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Master of Arts and Master of Science in Individualized Studies

About The Program

The College of Individualized Studies offers a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS) in Individualized Studies. The MA/MS is a student-centered, individualized, interdisciplinary graduate program designed for individuals who have successfully completed a bachelor’s degree and are looking to develop a graduate program that is tailored to meet their specific educational goals through multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, or intradisciplinary approaches.

  • Multidisciplinary: Coursework is in more than one discipline in unrelated areas.
  • Interdisciplinary: Coursework is in more than one discipline, but coursework is tied thematically (blending two distinct subject areas that extend across two or more colleges).
  • Intradisciplinary: Coursework is all within the same discipline. As a master’s student in the College of Individualized Studies, you would design your degree plan around an educational goal statement and self-designing a focus/concentration (terminology that is similar to a major) you would be creating a unique focus that is integrated thematically and includes study from many disciplines.

Why Choose Individualized Graduate Study?

Students pursue graduate degrees for many reasons, such as gaining a different or better position, qualifying for a promotion, entering a new career path, or personal enrichment and development. In the Individualized Studies graduate program, students can shape their study to meet their own specific personal and professional educational needs.

Admitted students start with the IDST 600 Planning and Research course and then move through a series of courses or other learning strategies, offered through other graduate programs at the university, to explore specific topics and issues drawn from several disciplines. Students’ programs culminate in the IDST 699 Individualized Studies Capstone course in which they create major research/project that align with their personal educational goals and build on the coursework they have completed.

The master’s degree awarded in Individualized Studies will be a MA or MS, depending on a student’s focus area. This distinction can be determined through student and faculty consultations in the IDST 600 course, though a final decision may be made at a later time.

Jobs for those with majors or a master’s degree in Individualized Studies are widespread, with career opportunities limited only by your creativity, and your self-designed curriculum’s area of focus.


Transfer Credits: Students can apply up to 8 transfer credits toward their plan, with the approval of the Graduate Program Director. Transfer credits must have been earned at another accredited institution and not be part of any other completed degree program. Current students enrolled in graduate coursework at Metro State may transfer up to 12 graduate credits. Exceptions may be made for certificates and minors, to allow up to 16 credits to be transferred (such exceptions will be based solely upon the CIS Admissions Committee’s review and approval).

Part-Time Graduate Studies: This program is designed for part-time students, including those who are employed full-time and might take just one graduate course per semester. Most classes meet once a week on a weekday evening.

Academic Advising: Advising begins with the instructor in IDST 600 Research and Planning, where students articulate their educational objectives. Students will be assigned a faculty advisor who will guide them toward appropriate course selection and also help arrange creative learning strategies, including customized independent studies and internships. 

Is the Program for Me?

There is an opportunity within the Individualized Studies master’s program to design a course of study and Capstone Project/Research that spans disciplines, subject areas, and professional studies. One student might design a research-based capstone that studies women and micro-loans, while another student might design a creative project that combines video production with a marketing plan. Others may choose to use mapping technology to look into links between property taxes, school funding, and student achievement. A student interested in the environment might develop a new way to teach school children about environmental preservation or study ways to reduce ocean pollution. Students may even ask whether zip codes can help predict health outcomes. The options are truly bound only by each student’s interests and creativity!  

The scope and design of a student’s study plan will start to be developed in the core IDST 600 course, will be carried out in the various courses and learning strategies selected, and will culminate in the capstone project. 

Ready to join the master’s in Individualized Studies program?

Metro State, established in 1971, is a member of the Minnesota State higher education system. The university provides a breadth of opportunities for graduate students in the Individualized Studies program. As part of a diverse, urban campus experience, our award-winning faculty and staff will help you achieve your academic, professional, and personal goals. 

How to enroll

Program eligibility requirements

Applicants must demonstrate evidence of readiness for graduate study including an earned baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution (or equivalent) with a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).

Applicants with competence-based transcripts and no calculated GPA will be considered.

Exceptions to this GPA standard may be made based solely upon the CIS Admissions Committee’s recognition of special circumstances for the lower GPA, and the candidate’s clear demonstration of additional compensatory strengths. In case of a GPA lower than 3.0 you may submit a supplement letter along with the admissions essay addressing the reasons for the lower GPA and your plan to be successful in graduate school.

