Graduate Academic Policies and Procedures

This is an archived copy of the 2016-2017 bulletin. To access the most recent version of the bulletin, please visit Any changes will appear on our errata page.

Election of Bulletin Requirements

A graduate student must meet the department curriculum requirements published in the University Bulletin in the semester the student was admitted and enrolled. Programs that have enacted curriculum changes after publication of the Bulletin must notify students in writing of any changes in degree requirements at the time of enrollment. Updates in requirements may be published in the online Bulletin, the department student handbook, and/or in program advising materials. Continuing students must be notified by the department chair or graduate coordinator in writing with return receipt required indicating the student’s knowledge of the changes. Students readmitted to a graduate program after an absence of two consecutive regular semesters must meet the requirements of the program in place during the semester of their readmission.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Students accepted into one of the three doctoral degrees at SF State offered jointly or in collaboration with the University of California and students in the Ed.D in Educational Leadership should work very closely with their academic advisors 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 directly for specific requirements and program information for all doctoral degrees.

Master’s Degree Requirements

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

  • Meet the basic admission requirements for the University and the department or degree program;
  • Complete two levels of the Written English Proficiency Requirement;
  • Complete the specific course requirements leading to the degree (refer to program materials in this Bulletin and graduate program handbooks for department requirements);
  • Complete a Culminating Experience defined by the department/program and approved by the University.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

Each graduate student must demonstrate, in an independently written format, the ability to write English correctly and effectively to explain, defend or argue discipline-specific issues. To ensure 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 admission. Typical Level One written requirements may include a 4 or above on the Analytical Writing section of the GRE or the GMAT, a department generated placement exam, written works, or portfolio of work as determined by the department. Level One written English proficiency requirements for each program area are set by and must be obtained from the major department. Students who do not meet the Level One English Proficiency requirement at the time of admission may be admitted by the department with clear expectations that the student will meet the Level One English Proficiency requirement during the first semester of attendance and no later than the second.

Additional units completed by a student to reach Level One competency may not be counted on the Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form. Students who within the first year of attendance do not meet the writing competency conditions stated in the admission letter are subject to declassification from the degree program. 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 writing intensive course taken prior to the Culminating Experience.

The Advancement to Candidacy (ATC)

The plan of study that must be completed prior to award of the degree is documented on the Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form. The form must be submitted to Graduate Studies after completion of 18 units toward the degree and no later than the semester prior to starting any preliminary research and before enrolling in the Culminating Experience course. The Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form must be approved by the graduate major advisor and the graduate coordinator/chair of the student’s department or program. The form is submitted to the dean of Graduate Studies for evaluation and approval. On approval of the ATC, the student is advanced to candidacy or classified status. Students who have submitted their ATC forms can check on their Advancement to Candidacy status by accessing the SF State Gateway link from the SF State main page or Graduate Studies website.

Forms are available on the Graduate Studies website and are specific to each degree program. Forms must be completed online and downloaded for signature and submission. Handwritten forms will not be accepted.

Any change in the ATC requires that the student submit to the Division of Graduate Studies office a Petition for ATC Course Substitution, including all required signatures.

The following minimum standards apply to all Advancement to Candidacy forms.

