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MFA Application Instructions

Updated August 2018

Please submit your application and supporting documents online at apply.grad.ucsd.edu. We do not review application materials submitted by mail or email.

You may work on your application throughout the application period (see sidebar). We recommend you scan the instructions below before you begin, and then refer to them as you work on your application. 

Personal Information

Drawer labels correspond to sections of the application. 

Residency and Applicant Data

Read about Residence for Tuition Purposes and Exemptions and Waivers from Nonresident Tuition before completing this section.

You will be asked if you would like to receive consideration for the Tribal Membership fellowship. If yes, you must indicate your tribal affiliation on the application. Remember to follow up and submit verification of the affiliation. Mail your documentation to:

UC San Diego
Literature Dept / MFA
9500 Gilman Drive #0410
La Jolla, CA 92093-0410

Educational Background, Transcript PDFs

List every post-high school institution you attended and upload PDF transcripts for each one, UCSD included. We require unofficial transcripts (i.e., scans of unsealed paper transcripts, downloads from school websites) for the purpose of evaluating your application. Do not mail official transcripts unless you are admitted. Unsolicited official transcripts will be shredded unopened. 

If a transcript is not available, upload a statement explaining the circumstances.

Your unofficial transcripts must conform to the guidelines provided below and must confirm the information you entered on your application. We cannot nominate you for admission if there are discrepancies.


  • Transcripts must have been printed within the last year
  • Transcripts must include the following:
    • Your name
    • Institution name
    • Dates of attendance
    • Grades or marks received
    • Credits
    • Grading scale
    • Degree conferral if awarded prior to the start of the MFA application
  • Submit both front and back pages, even if the back side is blank
  • Click for additional requirements for transcripts from foreign institutions

English Language Test Scores

International applicants whose native language is not English must submit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic test scores unless they studied full-time for one uninterrupted academic year at a university-level institution in which English is the language of instruction and in a country in which English is a dominant language. 

Please refer to the pages below for information about testing, scores and how to submit them. 

Last Six Month's Activity

Briefly describe what you have been doing since the date of your last university enrollment. Disregard the 2500-word recommendation specified in the online application. Be succinct.

Additional Educational Experiences (UCSD Fellowship Application)

Complete this section of the online application only if you want to be considered for the San Diego, SEED, Competitive Edge or STARS fellowships. (To apply for the Tribal fellowship, see Residency and Applicant Data above.)

You must provide responses to at least three of the seven short answer questions. We recommend you write about your experiences and accomplishments in these areas:

  • Leadership
  • Overcoming adversity
  • Community involvement
  • Social justice experience

Read the fellowship information carefully. Note the examples of how applicants can demonstrate that they have faced significant disadvantages and adversity and how their admission to UCSD would enhance departmental or campus diversity.

MFA Program Supplement

Drawer labels correspond to sections of the application. 

Literary Genres and Aesthetics

  • Please tell us which literary genres, if any, you have the most experience reading, analyzing, and writing: poetry, creative nonfiction, memoir, fiction, comics, mixed-genre/interdisciplinary, writing for performance, or other.
  • Describe how your work is cross-genre, mixed form, and/or interdisciplinary. List any specific influences on your work including non-literature influences.
  • Provide a 250-word statement of your literary aesthetics/poetics in relation to the writing sample you are submitting. What literary and social questions or problems does your writing/arts practice address? (Some applicants find it helpful to search the internet for artist's statement guidelines to use as samples.)

Goals and Research Interests

  • Briefly describe your top goal in pursuing a cross-genre MFA at this time and how UCSD's MFA program might particularly support this goal.
  • Please name MFA faculty members and other Literature or UCSD faculty with whom you would be most interested in working. Knowing a bit about your research interests may help us determine if there will be faculty available to work with you during the 2-3 years of your program. Literature faculty information can be found at http://literature.ucsd.edu/people/faculty/bysection.html 

Writing Sample PDF

A writing sample is required and is weighed heavily in the selection process. You may submit poetry, fiction (composed of one or several stories, a portion of a novel, or a combination), or hybrid texts, which could include forms such as the graphic novel or visual poetry.

