Advising Frequently Asked Questions

Explore Graduate School

  • Pursuing a graduate degree is an exciting journey which may lead to higher pay, career advancement, or provide a pathway for admission to a terminal degree such as a PhD program. Obtaining a graduate degree is an investment in your future. Watch our recorded workshop “Is Graduate School Right for Me” on our Advising Webpage with helping make this important decision.
  • Career Services and Leadership Development provides excellent questions for students to review when considering graduate education.
  • Finally, if you would like to review if pursuing a graduate program at SF State is a good fit for you and your future goals with an advisor, please schedule a personalized appointment by booking an 'In-Depth Consultation' appointment using our online booking system.
  • Review your program’s mission and vision statements, values, and goals.
    • Many programs will include details about their program, such as a mission statement, vision statement, or values/goals which can help you evaluate if this program is a good fit for you.
      • Mission Statement: Summary of the aim and values of a department. Mission statements tend to focus on what they hope to achieve in the present.
      • Vision Statement: A department’s roadmap for achieving their mission. Vision statements tend to outline what they hope to be in the future.
      • Values: Ideologies that support and guide the mission and vision statements as well as goals, events, and professional activity within a department.
    • Read information about your program of interest on their website. You may also find it helpful to review the course information for your program in the Academic Bulletin. Do they list a mission statement, vision statement, values, or goals? How does this information align with your own personal values and the academic or professional you aspire to be?
    • Tip: Some departments won’t explicitly post mission or vision statements. Sometimes department information is simply listed as paragraphs of text which may be found in several places on their website such as an “About Us” or “History of the Department” section. Be sure to thoroughly review the program’s website to familiarize yourself with the department’s goals and values.
  • Research the Faculty
    • At the graduate level, class sizes are smaller and the learning environment is often more intimate than what you may have experienced at the undergraduate level. The faculty in your program will serve as your advisors toward degree completion, will sit on your research or thesis committees, and can have a profound role in shaping your educational experience. Review their past and current research, areas of expertise, and any other professional activities to ensure your program of interest has faculty that will support your academic and professional goals.
    • Some programs require applicants to identify faculty mentors with whom they’d like to work with as part of the application process. In these cases, applicants are expected to contact faculty with whom they share research interests and schedule meetings to discuss opportunities in their laboratories or research sites prior to submitting their application for admission.
    • Applicants should prepare for these meetings by following the below steps.
      1. Reach out early to schedule your meetings. Do not wait until the last minute.
      2. Gather information about yourself to share with potential faculty mentors. Information should include your academic background/major, GPA, relevant coursework taken, and any prior experience (paid or unpaid) that would be relevant. It is recommended that students prepare a resume to share with their potential mentors and be able to discuss their experiences listed on their resume. For guidance on creating an impactful resume, watch our recorded “Resume Development Workshop” found on our Advising Webpage or review resume resources with Career Services & Leadership Development.
      3. Learn about the research being conducted in the laboratory of interest and your potential faculty mentor’s areas of expertise. Read research articles they post and laboratory summaries shared on their websites. Describe how their research aligns with you academic or career aspirations.
      4. Prepare questions to ask potential faculty mentors. This is your opportunity to learn about the research expectations if you are admitted. The specific questions you ask will vary based on the research conducted, but some questions to consider may include:
        • What background and skills are needed to conduct this type of research?
        • What is expected of students conducting this research?
        • What is it like to work on this research? What is the schedule?
        • How many other students do you supervise?
        • Are there opportunities to present the work we conduct together?
        • May I take a tour of the lab or research site?
  • Attend an Information Session or Open House
    • Some programs offer information sessions or host open house events where they provide valuable information to applicants considering applying to their program. This is a chance for you to meet the faculty, ask questions, get clarification on the application procedures, and listen to questions others are asking that you may not have thought to ask.
    • To find out if your program if offering a session, review your program’s website or contact the Graduate Coordinator for your program.

To determine the admission requirements for your program of interest, review the program website, Academic Bulletin, or Cal State Apply application.

  • To receive general program information about a specific graduate degree at SF State, we invite you to complete our Request Information form. You will receive general information about the program, application deadline information, admission requirements, and other important details specific to your program of interest.
  • For in-depth questions about your program of interest, reach out to your program’s Graduate Coordinator.
  • We also encourage you to review your program’s website and admission requirements. You can find this information on our Future Students webpage.
  • Schedule an Admissions meeting with the Division of Graduate Studies or join us for drop-in ZOOM support, offered Monday-Friday, from 2:00pm – 4:00pm.

For tuition and fee information, along with resources for supporting the cost of your degree, please visit our Funding Your Education page.