Units Included on ATC

  • The ATC must include a minimum of 30 semester units or more as required for the degree. The number of required units may be significantly higher in professional programs. No degree will be awarded where the minimum number of units specified for the degree has not been completed. The ATC:
  • Must include at least 18 units of course work taken within the department offering the degree program.
  • Must include at least:
    • Fifty percent (50%) of the units from exclusively graduate level courses (700-899 level). Most programs require more units or all units to be taken at this level.
    • Twenty percent (20%) of the units on the ATC may be from either exclusively graduate or paired courses (graduate students must always register for the graduate designated section of the paired course).
    • Thirty percent (30%) of the units on the ATC may be from graduate courses, paired courses (graduate students must register in the graduate section of the paired course) or upper division undergraduate courses. Graduate students enrolled in undergraduate courses must complete additional coursework as specified by the instructor. No lower division course work (100-299) is allowed on the ATC.
  • May include no more than a maximum of 6 semester units, which may include any combination of Open University (CEL) work, credit by examination, and/or transfer work, may be used in meeting the requirement of a 30-unit program and proportionally more for programs that exceed 30 units (e.g., a maximum of 12 semester units may be used in meeting the requirement of a 60-unit program if accepted by the program).
  • May not include more than 6 semester units of credit in independent study 899 courses (699 not permitted) related to the degree objective.
  • Must have independent study course (899) contracts on file in the department for work to be completed, the grading method, manner of assessment and a timetable for completion.
  • May not have more than 30% (e.g., 9 units on a 30-unit program) of the work with CR grades, including any transfer units.
  • May not have more than 6 semester units of credit in experimental courses (874, 877). Undergraduate equivalents of these courses are not permitted on the ATC.
  • May include a maximum of 4 student teaching units, graduate numbered and applicable to the discipline of the major (e.g. ENG 804, E ED 746, PT 960, JAPN 780, PLSI 781, etc.). Students may be enrolled in a teaching practicum course for units and/or be hired as a Graduate Teaching Associate or Graduate Assistant for pay.
  • May use a maximum of 12 units earned in an SF State officially sponsored graduate international exchange program (or proportionally more for higher unit programs) if accepted by the department/program and the dean of Graduate Studies. Exchange work must be at the graduate level. Students using 12 units of exchange work on their ATC may not, in addition, use transfer work, Open University (CEL), credit by examination, or more than 6 units of 899 work on their ATC.
  • May not include prerequisite course work may not be used to meet degree requirements.
  • May not include units used to obtain a previously awarded degree.

An ATC remains valid only if the student maintains continuous enrollment status with the University, as 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, the student must complete a new ATC that meets current university and program curricular requirements. Students who do not complete all required coursework, the written English requirement, and the Culminating Experience within the seven-year time limit should refer to the section: Progress Toward Degree.

Grading Standards on the ATC

  • A 3.0 GPA is required for coursework listed on the ATC and must be maintained in all post-baccalaureate work taken at SF State.
  • An ATC will not be approved if the transcript reflects an incomplete grade. Students should resubmit the ATC after a grade is earned for the incomplete. IC grades are not permitted on the ATC.
  • The ATC may include only courses with grades of C or better (grades of C- and lower may not be included). Some programs require grades of B or better on the ATC. Students are responsible for checking requirements with their graduate coordinator or chair.
  • Grades earned by international students in required English proficiency courses may not be used on the ATC and are not computed in the grade point average for the master’s degree, but will be computed for evaluation of the SF State GPA.
  • Graduate students in CR/NC courses must earn a B- or better to be granted a CR grade.
  • A grade of RP is given for a Culminating Experience course until completed.

General information on University grading standards may be found at: Grading Policy and Systems.

Units in Residence for ATC

  • At least 24 of 30 units must be taken in residence on this campus or proportionally more for programs that exceed 30 units.
  • Summer Semester academic units are counted as residence credit. See CEL website for unit limits by session.

English Proficiency

The 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 ATC must specify the Culminating Experience and any additional oral or written exam requirements. (see Culminating Experience Requirements below).

Culminating Experience Requirements

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 (PCE) that has been approved by program faculty. This form must be submitted subsequent to or simultaneous with the ATC Students are not permitted to enroll in a Culminating Experience course until both of these forms have been approved by Graduate Studies. A Report of Completion of the Culminating Experience and/or Receipt for Thesis or Written Creative Work must be submitted or amended by the deadline date in order for the student to graduate in the semester of submission. See deadline calendar for graduate students at:

If the project content and/or research methods change prior to completion of the Culminating Experience, a revised Proposal for Culminating Experience form must be submitted to the Graduate Studies office. If the type of Culminating Experience course changes after approval of the ATC and the Proposal for Culminating Experience, both a revised Proposal for Culminating Experience form and an ATC Substitution form must be submitted to the Graduate Studies office.