Admission is not guaranteed.

Application instructions


Fall semester start— June 1 application deadline

Spring semester start—priority application deadline Oct. 15, final application deadline Dec. 1

Applications received by the deadline will be reviewed by the CIS Admissions Committee, which will report its decision to each applicant within a month after the deadline.

Admission is based on meeting a number of qualifying criteria, detailed below. In addition, every semester there will be a limited number of seats available. If you meet the criteria but are not admitted due to limited space, the Admissions Committee may grant deferred admission.

Application file

A complete application file consists of two parts (three for international students.) Begin the application process by first applying online using the online graduate application. All application materials become the property of Metropolitan State University and are not returned. All application materials must be received in the Graduate Studies Office by the application deadline, and will be made available to the CIS Admissions Committee for review.

The Admissions Committee will make decisions on the basis of the above components only if your applications are complete. Note that if you are completing a four-year program you may apply to the graduate program if you are in your final year; however, you cannot start the graduate program until you have finished your bachelor's degree.

Please note: depending on your focus area there may be additional admission requirements at a later time.
Please read the College of Individualized Studies Graduate Program Handbook for important details.

Also, for your convenience, here is the CIS Graduate Application Checklist.

Part one

  • Complete the Online Graduate Programs Application, using your Minnesota State StarID. If you don’t have a Minnesota State StarID you will create one at the beginning of the application.
    • If you don't have or choose not to provide your Social Security number (SSN), please follow the No SSN instruction to activate your StarID. If you encounter difficulty with the online application, please email
  • Non-refundable application fee, paid online
    • The current fee of $20 is waived for graduates of Metropolitan State, certified veterans and active military.
  • Official transcripts 
    • Must show a bachelor degree or equivalent earned from a regionally accredited institution with grade-point average or narrative description describing courses completed.
    • Transcripts from ALL schools attended after high school and from any graduate or professional programs are required.
    • All transcripts from non-U.S. schools must be evaluated (course-by-course) by either ECE (preferred) or WES.
    • Electronic transcripts should be sent to
    • Paper transcripts should be sent directly from the sending institution (preferred) to:   
      • Metropolitan State University
        Attn: Graduate Admissions
        700 East Seventh Street
        Saint Paul MN 55106

Part two

After you have submitted your online application, log in to the Applicant Portal using your Star ID and password to upload application materials, and check on the status of your application.  The Applicant Portal will indicate any missing application items.

  • Two Professional Reference Letters; upload via the Applicant Portal using your StarID..
    • The letter of recommendation should comment on intellectual ability, capacity for critical thinking, professional skill and excellence, motivation, or any other aspect of the referrer's knowledge of how well the candidate is suited for a graduate program that calls for interdisciplinary work. The CIS Admissions Committee is particularly interested in an applicant's preparation for or interest in individualized and interdisciplinary studies, and so this should be directly addressed in the letter of recommendation. The most effective letters may be from professors familiar with your work in upper-division courses, and able to comment on your preparation for advanced study. Personal references will not be considered. Applicants should remind their references of the application deadline when speaking with them.
  • Admissions Essay; Upload via the Applicant Portal using your StarID.
    • The admissions essay is a critical part of the application review process. Essays must clearly state each of the following:
      1. What skills or knowledge you expect to gain through the program, including any subjects or disciplines you plan to study
      2. How the graduate offerings at Metropolitan State University will be able to address your educational goals
      3. Why you are interested in Individualized Studies at the graduate level
      4. How your previous experiences, academic or otherwise, have prepared you for this program
    • The graduate program in Individualized Studies draws from the other graduate programs at Metropolitan State; applicants are encouraged to review the courses offered by those other programs before applying and writing their admissions essay, and/or contact the current graduate program director to discuss what the individualized program has to offer
    • Submit your essay in 900-1000 words, using 12-point font, double-spaced, clearly written, well-organized, with correct grammar, accurate spelling and punctuation, good sentence structure, and clear sub-headings.

Part three - international students only

In addition to documents required for all applicants in parts one and two, international students in the U.S. or abroad, on any type of visa are required to provide this information.

