Information for Provisional Students

The Q&A below explains Provisional Student Status in the MA in Writing Program and the Science Writing Program, which includes an MA and Graduate Certificate. Provisional students should consider the offer of Provisional Status as a positive step. Many applicants do not reach this point. While rejection still is possible after a Provisional course, the MA in Writing Program and the Science Writing Program expect most Provisional students to grow enough as writers to achieve full degree or certificate status.

What should I do if I receive an offer of Provisional Status?

First, decide whether you want to move ahead. We hope you do, but you can reject the offer. If so, please notify us. Or you can decide to enroll in the provisional course or courses listed in your acceptance letter. Registration is available online. If you have questions about the suggested course or courses, contact your faculty advisor.

What are the major reasons for Provisional status?

Most of the time, the Admissions Committee has questions about your writing. For instance, a Nonfiction or Science Writing applicant may have good samples of memoir but has never written reported material. A fiction applicant could show promising style and voice but seem uncertain on certain basic technique. Or the committee is worried about an unusual number of clunky sentences or grammatical errors in the samples. Other reasons for provisional status include poor grades in previous studies, especially if within the past five years, or any concern that the applicant may not fully understand the form of writing being considered. Provisional can occur for other reasons, so check with your advisor. Remember, though, Provisional is a good step. We don’t offer that status to people we expect to falter. If we do, we reject the applicant.

What should I do in the Provisional course?

Have fun, work hard, and consult your instructor and advisor. If you want more information about what you should focus on during the course, check your advisor.

How do I earn degree status?

By making an A- or higher in the Provisional course. Your course instructor will know your status, and she/he will keep in touch with your advisor and the program as you progress. All will monitor your work in the course, especially your writing.  Your final grade will be based on your performance in the course and whether we think you are ready to move ahead.

What about registering for the next term?

Can I hold a spot in a course while I’m awaiting my final course grade? Yes. The course schedule for the next term is released months before the current term ends, so you can register and ask the Registration staff to hold your paperwork course pending your completion of the provisional course. We urge students to register early because our courses often fill up. If you don’t reach degree status, any tuition payment will be returned in full. For more info about registering, email

If I earn degree status, will the provisional course count toward a degree?

Yes. Any course you pass will be made part of your permanent graduate transcript at Hopkins. Even if you don’t earn degree or certificate status by making an A- or above, you will always have Hopkins credit for any course completed with a passing grade.

For more information, contact your faculty advisor or program director, assistant director, or coordinator.