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:

Seminar: Culminating Experience Seminar (890)

The 890 culminating experience course is not available for most programs. Check the department/program Bulletin information or handbook. The seminar may require a culminating paper, presentation, or exam. This requirement must show evidence of the application of knowledge and techniques learned in the field of study. This course requires additional supervision by the CE faculty. See program handbook for information. Most departments or programs provide manuals or information about the major-specific requirements. A Report of Completion form must be filed in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the University calendar.

Supervised Field Internships (892)

A supervised field internship involves the placement of the student in a work experience situation culminating in a written report addressing the significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion. 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 (893)

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. Students must obtain a Receipt for Thesis or Written Creative Work form in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the University calendar. Formatting of the creative written work must be reviewed by Graduate Studies well in advance so any adjustments in formatting can be made before the deadline.

Creative Work Project (894)

This Culminating Experience may be a musical composition, a group of paintings, a performance, a film, a learning module, a design project, or other creative endeavor by an individual student, 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 (895)

This Culminating Experience is a field study or research project by an individual student 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. With faculty permission, the finished document may formatted in the manner of a discipline-specific journal ready for 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 (896/896EXM)

The comprehensive examination is a written 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. In most disciplines, students must also enroll in 896EXM (0-units), which is the marker that informs the graduate division that the comprehensive examination has been successfully satisfied. The results of the examination (pass or fail) must be reported to the Division of Graduate Studies on a Report of Completion form by the deadline date indicated in the University calendar.

Thesis (898)

A thesis is the written product of an original study by an individual student. It demonstrates clarity of purpose, critical and independent thinking, and accurate and thorough documentation. An oral or written defense of the thesis may be required. Students completing a thesis should review and follow the Guidelines for Formatting and Submitting a Master’s Thesis found on the Graduate Studies web site at Thesis formatting must be reviewed by Graduate Studies well in advance of this deadline so any adjustments in formatting can be made by the final date of submission for the graduating term. The thesis is a published product and will be maintained on file electronically in the J. Paul Leonard Library. Students must file a thesis receipt form in Graduate Studies by the deadline date stated in the University calendar.

Joint/Group Culminating Experience Projects and Theses

The Culminating Experience is usually the expression of a single student’s work (a thesis  (898) and a written creative work (893) must have a single author); 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 participating in the joint project must have separate responsibilities, and these must be reviewed, endorsed, and subsequently evaluated by the students’ Culminating Experience committee members. Each student must complete a separate Culminating Experience Proposal, but they must be submitted jointly for review. Each proposal must have an attachment that includes:

  • A list of the separate research areas/responsibilities of each student
  • A statement of the identifiable written component of the work to be completed by each student
  • The signatures of each student and the committee chair.

A Joint Project Statement form is available on the Graduate Studies website.

If human or animal research is involved, students may submit one set of the research protocol documents, but must list all participating students on the Protocol Approval Form.

Composition of Student’s Culminating Experience Committee

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.