Required by the application deadline:

  • Proof of English proficiency (official TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo score)
    • Minimum scores: TOEFL 80 IBT, 213 CBT, 550 PBT, IELTS 6.5, or Duolingo 105-110
    • IBT=internet based; CBT=computer based; PBT=paper based
    • An English proficiency report is not required for applicants who have received a degree in the U.S. or have completed a minimum of 16 credits.

The following is needed, if you are offered and accept admission to the program:

  • Financial statement (F1 visa only)
  • Immunization records
  • Copies of passport, visa, I-94, and international home address and phone numbers
    • Mailing address:
      International Student Services
      Metropolitan State University
      700 East Seventh Street
      Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55106-5000

Questions about applying to the MA/MS in Individualized Studies?

Questions about the online application, fee, transcripts/transcript evaluations, online references and document upload feature can be sent to (preferred) or call 651-793-1302.

Questions about Part two requirements or the program in general, please contact the Graduate Program Director:

Richard Bohannon
Saint John’s Hall
Room 255

Courses and Requirements


Transfer Credits

  • Students outside of Metropolitan State University can transfer up to 8 graduate credits earned from an accredited institution.
  • Current students enrolled in graduate coursework at Metropolitan State University may transfer up to 12 graduate credits. Exceptions may be made for certificates and minors, to allow up to 16 credits to be transferred (such exceptions will be based solely upon the CIS Admissions Committee’s review and approvals).

Academic Standing

To remain in good standing and to be qualified for graduation, students must maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0. Grades below C do not apply to program requirements, but are calculated in the cumulative grade point average.

Appeal of Unsatisfactory Academic Progress Removals from the Program

Students suspended from the program for unsatisfactory academic progress, may appeal the suspension to the College of Individualized Studies dean. The appeal must be in writing and it must provide specific grounds for the appeal. The appeal to the dean is due within 30 days of receiving confirmation of suspension from the program; appeals received after 30 days will not be considered.

Reactivating into the CIS MA/MS Program

Should a student who is admitted to the CIS graduate program not be able to start the program and register for courses, they will be able to retain their accepted status for up to a year; students in this situation should consult with the Graduate Program Director. Students who have been admitted but do not register for courses for more than a year without consulting with the Graduate Program Director will be dropped from active status and will need to reapply to the program.

Similarly, students who started the program and are in good academic standing, but who have not registered for courses for three calendar years, must reapply to the program. If readmitted, students are required to satisfy the degree requirements in force at the time of readmission, if those requirements differ from those in force at the time of original admission.

Time to completion

Students have five years from the first semester of graduate study to complete their degree program requirements. An extension of the time limit may be requested by writing to the Graduate Program Director. Such requests must be received prior to the expiration of the time limit. Requests for extensions should include:

  • the reason(s) for requesting the extension,
  • a summary of the student's plan to finish graduation requirements, and
  • a specific date for the extension to expire.

Extension decisions are made by the Graduate Admissions Committee, are not automatic, and cannot be appealed.

Please read the CIS MS/MS Handbook for additional important details.

Requirements (32 credits)

In this course students will explore various research methods and methodologies, approaches, and ethical considerations in their research or creative projects. Among others, students are expected to engage with and identify, synthesize and evaluate relevant scholarly works. As such, the course will also emphasize the study and research skills and methods needed to conduct a final research and/or creative project. Further, students are expected to develop a focus that will provide direction and organization for their educational plans. Students will investigate courses offered throughout Metro State to shape that focus and tentatively outline final projects that will demonstrate their multidisciplinary learning. The course will introduce students to the nature of individualized study and the significance of interdisciplinary studies. During this course students will also consult with their advisor and instructor to decide whether they will pursue a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of…

Full course description for Research and Planning

+ Focus Area of Study

12-16 credits

+ Approved Graduate Elective Credits (Outside the Focus Area)

8-12 credits

+ Capstone

4 credits. Capstones are typically completed as a four-credit student-designed independent study (SDIS) project, with students working one-on-one with a faculty member with expertise in the capstone area. To register for the capstone SDIS, students must consult with both their faculty advisor in CIS, as well as the subject-matter expert who will evaluate the project, to ensure it meets the overall goals of their graduate degree plan.