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MFA | Academic Policies

See also — Graduate Division / Academic Policies & Procedures.

Academic Standing

Good academic standing is a requirement for holding an academic appointment; receiving support in the form of teaching assistantships, fellowships, scholarships, grants, or traineeships; advancing to candidacy for a graduate degree; going on a leave of absence; and receiving a graduate degree from UCSD.

To be in good academic standing a student must meet departmental and graduate studies standards, as follows:

  • Register fulltime and complete the required number of seminars or their equivalents.
  • Maintain the equivalent of a 3.0 GPA or higher.
  • Receive a satisfactory annual (Spring) evaluation.
  • Accumulate a total of no more than eight units of F and/or U grades.

Graduate students who are not in good academic standing for any reason are subject to probation and/or disqualification from further graduate study.

Academic Performance

In addition to maintaining good academic standing, MFA students must meet the university, departmental and program guidelines below.

Academic Residence

The MFA is a traditional fulltime program. Academic residence is required. The program does not allow low residency or distance learning.

The minimum residence requirement is 6 academic quarters, at least one of which must follow the application for candidacy. A candidate must be registered during the quarter in which the MFA degree is to be awarded. Residence requirements between advancement to candidacy and completion of the degree may be waived only under special circumstances. Contact the MFA Graduate Coordinator for advising.

Continous Fulltime Registration

MFA students must be continuously registered from the first quarter of enrollment to completion of degree requirements. The academic year consists of Fall, Winter and Spring quarters; the program goes on hiatus during the summer months. Failure to register constitutes evidence of withdrawal from graduate studies.

Students must maintain fulltime status to be in good academic standing and maintain eligibility for support in the form of grants and fellowships, student loans, insurance, housing, and TAships. Fulltime registration consists of 12 units of graduate seminars or other pre-approved coursework each quarter (36 units per year).

The program does not offer a part-time study option. Part-time enrollment may only be granted under exceptional circumstances. Part-time graduate students are eligible, at the discretion of the department, for 25% TAships and readerships. Graduate students who are receiving federal loans and other aid through the Financial Office must be enrolled fulltime. Students should seek advising from the Financial Aid Office before applying for part-time status.

Time and Support Limits

The MFA must be completed in 6-9 quarters. All quarters of fulltime or part-time enrollment count toward the time limit. The time limit is affected by the following:

  • Time spent withdrawn from the graduate program will count for a student who is readmitted to the program.
  • Time spent at UCSD as a master's, non-degree graduate, or intercampus exchange student will count in the above time limits.
  • Up to three quarters of time spent on approved leave of absence from the graduate program will not count in the above limits.

Students in good academic standing are eligible for a maximum of 9 quarters of financial support. Summer funding, when available, does not count toward the nine-quarter maximum.

NOTE: Students who may pursue a University of California doctorate should bear in mind that the 6-9 quarters of MFA registration will count toward the maximum time and support limits for the doctoral degree (typically 18 quarters). Also note that the MFA is a terminal degree; course credit used for the MFA cannot overlap with another degree.

Academic Warning & Probation

Graduate students who do not meet the requirements for good academic standing are notified by a letter from the Dean of the Graduate Division. A copy of the letter is also sent to the department. If it is a student's first instance of academic difficulty and the GPA is above 2.0, the letter serves as a warning and advises of their academic situation, its consequences, and next steps. 

If the annual evaluation (see below) reveals that a student's performance is not within departmental guidelines, the student will be placed on departmental warning. The student is given one quarter to remedy the situation before being placed on academic probation. 

Once placed on probation, the student is ineligible for financial support. Students on probation who do not remedy their situation in one quarter are subject to dismissal.

Academic Integrity & Student Conduct

UCSD strives to maintain a climate of fairness, cooperation, and professionalism. The following are key university policies and procedures designed to protect students' rights and to help students understand their responsibilities as members of the UCSD community:

Leave of Absence

A graduate student may be eligible to take three quarters of approved leave from UCSD and up to three additional quarters of maternity/paternity leave. International students must obtain permission from the International Students and Programs Office to take a leave of absence.

