Frequently Asked Questions

When should I apply?

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, which means that they will be reviewed as they are submitted.  The final deadline to submit an application for Fall 2024 enrollment is April 20, 2024.

What is a FLAS fellowship?

The Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships are scholarships, and graduate academic year awards comprise an $18,000 tuition subsidy and a $20,000 stipend for living expenses. Incoming MA students who are awarded academic year FLAS receive full tuition funding for the first year of their program.  For all students applying for their second year of graduate study tuition for FLAS fellows will be $18,000.

FLAS fellowships are awarded in an annual competition. In order to be eligible, student must be US citizens or permanent residents who will enroll in a program of study related to South Asia and who will study a modern South Asian language at the intermediate, advanced, or heritage level. The annual competition is university-wide and open to undergraduate and graduate students.

Please note that you must apply by February 1, 2024 to be considered in the competition for Summer 2023 and 2023-24 FLAS fellowships. The application for a FLAS fellowship is separate from the application for admission to the MA program. For more information, see:

Summer FLAS awards are for study at language programs in the U.S. and abroad. You must have matriculated at Columbia in order to apply for a Summer award.  Incoming students for Fall 2023 are not eligible to apply for Summer 2023 awards. Summer awards cover the cost of tuition up to $5,000 and a stipend of $2,500.

Which languages can I study at Columbia?

Columbia offers three-year programs (Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced) in Bangla, Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit, and Urdu. Panjabi, Sinhala, Tamil are two-year programs (Elementary and Intermediate). Advanced Bangla and all Sinhala courses are taught remotely from Cornell University via the Columbia Language Resource Center.  All students who plan to enroll in language classes must take a placement exam, except for those enrolling in a beginning class or those who have completed the prerequisite course at Columbia.

How long is the program?

It can vary according to individual student needs. Some students take two academic years (i.e., four semesters) to finish the program, especially if they choose to study a language. Alternatively, the program can be completed by a full-time student in as few as two semesters. Some students finish the program at a pace that suits their work or family schedule by enrolling either as a half-time or quarter-time student.

Are there required courses? How many?

There are two required courses. Students take “Introduction to South Asian Studies” at the beginning of their program (offered in the fall semester), and they take “Thesis Workshop” at the end of the program (offered in the spring semester). MA students must take four courses within their area of specialization, and they must complete a total of 30 credits in graduate-level courses.

Which kinds of classes can I take? Only courses those listed as “South Asian Studies” courses?

The program is highly customizable, and students may take courses throughout the University. Students select courses in consultation with the MA Director each semester. We encourage students to take an eclectic, personalized course-load that will advance their professional and academic goals. To that end, all students are required to design a four-course specialization that encompasses their primary research interests.

Do I need to write a thesis?

Yes. All MA students are expected to complete a substantive piece of original research in order to graduate. The exact specifications and kind of research project may be determined in consultation with a thesis supervisor.

Do I need to take the GRE? What about exams for English language qualifications?

There is no GRE requirement for admission into the program. For English testing requirements, please see the GSAS website (

Does SAI offer financial aid to Masters students?

In some cases, SAI is able to offer partial scholarships. Scholarship availability changes year to year, and financial resources are limited. There is no separate application for internal SAI scholarship funding. For external funding, applicants should consult SAI’s “Funding” page at

I haven’t been in school for a while. Will that hurt my application?

No. The selection committee factors in the totality of each applicant’s academic performance and professional experience, and the selection committee considers each application individually.

What should be in my Statement of Academic Purpose?

There is no set format for the Statement of Academic Purpose, but it ought to describe your interests in the program, in the region, and at Columbia; your background and skills, and some of your tentative professional goals in a clear and direct manner.