Submitting a Graduate School Application via Cal State Apply

Cal State Apply is a Centralized Application Service (CAS) that simplifies the process of applying to San Francisco State University programs. You can start by selecting a program that you want to apply to, then completing the online application for graduate admission and uploading your unofficial transcripts and application documents to the Program Materials section, and then submitting your application. Once received by Cal State Apply, your application and materials will be processed and transmitted to your selected program.

The Division of Graduate Studies recommends reviewing the application requirements for your program and preparing materials in advance prior to beginning your application.

  • Prepare Program Application Materials: Prepare application materials in advance before starting the online Cal State Apply application. Application materials vary by program, but you may be required to upload:
    • CV/Resume
    • Personal Statement
    • Letters of Recommendation
    • Writing Sample
    • Essay
    • Test Score Reports
    • Portfolio
    • Program Application Forms

    Your intended graduate program website will provide detailed instructions for each of the application materials required for review.

  • Prepare Transcripts: You are required to upload legible unofficial copies of transcripts from each college or university attended. Including study abroad coursework, or community college coursework, even if this coursework appears as transfer credit on your degree transcript. Full academic disclosure is required.
  • International Applicants: Be sure to review our international admissions webpages for detailed information about Required Academic Documents by Country and English Language Test Requirements.
  • Create your Cal State Apply account AND complete your profile:
    • TIP: Students who will study on a F1/J1 visa must select Non-Resident for U.S. Citizenship Status under your Extended Profile.
    • Select a program that you want to apply to. You will only see a list of programs that align with your academic degree objective.
      • Narrow your program options using the provided filters.
        • Campus: Select "San Francisco State University"
        • Location: Select "Main Campus"
        • Delivery Format: Select "Face-to-Face" (takes place in a traditional classroom)
        • Start Term: Select "Fall" or "Spring"
  • The Online Application is comprised of four sections: Personal Information, Academic History, Supporting Information, and Program Materials. Review our TIPS below for completing each of these sections or review or Cal State Apply application video here.
    • Personal Information Tips
      • Please provide us with some basic information.
      • Fields noted as Optional may be skipped.
    • Academic History Tips
      • We recommend that you select "I don't have a GPA to add" in the GPA entry field. The Division of Graduate Studies will calculate your GPA from your unofficial transcripts as part of our review.
    • Supporting Information Tips
      • You may opt out of all supporting materials, unless your intended program instructs you to use these fields. Select "I Am Not Adding Any Experiences" in this section of the application.
    • Program Materials Tips
      • Prepare these documents for upload in advance of your application submission.
      • You may need to resize any scanned PDFs so that you do not exceed the MB limit for each document.
      • Use the Recommendations tab to manage submission of letters of recommendation. Letter writer email addresses should be from professional or academic organizations (ex. @sfsu.edu, @CA.gov or @ibm.com), not personal email address. You may also find it helpful to reference our Cal State Apply: Letters of Recommendation Guide

Schedule an Admissions meeting with the Division of Graduate Studies or join us for drop-in ZOOM support, offered Monday-Friday, from 2:00pm – 4:00pm. We may ask you to share your screen so that we can assist you with troubleshooting your application.

Preparing Your Graduate School Application

The Division of Graduate Studies provides an array of workshops to support students with their applications. For upcoming workshops, please visit our workshops website. You can also view recordings of past workshops on our Advising Webpage.

  • To provide yourself with the greatest chances for success to be admitted, the Division of Graduate Studies recommends that you provide yourself with 5-6 months to prepare and submit your application. Some students can do this in less time but be sure you allot enough time to complete all of the requirements for your program of interest. These requirements often include items such as a resume, personal statement, GRE exam, letters of recommendation, and other items. For strategies on submitting an impressive application to graduate school, please view our recorded “Impressive Graduate School Applications workshop” on our Advising Webpage.
  • To determine the admission requirements for your program of interest, review the program website, Academic Bulletin, or Cal State Apply application.
  • The Division of Graduate Studies provides this suggested timeline. Use this as a guide. Be sure to remove items that don’t apply to you and add any required items that may be missing. Start with the application deadline for your program, and then work backwards to build your timeline for applying to graduate school.
     
  • When are your application deadlines?
    • Application deadlines vary by program. For a complete list of our application deadlines, please visit our Future Students webpage.

The GRE exam and GMAT exam are standardized tests used in the admission process at the graduate level. GRE exams are used by a variety of disciplines while the GMAT is typically used for admission to business programs. You can find more information about the GRE at https://www.ets.org/gre and the GMAT at https://www.mba.com/exams/gmat.

Not all programs at SF State require a GRE or GMAT exam for admission. Consult the admission requirements website for your program or contact the Graduate Coordinator for your program to confirm.