To be eligible for a leave of absence the student must—

  • Be in good academic standing.
  • Have completed at least one quarter of academic residence.
  • Not owe the university any money.

During the period of leave, the student may not use university resources. They may not be employed by the university; hold a fellowship, traineeship, or other similar appointment administered by the university; use university facilities such as the library; apply for candidacy; or place demands on faculty, including requesting feedback on written work, discussion of thesis or thesis work (either directly, by e-mail, or by correspondence). Also, the student must return all borrowed library materials.

The student is not automatically covered by health insurance when they go on leave. To maintain health coverage, the student must contact the Student Health Center to purchase voluntary UC SHIP coverage before going on leave.

The student may remain in student housing while on leave as long as the department and Graduate Division approve the leave.

A student who has (or is in the process of establishing) California residency for tuition purposes and leaves the state temporarily could lose residency status. The student will be responsible for paying their own nonresident tuition upon return to UCSD.

A student who is receiving a Federal Direct Loan or similar aid should seek advising from the Financial Aid Office about how a leave will impact their aid eligibility and ability to meet academic progress standards.

Requesting Leave

Prior to the end of the second week of instruction of the quarter in which leave is to begin―and before leaving campus―the graduate student must complete the Leave of Absence, Extension and/or Withdrawal form (see Forms). If the student has registered, paid fees, and enrolled in classes for the quarter in which a leave is being requested they must indicate a withdrawal from classes on the leave form. Students are subject to the Schedule of Refunds published by the Registrar’s Office.

While on leave, the student should stay informed about program deadlines (including employment opportunities for the following term/year) and other matters by reviewing messages sent via email and the program listserv.

Extending Leave

To extend an approved leave of absence, a student must notify the MFA graduate coordinator at least two weeks prior to the end of the quarter in which the leave terminates. An extension requires approval of the department. Also, the International Students Office must approve leave of absences or extensions for international students.

Returning from Leave

When planning on returning from a leave of absence the student must notify the MFA graduate coordinator of the quarter in which they intend to register. The coordinator notifies Graduate Division who then reinstates the student. The student cannot register until this is done. Notification of return from a leave can only be given to the Graduate Division by the department.

When returning from a leave of absence of two quarters or more, the student must file a Statement of Legal residence with the Registrar's Office prior to registering.


In order to withdraw from the MFA Program and UCSD, a student must complete and file the Leave of Absence, Extension and/or Withdrawal form (see Forms). If a student withdraws and later wishes to re-enter they will have to request formal readmission and pay a readmission fee. A student who intends to return at a later date should request a leave of absence instead of a withdrawal.

A student registered for coursework who leaves prior to the last day of instruction without filing a formal withdrawal form will receive a U grade in each course and will be considered withdrawn from graduate study. This will jeopardize their eligibility for readmission to the program.

A student leaving the university and not planning to return must return all borrowed library material, set up an exit interview with the Student Business Services Office, and obtain all other clearances listed on the withdrawal form.

A student withdrawing during the first thirty-five calendar days of a quarter will receive a refund of fees according to the Schedule of Refunds published by the Registrar’s Office. The date of withdrawal used in calculating a refund will be the date on which the form is submitted to the Graduate Division.


A student, not on an approved leave of absence, whose status has lapsed due to an interruption in registration, must petition for readmission to the MFA Program and UC San Diego. The petitioner must have been in good academic standing (GPA 3.0 or higher with no more than 8 units of U or F) at time of withdrawal.

To apply for readmission to the MFA Program the student obtains a General Petition for readmission from the MFA Graduate Coordinator and pays a readmission fee at the Cashier’s office. In addition the student must provide supplementary transcripts of all academic work undertaken since last enrollment at UCSD and a Statement of Legal Residence if returning from an absence of two or more quarters.

Intercampus Exchange

The Intercampus Exchange Program allows qualified graduate students to enroll for coursework at other University of California campuses. Upon completion of the course(s), grades are transferred to the home campus and entered on the student's official transcript.

Students should consult their academic advisors and the MFA Graduate Coordinator about the applicability of the coursework toward degree requirements before submitting an application.

Applications must be approved and submitted at least FOUR weeks before the beginning of the school term.

