Graduate Student Registration  {SF State Bulletin 2011 - 2012}

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Graduate Students Registration

Graduate Student Registration Policies

Graduate Studies does not oversee the registration process, adding or withdrawing from classes, or grade changes. Contact the department graduate coordinator and/or the registrar at One Stop. See Bulletin section General Policies and Procedures: Registration Policies for information on registration for classes, withdrawal policies, and leaves of absence.


Full Time Unit Load for Graduate Students

Fall and Spring Semesters. Full-time study for graduate students during the fall and spring semesters is defined as follows:

  • For payment of fees, 6.1 units and above
  • For those receiving financial aid, 8 units and above
  • For international students, 8 units and above
  • Typical full-time load, 9-12 units per semester

The University reserves the right to limit the number of units a student can register for in the initial registration period. The maximum unit load with permission of designated faculty adviser is 16 units. Students seeking to take more than 16 units in a semester must have a minimum GPA of 3.25 overall or in any semester. To petition to take more than 16 units, submit the Request to Exceed Regular Academic Unit Load form ( to the major adviser, college graduate coordinator, and dean of Graduate Studies. After appropriate signatures have been obtained, the form is forwarded to the Registrar’s Office. Under no circumstances will a post-baccalaureate student be given permission to exceed 18 units in any semester with the exception of cohorted professional programs excluded from this policy by agreements with the Registrar.


For further information see academic load


Summer Semester. Graduate students may enroll in a maximum of 6 units in a five-week summer session, 9 units in the eight or ten week summer session, and 11 units in any combination of summer sessions (R1, R2, R3, and R4). Some students in twelve month professional programs are excluded from this policy.


Graduate Course Enrollment Priorities

Departments with high graduate enrollments have the authority to assign priorities to students wishing to enroll in graduate-level courses. Use of a priority system is used to ensure that majors in the program can access courses needed to complete the degree program in a timely manner. From a pool of individuals, the department would normally be expected to grant admission to the class in the following rank order: (1) graduate majors of the department/program; (2) classified graduate students from other departments including Special Majors/Interdisciplinary Majors; (3) advanced undergraduate students. It is the student and faculty member’s responsibility to determine that prerequisites for graduate courses have been met.


Graduate Students Enrolled in Upper Division Courses

Graduate students enrolled in upper division courses are expected to complete additional course work and to meet academic standards above the requirements delineated for undergraduate students. The faculty member teaching the course is responsible to assign the additional course work and/or academic standards required of graduate students. The additional requirements for graduate students should be stated on the syllabus or the graduate student should be informed of the requirements within the first two weeks of the semester.


Paired Courses

Paired courses are offered at a common meeting time and place, but are eligible for either undergraduate or graduate credit, with different requirements delineated for graduate students. Graduate students must enroll in the graduate level of the paired course, numbered (700-889) and complete all graduate level expectations as described in the course syllabus. A paired course taken at the undergraduate level may not be repeated for credit at the graduate level.


Special or Independent Study Courses

Most graduate programs have a Special or Independent Study 899 course. Typically, this is an intensive study of an identified problem or subject which is carefully planned in advance, developed, and completed under the direction of a tenured/tenure track faculty member (see Graduate Faculty). The 899 is not to be used to improve the GPA. Graduate students may not enroll in a Special Study 699 (undergraduate) course.


While each department may establish its own specific criteria, the following are basic requirements or guidelines:

  • The special study is usually of a research or creative nature.
  • The student must have a cumulative post-baccalaureate grade point average of 3.25 or higher if required by the department.
  • A special study course is available only to students who have done previous work in the department and is restricted to conditionally classified or classified graduate students in the program.
  • Prior to enrollment in the course, the student, with support of the faculty member, must develop a written plan of study detailing the focus of the independent study, the assignments required and the manner of assessment of the work completed in the form of a project, examination or performance.
  • The course may not be used to replace required Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) courses, or to satisfy additional course work requirements required as a consequence of a seven-year time extension to complete requirements for a master’s degree.

A petition for a special study form may be obtained from the major department office. Special Study contracts must be filed in the department office and are subject to audit by CSU reviewers.


Exemption from Required Courses and Credit by Examination

Exemption from a required course through credit by examination is seldom permitted at the graduate level at SF State. In extraordinary cases, graduate students may be exempt from completing a single required course if they enter the program with exceptional experience or skills in the area of study. Such an exemption does not decrease the number of units required for the degree.


To earn credit by examination, a student must obtain approval from the department chair and graduate coordinator. Grading options will be the same as that available for the course being challenged. The examination is to be comprehensive and include whatever activity, test, or demonstration is deemed appropriate for evaluating the skills, understanding, or knowledge required by the objectives of the course. Students must be regularly enrolled during the semester they earn credit by examination. Units earned via credit by examination are counted as part of the total units registered for a given semester and appropriate fees must be paid. Grades received as a result of the examination will be recorded on the student’s permanent record and appropriate grade points assigned.


Continuous Enrollment Requirements

Prior to Enrolling in the Culminating Experience: Students who leave the University for two or more consecutive semesters (not including winter or summer sessions), or who have attended another college or university during their absence, must reapply for admission to the University through CSU Mentor, pay the application fee, submit any new transcripts other than the SF State transcripts, and reapply to the program in which they were enrolled. Any student who does not maintain continuous enrollment status in the University must meet curriculum requirements in effect at the time of reentering the graduate program or the semester in which a new Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form is filed. Readmission to the degree program is not guaranteed.