  • The committee must consist of at least two members, and many programs require three members.
  • The chair and the second member of the committee should hold tenured/tenure-track faculty appointments in the major department.
  • In circumstances where special expertise is available in another department, the graduate dean may authorize a designated tenured/tenure-track faculty member from a related department to serve as first or second reader.
  • With special permission from the dean of Graduate Studies, some long-term lecturers, FERPs, selected faculty emeriti, or research collaborators with terminal degrees in their field or with special expertise may be approved as the second reviewer, provided their current curriculum vitae is on file in Graduate Studies. Due to the temporary nature of these special appointments, both the student and the lecturer must understand the risk to the timely completion of the Culminating Experience. An agreement form, establishing when a retired or FERP faculty member is available to work with the student, is available on the Graduate Studies website, found here: FERP Emeritus Thesis Agreement pdf download. It must be signed by both the student and committee member and submitted along with the Culminating Experience Proposal form.
  • Lecturers or experts in the field from off-campus universities, industry or research facilities may serve as a third member of a student’s committee if they have extensive expertise in the area under study. A current curriculum vitae must be on file in Graduate Studies.
  • If a member of the Culminating Experience leaves or is unavailable during the agreed upon semesters of completion of the Culminating Experience, the student will need to reconstitute the committee. New faculty members often have different expectations and may require a student to revise and resubmit the Culminating Experience Proposal.
  • Students should be aware that few faculty members are available to provide guidance with the Culminating Experience during Winter Break or during the summer months. Students required to complete a defense of their thesis or research should plan for completion during the regular semester period. Agreements for review of drafts or defense hearings held outside of semester weeks should be obtained in writing.

To officially change the composition of a Culminating Experience committee, a student must submit a Petition for Committee Revision form to Graduate Studies.

Human and Animal Protections Requirements

Any research conducted by a student that involves humans or animals requires approval at SF State, even though that research may have been approved at another institution and/or takes place at another location. There are no exceptions. Also note that a student whose work involves humans or animals is not permitted to begin data collection without SF State approval even if enrollment in the Culminating Experience occurs in a semester subsequent to the initiation of the data collection. Before beginning any research with humans or animals, students must check the Human and Animal Protections (Office of Research and Sponsored Programs/HAP) website for specific information ( This is a federal requirement. Students who are working with stem cells must provide documentation on the source of the cells.

Registration and Grading Procedures for Culminating Experience Courses

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 Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form and Proposal for Culminating Experience (PCE) on file in Graduate Studies. Status of the ATC and Proposal for Culminating Experience approval can be found by accessing SF State Gateway 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 should not be issued a grade of I (Incomplete). Students admitted or readmitted to the University in fall 2008 or later have two semesters to complete the Culminating Experience work once enrolled. Students who do not complete their culminating experience work in that time period must enroll in their college CEL Continuing Enrollment course each semester until completion (college abbreviation 499 course, e.g. SCI 499, BUS 499, etc.) or continue to enroll in a degree-related course in their field while completing the culminating experience. When the Culminating Experience project is completed, a grade change to CR (Credit) or the grade stipulated by the department course proposal must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office by the committee chair. Students should remind the faculty member to submit the grade change to the Registrar’s Office. Visit the Graduate Studies website for steps on enrolling in a CEL 499 course to maintain continuous enrollment:

Proof of Completion

Completion paperwork, with original faculty signatures, must indicate the date the culminating experience requirements were completed. The completion date of the Culminating Experience must meet deadline requirements for the term and application for graduation is filed (last date of final exams). If not, the student will be denied graduation and must reapply and pay the Application for Award of Degree fee again for the subsequent term.

Dates of Completion

The Culminating Experience and all other requirements must be met by the last day of final exams. All dates of completion are posted on the Division of Graduate Studies website:

Application for Graduation

Candidates for degree must file an application for graduation in accordance with the University calendar. Degree candidates must have both an approved Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form and Proposal for Culminating Experience (PCE) form on file and an overall and ATC GPA of a 3.0 or higher to be eligible to apply for graduation. ATC and CE status can be checked at by accessing SF State Gateway on the web.

The Application for Award of the Graduate Degree must be completed online by accessing SF State Gateway on the web. It is the student’s responsibility to verify the correct diploma name and address at the point of submitting an application for award of degree. Any errors on the diploma that need correction after issuance will result in additional reissuance fees.

Students graduate at the end of any semester – fall, spring, or summer. The Graduate Commencement (graduation) ceremony occurs once a year at the end of May. Students who wish to participate in the University Commencement ceremony must rent a cap, gown, and hood from the SF State Bookstore. Students can link to the graduate student-specific Commencement website from the main University web page or on the Graduate Studies website for additional information.

