Media Studies Track

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Unit Requirements

The minimum number of units for a master’s degree in communication-media studies track is 45 unduplicated units beyond the 180 units required for the bachelor’s degree. The maximum number of units per quarter taken at graduate level is 18, with any additional units taken within the same quarter charged at a per unit rate. It is important to evaluate carefully the total units you need to reach the minimum of 45 graduate units. Plan to take 15-18 units of media studies courses in the M.A. program each quarter.

Program Requirements for the Master’s Degree

Course units may be counted to meet the requirements of only one degree. The courses used to fulfill master’s degree requirements must represent new work beyond the components of the undergraduate program. Normally a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better satisfies the requirement for high academic standing. Graduation requires a GPA of 3.0 or better. To count toward the M.A. units, all courses must be taken for a letter grade if offered as such, and courses in related areas outside the department must be approved by the student’s advisor if they are not on the department’s list of approved outside electives (see Curriculum). Units earned in courses below the 100 level may not be counted towards the minimum unit requirement for the master’s degree. The University requires that at least 36 of the M.A. units are taken inside the home department.

Communication Coursework Taken Previously

Students in the coterminal master’s program in communication may transfer certain courses between their undergraduate and graduate careers. Courses that were taken since, and including, Autumn Quarter of sophomore year are eligible for transfer. Both undergraduate and graduate departments must approve any such transfer of courses. These courses may only count toward one career or the other.

First Graduate Quarter

The quarter following completion of 12 full-tuition undergraduate quarters is identified as the first graduate quarter for tuition assessment. Thus, coterminal students are changed from the undergraduate to the graduate coterminal student group in the 13th quarter and are then assessed the regular graduate tuition rate (see “Coterm Tuition”). Coterminal students are subject to graduate studies policies and procedures as described in the “Graduate Education” section of the Stanford Bulletin. These policies include approval of a leave of absence for quarters not enrolled and minimal progress guidelines for graduate students.


When Can I Apply?

Applicants must submit their application and, if admitted, respond to the offer of admission no later than the quarter prior to the expected completion of their undergraduate degree. They must have declared a major, completed six academic quarters (two for transfer students) and earned a minimum of 120 units toward graduation (UTG) as shown on the undergraduate unofficial transcript. This includes allowable Advanced Placement (AP) and transfer credit.

The deadline to submit applications is January 29, 2020 at 3:00pm for admission in spring 2019-20. Recommenders have until February 3, 2020 to submit their online recommendation letters.

Decisions and Acceptances

Applicants will be notified of the admission decision in writing, typically 3-4 weeks after the application deadline. Applicants are typically given two weeks to accept or decline an offer of admission by replying to the admission notification.

How to Apply

Please read this information thoroughly before submitting an application.

Coterminal applications are submitted online. You can access the online application and all accompanying information at

Prospective applicants must schedule a meeting with the Student Services Manager during the preceding Autumn Quarter to review the application process and requirements.

The application materials to be submitted are:

  • Application for Admission to Coterminal Master’s Program
  • Current unofficial Stanford transcript
  • Coterm Approval form. This form has recently moved to the new Stanford eForms platform. To go to Stanford eForms, log in to Axess, click on the Student tab, and choose “Student eForms” from the Quick Links menu. Click on the “Available Forms” to find student forms. Print confirmation email and upload to application. 
  • Statement of Purpose. Upload .pdf, .doc, .docx, or .ttf file.
  • Master’s Project Advising Confirmation form. Print, complete, collect advisor’s signature, and upload. 
  • Preliminary Program Proposal. Print, complete with the assistance of the Student Services Manager, and upload.
  • Two letters of recommendation from Stanford Professors

GRE scores are not required.

The Online Application

Create an account and proceed to the online application.

On the ‘Proposed Master’s Program’ page, select ‘Communication MA’, and Spring 2020 as the first term of your master’s program.

In the ‘Additional Information Section’, select ‘Media Studies’ as your academic interest.

The Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose should discuss your qualifications and plans:

  • Qualifications: Tell us about yourself. Why do you think you’ll succeed in the coterminal program?
  • Coterminal Plans:
    a. Tell us about your thesis proposal. What is your goal for the project? What previous work in the area has been done by other researchers? What is your timetable for completion?
    b. How have the skills and knowledge you have developed from previous coursework, research, and other activities given you a unique perspective on your research topic?
    c. How will your proposed courses contribute to your thesis project?

Your statement should not exceed two pages.

A conversation with one or more Communication faculty member(s) in advance of completing the statement of purpose will help to clarify your statement.

Any changes to the thesis you propose in your statement of purpose must be approved by your coterminal advisor. A rejection may lead to your dismissal from the program.

Masters Project Advising Confirmation Form

To be accepted to the coterminal master’s program in communication – media studies track, students must find a professor in the Department of Communication to serve as coterminal advisor for the master’s project proposed in the student’s statement of purpose. Instructors, lecturers, and faculty from other departments may not serve as an advisor for coterm students in the media studies track.

We strongly recommend that prospective applicants start developing a topic for their master’s project as early as possible. Our faculty web page lists all Communication faculty and links to faculty web sites with detailed information about their research areas. Contact a potential advisor about your idea for a master’s project. If a faculty member agrees to be your coterminal advisor, they will sign your advising confirmation form that you will then upload at the time of application. Faculty can accept only a limited number of students every year, so start this process early.

