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MFA | Application Guidelines

The sections below correspond to sections of the online application. See also: What You Need to Apply and International Application Requirements.

The application deadline for Fall 2017 admission is provided in the sidebar. We do no accept applications outside of the application period.

To start your online application go to apply.grad.ucsd.edu.

Personal Information

Please provide a phone number and email address that you check daily.

Residency, Ethnicity

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

Tribal Membership Initiatives fellowship application. Complete the University of California Ethnicity section of the application if you think you may be eligible for the Tribal Membership fellowship. Check the box for your tribal affiliation and confirm that you are a registered member of that tribe. Mail or email a copy of your tribal membership card to the MFA graduate coordinator to complete the application.

Educational Background

Upload PDFs of your academic records from ALL institutions you attended after high school, including UC San Diego or another UC campus. Unofficial academic records downloaded from the school's website are acceptable if they state the following:

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  • Current status (enrolled, withdrawn or graduated)

Create PDFs of the records and upload them to your application. Please DO NOT mail us hard copies of your official transcripts unless we request them.

Test Scores

No GRE.The MFA Program does not require the Graduate Record Exam.

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 the admission prerequisites for more information.

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. Disregard the 2500-word recommendation specified in GradApply. Be concise.

San Diego Fellowship

Be sure to read the San Diego Fellowship guidelines 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 continuing struggles and commitment to removing barriers for yourself and others. 'Barriers' include but are not limited to: poverty, unstable family life, abuse or neglect, discrimination, mental illness and physical disabilities. 

Keep in mind that SDF award decisions are made by a diverse committee composed of people from many disciplines and departments. They evaluate and discuss dozens of personal essays over a short period of time, therefore they value clarity and concision more than aesthetics.

The instructions recommend that you include colorful and evocative details but the committee is not looking for a 'poor me' tale so much as a Rocky Balboa story about how you got where you are today despite seemingly insurmountable odds, and a compelling argument that your presence would enrich and diversify the student body.

MFA Additional Questions and Writing Sample

Degree Emphasis. Specify fiction or poetry.

Aesthetics statement. Provide a 250-word statement of your literary aesthetics/poetics in relation to the writing sample you are submitting.

Teaching experience. Provide a brief description of your teaching experience (subject, grade level, and length of service) if applicable.

Writing sample. 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.

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 pages (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. Include your name and the page number in the header on every page.
  4. Double-space unless the formatting of your material requires otherwise.

Upload the writing sample PDF to the application. Do not mail or email your submission manuscript.

Link to supplemental work sample (optional). Provide an external link to work that could not be incorporated into your writing sample, such as video or hypertext, or an additional writing sample.

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. 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

You must 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.

Fee Payment, Submission and Final Checks

Payment of the application fee or request for a fee waiver is the last step before submission of the application. If requesting a fee waiver note that your application is will not be reviewed until the fee is paid or the waiver is approved. Fee waiver approvals may take weeks, depending on the volume of requests and how quickly you provide the supporting documents.

After submission be sure to login to your application daily until you verify that (1) the application is marked submitted and paid (otherwise your application is invisible to the MFA Program), and (2) your letters of recommendation have been received. The GradApply system will allow you to add recommenders or re-send the electronic request for recommendation.


Application Period
September 1 – December 15, 2016

Decision Notifications
February – March 2017

Program Begins
September 2017