Graduate Student 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 or the Registrar at One-Stop. Work with a graduate advisor or continuing student specialist for information on leaves of absence. The Leave of Absence request form can be found on the Graduate Studies website.

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 for which a student can register in the initial registration period. The maximum unit load with the permission of the designated faculty advisor is 16 units. Students seeking to take more than 16 units in a semester must have an overall GPA of 3.25 or better 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 advisor, college graduate coordinator, and dean of Graduate Studies. After appropriate signatures have been obtained, the form is forwarded to the Registrar’s Office. In general, a post-baccalaureate student will not be permitted to exceed 18 units in any semester, with the exception of cohorted professional programs.  For further information, review the Academic Load section of this Bulletin.

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 12-month professional programs are excluded from this policy.

Graduate Course Enrollment Priorities

Academic departments have the authority to assign enrollment priorities to their students wishing to enroll in graduate-level courses. 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:

  • Graduate majors or students accepted to San Francisco State Scholars programs of the department or program;
  • Classified graduate students from other departments including Interdisciplinary majors; and
  • 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 coursework and to meet academic standards above the requirements delineated for undergraduate students. The faculty member teaching the course is responsible for assigning the additional coursework 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 in writing within the first two weeks of the semester.

Graduate Paired Courses

A paired course is a graduate course paired with an undergraduate course covering similar content. The paired course is taught by the same instructor, on the same days and times, and in the same class environment. 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.

Independent Study Courses

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

While each department may establish specific criteria for enrollment in an 899, the following are basic requirements and guidelines:

  • The independent study is usually of a research or creative nature.
  • The student must have a cumulative post-baccalaureate GPA of 3.25 or better.
  • An independent 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. In unusual cases, a student in a complementary major may enroll in an 899 in another department, provided there is a clear association with the student’s degree plan.
  • Prior to enrollment in the course, the student, with the 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 program-specified Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) core courses or to satisfy additional coursework requirements required as a consequence of a seven-year time extension to complete requirements for a master’s degree.

A petition for an independent study form may be obtained from the major department office and must be reviewed by the Division of Graduate Studies. Independent study contracts must be filed in the department office and are subject to audit by the CSU.

Continuous Enrollment Requirements

Prior to Enrolling in the Culminating Experience

Students who leave the University for two or more consecutive semesters (not including summer session), or who have attended another college or university during their absence, must reapply for admission to the University through CAL STATE APPLY, 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

Students who have registered for the Culminating Experience course at the University will not be required to enroll in the University during the immediately following "grace" semester (summer and Winter Break excluded) 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 San Francisco State through the College of Professional & Global Education (CPaGE) or regular University until the degree is earned. Students in the CPaGE course will have access to library and discipline-specific laboratories. The department “time to degree” is in force. Students in the Culminating Experience continuous enrollment program should maintain frequent contact each semester with their faculty culminating experience committee and meet all timelines outlined in the culminating experience proposal document.

College of Professional & Global Education

Special Sessions

A limited number of University degree, credential, and certificate programs are offered in Special Sessions through the College of Professional & Global Education (CPaGE). Applicants to a Special Sessions graduate program must apply for admission to San Francisco State online through Cal State Apply.

Once admitted to the University and the program, students register and enroll through CPaGE 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 Professional & Global Education section of this Bulletin. Refer to the College of Professional & Global Education website for details.

Open University

Students may apply no more than 6 units taken through Open University enrollment toward a 30 unit master’s degree, or proportionally more for a higher unit degree (no more than 12 units), provided they are admitted to the program, and the units are accepted by the graduate coordinator of the degree program at the time of admission. For complete information on how many transfer or Extended Learning units can be used on the ATC, review the Bulletin section on Advancement to Candidacy (ATC). Students taking courses through Open University better does not guarantee admission to a graduate degree program. Students taking courses through Open University to improve their GPA may not take courses required for the graduate degree from which they were disqualified.

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 their ability to repay the loans within the prescribed time. A limited number of Graduate Teaching Associate or Graduate Assistant positions are available. Contact the academic department directly for information.

Academic Works

San Francisco State University maintains a comprehensive database of scholarships and fellowships available to students. Visit SFSU AcademicWorks to search for funding opportunities based on a variety of criteria, including your graduate student status and area of research or study. You may apply for the Graduate Equity Fellowship and Graduate Dean's Award through Academic Works.

Graduate Dean's Award

The Dean's Award supports our current undergraduates and our alumni who want to obtain a master's degree at SF State. To apply, please search for Graduate Dean's Award in AcademicWorks and follow instructions.

Graduate Equity Fellowship

The purpose of the 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. Second baccalaureate, credential-only, and certificate students are not eligible. To apply, please search for Graduate Equity Fellowship in AcademicWorks and follow instructions.

