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Media Studies Track

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Coterm Advisor

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 their 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 the search for a potential advisor early, as most faculty require students to take a class with them or work in their lab before deciding on whether to accept them as a coterm advisee. Closely review our research faculty webpage listing Communication faculty and links to faculty websites with detailed information about faculty research areas. The list below shows who is taking on advisees and which prerequisites must be fulfilled before coterm advising will be considered.

  • Jeremy Bailenson, Virtual Human Interaction Lab; manager: Brian Beams; 1 quarter of research in the lab before application. Not advising students 2023-24.
  • Angèle Christin, not accepting new advisees at this point.
  • Jim Fishkin, Deliberative Democracy Lab, COMM 135 or 137 required, 1 quarter of research in the lab before application.     
  • Jay Hamilton, COMM 125 required.           
  • Jeff Hancock, Social Media Lab; manager: Sunny Liu, COMM 124/224 required, 1 quarter of research in the lab before application.  
  • Gabriella Harari, Media and Personality Lab, 1 quarter of research in the lab before application. 
  • Shanto Iyengar, COMM 162 required.                    
  • Jon Krosnick, Political Psychology Research Group, 1 quarter of research in the lab before application.
  • Xiaochang Li, not accepting new advisees for 2024.
  • Jennifer Pan, COMM 158 or 1 quarter of research with Prof. Pan required.
  • Nilam Ram, The Change Lab + Screenomics Lab, COMM 172 required, 1 quarter of research in the lab before application.     
  • Byron Reeves, COMM 172 required, and interest in Screenomics (
  • Fred Turner, COMM 1B or 120 required. Works with students doing historical analyses of media technologies, art worlds, and their social impact, as well as those working on creative ways of presenting historical and media work, such as exhibitions.

Once you have identified faculty with similar interests and are in the process of fulfilling the prerequisite, ask for a meeting to discuss applying to the media studies coterm program with the professor as your advisor. You can also talk about ideas for a master’s project. If a faculty member agrees to be your coterminal advisor, they will sign your advising confirmation form required for the application. Be advised that our faculty can only accept a limited number of students every year.

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.

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 by submitting a Coterm Course Transfer form to the Registrar’s Office. The Coterm Course Transfer form is available in the eForms portal in Axess. The eForm is routed to the student services administrators from the student’s undergraduate and graduate departments for approval. Courses that were taken since, and including, Autumn Quarter of sophomore year are eligible for transfer. Courses may only count toward one career or the other.

Once the undergraduate degree has been conferred, courses can no longer be transferred. The deadline to submit the transfer form is the Late Application to Graduate deadline of the quarter in which the student is graduating from the undergraduate program.

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, Assistantship and Funding”). 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 23, 2025 at 11:59pm for admission in spring 2024-25. Recommenders have until January 26, 2025 to submit their online recommendation letters.

Decisions and Acceptances

Admission decisions will be communicated via email approximately two to three weeks after the application deadline. Admitted students should communicate their response to the offer of admission by sending an email to the Student Services Manager no later than the deadline indicated in the acceptance email.

How to Apply

Please read this information thoroughly before submitting an application.

Coterminal applications are submitted online. You can find detailed information on the Coterminal Admissions website.

It is strongly recommended that prospective applicants meet 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 opening mid September
  • Current unofficial Stanford transcript
  • Currrent resume of 1 – 3 pages
  • Letters of recommendation from two Stanford Professors other than the coterminal advisor.
  • Statement of Purpose. Upload .pdf, .doc, .docx, or .ttf file
  • Master’s Project Advising Confirmation formComplete, collect advisor’s signature or attach email confirmation as a second page, and upload PDF 
  • Preliminary Program ProposalComplete, collect the signature of the Student Services Manager, and upload as .pdf, .doc, .docx, or .ttf file

GRE scores are not required.

The Online Application

Create an account and proceed to the online application.

On the ‘Program Selection’ page, select ‘Communication MA’ as your degree program, ‘Media Studies’ as your specialization, and SPRING 2024-25 as the entry term of your master’s program.

Letters of Recommendation

Your two letters of recommendation should come from Stanford professors who can write candidly about your qualifications, potential to carry on advanced study, and intellectual independence. Your coterminal advisor is confirming their support of your application with their signature on the Advising Confirmation form. They cannot also be one of your recommenders.

Once you have registered a recommender, the application system will send a personalized link to that individual to submit the recommendation online.

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, single-spaced.

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

Upload the advising confirmation form signed by your prospective coterm advisor.

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. 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 and have the form signed before uploading. 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.


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 on the list of pre-approved courses or 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. SOC 280A is accepted as an alternative to COMM 206 with the units counting toward the maximum of nine total units outside of the department.

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 and does not have to be taken for a letter grade.

Required courses, i.e., COMM 106, COMM 108, STATS 60/160, already taken during the undergraduate career do not need to be repeated. Coterm students may choose to transfer COMM 106 and/or COMM 108 to their graduate career if these courses don’t fulfill any requirements toward their bachelor’s degree. As part of the graduate career, COMM 106 and/or COMM 108 count against the maximum of two courses at the 100 level.

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. Truth, Trust, and Tech
225. Perspectives on American Journalism
228. Back to the Future: Media, Art, and Politics in the 1980s
235. Deliberative Democracy and Its Critics
237. The Dialogue of Democracy
238A. America in One Room: Research Practicum
242. Media Economics
243. Communication Policy and Regulation
245. Personality and Digital Media
251. The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech and Press
254. The Politics of Algorithms
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 275/276/280/281)
284. Race and Media
286. Media, Technology, and the Body
322. Advanced Studies in Behavior and Social Media
324. Language and Technology
326. Advanced Topics in Human Virtual Representation
339. Questionnaire Design
385. Media as Ways of Knowing

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 emailed to the student services administrator 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. 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. Other options may be available; however, the advisor must pre-approve the content and format of the project 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 project 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 documents 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 communication courses (including COMM 299 Individual Work) 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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