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UCSD Graduate Studies Overview

Updated November 2022

The Graduate Division ( oversees all graduate student education at UC San Diego.  They work with the various departments to enforce the policies and administer the processes that apply to all graduate students on campus.  Students in the MFA Program must meet the requirements of both the Grad Division and the Literature Department.  Below are some of the key campus-wide policies and procedures that govern graduate students.

Graduate Student Portal

The Graduate Student Portal ( is the Graduate Division's repository for student information and forms, such as financial support letters, annual Spring Evaluations, and request for a Leave of Absence or Withdrawal form. Login with your single-sign-on to view your information or submit a form.

Contact the MFA Program Advising if you have questions about items in the Graduate Student Portal.

Academic Standing

Good academic standing is a requirement for holding an academic appointment (e.g., GSR, IA); receiving support in the form of teaching assistantships, fellowships, or grants; participating in the Education Abroad Program (EAP) or UC Intercampus Exchange program; advancing to candidacy for a graduate degree; taking a Leave of Absence; and receiving a graduate degree from UCSD.

To be in good academic standing a student must meet departmental and graduate studies standards including:

  • Register for and complete the required number of seminars or their equivalents.
  • Maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher in upper-division and graduate coursework.
    • NOTE: MFA students may only take a few of their courses for a letter grade, as many of their required courses will be S/U grading only. Only the courses taken for a letter grade are used to calculate GPA, so students should approach these courses carefully and with appropriate attention.
  • Accumulate no more than 8 units of "F" and/or "U" grades.
  • Have a completed and satisfactory Spring evaluation filed with Grad Division.
  • Identify by the end of the 3rd quarter an eligible faculty member who agrees to guide the student’s research and to serve as chair of the thesis committee.
  • Advance to candidacy and complete the degree within the established time limits specified by the MFA program.
  • Comply with conditions set at the time of admission to the MFA program.

Graduate students who are not in good academic standing for any reason are subject to probation and/or disqualification from further graduate study. Academic disqualification is determined by the Dean of the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs in consultation with the MFA program, and normally relates to: unsatisfactory academic performance, e.g., failure to maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or better; failure to meet criteria of performance; failure to advance to candidacy or complete the degree within established time limits; accumulation of more than eight units of F or U grades; or failure to comply with conditions set at the time of admission to a graduate degree program.

Full-Time Status

A student must be enrolled full-time to receive support in the form of grants and fellowships and to be eligible for student loans, health insurance, housing, and teaching assistantships at 50% time.

To be considered full-time, a student must be registered for at least 12 units of coursework (graduate or upper-division undergraduate level) each quarter until the degree is completed. Lower-division undergraduate units do not count towards enrollment minimums or MFA degree requirements.

Graduate students must be continuously registered from the first quarter of enrollment to completion of the degree (excluding Summer Quarters). Failure to register without an approved Leave of Absence or Withdrawal constitutes evidence of withdrawal from the program and UCSD.  A student not on an approved Leave of Absence, whose status has lapsed due to an interruption in registration, must petition for readmission and pay the readmission fee.

Normative Time to the MFA

Normative time is the defined period in which students, under normal circumstances, are expected to complete their requirements for the MFA degree.  Normative time for the MFA in Writing is two-three years.  At the end of normative time (3 years), a student is no longer eligible for financial support from the Literature Department.  Be advised that there may be additional campus resources that are only available to students within their normative time. 

Note: While some students may attempt to accelerate their time in the program, most students will complete the MFA degree in three years.  The year-by-year plan outlined in this handbook is based on a three-year timeline, and students will take extra courses (usually independent studies) that will not need to be used for the specific degree requirements.  Students who wish to accelerate their timeline should contact the advising staff to customize a plan. 

Important Note for Students Who May Pursue a PhD

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.

Also, note that an MFA is a terminal 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.