Following Enrollment in the Culminating Experience (for all students admitted fall 2008 and after): Students who have registered for the Culminating Experience Course through the regular university will not be required to enroll in the University during the following semester if they have not completed their Culminating Experience. After this one semester grace period ends, all graduate students are required to maintain continuous enrollment at SF State through the College of Extended Learning (CEL) until the degree is earned. Students in the CEL course will have access to library and discipline specific laboratories. The seven year “time to degree” is in force. Students in the Culminating Experience continuous enrollment program should maintain frequent contact each semester with their faculty member and meet all timelines set forth in the Culminating Experience proposal document (see policy on Graduate Studies website).


College of Extended Learning

Special Sessions: A limited number of university degree, credential, and certificate programs are offered in Special Sessions through the College of Extended Learning (CEL). Applicants to a Special Sessions program are required to apply to SF State online through CSU Mentor and apply to the program offered by an academic department via the College of Extended Learning. Once admitted to the University and the program, students register and enroll through CEL in the courses for that specific program. Special Sessions students have matriculated status and must meet all university academic performance standards, graduation requirements, and observe all university conduct expectations. Graduation eligibility is determined by the Division of Graduate Studies.


The list of current and anticipated Special Sessions programs, grouped by category (degree, credential, and certificate) appears in the College of Extended Learning section of this Bulletin. The following web site provides additional information:


Open University: Students may apply up to 6 units taken through Open University enrollment toward a 30-unit master’s degree, or proportionally more for a higher unit degree (limit 12 units), provided they are admitted to the program and the units are accepted by the graduate coordinator of the degree program. (See section on Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) for complete information on how many transfer or Extended Learning units can be used on the ATC.) Students taking courses through Open University related to a specific degree program should seek advisement from the program and apply for admission before completing more than 6-12 units because completion of Open University courses with a GPA of 3.0 or greater does not guarantee admission to a graduate degree program.


Winter Session: Courses taken through the SF State winter session may earn residency credit for an advanced degree with approval of the program graduate coordinator if the student has been admitted to a master’s degree program. A maximum of 6 units of course work taken in Winter Session prior to formal admission to a graduate program may be applied toward the degree with permission of the program graduate coordinator. If a matriculated student is enrolled in a graduate program, he/she should check with the department to determine the unit limits.


Graduate Student Financial Aid

Student Fees

See Bulletin section entitled Schedule of Fees.


Depending on need, graduate students admitted in conditionally classified, classified or credential status are eligible for loans, grants, scholarships, and federal work study. Financial assistance specifically for graduate students is limited. Students should carefully review all loan contracts to determine future debt/load and ability to repay the loans within the prescribed time. A limited number of Graduate Teaching Associate or Graduate Assistant positions are available. Contact the department directly for information.


Graduate Equity Fellowship

The purpose of San Francisco State University’s Graduate Equity Fellowship program is to increase diversity by encouraging outstanding students from educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds to complete master’s and doctoral degrees at SF State. Credential-only and certificate students are not eligible. See


Nationally Competitive Graduate Fellowships

The Academic Honors and Fellowships Office assists graduate students applying for highly competitive national fellowships as well as system-wide scholarships offered by CSU. These awards may include funding for graduate studies, as well as research experience and prestigious internships in the U.S. and abroad. Successful applicants have strong records of academic achievement, leadership and public service activities. To explore the possibility of pursuing a nationally competitive fellowship in your field or area of professional interest make an appointment with Dr. Joy Viveros in the Advising Center, Admin 211 or email


Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships are designed to provide professional experience and financial assistance to qualified graduate students. Positions are posted each semester by departments offering these opportunities. These positions may involve supporting instructors in courses and laboratories, supporting office functions and duties, preparing course or laboratory materials, and tutoring or assisting students. To be eligible, a student must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Be a conditionally classified or classified graduate student in good standing who is actively pursuing a graduate degree and has an overall and semester GPA of 3.0 or above while in post-baccalaureate status.
  • Be registered for a minimum of 3 units at SF State directly applicable to the graduate degree (including courses for credit toward completion of the graduate degree offered through CEL), or have registered for a Culminating Experience course in the previous semester. Students enrolled in the CEL 449 continuous graduate enrollment program are not eligible.
  • Not be assigned duties in a course in which academic credit is being earned.
  • Not be enrolled with an academic unit load which would be incompatible with the demands of the assistantship.
  • Not be otherwise currently employed at SF State in any staff or faculty category.
  • Not be appointed for more than a total of four semesters for students in a 30-unit program, or proportionately more for programs that exceed 30 units, up to a maximum of six semesters.


Teaching Associate Positions

The University, through its major departments, provides graduate students with part-time employment as teaching associates in courses related to their area of advanced study. The appointments usually involve teaching classroom and/or laboratory courses, assessing student performance, and tutoring students. The students assist faculty with field experiences, supervision, and/or research projects. To be eligible, a student must as a minimum:

  • Be admitted to classified or conditionally classified status in a graduate degree program at SF State and have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better in all course work taken at SF State while in post-baccalaureate status.
  • Be a degree-seeking graduate student in the academic department in which she/he is employed to perform instruction.
  • Not be assigned to a course in which academic credit is being earned.
  • Have thorough knowledge and understanding of the subject matter of the discipline in which the assignment is made.
  • Possess the ability to communicate and relate well to others within the academic environment and the ability to instruct and constructively evaluate student performance.
  • Be registered at SF State during the term of appointment in a minimum of 3 units of course work directly applicable to the graduate degree (including courses for credit toward completion of the graduate degree offered through CEL), or have registered for a Culminating Experience course in the previous semester. Students enrolled in the CEL 0449 continuous graduate enrollment program are not eligible.
  • Not be appointed for more than four semesters.


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