Special Studies

Other Information

Graduate Catalog: Special Studies

  • Admission requirements
  • Program details
  • Course descriptions

Application Deadlines

Department: N/A

Program Overview

The Opportunity
A special studies program at St. Cloud State University offers a unique opportunity to create a master of arts or a master of science degree when our established programs do not meet specific academic needs of a student. A special studies program generally is interdisciplinary and incorporates at least three different areas of study and two or more academic departments. At least one of the departments selected must offer a M.A., M.S., or specialist degree. In consultation with a committee of graduate faculty and a School of Graduate Studies representative, the student can design a special studies program.

The Need
The emphasis upon a focus is significant, as the special studies program is not designed as a broad based study program, e.g., a graduate program in liberal studies. The program is particularly appropriate for persons who are well established in a professional position and who have formulated education goals designed to further their careers. The special studies format also has proved valuable to recent graduates whose career aspirations are such that a multi-disciplinary program of study having a specific focus seems to be an effective way to achieve these goals.

Admission Information

  • A special studies program is student initiated. It begins with an applicant's review of current program descriptions and requirements in the Graduate Catalog to establish possible interdisciplinary options.
  • This opportunity is available to domestic applicants.
  • Undergraduate GPA is closely reviewed. An emphasis is placed on scholarship within the undergraduate education core and the GPA in the major.
  • Provisional and conditional admission options are not available with this unique graduate program.
  • A self directed program requires applicants of the highest academic caliber.
  • Admission decisions are made as completed application files are received. 

Length of Program - Measured by Semesters

The length of the program is designed to typically be completed in three to six semesters dependent on full or part-time status. The total minimum credits required for the program range from 30 to 36 depending on a student’s prior academic experience and the culminating project (A, B, C) that is selected. 

Graduate Assistantship Overview

Special studies students are eligible to apply and compete for graduate assistantships across the campus. Like all graduate assistants, to qualify you must attend full time and on campus. Twenty-hour a week assistantships pay $10,000 for the academic year. Additionally, GA's employed 20 hours a week are eligible for a tuition waiver that covers up to and including eight graduate credits, per semester for the academic year.

Create your M.S or M.A. in Special Studies

  1. Choose if you will complete a Plan A, B or C.
  2. Identify three areas of study from at least two or more academic departments in which to take courses (at least one of the departments must offer a graduate degree).
  3. Research, select and create a list of 500 and 600-level courses from across the departments that interest you.
  4. As you choose courses remember that a least half of the special study credits must be at the 600-level.
  5. Don't forget to include Research Methodology and Statistics courses if pursuing Plan A or B.
  6. Choose enough courses to meet the credit requirements for Plan A, B or C. It is advised to list additional courses beyond the minimum credit amount in case a course may not be available.
  7. Contact three faculty members from your identified two to three departments to serve on your special studies admission committee.
    1. In your special studies request, you have the opportunity to recommend the three professors you seek to serve on your committee.  
    2.  However, the faculty committee composition must be approved and appointed by the graduate school. 
    3. These three faculty members continue to serve the student throughout their special studies program as faculty advisors and as the culminating project committee.
    4. Discuss your course curriculum ideas with your three faculty members and establish a relationship prior to your special studies admission conference.
  8. Create a title for your special studies program. The title you choose, and it's approved format at the admission conference, will be featured on your SCSU transcript and graduate diploma. Put thought into the title, i.e., what is recognized by the profession and will it capture your skill set when presented on a resume. Your degree will read: Master of Science in Special Studies: Wellness Training. Another example: Master of Arts in Special Studies:Theatre Management.
  9. You will apply to the School of Graduate Studies. In addition to submitting required materials, your Statement of Intent you will include:
    1. A summary of your educational and career objectives, philosophy and background.
    2. Why you seek an opportunity for a special study degree.
    3. The departments (disciplines) that will compose your proposed special study program.
    4. A proposed title for the multidisciplinary program.
    5. A listing of your three proposed faculty members and respective disciplines.
    6. Identify if you are seeking Plan A, B or C.
    7. A preliminary list of potential courses. The list of courses should be organized by department and each course listed should include the information shown in this example:
      HIST 558 The American West (4 credits) Fall 2013
      HIST 643 U.S. 1877-1920 (3 credits) Spring 2014


Admission Conference

When all required admission materials have been submitted, the School of Graduate Studies admission's unit will schedule a special studies admission conference. Four individuals will attend the approximately one-hour long meeting: the applicant, the three faculty advisors and a representative from the the School of Graduate Studies. The conference will start with the applicant explaining why they wish to pursue a special studies graduate program. The applicant may be asked questions on their academic background, career or personal goals and professional needs. The committee will want to know how quickly progress to completion of degree is planned.

The applicant will be asked to step out of the meeting for a few minutes and the committee will discuss the materials presented. If the applicant is found academically admissible, and the University can offer the curriculum and faculty advising and mentoring necessary, the candidate will be informed of the admission decision at the admission conference. If admitted, the conference will proceed with a review of the proposed title and curriculum. The faculty advisors and applicants will try to finalize the courses that will compose the program at the conference and submit a Program Form to the School of Graduate Studies. A formal admission or denial letter will be sent.

After the Admission Conference

As you progress through your special study program it is vital that you stay in contact with your three faculty advisors in regards to progress through courses, registration, curriculum questions and your culminating project. Special study students are subject to all admission, student conduct, academic policies and graduation policies of SCSU and the School of Graduate Studies.