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MFA | Application Guidelines

Updated 9/18/17.

We accept applications from September to December of the current year for admission in Fall quarter next year (see sidebar for dates). We do not accept applications at any other time.

You may work on your application throughout the application period, up till you pay the application fee and submit. After you submit you may return to your application to do the following:

  • Confirm that your application has been forwarded to the MFA Program for review.
  • Check that recommendation letters have been received; re-send requests for recommendations; add more recommenders.
  • Add an institution to your educational background.
  • Upload transcripts or add TOEFL/IELTS scores.
  • Update your contact information.

While we accept recommendations, transcripts after the application deadline, 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.


The sections below correspond to sections of our online application for admission. Please refer to them when filling out your application.

Contact Information

Please provide a phone number and email address that you will check daily during January-February in case we need to contact you for more information. We do not use your contact information for any purpose other than evaluating your application.

Residency and Applicant Data

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

To apply for the Tribal Membership fellowshipindicate your tribal affiliation. Remember to follow up and provide verification of affiliation. Verification may be in the form of a valid tribal identification card, a letter of verification from the tribal chair, or chair of the tribal educational committee. Native Hawaiians should provide a copy of a certified birth certificate stating Hawaiian race.

Mail your documentation to:

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

Educational Background

Upload PDFs of your academic records from ALL institutions you attended after high school, including UC San Diego, UC San Diego Extension, or another UC campus. We cannot admit you if your academic records are incomplete or don't conform to UCSD's guidelines. Refer to the Graduate Admissions Office's transcript guidelines for domestic studentsor international students.

Unofficial academic records downloaded from school websites are acceptable for the purpose of evaluating your application if they state the following:

  • Your name
  • Name of school
  • Dates of attendance
  • Courses, grades, and GPA (or other method of evaluation)
  • Enrollment status (enrolled, withdrawn, or graduated/degree conferred)

Create PDFs of the records and upload them to your application. Do not mail hard copies of your official transcripts unless we request them. The Graduate Division and the MFA Program do not retain unsolicited transcripts.

Test Scores (International Students Only)

Demonstrated proficiency in the English language is required for international applicants whose native language is not English. If you have not 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, you must submit test scores to demonstrate proficiency with English. Please refer to Graduate Admissions Office / English Language Proficiency for information about testing, scores and how to submit them.

When registering for tests or ordering score reports, specify institution code 4836.

Program Supplement (MFA Questions and Writing Sample)

Enter your answers to the below on the application, except for the writing sample, which must be uploaded as a PDF.

Literary Genres & Aesthetics

  • Please tell us which literary genres, if any, you have the most experience reading, analyzing, and writing, e.g., 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? Search for artist's statement guidelines if you need samples. 

Goals & Research Interests

  • 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.

  1. 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, or
    • Cross-Genre/Hybrid/Mixed Forms – 30 to 40.
  2. 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.
  3. Upload the writing sample PDF to the application.
  4. Optional: Provide an external link to work that could not be incorporated into your writing sample, such as a video, sound file, hypertext, or additional writing sample.


  • 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.


Please provide 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. Letters must be submitted online by your recommenders or a recognized professional dossier services 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
  • Phone number
  • Title
  • Institution or business name
  • Institutional or professional email address

Support Documents (Statement of Purpose PDF)

The statement of purpose must be composed offline and uploaded to the application as a 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.

See also: Graduate Admissions Office > Statement of Purpose

Additional Educational Experiences (Fellowship Application)

To be considered for the San Diego Fellowshipand/or SEED Fellowship, please write about your experiences and accomplishments in these areas:

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

Read the fellowship information carefully, paying particular attention to Appendix A. Describe the barriers, disadvantages and adversity you overcame and your commitment to removing barriers for others. Please adhere to the character limit. Use the "Other" box for information that doesn't fit one of the above categories.

(Looking for the Tribal Fellowship application? See Residency and Applicant Data, above.)

Additional Information (Last Six Months 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.

Fee Payment, Submission and Final Checks

The last step before submitting your application is to pay the application fee or request a fee waiver. If applying for a waiver, submit the required documentation as soon as possible. 

Once you have paid your application fee (or after your request for a waiver has been approved), return to your application and check that its status has changed from In-progress to Submitted. 

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