A graduate student must meet the department curriculum requirements published in the University Bulletin in the semester the student was admitted. Students who are notified by the department of changes in degree requirements at the time of enrollment must meet those requirements. Updates in requirements may be published in the online Bulletin, the student handbook or program advising materials. Students readmitted to a graduate program after an absence of more than one consecutive regular semester must meet the requirements of the program under their new admission year.


Students accepted into one of the four doctoral degrees offered at SFSU or jointly with the University of California should work very closely with their advisers to ensure that all policies and procedures are being followed. Procedures for continuing student performance in doctoral programs are different from those required for students in master’s programs. See department/program information in this Bulletin or contact the department office or website for specific requirements and program information for all doctoral degrees.


To award the master’s degree, SF State requires that all graduate students seeking a master’s degree must:


Each graduate student must demonstrate the ability to write English correctly and effectively. To assure that each graduate student has the required proficiency in written English, two distinct assessments are made by the major department: Level One and Level Two. The Level One requirement must be met prior to admissions or within the first semester of admission. Typical Level One written requirements may include a 4 or above on the Analytical Writing section of the GRE or the GMAT, a passing grade on the Graduate Essay Test (GET), or a placement exam, written works or portfolio of work as determined by the department. Requirements for each program area must be obtained from the major department.

If a writing deficiency exists, the student will be advised to take specific courses to develop writing skills in English at a level acceptable to the major department. Some students, whose pre-admission writing examples show deficiencies, as determined by the department, will be admitted with the condition to complete additional writing courses. Additional units completed by a student to reach Level One competency may not be counted on the Graduate Approved Program/Advancement to Candidacy form. Students who within the first year of attendance do not meet the writing competency conditions stated in the admission letter are subject to dismissal. The Level Two writing requirement is determined by the department/program and is usually associated with completion of the Culminating Experience or may be related to a designated course.


The plan of study that must be completed prior to award of the degree is documented on the Graduate Approved Program (GAP)/Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form. The form must be submitted to Graduate Studies no later than the semester prior to enrollment for the final 6 units of graduate work after being approved by the graduate major adviser and the graduate coordinator of the studentís department or program. The form is submitted to the dean of Graduate Studies for evaluation and approval.

On approval, the student is advanced to candidacy or classified status.

Any change in the Graduate Approved Program/Advancement to Candidacy requires the filing of a Petition for GAP/ATC Course or Committee Substitution, including all required signatures, with Graduate Studies. Forms are available at the Graduate Studies website and are specific to each degree program. Forms must be completed online and downloaded for signature and submission. Hand written forms will not be accepted. Students who have submitted their GAP/ATC forms can check on their status by accessing the MySFSU link from the SF State main page or Graduate Studies website.

The following minimum standards apply to all Graduate Approved Programs/Advancement to Candidacy. (Heretofore, the GAP and ATC are interchangeable acronyms.)

Units Included on GAP/ATC

A GAP/ATC remains valid only if the student maintains continuous enrollment status with the University defined in the Bulletin. Prior to enrolling in the Culminating Experience, a student who is not enrolled for two consecutive semesters must reapply for admission to the University and to the major department. If readmitted, a new GAP/ATC must be completed that meets current curricular requirements. Students who do not complete all required course work, the written English requirement, and the Culminating Experience within the seven-year time limit should refer to the section: Time Limit to Complete Requirements for Graduate Degrees.

Grading Standards on the GAP/ATC

Units in Residence for GAP/ATC

English Proficiency

The GAP/ATC must specify how the student has met the Level One and Level Two written English proficiency requirement in accordance with the regulations of the department.

Culminating Experience

The GAP/ATC must specify completion of the Culminating Experience (see Culminating Experience Requirements below).


In accordance with Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, the Culminating Experience must be met by the satisfactory completion of a thesis, special project, comprehensive examination, or a combination of more than one of these. An oral defense of the work is normally required. Students must file a Proposal for Culminating Experience, including the required timeline for completion of the Culminating Experience work that has been approved by program faculty. This form must be submitted subsequent to or simultaneous with the GAP/ATC form. Students are not permitted to enroll in a Culminating Experience course until both of these forms have been approved by Graduate Studies. The Report of Completion of the Culminating Experience must be submitted by the deadline date in order for the student to graduate in the semester of submission. See deadline calendar for graduate students at:

The types of Culminating Experience options to meet degree requirements are determined by the programs with approval of the Division of Graduate Studies. Typical Culminating Experience options are:

Supervised Field Internships: A supervised field internship involves the placement of the student in a work experience situation culminating in a written goals to be addressed. A written report addressing the significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion is required. An oral defense of the report may be required by the department. A Report of Completion form must be filed in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the University calendar.

