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MFA Application Tips and Guidelines

The sections below correspond to sections of the online application. See also--- Applying for Graduate Admissions.

Personal Information

Contact information.  Please provide a phone number and email address that you check daily and add @ucsd.edu to your trusted sites. If you need to update your contact information after you submit your application, you can do so in GradApply.

Residency, Ethnicity

Residency status for tuition purposes. Be sure to read about Residence for Tuition Purposes, Residence Waivers, and Funding before completing this section of the application.

Tribal Membership Fellowship application. Complete the University of California Ethnicity section if you think you may be eligible for the Tribal Membership Fellowship. To apply, check the box for your tribal affiliation, and then confirm that you are a registered member of a tribe.To complete the fellowship request, mail or email a copy of your tribal membership card (or, if you have an application under review, an estimate of when you expect a decision) to the MFA Program.

Educational Background

PDF transcripts. You must scan and upload one set of academic records from every institution you attended after high school, including coursework completed at UC San Diego, UC San Diego Extension, or another UC campus. The academic records don't have to be official transcripts; they can be academic history reports downloaded from the school's registration website as long as they state the following:

  • Name of school
  • Dates of attendance
  • Courses, grades, and GPA
  • Current status (enrolled or graduated)
  • Degree in progress or conferred (if applicable)

Please do not mail paper transcripts for the admissions evaluation. The admissions committee works remotely and does not have access to mailed-in documents. If you do not own a scanner, check if your local library has one or take your printouts to a FedEx Kinko's.

Test Scores

No GRE.The MFA Program does not require the Graduate Record Exam. Please do not submit GRE scores.

TOEFL or IELTS scores. International applicants may be required to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores to demonstrate proficiency with the English language. Please refer to admission prerequisites for more information. (Note: The spoken English exam is not required for admission purposes but international applicants should be prepared to demonstrate proficiency with spoken English when applying for teaching assistantships.)

When registering for the TOEFL/IELTS tests or ordering score reports, specify institution code 4836. If asked to provide a department code, specify 98 (Other Humanities).

Six Month Activity

Briefly describe what you have been doing since the date of your last university enrollment. Please disregard the 2500-word  recommendation specified in GradApply---be concise.

San Diego Fellowship

Read the San Diego Fellowship information carefully before you complete this section of the application. Pay particular attention to the sections in Appendix A (Applicant Guide) that describe how to demonstrate barriers and commitment to diversity. Do not address the MFA admissions committee in your SDF statement--- the SDF reviewers are not affiliated with the MFA Program.

MFA Additional Questions and Writing Sample

Degree Emphasis. The application asks you to indicate which is your primary interest: Hybrid/Cross-Genre with an Emphasis in Fiction or Hybrid/Cross-Genre with an Emphasis in Poetry.

Teaching experience. You will be asked to provide a brief description of your teaching or tutoring experience (subject, grade level, and length of service).

Writing sample. A writing sample is required. The writing sample is weighed heavily in the selection process. You may submit poetry, fiction (comprised 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).

In putting the sample together you should emphasize quality rather than length. Here are suggested page lengths (your sample can be   shorter or a little bit longer):

  • Fiction – 30 to 40 (if submitting a novel excerpt, attach a brief plot synopsis)
  • Poetry – 15 to 20
  • Hybrid/Cross-Genre – 30 to 40

Combine all the pieces of your sample into one PDF document, formatted as follows:

  1. Clearly label the cover sheet of the sample either Hybrid/Cross-Genre with an Emphasis in Fiction, or Hybrid/Cross-Genre with an Emphasis in Poetry.
  2. Provide a table of contents on the cover sheet if the sample consists of several stories or unrelated pieces.
  3. Write your name and the page number on every page (example: P. Jones, p.5 of 8).
  4. Double-space unless the formatting of your material requires otherwise.

Upload the writing sample PDF to the application. Do not send hard or digital copies of your submission manuscript, published works, book reviews, press clippings, CV, etc., by regular mail.The admissions committee works remotely and does not have access to mailed-in documents. If you have trouble uploading your PDF to the online application, contact the MFA graduate coordinator at mfawriting@ucsd.edu.

Link to additional work sample (optional). As a optional supplement to the required writing sample PDF, you may provide a link to a digital work sample that could not easily have been incorporated into your writing sample, such as video or hypertext.

Statement of Purpose

The statement 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. Here are 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.

Letters of Recommendation

Be sure to read Letters of Recommendation and our FAQs before you complete the Recommendations section.   

You must provide a minimum of three letters of recommendation from individuals who are in a position to analyze your academic ability and potential for success in a rigorous graduate program. Online letters of recommendation are preferred. Paper letters are accepted if mailed to us by the recommenders along with the paper letter of recommendation form (PDF). Letters submitted to us by professional dossier services such as Inferfolio can be paper or PDF. The mailing address is provided on the online application and our Staff page.


The MFA Program does not require the Graduate Record Examination.

2014 Admissions

Application Opens
September 1, 2013

Application Deadline

December 2, 2013
@11:59pm Pacific

Applicants Notified
February 2014

Program Begins
September 2014

Start here.

MFA Contact

(858) 534-8849