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MFA Application Instructions

Updated November 2019

Please submit your application and supporting documents online at  We do not review application materials submitted by mail or email.

You may work on your application throughout the application period (see sidebar). The drawers below provide supplemental instructions for select sections of the online application. If you have questions please email the MFA graduate coordinator at 

Some applicants may be contacted for an interview at the discretion of the MFA Admissions Committee.

Residency and Applicant Data

The questions in this section help establish whether you will owe nonresident tuition. If you are not sure if you are a California resident for tuition purposes, refer to Criteria to Establish Residence for Tuition Purposes and Exemptions and Waivers from Nonresident Tuition.

If you are a nonresident who graduated from a California high school, be sure to fill out the High School section to be considered for resident status under AB540.

Tribal Membership

If you think you are eligible for the Tribal Membership fellowship be sure to indicate your tribal affiliation on the application. Mail your verification documents to—

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

Test Scores


The MFA in Writing does not require the Graduate Record Examination. Do not submit GRE scores.

English Language Certification for Teaching Assistants

If you are an international applicant and nonnative English speaker you must have your English language proficiency certified by UC San Diego in order to work as a teaching assistant.

No exceptions can be made. Certification is a prerequisite for TA employment even if you are exempt from providing language proficiency scores for admission purposes (refer to Admission Prequisites). We strongly advise that you provide a Speaking subscore on an English proficiency exam on your application. The alternatives are to provide the subscore after admission (ideally before interviewing for TA positions in May) or else take a certification exam at the start of your first quarter in the program.

Literature Application Questions

This section of the application asks you to articulate why you think our cross-genre program is a good fit for you.

  • How is your work cross-genre, mixed form, and/or interdisciplinary?
  • What literary and social questions or problems does your writing/arts practice address? (Search "artist's statement guidelines" for examples.)
  • What goals and research interests would you like to pursue during your MFA program?
  • How might might this research university and this program particularly support this goal? 

Be sure to offer a few particulars when answering the last question above. For example, do you envision yourself working with a particular faculty member in the MFA program or Literature Department? Conducting research in one of the Special Collections such as the Archive for New Poetry? Working on an interdisciplinary project with faculty and/or students in another academic department, a cultural center, or perhaps an organized research unit? Researching topics that inform your creative thesis project (e.g., cross-border and migration issues, climate change, social justice issues, bioethics, AI)? Studying how to teach writing at the college level?

Please be concise and specific in this questions section. You can expand on your answers in the statement of purpose section if needed.

To learn more about the campus, browse the A-Z Department Index and UCSD News.


Please provide 3 letters of recommendation from individuals who are in a position to analyze your academic ability and potential for success in a rigorous graduate program (you can submit more than three letters). Letters must be submitted online by your recommenders or a recognized professional dossier service such as Inferfolio. We do not accept paper letters.

You will be asked to provide the following information for each recommender:

  • First and last name
  • Position / title
  • Name of organization
  • Email address (use the email address provided by Interfolio if applicable) (required)
  • Telephone (optional)

Once you enter a recommender's information they will receive an email with instructions for submitting their letter.

Email addresses cannot be edited after entry. To change a recommender's email address, open the original entry, select "Exclude", and then re-add them as a new recommender. 

Statement of Purpose (Upload)

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. Your statement must be a PDF file and should be less than 2500 words. There is no minimum length.

Suggested topics:

  • Aesthetics.
  • Community.
  • Past experiences, including a brief discussion of barriers overcome on the path to grad school (important if you want to be considered for a San Diego/SEED fellowship).
  • Reason for low GPA (below B or 3.0) if applicable.
  • Reason for fewer than 3 letters of reference if applicable.
  • 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.

Please be sure to demonstrate familiarity with our program and faculty. Why did you apply to this university and this program? Why do you want to work with a particular faculty member? How do you feel about working as a teaching apprentice?

CV/Resume (Upload)

Please upload a PDF or your CV or resume. Include a Teaching section if you have any relevant experience.

Additional Information (Fellowship Application)

Complete this section of the online application if you want to be considered for a UCSD fellowship.

Respond to at least three of the seven short answer questions. We recommend you write about your experiences and accomplishments in 3-4 areas on this list:

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

Read the fellowship information carefully. Pay close attention to the examples of how applicants can demonstrate that they have faced significant disadvantages and adversity and how their admission to UCSD would enhance departmental or campus diversity.

Portfolio (Upload)

Writing Sample (Required)

A PDF 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. Put together a sample that emphasizes quality rather than length.

Submit ONE of the following: 

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

Upload the writing sample PDF to the application.

Supplemental Samples (Optional)

You may supplement your writing sample by uploading (or linking to) an image, video, or sound file.


This section is optional.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if my application was successfully submitted and was forwarded to the reviewers?

Your application will be automatically forwarded to us for review provided you pay the application fee and click 'Submit' by the application deadline. If you submit at the close of the application period, or if you encounter a technical issue during submission, please return to your application and check that its status has changed from "In progress" to "Submitted".

If you apply for a fee waiver your application will be forwarded to us immediately; however, the evaluators won't review it until the Graduate Division approves the waiver. It's advisable to apply early and submit your waiver documentation to Graduate Division as soon as possible. We do not hold up the review process to accommodate pending waiver applications.

Can I edit parts of my application after I submit it?

After you submit you may return to your application to do the following:

  • Check that recommendation letters have been received.
  • Re-send requests for recommendations.
  • Add more recommenders.
  • Upload transcripts and update educational background.
  • Add test scores.
  • Update your contact information.

Will my application be considered if a recommendation or transcript doesn't arrive by the application deadline?

We accept recommendation letters and transcripts after the application deadline. However, please note that we do not wait for missing documents before we begin evaluating. Your application will receive its first review, as is, between the December application deadline and the second week of January.