WGSS Guide to Graduate Study

The Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) Program offers resources and other guidance to help new and returning graduate students navigate the information they will need throughout their graduate experience.

For details on application requirements, GRE and TOEFL scores, full-time and part-time options, recommendations and more, read Columbian College’s guidelines to the graduate admissions process.



Kavita Daiya speaking to a graduate student



Program of Study

Students in both the MA in WGSS and the MA in Public Policy-WGSS must craft an individualized program of study. By the end of their first semester, students should meet with their advisor and complete a Program of Study Form obtained from the advisor. The form should be signed by their advisor and forwarded to the WGSS Program office for the student's file. Revisions to the Program of Study Form may be made as needed in consultation with the advisor.


Choosing Program Options 

Master's students must choose between an MA in WGSS and an MA in WGSS-Public Policy.


Two students among a larger group seated and talking



In the Master of Arts in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies degree program, students choose a concentration in either a discipline or topical area:

  • Specific disciplines include anthropology, sociology, English, history, philosophy or another discipline (with permission). This option most often suits students interested in pursuing a PhD in a discipline, and those whose interests fit easily within disciplinary lines.
  • Topical areas include women and health, international development and race and gender. Students may choose the topical area option because their intellectual passions and career objectives are truly interdisciplinary. This option provides flexibility for students with diverse interests.

While there are opportunities for students with policy interests to include policy courses in their program of study through electives or chosen discipline, students who wish to pursue public policy careers may find the MA in Public Policy-WGSS a better fit.


Professor Cynthia Deitch teaching a class



Comprehensive Examination

All students, regardless of whether they choose the thesis or practicum track, must pass the comprehensive exam in order to complete the master’s degree. The exam is offered twice a year, near the end of the fall and spring semesters. Students who plan to take the exam should notify the program at least one month (30 days) before the date that the exam is given out.

WGSS faculty determine the format of the comprehensive exam. It may change following periodic review. In the event of changes (likely for the 2018-19 academic year), a student may opt to follow either the format in effect when they entered the program or the revised format.

To qualify to take comprehensive exams, a student must have completed all non-elective courses or be in the process of completing remaining non-elective courses the semester the exam is taken. It is permissible to take a comprehensive exam before finishing a thesis or independent research if all other non-elective courses have been taken, but it is advisable to have completed as many courses as possible, including electives. Students should consult an advisor if they have any questions about when to take the exam.

Students will be required to sign and attach to their exam a copy of the university academic integrity code (which will be provided with the exam questions). Answers must be written in the student’s own words and must represent original responses to the questions. Reusing writing completed for previous assignments (e.g., papers, exams, etc.) is not allowed.

Cost and Deadlines


Application Deadlines

  • Graduate Certificate: July 1
  • MA in WGSS: April 1
  • MA in Public Policy-WGSS: April 1
  • MA Applications for Assistantships and Fellowships: February 1


Cost and Financial Aid

Graduate tuition is charged per credit hour. Books and supplies can be estimated at an additional $700/year. For detailed cost information, visit the Student Accounts Office website.

The GW Office of Student Financial Assistance offers financial aid in the form of Federal Direct Stafford, Federal Direct Graduate PLUS and private alternative loans to students who have been admitted to one of our graduate degree or approved graduate certificate programs.

Graduate students may be eligible to receive funding opportunities from the WGSS Program, as well as other available awards and scholarships.


Additional Resources

For more information on the graduate program, consult these university tools.

GW Graduate Student Handbooks

Download the Columbian College master’s, graduate certificate or doctoral student handbooks for general guidance on deadlines, leaves of absence, thesis guidelines and final dissertation defense.

Tools for Thesis Writing

Gelman Library and Consortium
In addition to a robust collection and consortium with nearby libraries, GW’s library services include specialist researchers in WGSS topics.

Electronic Theses and Dissertations Website
Learn more about thesis and dissertation format and submission on the GW Libraries site.