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 the application fee again to be considered in a subsequent semester. The Division of Graduate Studies cannot extend or switch terms for applications for graduation.

Progress Toward Degree

Graduate students must make continuous satisfactory progress toward their degree by completing a minimum of six units each year, not including summer session. Departments or programs have the right to require that students complete more than the six units each year. Cohorted professional programs may require that students complete specified courses in sequence and maintain full-time enrollment. Graduate students who are enrolled, but not taking courses leading to the degree, may be disenrolled by the department graduate coordinator or graduate dean.

Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations requires that a master’s degree shall be completed in no more than seven years. No more than seven years may elapse from the first semester of enrollment after admission and completion of the degree requirements. This is the maximum time allowable. No extensions are granted past seven years. Students working full time should be able to complete a 30 unit program in five years taking six units each year. Some programs requiring more than 30 units may take proportionally longer to complete, but no extensions will be granted past seven years. 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 and the sequence of course offerings is adequate for students to meet the required time to completion. 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 student’s Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) becomes outdated while the student is in good standing and making progress toward degree, the student may submit, with department approval, a petition 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 Seven-year Limit

Students, who for documented, serious and compelling reasons, cannot complete their degree within the seven year limit may request one extension with all work to be completed within one year. Students requesting an extension must be in good academic standing. Students requesting an extension after enrollment in the culminating experience will be required to enroll in the culminating experience continuous enrollment program, either in regular university or the College of Extended Learning, depending on the program expectations for enrollment.

Graduate students who have left the University for two or more consecutive semesters must reapply to the University. Any courses to be used toward the degree will be determined jointly by the program and the graduate dean. The outdated coursework (excluding transfer credits) 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. Students who left the University after enrolling in the Culminating Experience must reapply to the University, submit documentation of progress on the Culminating Experience and enroll as a matriculated student or through the Continuous Enrollment program. Any student having left the University for more than two semesters may be required to take additional coursework in the field. The petition is filed with the dean of Graduate Studies. 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 ATC for the recommended five year completion time with the maximum extension to the seven-year limitation:

First Requirements on Graduate Admission Five Year Completion Date ATC Expiration Date
Spring 2009 Spring 2014 January 2016
Summer 2009 Summer 2014 June 2016
Fall 2009 Fall 2014 August 2016
Spring 2010 Spring 2015 January 2017
Summer 2010 Summer 2015 June 2017
Fall 2010 Fall 2015 August 2017
Spring 2011 Spring 2016 January 2018
Summer 2011 Summer 2016 June 2018
Fall 2011 Fall 2016 August 2018
Spring 2012 Spring 2017 January 2019
Summer 2012 Summer 2017 June 2019
Fall 2012 Fall 2017 August 2019
Spring 2013 Spring 2018 January 2020
Summer 2013 Summer 2018 June 2020
Fall 2013 Fall 2018 August 2020
Spring 2014 Spring 2019 January 2021
Summer 2014 Summer 2019 June 2021
Fall 2014 Fall 2019 August 2021
Spring 2015 Spring 2020 January 2022
Summer 2015 Summer 2020 June 2022
Fall 2015 Fall 2020 August 2022
Spring 2016 Spring 2021 Janaury 2023
Summer 2016 Summer 2021 June 2023
Fall 2016 Fall 2021 August 2023

Change of Graduate Program, Concentration, or Credential

Changing from one graduate degree program to another or from one credential program to another is a serious decision that should be given thoughtful consideration. Graduate students who meet the eligibility requirements, must apply to the new Graduate Program must formally be admitted. Graduate students must apply and be accepted to the new program, concentration, or credential. Only current graduate students who have a cumulative 3.0 grade point average in all course work taken while in post-baccalaureate standing at SF State are eligible to apply to a new graduate program.

Students that wish to change concentrations within the same academic department must be in good academic standing and must fill out the Change of Graduate Program Concentration. Students are only permitted to change graduate program concentrations if the new concentration is in the same degree program.