Put together a sample that emphasizes quality rather than length. Submit one of the following (page lengths are suggestion, sample can be shorter or a little bit longer): 

  • Fiction – 30 to 40 pages (if submitting a novel excerpt, attach a brief plot synopsis), or
  • Poetry – 15 to 20 pages, or
  • Cross-Genre/Hybrid/Mixed Forms – 30 to 40 pages
Combine all the pieces of your sample into one PDF document, formatted as follows:
  • Include a cover sheet with your name and either the title of the piece or a table of contents if the sample consists of several stories or unrelated pieces.
  • Include your name and the page number in the header on every page.
  • Double-space unless the formatting of your material requires otherwise.

Upload the writing sample PDF to the application.

Optional Supplemental Sample

There is a line on the application for you to provide a link to a digital work sample, such as a website, video, sound file, graphic, or hypertext.

Teaching Experience

  • Briefly describe your teaching experience if you have any (subject, grade level, and length of service). 
  • If you are planning to teach after you obtain your MFA, briefly describe your plan and how you imagine integrating your teaching and writing practices after you graduate.

Letters of Recommendation

Please provide 3 letters of recommendation from individuals who are in a position to analyze your academic ability and potential for success in a rigorous graduate program. Letters must be submitted online by your recommenders or a recognized professional dossier service such as Inferfolio. We do not accept paper letters.

You will be asked to provide the following contact information for each recommender:

  • First and last name
  • Title
  • Name of institution or business
  • Institutional or professional email address (use the email address provided by Interfolio if applicable)

Statement of Purpose PDF

Your statement of purpose is very important and is given careful consideration in the selection process. It should provide information that will aid the selection committee in evaluating your potential for completing the MFA program. Think of the statement as an opportunity to discuss your work and goals in both a personal and critical context. Suggested topics:

  • Aesthetics
  • Community
  • Past experiences
  • Background in writing
  • What you have read that has been useful or influential to you as a writer
  • Experience or interest in theoretical, interdisciplinary, and/or cultural studies
  • What you are currently working on
  • Recent participation in readings, workshops, or critique groups
  • What you hope to get from the MFA Program in Writing

Be concise and specific. Your statement should be no longer than 2500 words. There is no minimum length.


Can I submit more than three letters of recommendation?


How can I correct a recommender's information on the application?

Once you enter a recommenders' information, an automatic email request is generated on your behalf. For this reason their information cannot be edited or deleted. Instead, re-enter the correct information under the "Add New Recommender’ button.

How do I pay the application fee or apply for a fee waiver?

The fee payment or waiver application is the last step before you click 'Submit' on the application. Read about Application Fee and Fee Waiver on the Graduate Division website. Note the link to income eligibility information on the sidebar.

How can I tell if my application was successfully submitted and was forwarded to the reviewers?

Your application will be automatically forwarded to us for review provided you pay the application fee and click 'Submit' by the application deadline. If you submit as the application period is closing or if you encounter a technical issue during submission, please return to your application and check that its status has changed from "In progress" to "Submitted".

Can I edit parts of my application after I submit it?

After you submit you may return to your application to do the following:

  • Confirm that your application status has changed from "In progress" to "Submitted".
  • Check that recommendation letters have been received; re-send requests for recommendations; add more recommenders.
  • Upload transcripts; update educational background.
  • Add test scores.
  • Update your contact information.

Will my application be considered if a recommendation or transcript doesn't arrive by the application deadline?

We accept recommendation letters and transcripts after the application deadline. However, please note that we do not wait for missing documents before we begin evaluating. Your application will be reviewed 'as is' sometime between the December application deadline and the first week of January.

MFA Admissions 2020

Application Period
Sep. 5 - Dec. 5, 2019

Decision Notifications
February - March 2020

Program Begins
September 2020

[ Admission Overview ]

MFA Program Director
Anna Joy Springer

MFA Graduate Coordinator
Tania Mayer
(858) 534-8849

Mailing Address
UC San Diego
Literature Dept / MFA Program
9500 Gilman Drive #0410
La Jolla, CA 92093-0410