It varies for each person, but the Division of Graduate Studies recommends students provide themselves with 6-8 weeks to prepare.

  • GRE: $205.00
  • GMAT: $275.00
  • These scores factor into admissions decision at varying levels depending on the program you’re applying to. Some programs look at the totality of the score as part of a holistic review of your application, while other programs specifically review your scores on specific portions of the exam, such as the Analytical Writing section to determine if you’re prepared to write successfully at the graduate level.
  • If your program requires the GRE, refer to your program’s admission website or contact your program’s Graduate Coordinator to determine how the GRE score will be used in the admission process.

It is advised to study for the entire test to give you more opportunities in the future in case you decide to use these scores for a different program that requires your scores from all sections of the test. Also, consider that you will pay the full cost of the exam regardless if you only need scores for the Analytical Writing section.

The College of Extended Learning offers prep courses to prepare for the GRE, GMAT, or other standardized tests. These courses are offered separately from the Division of Graduate Studies. Please visit their website for registration and cost information and contact them directly with questions.

  • You can self-study for these tests by purchasing a preparation resource book on the exam’s website or through other retailers. The cost for these books typically range between $20-40. You might also be able to access preparation books through your local library.
  • If you know other students that are planning on taking an exam, you could consider coordinating a study group to promote accountability and support with your study plan. Meetings can be in-person or virtual.
  • It is also recommended students take a practice test (these can be found on the GRE or GMAT websites) to get a baseline of your testing skills are before you begin studying. The feedback from your practice tests will help you to develop a study plan so you can focus on studying for the sections you need to work on most. We also recommend taking another practice test approximately halfway through your study plan to ensure you are successfully making progress and have an opportunity to adjust your study plan if needed.
  • The GRE Official Score Report becomes available to you and sent to your designated schools approximately 10-15 days after you’ve taken the exam.
  • The GMAT Official Score Report becomes available to you and your schools within 20 days after you’ve taken the exam.
  • You can take the GRE test once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days). This applies even if you canceled your scores on a test taken previously.
  • You can take the GMAT exam once every 16 calendar days and no more than five times in a rolling 12-month period and no more than eight times total.
  • With both the GRE and the GMAT tests, keep in mind that you will need to pay the fee again each time you take/retake the GRE or GMAT exam.

Following Up on your Application Status

  • Once you submit all required admission documents (transcripts, etc.) to the Division of Graduate Studies, we determine if you meet the minimum university requirements for admission.
  • If minimum university requirements are met, we will forward our review to the Graduate Program. Graduate Program admission committees select the best qualified applicants. This process may take considerable time. The Graduate Program will review all application materials submitted directly to program admission committees will notify the San Francisco State Graduate Admissions office of their admission recommendations.
  • Applicants are then formally notified of their admission status by the Division of Graduate Studies. Letters of admission from the department or program received prior to the official San Francisco State Admission Notification Letter are not valid.
timeline-of-application-process
  • Students can view their application status by logging into their SF State Gateway.
  • Be sure to also check also your “To-Do” list in your SF State Gateway for any missing documents needed for the admission review process.
  • Students may submit outstanding documents to gradstudies@sfsu.edu via email as a PDF attachment. Documents submitted as images in the body of an email or as links to a cloud-based drive are not accepted.
  • During the application review process, the Division of Graduate Studies will accept unofficial transcripts and test scores to evaluate your application. Upon admission, students will be required to submit official copies of their transcripts and test scores. Please note that transcripts or test scores submitted as email attachments directly from the student will be considered unofficial and will not meet official transcript and test score requirements.
  • Please review the following information for submitting official documents:
    1. Submitting Official Transcripts:
      • Official electronic transcripts (preferred) must be addressed to SF State Graduate Studies and sent directly from your institution to graddocs@sfsu.edu. Transcripts submitted as attachments directly from the student will be considered unofficial and will not meet official transcript requirements.
      • Alternatively, you may request official transcripts to be submitted via postal mail. Please send official, sealed transcripts to:
        • Division of Graduate Studies
          1600 Holloway Avenue
          Administration 250
          San Francisco, CA 94132
    2. International Academic Documents:
    3. English Language Test Scores:

Students that have been offered admission can accept their offer by following the below steps:

  1. Log in to SF State Gateway/MySFSU: https://www.sfsu.edu/login.htm  
  2. Scroll to the bottom of your Student Center. 
  3. Click the ACCEPT Hyperlink   

Students that have not been offered admission to a graduate program at SF State may meet with a Graduate Studies Advisor to receive feedback for improving their application for a future term of admission. Please schedule an In-Depth Consultation appointment using our online booking system to meet with an advisor about improving the quality of your application for a future term.