Written Creative Work: This Culminating Experience requirement is restricted to graduate students in the creative writing program and may consist of a short story, novel, series of poems, and/or play in which students demonstrate a unique style of writing. An annotation page must be completed and filed as a part of the final work. Students completing a written creative work should review and follow the Guidelines for Formatting and Submitting Written Creative Works (available at This written creative work is a published product and will be maintained on file in the library. Formatting of the creative written work must be reviewed by Graduate Studies well ahead of the deadline so any adjustments in formatting can be made before the deadline. A Report of Completion form must be filed in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the University calendar.

Creative Work Project: This Culminating Experience is a musical composition, a series or group of paintings, a performance, a film, or other creative endeavor, as specified by the program. A Report of Completion form must be filed in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the University calendar. These projects must be described in a written document that summarizes the project’s significance, objectives, creative methodology, and a conclusion. An oral defense of the project may be required. Note: MUS 894 for students with the composition emphasis requires that a bound copy of the music manuscript be filed with the library, so both a Report of Completion and a Receipt for Thesis or Written Creative Work are required.

Field Study or Applied Research Project: This Culminating Experience is a field study or research project that incorporates the application of knowledge and techniques acquired in the student’s program of study. The field study or research project must be described in a written document which includes the project’s significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion. Students may complete the project in the format of an appropriate journal or disciplinary publication. An oral defense of the project may be required. A Report of Completion form must be filed in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the University calendar.

Comprehensive Examination: The comprehensive examination option may or may not be associated with a specific course. Check with the department graduate coordinator or program handbook for information. The comprehensive examination is a written and/or oral examination that is prepared and administered by the major department so students can demonstrate their ability to integrate the content knowledge, independent thinking, and critical analysis, and, as may be appropriate, accuracy of documentation. The results of the examination (pass or fail) must be reported to Graduate Studies on a Report of Completion form by the deadline date indicated in the University calendar.

Thesis: A thesis is the written product of an original study. It demonstrates clarity of purpose, critical and independent thinking, and accurate and thorough documentation. Normally an oral defense of the thesis is required. Students completing a thesis should review and follow the Guidelines for Formatting and Submitting a Masterís Thesis found on the Graduate Studies web site at Thesis formatting must be reviewed by Graduate Studies well ahead of the deadline so any adjustments in formatting can be made before the deadline. The thesis is a published product and will be maintained on file in the library and UMI. Students must file a thesis receipt form in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the University calendar.


The Culminating Experience is usually the expression of a single studentís work; however, the University recognizes that there are some circumstances that warrant joint/group projects. At no time will more than three students be able to submit a group project. Each student must complete a separate Culminating Experience Proposal. The proposal form must include an attachment signed by each student and by the Culminating Experience committee chair. The responsibilities of each student on a joint project must be specified and be reviewed, endorsed, and subsequently evaluated by the studentsí Culminating Experience committee members. Each student must complete an identifiable written component of the work. If human or animal subjects are involved, separate documents must be submitted to Office for the Protection of Human and Animal Subjects by each member of the group with the names of the participating students. The documents should be submitted together so they can be reviewed as a single project. See for information.


Regardless of the type of Culminating Experience being completed, a committee must be established to evaluate whether the student has satisfactorily completed the final requirement for the degree.

To officially change the composition of his/her committee, a student must submit a Petition for GAP/ATC Substitution or Committee Revision form to Graduate Studies.


Any research conducted by a student that involves human and/or animal subjects requires the approval of the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) and/or the University Animal Care and Use Committee (UACUC). Such approval must be obtained prior to the initiation of any research activity involving these subjects. There are no exceptions. No student whose work uses human or animal subjects is permitted to enroll in the Culminating Experience course until the research activity has been approved by CPHS and/or UACUC. Students should check with the Office for the Protection of Human and Animal Subjects web site for specific information (


To register for a Culminating Experience course, a student must have a 3.0 GPA in all post-baccalaureate course work completed as well as an approved Graduate Approved Program (GAP)/Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form and Proposal for Culminating Experience on file in Graduate Studies. Status of the GAP/ATC and Culminating Experience Proposal approval can be found by accessing MySFSU on the web:

A student who does not complete the course by the end of the semester of registration will be issued a grade of RP (Report in Progress) and should not register for the course again. Students who enrolled in the Culminating Experience course prior to fall 2008 must follow rules associated with their Bulletin rights. Students admitted or readmitted to the University in fall 2008 or after have two semesters to complete the Culminating Experience work once enrolled. Students who do not complete their culminating experience work in that time must enroll in their college CEL Continuing Enrollment course each semester until completion. When the course is completed, a grade change to CR (Credit) must be submitted to the Registrarís Office by the committee chair. Students should remind the faculty member to submit the grade change to the Registrarís Office.