Annual Spring Evaluations

Continuing MFA students are evaluated annually in accordance with Graduate Council policy. A satisfactory Spring Evaluation must be filed with the Graduate Division for the student to remain in good standing (and be eligible for future financial support, leaves of absence, and exceptions to policy).

The main purpose of the Spring Evaluation is to confirm that the student is making satisfactory progress toward their degree, but it will also be referred to whenever the student is being considered for an exceptional opportunity, such as a merit-based scholarship or co-teaching a course with a faculty member.

For each annual Spring Evaluation, the Graduate Office will facilitate the routing of the online evaluation.  Each evaluation will go through the following steps:

  1. Late Winter Quarter – Early Spring Quarter: Students will be asked to complete a self-evaluation, where they will answer questions about the past year’s progress and have the opportunity to list any relevant accomplishments. For example, the student may be asked to briefly describe—
    1. Progress toward degree completion.
    2. Central theoretical, aesthetic, formal, and/ or thematic concerns or questions they have been investigating via literary practice.
    3. Recent activities or accomplishments that were valuable for their professional development.
  2. Early Spring Quarter: The evaluations are then routed to the relevant faculty (see below for details), so they may view the student’s self-evaluation responses. The faculty will then submit their evaluation of the student and electronically sign the evaluation.
  3. Mid/Late Spring Quarter: The evaluations are then routed back to the students, so they may read the faculty’s comments.  The student has an opportunity to add any additional comments in response to the faculty’s evaluations, and then they electronically sign the evaluation.
  4. Late Spring Quarter: The evaluations are then routed to the Department Chair for their electronic signature.
  5. Late Spring Quarter: The evaluations are finally submitted electronically to Grad Division for official filing.

 The following faculty will evaluate students based on their year in the program:

  • Year 1: All MFA faculty are able to add comments on the student’s progress.  Then, the MFA Director will complete the formal evaluation of all first-year students based on their progress towards the MFA requirements, their self-evaluation, and the comments of other faculty.
  • Year 2: The student’s Thesis Committee (see “MFA Program: Year 2” for more details) will evaluate the student based on their progress towards the MFA requirements and their self-evaluation.
  • Year 3: The student’s Thesis Committee will evaluate the student based on their progress with the steps towards degree completion and their self-evaluation.

It is the student’s responsibility to touch base with each committee member regularly to keep them appraised of their academic progress.  The Spring Evaluations are also an important opportunity for the student’s committee to formalize their advice and recommendations for the upcoming year.

Students can view their completed annual evaluations in the Graduate Student Portal.

GEPA Policies & Procedures

Student Health Insurance

The graduate student health insurance plan (UC SHIP) is mandatory.  The University pays the health insurance premiums for any students holding Teaching Assistantships, Readerships, or Research Assistantships at 25% time or greater.  Please contact Student Health Services at 534-3300 or visit the Student Health website.  Students who are currently covered under a private health plan may apply to opt out of UC SHIP by submitting an online Health Fee Waiver application.  More information can be found on the Student Health Services website: Waiving UC SHIP

Summer Health Care

For students who served as teaching assistants or research assistants during the academic year, summer health care is provided, although students must make co-payments on a few services.  Additional information is available from Student Health Services.

Graduate Student Housing

Students are able to apply for graduate student housing on campus.  As spaces are limited, students are encouraged to apply early.  For more information about the campus’ various housing communities and policies, visit  For additional information regarding off-campus housing, please visit

Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA)

The Graduate & Professional Student Association ( is the campus-wide official student organization that represents graduate and professional students. Its membership includes two or more student representatives from each department. It is governed by an internally elected executive board. The GPSA meets bimonthly.

Functions of the GPSA include: allocating the graduate student activity fee; appointing graduate students to campus-wide committees; and sponsoring academic and social events.  Literature Department representatives to the GPSA are elected annually.

The names of Literature's elected representatives can be found on the PhD Program's Appointments page. Please email for contact information, if needed.  You may contact the GPSA at (858) 822-3243 or by e-mail at