Credentials and Experience
Applicants to the MA in Science Writing or Graduate Certificate in Science Writing should possess some basic familiarity with reading and writing in the field, although they need not be published or professional writers.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. (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 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 in the field, demonstrating the applicant’s current development as a writer.
- Résumé or biographical sketch
The Science Writing Program also will review up to three recommendation letters relating 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 content, creativity and the level of interest in the field. The statement also should describe the applicant’s recent reading. The statement should not exceed three typewritten pages, single- or double-spaced. If the applicant wants permission to take only a course or two and is not applying to the MA or Certificate program, the Statement should specify the desired course or courses.
The most important part of an application is the writing sample, which should be the applicant’s best attempt at creative or journalistic writing in the field of medicine, technology or other science fields. For the MA in Science Writing or the Graduate Certificate, the samples should total 20 to 40 typewritten, double-spaced pages, or about 5,000 to 10,000 words, but samples do NOT have to be a single, lengthy piece of writing. A combination of several shorter pieces is recommended if the combined length of all pieces equals the requirements.
Applicants lacking samples about science, medicine or technology may submit writing about other topics; any type of explanatory or analytical writing is encouraged. The samples themselves should be up to five separate works of prose. Any nonfiction or journalism form or combination of forms, including news or feature article, commentary/blogs, memoir, travel, essay, review, profile, book chapters and creative nonfiction, is permitted.
Applicants may submit copies of the published equivalent of the above lengths, although submitted samples do not have to be published. Applicants with digital writing samples should submit the entire sample, not just a link. The samples usually should be no more than five years old. Academic papers, peer-reviewed research reports, or government documents generally are not recommended as writing samples; most samples should be journalism, communication writing, essays, creative writing, blogging, etc. 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 status of Provisional and Special Students:
- 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 to request degree candidacy. Other AAP programs require the grade of B or higher in the provisional course(s).
- Special Students in Science Writing must get advisor permission for every course they take.
- Unlike other AAP graduate programs, 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. The requirements and standards of the desired course will determine the admissions review; some courses require greater writing experience than others. Special Students in Science Writing must get advisor permission for every course they take.
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 two 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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