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MFA Admission Overview

Updated August 2023

About the Program

About Admission

Frequently Asked Questions

How many students are admitted each year?

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

Is there a part-time or online study option?


How much time should I expect to spend on campus when classes are in session?

The MFA is a full-time study, full residency program. To be a full-time student you must enroll in 12 units per quarter, typically consisting of a workshop and two graduate seminars (one of which might be a teaching apprentice course in some quarters).

'Full residency' means you must be physically present on campus from September to June to participate in seminars and workshops, fulfill teaching duties, and attend orientations and training sessions. You should expect to devote a minimum of 3-4 mornings a week to teaching responsibilities; 2-3 afternoons a week to seminar attendance; and 1-2 late afternoons or evenings to meetings, training sessions, or public readings.


  • Full-time study and full residency are prerequisites for receiving financial support.
  • It's not possible to hold a job while pursuing the MFA.
  • You will want to reside in San Diego County; commuting on the I-5 or I-15 freeways to/from the nearby counties of Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside can take 2-4 hours each way.

Can I transfer graduate credits earned elsewhere?

You may petition to transfer up to 8 quarter units of work completed at an institution other than the University of California or up to 36 units of work completed at another UC campus.

The transfer coursework must be graduate seminar credits in literature or an art practice.

Eligible transfer coursework cannot 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.

You must submit a degree check or letter from the other institution that states the coursework wasn't used to satisfy requirements for any other degree program. 

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

Is there a progression between an MFA and a PhD?

No. An MFA is a terminal professional degree. There is no overlap between an MFA and a progressive academic degree such as an MA-PhD. Whether or not courses from the MFA may be applied to future PhD requirements depends on the policies of the specific PhD Program, and students should seek advising from the applicable graduate coordinator.

The MFA in Writing can be completed in 6 quarters. Students who opt to complete it in 9 quarters will have extra units that will not have been used for the degree and that may be transferable to a PhD program. The student must petition the other program to accept the transfer units.

Generally, the University of California allows its graduate students a maximum of 18 quarters to complete all graduate degrees. Many doctoral programs are designed to be completed in 18 quarters of time/support; therefore, if you pursue a PhD at UC after you complete the MFA, you may have to complete it in 9 quarters instead of 18.

While it's possible to complete both an MFA and a PhD at UC within 18 quarters, it's a very difficult path and requires advance planning. Seek advising from faculty and graduate coordinators at both programs before you start the MFA.

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

Sorry, no. We do not accept applications after the deadline. Please apply next year.

What do MFA alumni do with their degrees after graduation?

Here's a partial list of our alumni's career-related pursuits:

PhD studies in literature/writing, media/communication, or performance studies
Teaching at community college or UCSD (typically as adjuncts)
Teaching K-12
Administrative position in higher education
UX design
Social work
Founding/editing online literary magazine or zine
Documentary film production

Will the teaching apprenticeship prepare me to teach after graduation?

While the MFA has a pedagogical component, its main focus is on the arts. Students who plan to apply for teaching positions after graduation are advised to seek additional training and experience during their MFA program. Examples:

  Note: The courses above do not offer academic credit that can be used for the MFA.

Where can I find more information about the campus?

About the campus:

These videos offer great views of San Diego:

May I speak with a current student?

Sorry, no. Our students can't respond to the volume of requests we receive from applicants. We forward contact requests from admitted students only.

Can I visit the program?

Yes. Here are tips for planning your visit:

  • Visit during one of our less-busy periods: mid-October to mid-November, February, or mid-April to mid-May.
  • Avoid visiting during final exams or quarter breaks. 
  • Attend one of our New Writing Series events, which are well-attended by our faculty and students.
  • Write to an MFA faculty member well in advance of your visit to request a meeting to discuss your research interests and whether the program is a good academic fit.
  • Schedule a meeting with the MFA graduate coordinator if you have questions about funding, degree requirements, or the admission process.
  • Search UCSD's quarterly schedule of classes for our Cross-Genre Workshop meeting schedule (code: LTWR 215); email the instructor for permission to attend a class meeting.

The campus is well-served by public transportation. The nearest hotels are the Sheraton La Jolla and the Estancia La Jolla. The La Jolla Shores is the closest beach hotel; it's a few miles from campus but it has a courtesy shuttle. There are many AirBnb rentals close to campus; use zip codes 92037 (La Jolla) and 92122 (University City) to narrow your search.

Campus buildings do not have physical addresses. The Literature Building is on the northwest corner of Voigt Drive and Matthews Lane. In summer 2020 the department will move to a new building west of Peterson Hall.

What advice would you give a prospective applicant?

Read a few books by our core faculty and New Writing speakers before you apply.