If students wish to change from a master’s program to a credential only program or from credential only to a master’s program must formally apply to the new credential or master’s objective their graduate program or credential, they must meet the eligibility requirements and follow the procedures as described.

To change a graduate program concentration or add a credential:

  • Complete the Request for Change of Concentration form or a Request for Change of Credential Only.
  • Attach transcripts from SF State and previous work to include 60 units of course work, and provide a transcript documenting an earned bachelor’s degree.
  • Attach all supplemental admission materials requested by the new department.
  • No more than 12 units of already completed courses can be counted toward your new degree objective.

The new concentration coordinator/chair completes the department recommendation section of the form and submits it to the Division of Graduate Studies to determine if the student is in good standing (3.0 GPA) and to give final approval or denial. The University and department hold the right to refuse Change of Graduate Program Concentration  or Credential requests and admission to a program based on programmatic, resource, faculty scholarship focus, and faculty/student academic needs.

Academic Standards

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 student’s academic standing.

Only the grades of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, and CR are acceptable in courses on the Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form. Graduate programs have the right to require specific grades (B or better) for specific courses that are appropriate to the discipline. Students taking upper division undergraduate courses may be required by the program to earn a B or higher if counted on the ATC. Requirements for specific grades must be clearly indicated in writing in the Bulletin, on the program website or in student handbooks. Undergraduate level CR courses are not allowed on the ATC because the grade is translated as a C-. The number of ATC courses taken for CR grades is restricted (see ATC Grading Standards above).


Students who do not complete required work for a course during the scheduled time period must complete a written contract with the instructor to complete the work within the next academic year or earlier as stipulated by the faculty member. 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 or earlier whether the student is or is not enrolled in the University. Only students who are in good academic standing in the course and have completed at least 75% of the required course work are eligible to contract for an incomplete. 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 (incomplete changed) that is calculated as an F (zero grade points). 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.

Repeat of Courses as a Graduate Student

A graduate student who has received a grade of B- or higher, or a grade of NC, may not repeat a course unless the course is described in the current SF State Bulletin as repeatable for credit. If a course is repeated, both grades remain on the transcript and the GPA for both courses is averaged for the overall GPA. The higher grade is used on the Advancement to Candidacy form (ATC). Graduate students who receive a grade lower than B, or grades of IC, W, and WU, may repeat that course only once to earn a grade if a course repeat is permitted by the program. 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. 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.

Withdrawal from Courses

Students may add or drop courses by Gator Registration without a W appearing on the transcript if they withdraw on or before the “drop” deadline. After the withdrawal deadline, a withdrawal will show as a W on the transcript. Students must check the university academic calendar for deadlines. Graduate students planning to pursue a doctoral degree should consider that a pattern of withdrawals may be viewed negatively by an admissions committee. Students who register for a class, but who do not attend or who drop the class without formally withdrawing, may be given a WU (withdrawal unauthorized) which is calculated as an F.

Graduate Student Academic Standing

All students who have earned an undergraduate degree and who are enrolled as graduate (classified or unclassified), credential, second baccalaureate and certificate (graduate and undergraduate) students are held to these academic standards.

Good Standing

Students must maintain a semester and cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better in every semester.


Students will be placed on academic probation if the overall, San Francisco State University, or semester grade point average falls below 3.0 (B). The Registrar will place an academic hold on the student record and the student will not be allowed to enroll in Early Priority Registration. Students are notified by email of probationary standing and must meet with their academic advisor and complete the Graduate Probation Advising Form (available online at the Graduate Studies website). After grades are published by the Registrar at the end of the semester during which the student is on probation, one of two actions will occur:

  1. the student attains a 3.00 in the overall and semester GPA and is eligible to register for classes in the Final Priority Registration period, or
  2. the student does not attain a 3.0 GPA in the overall or semester GPA and the student is subject to disqualification and is not allowed to register in the Final Priority Registration period.


