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Prospective Students

Open House 

  Our Spring 2020 Open House will be March 16th at 6 pm. Please indicate your interest to 


How to Apply to the MA Program

  • A personal statement: Explain why you want to obtain this degree and how your interests and academic/professional background are relevant. Up to 1000 words.
  • A writing sample: A compelling essay or research paper of no more than 2,000 words.
  • A Curriculum Vitae: A resume or CV listing any work and personal experiences that may be relevant.
  • Two letters of recommendation: Please provide letters of recommendation from academic or professional references who can appraise your academic or professional achievement and promise. The letters must be received by the admissions deadline.
  • A $75 non-refundable application fee: The application fee is waived for United States Armed Services Veterans, and McNair Scholars.
  • A completed online application form: Prospective students must submit an application form through the Graduate Center's online application system.
  • Higher Education transcripts: Transcripts must be submitted from each college or university attended even if you did not complete a degree or did not enroll in courses in your current field. International applicants who submit transcripts not issued in English must also include a certified English transcript accompanying the transcript. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in the United States, or its equivalent abroad, with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B average) or higher. If applicable the transcript must list the official graduation date.
  •  GRE scores: GRE scores taken within the past five years are required for admission. Program faculty recognize, however, that GRE scores do not always fully capture applicants’ talents or preparation, especially so for those from other countries or those who have been out of school for some years. We carefully consider applicants’ entire admissions packages, of which GRE scores are only one element.
  • International Applicants - English Proficiency: Applicants must submit scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) unless they have a post-secondary degree from an institution in which the language of instruction is English-only and located in a country that recognizes English as an Official Language.


Why Biography and Memoir? 

Anne Frank's DiariesFrom Plutarch’s Lives through Augustine’s Confessions, Mark Twain’s Autobiography through Anne Frank’s Diaries (pictured), biographies and memoirs have shaped history and recovered voices—for example women’s voices—traditionally overlooked. Biographies and memoirs can be an imaginative art form as well, as evidenced by masterpieces such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Nabokov’s Speak, Memory or W.G. Sebald’s autobiographical and biographical meditations on memory and history. Virginia Woolf, whose father was editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, wrote of the spaces that biographies inhabit, between factual evidence and the more ambiguous terrain of human character, or between the life that is lived and the narratives (or for Freud, lies) that are told to frame one’s experiences. But this hybridity also accounts for the very richness of biography and memoir, making the forms all the more worthy of study.

In addition to resting between empirical history and “creative non-fiction,” or revolutionizing our understanding of individuals in the past, biography and memoir can also straddle the divide between the scholarly and the popular, which the M.A. program in Biography and Memoir recognizes and embraces. While the program would offer an excellent step into a Ph.D. in History or English, it would also provide the tools in which to pursue a career in journalism and media, professional writing and publishing, oral history studies, documentary filmmaking, digital communications (such as podcasting), archival work, and other rewarding professions.

In short, this is a golden age for biography and memoir. Many leading publishers have series that focus on biography and memoir, while agents are keen to consider those who write more creative non-fiction. The four-volume Oxford History of Life-Writing has just been published, while the digital age has further extended the auto/biographical purview by means of social media, blogging and podcasting. Many of the best documentaries assume biographical approaches, while oral history has flourished as a field in the last three decades. An M.A. in Biography and Memoir, one of the first of its kind, will only add to this efflorescence, providing students with the academic rigor and creative fulfillment that can lead to a diverse range of careers.

Students with a broad range of academic backgrounds are encouraged to apply


Advantages of Our Program

The M.A. program in Biography and Memoir offers the following advantages:

  • Affordability

  • Location at the center of the publishing and cultural hub of New York City

  • Affiliation with the Leon Levy Center for Biography, directed by renowned and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kai Bird, and hosting a popular series of talks with leading biographers

  • Collaboration with CUNY resources, including oral history projects, digital humanities centers, and media studies programs

  • Interdisciplinary training in History, English, Psychology, Anthropology, and other fields, and exposure to creative and more scholarly voices

  • Excellent career positioning, whether for a Ph.D., an independent writing career, journalism, teaching, or archival work

  • Professional training in subjects such as ethics and methods

  • Exceptional faculty at The Graduate Center as well as the many CUNY colleges, providing support and mentorship