Candidates for degrees must file an application for graduation in accordance with the University calendar. Degree candidates must have an approved Graduate Approved Program (GAP)/Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form on file. GAP status can be checked at The Application for Graduate Degree must be completed online and downloaded for signature by the department chair or graduate coordinator. Two copies of the signed document must be submitted to Graduate Studies (ADM 250) with the graduation fee. Hand written copies will not be accepted.

Students may graduate at the end of any semester Ė fall, spring, or summer. The Commencement (graduation) ceremony occurs once a year at the end of May. Students who wish to participate in Commencement (graduation) must rent a cap and gown from the SF State Bookstore. Students can link to the Commencement website at for additional information.

Applications will not be approved for a specified term unless all requirements have been met as of the final day of the semester. If a candidate does not complete the requirements as planned in a particular semester, he/she must submit a new application for graduation and pay an additional fee to be considered in a subsequent semester.


The Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations requires that a master’s degree be completed within a seven-year period. No more than seven years may elapse between the start of the semester of the earliest dated course on the Graduate Approved Program/ Advancement to Candidacy and the date the last course is actually completed and the application for graduation is filed. Programs may require that students complete all coursework within a shorter time period provided the curriculum, requirements and timelines are clearly stated in the program materials. Professional programs may require that students maintain continuous enrollment throughout their programs and complete courses in sequence as required for licensure or certification. See department handbooks for requirements.

If course work on the studentís Graduate Approved Program/ Advancement to Candidacy becomes outdated, while the student is in good standing and making progress toward degree, the student may submit a Petition for GAP/ATC Substitution to Graduate Studies, with department approval, to substitute another course (one already completed or which will be completed in the future) for the one which is outdated. This substitution is allowed only when the student is eligible for graduation.

Extension of the Seven-year Limit. Students requesting a seven-year extension must reapply to the university if they have not maintained continuous enrollment or have not completed their Culminating Experience before their course work has expired. Students who have left the university for more than one semester while completing coursework are not guaranteed readmission to their program.

In unusual circumstances, the student may file a Petition for Waiver of the Seven-Year Limit for a one-time extension to complete the requirements for the degree. The petition is filed with the dean of Graduate Studies. The outdated course work must be validated by examination or other demonstration of competency in the relevant course or subject field as determined by the major department and approved by the graduate dean or designee.

With the petition, the department must submit a statement of support to Graduate Studies with the seven-year extension attaching proof of competency in the subject matter as stated above, or establishing requirements for additional course work as appropriate. The department must also complete page 2 of the form detailing the timeline for completion of course work and for submitting sections of the Culminating Experience. This statement must set a final deadline for completion of the degree not to include summer when faculty may not be present. Only one request for extension of the seven year rule will be granted. Students who must leave prior to completing coursework and before enrolling in the culminating experience should meet with their faculty adviser and develop a plan for returning to the program. Students who have enrolled in the culminating experience course must maintain continuous enrollment according to the Continuous Enrollment policy in place at the time of the studentís admission.

Departments are authorized to disenroll students who do not make consistent progress toward the degree (see Declassification from the Degree Program).

Note: Transfer credit that exceeds seven years may not be used to meet degree requirements.

The following chart provides examples of the dates of expiration of the work specified on the GAP according to the seven-year limitation:

First requirements on GAP begun:

Time limit GAP will expire:

Summer 2002

June 2009

Fall 2002

August 2009

Spring 2003

January 2010

Summer 2003

June 2010

Fall 2003

August 2010

Spring 2004

January 2011

Summer 2004

June 2011

Fall 2004

August 2011

Spring 2005

January 2012

Summer 2005

June 2012

Fall 2005

August 2012

Spring 2006

January 2013

Summer 2006


Fall 2006

August 2013

Spring 2007

January 2014

Summer 2007

June 2014

Fall 2007

August 2014

Spring 2008

January 2015

Summer 2008

June 2015

Fall 2008

August 2015

Spring 2009

January 2016

Summer 2009

June 2016


Changing a course of graduate study is a serious decision that should be given thoughtful consideration. If students wish to change their graduate program, they must meet the eligibility requirements and follow the procedures as described

Only students who have a cumulative 3.0 grade point average in all course work taken while in post-baccalaureate standing at San Francisco State University are eligible to change from one degree program to another. The following documentation is required to change a graduate program.

