to 40 typewritten, double-spaced pages, or about 5,000 to 10,000 words. Samples do NOT have to be a single, lengthy piece of writing. Instead, a combination of several shorter pieces is recommended if the combined length of all pieces equals 20 to 40 pages. We suggest two to five separate or related works of prose.
Tips for a Successful Writing Sample: Typical academic or college papers, peer-reviewed research reports, extremely technical writing, or formulaic government or corporate documents are NOT acceptable writing samples. Instead, we seek an applicant’s best attempt at journalism, communication writing, essays, creative writing, blogging, op-eds, speechwriting, newsletter features, journal entries, storytelling, narrative, or other styles, in any traditional or experimental form. In some cases, a corporate document or academic paper may be an acceptable sample, but only if it displays creativity and originality beyond the typical example.
For models to emulate, potential applicants should review the content and style of writing found in the published health, science, technology or related sections of major newspapers, magazines, literary journals, scientific organizations or web publications. The Science Writing Program favors writing samples that shows some understanding of the traits and techniques of such published writing, although professional-level expertise is not expected.
Our Admissions Committee advises applicants who don’t regularly produce the requested writing in a personal or professional setting to demonstrate creative initiative: Read and study your best models, find a topic of knowledge or interest, then seize a pen or keyboard to write.
Applicants may submit copies of published writing, although submitted samples do not have to be published. Applicants with digital writing samples should submit a copy of the entire sample, not just a link. The majority of samples in the application should be no more than five years old. Applicants may submit uncompleted work if they label it as such.
Applicants to the MA in Science Writing and Graduate Certificate in Science Writing are reviewed by an Admissions Committee of program leadership and faculty. Applicants are either rejected or accepted as a Degree candidate, Certificate candidate, Provisional Student, or Special Student. Earning Provisional Student and Special Student status in the Science Writing Program does not eliminate the need to submit full writing samples and undergo a full admissions review. Additionally, the Science Writing Program differs from other AAP graduate programs in the handling of Provisional and Special Student status:
- Provisional Students who want MA or Certificate candidacy in Science Writing must complete the provisional course or courses with a grade of A- or higher.
- Science Writing does not allow applicants to enroll in any course without some review of writing samples and a Statement of Purpose, even if those applicants request Special Student or Provisional status.
- Special Students in Science Writing must get advisor permission for every course they take. The requirements and standards of the desired course will determine the admissions review; some courses require greater writing experience than others.
Courses completed as a Provisional or Special Student will count toward the MA or Graduate Certificate if the student later earns formal candidacy. However, only three certificate courses count toward the MA degree if a Certificate student decides to switch to or continue studies toward the higher credential.
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