Preliminary Program Proposal

In completing the Preliminary Program Proposal, applicants must specify all courses to be taken in future quarters, including the project (COMM 290). Where it is not possible to assign a course to a particular quarter, the applicant should make an educated guess. Those accepted into the program are required to complete a second, more accurate form (Program Proposal for a Master’s Degree) by the end of their first graduate quarter. The proposal is reviewed to determine whether the applicant’s intended program will meet the overall requirements of the coterminal program. Please schedule an appointment with the Student Services Manager to receive help completing the proposal.

Letters of Recommendation

Your letters of recommendation should come from Stanford professors who can write candidly about your qualifications, potential to carry on advanced study, and intellectual independence.

In the ‘References’ section of the online application, you will be asked to enter the following information:

  • Names of your recommenders. You may register up to three recommenders, but only two are required for the Media Studies track.
  • Institute/Employer, title/position, and field/discipline of each recommender.
  • Valid email address of each recommender. An email will be sent to your recommenders with information on how to proceed.
  • Waiver – you must choose whether or not to waive your right to see a recommendation. It may be that a recommender will not submit a recommendation if you have not waived the right to see it. This should be discussed in advance. Your choice will be transmitted to the recommender in the instructional email he/she will receive.


Statistics Prerequisite

Completion of a statistics course (typically STATS 160) is required for admission into the media studies coterminal program. The department may occasionally admit a coterminal student who has not yet completed this requirement. Such students should plan to take statistics during their first quarter in the program, as this constitutes an important foundation for much of the master’s coursework. Units from the statistics course do not count toward the 45 units required for the M.A. in media studies. Students may enroll for the statistics course for either a letter grade or credit.

Program Requirements

Media studies track students need to satisfy the following four basic requirements:

1. Required Units and GPA

Students must complete a minimum of 45 units in communication and related areas, including items 2 and 3 below. Courses must be taken for a letter grade if offered. Courses in related areas outside the department must be approved by the student’s advisor. A minimum of 36 units must be taken in the Communication Department. No more than two courses (not including the statistics prerequisite) may be at the 100 level. To remain in good academic standing, students must maintain a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better. Graduation requires a GPA of 3.0 or better.

2. Core Requirements

Students must complete COMM 206, COMM 208, and a statistics course. Typically, the statistics requirement is met with STATS 160. Other courses may be approved as a substitute. The statistics course does not count toward the 45 units.

Required courses, i.e., COMM 106, COMM 108, STATS 60/160, already taken during the undergraduate career do not need to be repeated.

3. Six Media Studies Courses

Students must complete a minimum of six additional Communication courses from the following list concerned with the study of media. Not all the listed courses are offered every year and the list may change from one year to the next.

216. Journalism Law
220. The Rise of Digital Culture
224. Lies, Trust, and Tech
225. Perspectives on American Journalism
235. Deliberative Democracy and Its Critics
237. The Dialogue of Democracy
242. Media Economics
243. Communication Policy and Regulation
245. Personality and Digital Media
251. The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech and Press
252. Constitutional Law
253. Political Campaigning in the Internet Age
254. The Politics of Algorithms
257. Information Control in Authoritarian Regimes
258. Censorship and Propaganda
262. Campaigns, Voting, Media and Elections
264. The Psychology of Communication about Politics in America
266. Virtual People
272. Media Psychology
277. Specialized Writing and Reporting (or 271/275/276/280)
284. Race and Media
286. Media, Technology, and the Body
324. Language and Technology
326. Advanced Topics in Human Virtual Representation
339. Questionnaire Design

4. The Media Studies M.A. Project

Students following the Media Studies track enroll in COMM 290 to complete a project over two consecutive quarters that must be pre-approved and supervised by the advisor. The master’s project will count as 2-4 units of credit. The completed M.A. project must be submitted to the advisor and a copy emailed to the student services manager no later than the last day of classes of the second consecutive quarter.

The Media Studies Project is an original project guided by the student’s advisor. For example, it can be a thorough literature review, a write-up of an empirical or qualitative study, or a description of a novel methodology developed by the student. Most importantly, the advisor must pre-approve the content and format of the thesis by signing the advisor form as part of the coterminal application. The student must work on the project with the advisor for a minimum of two quarters. The length of the thesis will vary according to project type. For example, exhaustive literature searches are often longer in terms of page length than write-ups of experiments. However, the amount of time and effort the student contributes to both types of projects are roughly equivalent. In sum, there is no length requirement, but typically theses are at least thirty pages and rarely more than 100 pages.

Selected Media Studies Projects:

5. Elective Courses

In addition to the core requirements, the six Media Studies courses, and the 2-4 units for the master’s project, students may choose additional Media Studies courses from the list and elective courses selected in consultation with and approved by the student’s advisor to fulfill the minimum requirement of 45 unduplicated units.

Approved Coterminal Courses from Affiliated Departments

Coterminal students following the Media Studies track may count up to nine units outside of the department towards the 45 units required for the master’s degree. Students have the option of selecting from the pre-approved list, or may petition their academic advisor for approval for coursework not listed. Students should be mindful that no more than two 100-level courses may be counted towards the MA. Units earned in courses below the 100 level may not be counted towards the minimum unit requirement for the master’s degree.

Units for SOC 280A (taken as an alternative to COMM 106 or 206) will be counted towards the nine units allowed outside of the department.

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