Students who are disqualified from the graduate degree, credential, or any certificate program and from further enrollment in the University may file for reinstatement by completing the Petition for Reinstatement Following Disqualification. Faculty and the program graduate coordinator 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 program. 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 by raising the overall or semester GPA to a 3.0 in one semester. Students reinstated after disqualification will not be allowed to enroll in classes for the following semester until grades have been posted. Following posting of grades, students who attain a 3.0 will be allowed to register for classes in the Final Priority Registration period. Students who do not meet the 3.0 GPA requirement, are disqualified and must improve the GPA through CEL. See section on Readmission of Disqualified Students.

Administrative/Academic Probation

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

  • Withdrawal from all or a substantial portion of a program of studies in two successive terms or in any three terms. (A student whose withdrawal is directly associated with a documented chronic or recurring disability or its treatment is not to be subject to administrative/academic probation for such withdrawal.)
  • Repeated failure to progress toward the stated degree objective, or other program objective (when such failure appears to be due to circumstances under the control of the student).
  • Failure to comply, after due notice, with an academic requirement or regulation that is routine for all students or a defined group of students.

Administrative/Academic Disqualification

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

  • The conditions for removal of administrative/academic probation are not met within the period specified.
  • The student becomes subject to academic probation while on administrative/academic probation.
  • The student becomes subject to administrative/academic probation for the same or similar reason for which he/she was previously placed on administrative/academic probation.
  • In addition, an appropriate campus administrator may disqualify a student who at any time during enrollment has demonstrated behavior so contrary to the standards of the profession for which the student is preparing as to render him/her unfit for the profession. In such cases, disqualification will occur immediately upon notice to the student, which shall include an explanation of the basis for the action, and the campus may require the student to discontinue enrollment as of the date of the notification.

Readmission of Disqualified Students

Academically disqualified students may, after at least two semesters have lapsed, 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. Courses taken to improve the GPA may not be courses required for the degree. 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. Readmission to the graduate program from which the student was disqualified is not guaranteed.

Declassification from the Degree Program

A student may be declassified (disenrolled) 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. Declassified 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.

Grievances and Appeals

Grade Appeals

The grade appeal process is managed within the College offering the course under appeal. 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. The request must be made during the semester of attendance or 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 for the formal procedures for filing a grade appeal. Students should contact the department or college in which the class was offered for a copy of the formal grade appeal process that is conducted at the college level. Refer to

Grievance Procedures

A graduate student who has problems arising from academic evaluation, degree requirements, or general policies and procedures should discuss them first with a graduate major advisor or graduate coordinator. Graduate coordinators are listed on the Graduate Studies website at If a student wishes to appeal a decision, he/she should then consult with the department chair, the college dean or the dean of Graduate Studies, in that order. Should questions arise beyond this point, the University Dean of Students or designee may be consulted for advice. After all of the informal procedures for grievances and appeals have been exhausted, formal grievance procedures may be initiated.

Graduate Student Achievement Opportunities

California State University Research Competition

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. Winners receive cash awards.

Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase

The Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase is an annual exhibition of the diverse work of SF State’s innovative and talented graduate students. Student presentations are typically in the form of a poster or visual 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. The Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase is held each spring following the CSU Research Competition.

Graduate Student Award for Distinguished Achievement

This award is conferred on master 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 include 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 Graduate Recognition Ceremony in May and are issued a Certificate of Achievement. The award is noted on the student’s official SF State transcript.

Western Association of Graduate Schools Thesis Competition and Technology Innovation Award

Each spring the Division of Graduate Studies invites students to submit their master’s theses and dissertations to compete for the WAGS master’s Thesis Award or WAGS Technology Innovation Award. These prestigious awards represent the best and highest quality of master’s and doctoral student work. One nominee for each award will be submitted by SF State to WAGS to compete with student entries from western universities and colleges in the United States and Canada. The national winner is awarded prize money and a trip to the WAGS annual conference.