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MFA | Frequently Asked Questions

Updated 10/9/17.

Sun God by Nikki de Saint Phalle, Muir College, UCSD

Admission & Degree

Do I need to have a BA degree by the time of application, or by the time of matriculation?

You may apply during the last year of your BA program but the degree must be conferred before you start the MFA Program in mid-September.

My bachelor's is not in literature or creative writing, can I still apply?


Can I apply if my GPA is below 3.0?

While UC San Diego requires a minimum grade point average of 3.0 or equivalent for graduate admission, our admissions committee can petition for an exception if it feels one is warranted.

It is incumbent on you to present a compelling case for an exception. In your statement of purpose, please explain the reasons for the low grades and why your GPA is not indicative of your ability to do graduate study. The low grades should be concentrated in a short period of time (e.g., first year in college) or in disciplines outside the arts and humanities.

Can I be admitted with a 3-year bachelor's degree from an institution abroad?

UC San Diego requires the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor's degree for admission to graduate study. Generally a three-year baccalaureate is not considered equivalent. A three-year baccalaureate plus one year of graduate study might be acceptable.

You will have to apply and be nominated for admission to receive an official decision about the equivalency of your degree. The Graduate Admissions office cannot evaluate the transcripts of prospective applicants because of the high volume of such requests.

When deciding whether to apply, please note that a University of California bachelor requires a minimum of 180 quarter units (120 semester units) of study. While that not the only metric used to assess equivalency, it's an important one and carries a lot of weight.

Can I be admitted if I already have a graduate degree?

It depends in part on whether you have an academic degree (MA, MS, PhD) or a professional degree (MFA, AuD, DMA, EdD, MAS, MBA, MEd, MEng, MF, MIA, MPIA, MD, PharmD).

Normally, the university does not allow the duplication of degrees, i.e., the pursuit of a second degree of the same type (academic, professional) or the same level (e.g., a second academic Master's). Students may be allowed to pursue a duplicate degree only under limited circumstances, and only with the consent of the Graduate Council. The degree already held by the student must be in a fundamentally different disciplinary field from the department or program to which the student is applying. A request for permission to be admitted to a degree program at UC San Diego should document this clearly, and should indicate the differences both in intellectual training and in qualification for future employment that the second degree would confer.

You must apply and be nominated for admission to receive an official decision about duplication of degree. While the final decision rests with Graduate Admissions and the Graduate Council, we recommend the following based on our experience to date:

  • Apply if you have an MA or MS in any discipline, including creative writing.
  • Apply if you hold a professional degree that is not an MFA and is not related to the arts or writing.
  • Seek advising from the MFA graduate coordinator before applying if you have an MFA or PhD in the arts, literature, or writing.

Is there a progression between the MFA and a PhD?

No. The MFA is a terminal professional degree. Courses used for the MFA cannot also be used for a progressive academic degree (MA-PhD).

Students who complete the MFA in three years will have excess units that will not have been used for their degree and which may be transferable to a PhD program (the student must petition the other program to accept the transfer units).

If you think you may pursue a PhD at the University of California after you complete the MFA, please be aware that UC allows its graduate students a maximum of 18 quarters or equivalent to complete all graduate degrees. Most PhD programs are designed to be completed in about 18 quarters of time/support. You will have used 6-9 quarters for the MFA. While it's possible to complete both an MFA and a PhD at UC (several of our alumni are doing this), it's a difficult path and requires planning. Seek advising from faculty and graduate coordinators at both programs when you start the MFA.

Can I transfer graduate credits earned elsewhere?

MFA students may petition to transfer graduate seminar credits in literature or an art practice completed at another UC campus for up to one half of the total UCSD master's degree unit requirement, or up to eight quarter units of work completed at an institution other than UC. In any case, no more than a total of one half of the units required for the master's degree may be transfer units.

Eligible course work may not have been used to fulfill the requirements of any other degree, must have been completed with a B- or better grade and must have been taken prior to enrollment as a graduate student at UCSD.

A Student must submit proof that the course work to be transferred was not used to satisfy requirements for any other degree program. Degree checks or a letter from the institution from which the courses are being transferred will be required stating the courses were not used toward another degree.

Transfer coursework can be used for the MFA's Graduate Seminars in Literature or Graduate Seminars in an Art Practice or Theory requirements. Transferred coursework cannot be used for the LTTH 250/255 and LTWR 215 requirements.

How many students are admitted each year?

We admit 4-8 students from a pool of 100-200 applicants.

Do you admit older students?

Yes. We do not have an age limit.

Can I keep my current job while I pursue the MFA?

It's not possible to hold a regular job while pursuing a full-residency MFA.  If you cannot do 2 to 3 years of fulltime study, you may want to apply to low-residency programs.

Can I talk to a current student?

Sorry, no. Our students are too busy to respond to the numerous requests we receive from prospective students. We only forward requests from admitted students.

What are MFA alumni doing with their degrees?

Most are continuing their education or working in a field related to education or writing. Here's a partial list of their current occupations:

Communications manager at a university
PhD student, English literature (2)
Adjunct professor of English at a community college (2)
Adjunct professor of writing at UCSD (2)
Program coordinator at UCSD
Technical writer
PhD student, media arts
PhD student, creative writing in Spanish
Service coordinator for an organization to end homelessness
Founder of an online journal of poetry/prose/visual/sonic art
PhD student, performance studies
Founder/CEO of an online magazine
PhD student, communication
Yoga teacher
Founder/CEO of a marketing communications and content creation business
English teacher at middle school
Student in K-12 teaching credential program / documentary film producer

I missed the application deadline, can I be placed on a waitlist?

Sorry, no. We do not accept applications after the December deadline.


Can I obtain a TAship if I don't have teaching experience?

Yes. The college writing programs do hire graduate students who don't have teaching experience. We will provide guidance on where to apply, how to apply, and how to prepare application materials.

Will the MFA's teaching apprenticeship prepare me for a teaching position after graduation?

Some of our alumni have obtained employment as adjuncts based on their MFA and TA experience. However, as the job market gets more and more competitive it's advisable to get additional training and experience. Students who want to go above and beyond TAships should consider the following:

Student Life

Where can I get more information about the campus?

Check out these resources:

These aerial videos offer great views of campus and San Diego:

If you are planning to visit campus, try to time your visit to coincide with our New Writing Series so you can meet our faculty and students.

The Literature Building is at the corner of Voigt Drive and Matthews Lane [interactive map]. The department will be moving to the new North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood on the western edge of campus in fall 2020 [Vimeo].

MFA in Writing

Program Director
Anna Joy Springer

Graduate Coordinator
Tania Mayer
139 Literature Building
(858) 534-8849

Application Period
Sep. 5 - Dec. 14, 2017

Decision Notifications
February - March 2018

Program Begins
September 2018