How To Apply

San Francisco State University offers more than 90 master's programs, an Ed.D. program, 14 credential programs, over 20 post-baccalaureate certificates, and two joint doctoral programs with the University of California.  Explore our graduate programs, application deadlines, and program specific admission requirements before you finalize your Cal State Apply application for graduate study.

Cal State Apply

Cal State Apply  is the Centralized Application System for all 23 universities in the California State University (CSU) system. You only need to submit one Cal State Apply application even if you are applying to multiple CSU universities; however, each campus you apply to has a $70 fee.

Create Your Cal State Apply Account

The Cal State Apply Graduate Application Guide 2023-2024 may help you get started.

Prepare Your Application

Applications for Graduate Study are reviewed at the University level for general minimum admission requirements, and at the Department or Program level for program specific admission criteria beyond the minimum University requirements.

Graduate admissions review is an inclusive and comprehensive approach to evaluating applicants for admission to graduate study, considering all elements of an application.  We advise you to take a deliberate approach in preparing personal statements, letters of recommendation, supplemental materials such as writing samples or resumes, and standardized test scores, all of which are reviewed alongside academic performance and GPA.  An important factor in the review is the alignment of your goals and research interests with the program's offerings and faculty expertise.

It is important to review your intended graduate program admission criteria as you prepare your application materials to upload to Cal State Apply.

Seek Advising

Graduate Coordinator

Reach out to the Graduate Coordinator for your intended program of study with questions.  A graduate coordinator is a tenured/tenure track faculty member selected by the faculty of a. department or program to oversee admission process for department or degree program.

Graduate Division Staff

The division staff is eager to guide you through the graduate admissions process.

Complete Your Cal State Apply Application

Complete four sections of the Cal State Apply application. 

1. Personal History

2. Academic History

3. Supporting Materials

4. Program Materials

You are ready to submit when the four quadrants show complete (green) and when the status on the program (in the Submit Application tab) has also turned green.

CalState Apply Sections

Cal State Apply Tips

You are required to upload unofficial transcripts, and program materials such as personal statements, letters of recommendation, writing sample, resume, and test scores to the Program Materials section of Cal State Apply.

Upload Unofficial Transcripts to the Cal State Apply Application

Step 1: Prepare Transcripts

Before you upload any Unofficial Transcripts to your Cal State Apply application, ensure you have legible copies of transcripts from each college or university you have attended, including study abroad coursework and community college coursework, even if such coursework appears as transfer credit on your degree transcript. In progress coursework is acceptable, but an incomplete academic history will significantly delay the review of your application.

Most universities offer an online service for accessing unofficial transcripts, you may be able to log in to your former university's online portal and download or save your unofficial transcripts. It is usually available in a PDF or electronic format.  The Graduate Admissions team recommends that you contact the Registrar’s Office of your former institution with questions on how to obtain your unofficial transcripts.

Step 2: Upload Transcripts to Cal State Apply

Return to your Cal State Apply application and log in.  Find and select the "Documents" tab within the Program Materials section of your application. Click "Upload" to start the upload process. Ensure that the file is successfully uploaded without errors, and save.

Ensure that you complete these steps accurately and in a timely manner to meet the application deadline.

And the Graduate Admission office may request official transcripts at any point during the application review process. If selected for admission, you will be required to submit official transcripts to the Division of Graduate Studies to secure your admission.

Program Materials

Your Statement of Purpose

To write a strong Statement of Purpose (SOP), review the website for your intended program of study for any department specific instructions or prompts, many departments provide detailed instructions.  Your Statement of Purpose is an important essay required by San Francisco State Graduate Programs.


  • Introduce yourself to the intended graduate program and to highlight academic experiences that prepare you for the program (e.g., coursework, research, internships, presentations).
  • Discuss your motivation or passion for pursuing graduate study.
  • Explain your research interests, disciplinary subfields, and areas of specialization.
  • Outline your professional objectives and how the program aligns with your goals.
  • Demonstrate how your experiences and interests align with the program's resources and characteristics.
  • Mention specific faculty members you want to work with and how their interests match yours.
  • Discuss your personal background and how it shapes your decision to pursue a graduate degree.
  • Include educational, familial, cultural, economic, and social experiences that have influenced you.

Guidance for your Letters of Recommendation

Your letters of recommendation are an important component of your grad school application.  They highlight your academic work and potential for success.


  • Ask individuals who know you well and can write specifically about your abilities and potential.
  • Ask Professors who taught you in upper-division courses or those familiar with your research.
  • Consider supervisors from your career if you've been out of college for some time.
  • Request letters well in advance (1-2 months) of application deadlines.
  • Provide documentation to help them write a stronger letter such as your CV or resume, unofficial transcript, list of awards, achievements, and published papers, or a copy of your statement of purpose.
  • Always thank recommenders for their time and effort.
  • A handwritten note or email expressing gratitude is appropriate.
  • Keep recommenders informed about your application process, especially if you're admitted.

Remember that professors were once in your position and understand the importance of recommendation letters.  Follow these tips to navigate the process of obtaining strong letters of recommendation for your grad school application.