Graduate Studies will review the change of graduate program application package after all materials have been received and determine if the student is in good standing (3.0 GPA). Graduate Studies will forward the Change of Graduate Program request to the new department/program for the final admission decision. The department approval or denial of the Request for Change of Graduate Program form is returned to Graduate Studies for implementation. The University and department hold the right to refuse change of program requests and admission to a program based on programmatic, resource and faculty/student academic needs.


Satisfactory Scholarship: Graduate students are expected to develop their full potential as scholars and to maintain a 3.0 GPA (based on a 4.0) that indicates high scholastic ability and achievement. All courses completed by a student after award of the baccalaureate degree count in the overall graduate grade point average and are used in determining a studentís academic standing.

Only the grades of A, A-,B+,B, B-,C+,C and CR are acceptable in courses on the Graduate Approved Program(GAP)/Advancement to Candidacy(ATC) form. Undergraduate level CR courses are not allowed on the GAP because the grade is translated as a C-. The number of GAP/ATC courses taken for CR grades is restricted (see GAP Grading Standards above).

Graduate students must make continuous satisfactory progress toward their degree by completing a minimum of 6 units each year, not including summer semester or winter session. Departments or programs have the right to require that students complete more than the 6 units each year. All programs, and particularly professional and cohort programs, have the right to require that students complete courses in a specific sequence and complete a unit load required to meet degree standards for that discipline.


Students who do not complete required work for a course during the scheduled time period may make a contract with the instructor to complete the work within the next academic year. For example, a course granted an incomplete in a fall semester must be completed and a grade submitted by the end of the next fall whether the student is or is not enrolled in the University. The incomplete is shown on the transcript as an I. If work is not completed during that period, the incomplete is changed to an IC that is charged as an F (zero grade points). Programs have the right to require a shorter period for completion of an incomplete. Graduate students planning to pursue a doctoral degree should consider that a pattern of incompletes, even if completed within the time period, may be viewed negatively by an admissions committee.


Requests by graduate students to repeat a course to improve the GPA is seldom granted by programs because it reflects lack of progress toward degree. Repeated attempts to achieve the required GPA to meet graduate standards is not allowed. If graduate students are permitted to repeat a graduate or upper division course in which a B- or lower grade was earned, they will be charged for all units attempted and all grade points earned, but units completed will be granted only once on the GAP/ATC; hence, the grades earned will represent an average of the grades received on the course. In some programs, students must earn a grade of B or better in specific courses. The repeat policy is the same for these courses. Departments may refuse to allow the repeat of a course to improve the GPA.


The instructor may consider regular attendance when assigning grades and the requirement must be stated in writing as part of the course requirements. Most professional programs leading to licensure or certification require that students attend all class and laboratory sessions. See program handbooks for policies.


Students may add or drop courses by Gator Registration up through the fourth week without a W appearing on the transcript. After the fifth week, a withdrawal will show as a W on the transcript. Graduate students planning to pursue a doctoral degree should consider that a pattern of withdrawals may be viewed negatively by an admissions committee.


All graduate degree, credential and certificate students.

Good Standing: Students must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better in any semester.

Probation: Students will be placed on academic probation if the overall, San Francisco State University, or semester grade point average falls below 3.0 (B). Students are notified of probationary standing and must meet with their academic adviser and complete the Graduate Academic Standing petition (available online at the Graduate Studies website). Faculty may “clear” the student to continue the program for one semester or “deny” the student the option to continue in the program. Students cleared to continue in the program must meet the stipulated requirements or conditions set forth by the faculty member. Denial of a probation petition is the right of the faculty of the graduate program if the student is deemed unable to continue the program successfully. If a student on probation fails to complete the form and meet with the academic adviser, a Hold will be placed on his/her record by the Registrar, thus preventing the student from registering in the subsequent semester. The Graduate Academic Standing petition should be filed with the Registrarís Office once it has been signed by the studentí graduate adviser or coordinator.

Disqualification: Students will be subject to disqualification from the graduate degree and/or credential program and from further enrollment in the University if, during the semester of probation, there is a failure to achieve the minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B).