Transfer of Course Credit

Students who have completed graduate work at other institutions may petition to transfer credit for two courses (8 units). The determination of transfer credits will be made by the MFA Program Director. Students who receive transfer credit will shorten their period of study at UCSD accordingly. Petitions for transfer of graduate credit will be considered by the department no earlier than the student’s second year in the program.

Refer to Coursework and Transferring Credit (Graduate Division) for more information.


Please read About Grades and Grading System before proceeding.

S/U Grade Selection Required

MFA graduate students are required to select the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading option for graduate seminars. A grade of S indicates that the student has finished the seminar requirements in a satisfactory manner and at a level equal to that of the other students enrolled in the seminar. A grade of U indicates that the graduate student's performance was not on par with that of the other students. To maintain acceptable graduate status and continuation of funding, students may have no more than eight units of U or F grades on their academic record.

NOTE: The Registrar calculates a student's grade point average on the basis of letter grades only, therefore letter grades can have a disproportionate impact on the MFA student's academic standing. For example, a student who has earned 56 units with grades of S and 4 units with grade B- has a GPA of 2.7 and is not in good academic standing.

Upper-Division Credit

Graduate students who take upper-division undergraduate courses for seminar credit must receive an A grade to maintain acceptable graduate status and continuation of funding. It is strongly recommended that graduate students enroll in graduate seminars whenever possible. Refer to Coursework section for more information.


Instructors may assign the I (Incomplete) grade when a student's work is of non-failing quality but is incomplete for good cause. The student must be able to provide documentation, such as a doctor’s note, if the instructor requests it. The graduate student must complete the work or paper by the date set by the instructor. This date can be no later than the last day of the next quarter's finals, excluding Summer Session. If the work is not completed, the Registrar will automatically change the Incomplete to an Unsatisfactory (U) or Failure (F) at the end of the quarter following the awarding of the Incomplete.

Repeat Course In Which Grade D, F, or U Assigned

A graduate student assigned a grade of D, F, or U only may petition to repeat the course on the same grading basis for which it was first taken. Degree credit for the course will be given only once, but the grade assigned for each enrollment will be permanently recorded. Both the original grade and the grade received in the repetition will be used in calculating the overall GPA for the first 16 units repeated.

A petition to repeat the course must be submitted to the Graduate Division for approval prior to enrollment. Contact the MFA Graduate Coordinator to submit a petition.


Annual Evaluations

Continuing MFA students are evaluated annually in accordance with Graduate Council policy. A satisfactory evaluation must be filed with the Graduate Division for future financial support to be approved. Students are advised to work with their advisor and graduate coordinator for the timely submission of their evaluation so that future student support is not jeopardized.

The evaluation is conducted online during Spring quarter. The MFA Graduate Coordinator emails instructions and deadlines to all participants.

The MFA student is evaluated by the program director and 1-3 faculty members. Once the evaluators have submitted comments the student is given the opportunity to comment as well. The student's signature is required on every evaluation. Signature does not indicate agreement with the evaluation.

Students can view their annual evaluations at Gradforms.ucsd.edu.

Teaching Evaluations

Teaching assistants are evaluated by their students and supervising instructor at the end of each quarter. The evaluations are very important. The ratings and comments may impact the graduate student's—

  • Teaching apprenticeship grade.
  • Annual evaluation.
  • Eligibility for employment as a TA or Reader.
  • Eligibility for future merit-based scholarships or fellowships.

Teaching assistants are expected to exhibit a positive attitude, professionalism, and willingness to follow instructions. Behaviors that are unacceptable and that may lead to an unsatisfactory evaluation include the following:

  • Frequently missing (or arriving late) for lectures, discussion sections, or office hours.
  • Disregarding instructions for conducting section or grading student work.
  • Behaving disrespectfully, inappropriately or dismissively when interacting with instructor or students.
  • Failing to keep accurate academic records or submit grades on time.

TAs can download their evaluations from the Academic Student Employment System once final grades have been posted.

MFA in Writing graduate students are expected to review their evaluations as soon as available and to correct any significant weakenesses by the end of the following quarter (see Teaching Resources).