A graduate student may be placed on administrative/academic probation by the Board of Appeals and Review for any of the following reasons:


A graduate student who has been placed on administrative/academic probation may be disqualified from further attendance if:


Academically disqualified students may, after at least two semesters have elapsed, apply for readmission to the University, provided they have removed the academic deficiencies, or resolved the problems which may have caused the disqualification. The work taken to eliminate an academic deficiency at this institution must be taken through the College of Extended Learning or in second baccalaureate status in order to impact the grade point average at this institution. (Second baccalaureate status is closed for budget reasons until further notice.) If disqualification resulted from any other reasons than academic performance, approval must be obtained from the unit of the University which recommended the disqualification action. Students disqualified from another institution, including other CSU campuses, may not be admitted to San Francisco State unless it can be demonstrated that the cause of the disqualification has been eliminated (additional course work with good grades, etc.) and the student is otherwise eligible to return to the institution of disqualification.


A student may be declassified (dropped) from a graduate degree program for a range of reasons including, but not restricted to, unprofessional conduct, behavioral issues that interfere with the learning of others; failure to make progress toward the degree as set forth by the University and program policies; failure to meet grade requirements to maintain good standing in the program and/or University; and/or the department/program faculty determine that the student is incapable of completing degree requirements at the level expected of a graduate student in the discipline even if the GPA is above a 3.0.

The declassification request must be initiated by the major department with support from the department/program chair and college dean or designee. Requests are submitted to the dean of Graduate Studies for final action and official notification to the student and the Registrar’s Office. To continue in the University, a declassified student must formally apply to another graduate program or apply as a second baccalaureate student. (Second baccalaureate status is closed for budget reasons until further notice.) Such students will not be permitted to enroll through regular University or Open University in any undergraduate or graduate courses in the program or degree from which they were declassified. Unless declassification was related to conduct issues that interfere with campus interactions, declassified students are eligible to apply to a new program through CSU Mentor, pay the application fee, and be accepted as a student by the department/program.



A student who feels the grade posted on the transcript is not a fair representation of the work completed may request review by the instructor. However, the request must be made during the semester in attendance immediately following the semester in which the grade was assigned. If the instructor and the student can work out an agreement, a petition for a grade change can be submitted. If agreement is not reached, the student should consult with the department chair or college dean of the program of study for the formal procedures for filing a grade appeal. Students should contact their department or college for a copy of the formal grade appeal process that is conducted at the college level. Refer to


A graduate student who has problems arising from evaluation, degree requirements, or general policies and procedures should discuss them first with a graduate major adviser or graduate coordinator. Graduate coordinators are listed on the Graduate Studies website/Advising. If a student wishes to review a problem or to appeal a decision, he/she should then consult with the department chair, or the college dean, in that order. Should questions arise beyond this point with respect to where or to whom a specific grievance should be directed, the University Dean of Students or Dean of Graduate Studies may be consulted for advice. After all of the informal procedures for grievances and appeals have been exhausted, formal grievance procedures may be initiated. See section: Student Grievance Procedures in this Bulletin.



Each spring semester the CSU Student Research Competition provides an opportunity for both undergraduate and graduate students to present their outstanding research projects and creative works in a refereed or formal academic competition. Students who are currently enrolled, as well as those who graduated in the previous spring, summer, or fall semesters, are eligible. The system-wide competition is held at a different CSU campus in May of each academic year and the application deadlines are in mid-February. SF State will select up to 10 campus winners to compete in the CSU system-wide competition. SF State students have done very well in this competition in the past, including three first place awards last year. Winners receive cash awards.


The Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase is an annual exhibition of the diverse work of SF Stateís innovative and talented graduate students. Student presentations are typically in the form of a poster display that depicts the purpose, methods, and results of their research or creative project. Participants and their faculty mentors are also invited to attend a dinner reception following the showcase where registered students are eligible to win prizes. Recruiters from California universities including Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UCLA, UCSF and the University of San Francisco attend. The Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase is held each May following the CSU Research Competition.


This award is conferred on masterís and doctoral students who have a distinguished record of academic performance and degree-related service in their graduate program. Selection for the award is based on criteria that includes academic performance, scholarly work, and service determined meritorious by the faculty in the respective graduate program areas. Criteria utilized vary from discipline to discipline consistent with standards of excellence. The selection of the awardees for the year is made each spring by the faculty of each department. Recipients are recognized at the formal Graduate Recognition Ceremony in May and are issued a Certificate of Achievement.

SFSU Home   Search   Need Help?  

1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132 (415) 338-1111

Last modified July 06, 2012 by