Provost Scholar Non-Resident Fee Waiver Program

The Provost Scholar Program provides selected newly admitted domestic, non-resident students with an out-of-state tuition waiver for one year. Contact the department to which you are admitted to alert them that you are a domestic non-resident applicant and wish to be considered for the Provost Scholar Non-Resident Fee Waiver Program. Graduate students are select for the fee waiver program based on academic excellence, standardized test scores (if required for department admission), department-required essay or statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. Recipients will be notified by the Division of Graduate Studies. Students cannot apply directly to the Provost Scholar Non-Resident Fee Waiver Program; they must apply through the academic department and college.

Financial Aid

Financial Aid may be available to you. Applying begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Please visit SF State’s Office of Student Financial Aid for additional information.

State University Grant

The State University Grant (SUG) is a need-based tuition remission award for classified, conditionally classified, and credential California resident graduate students, paying resident tuition and fees. There is a limited amount of funding each year and all awards are conditional based on the availability of funds from the State. The SUG is designated specifically to pay a portion of students’ basic tuition and fees. Any other fee-paying financial aid and resources you receive will affect the student’s eligibility for a SUG. Learn more on our State University Grant page.


The TEACH Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete coursework needed to begin a career in teaching.

Alumni Scholarship

The Alumni Scholarship Association will grant scholarships of $1,000 each to students who will have SF State graduate status each fall. Applicants are required to have a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or better and must be enrolled full-time (8 units or more) for the fall semester. Scholarships are merit and need-based.

Nationally Competitive Graduate Fellowships

The Fellowships Office assists graduate students applying for nationally competitive fellowships as well as system-wide CSU scholarships and awards. These awards may include funding for graduate studies as well as research experience and prestigious internships in the United States and abroad. Competitive applicants are passionate, engaged students with strong records of academic achievement, leadership, and public service activities. To explore the possibility of pursuing a nationally competitive fellowship, search the Graduate Fellowships website for fellowships in your field or area of professional interest, then make an appointment with Dr. Joy Viveros

Students who intend to go on for a Ph.D. should also consult the SF State California Pre-Doctoral Program website.

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, preparing course or laboratory materials, research, 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 better while in post-baccalaureate status.
  • Be registered for a minimum of 3 units at SF State directly applicable to the graduate degree or have registered for a Culminating Experience course in the previous semester and received an “RP” grade. Students enrolled in the CEL 499 continuous graduate enrollment program are eligible to work as a GA for one semester. International students in the grace semester following enrollment in a Culminating Experience course must complete the Request for Approval to Take a Reduced Course Load Due to Thesis/Project/Recital/Oral Defense/Exam form two weeks prior to the beginning of this semester and submit it to the Office of International Programs.
  • International students who enrolled in the Culminating Experience course in the immediately preceding semester must complete the Full-Time Equivalency Request Form and submit it to the Office of International Programs.
  • Not be on academic probation due to earning an overall GPA below 3.0 or in the immediately preceding semester.
  • 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 lecturer or staff position.
  • The appointment, combined with any other student employment at SF State may not exceed 20 hours per week during the semester.
  • 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.

Graduate 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 or laboratory courses, assessing student performance, and tutoring students. The students assist faculty with field experiences, supervision, 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 and semester GPA of 3.0 (B) or better in all coursework taken at SF State while in post-baccalaureate status.
  • Be a degree-seeking graduate student in the academic department in which they are employed to teach.
  • Not be assigned to a course in which academic credit is being earned.
  • Not be on academic probation due to earning a GPA below 3.0 overall or in the immediately proceeding semester.
  • 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 coursework directly applicable to the graduate degree or have registered for a Culminating Experience course in the immediately preceding semester. Students enrolled in the CEL 499 continuous graduate enrollment program are eligible for one semester.
  • International students who enrolled in the Culminating Experience course in the immediately preceding semester must complete the Full-Time Equivalency Request Form and submit it to the Office of International Programs.
  • Not be appointed for more than four semesters.
  • Not teach upper-division or graduate-level courses.

California Pre-Doctoral Program

The California Pre-Doctoral Program is designed to diversify the pool of University faculty by supporting the doctoral aspirations of economically or educationally disadvantaged students who are upper-division undergraduates or graduate students on a California State University campus, with focused research interests, and an interest in a university faculty career. Visit the Fellowships Office website for more details.

Chancellor’s Doctoral Incentive Program

This program provides student loans to a limited number of individuals pursuing full-time doctoral degrees at accredited universities throughout the United States. After participants receive their doctoral degrees and obtain a qualifying instructional position in the CSU, a portion of their loan from this program will be forgiven every year. Visit the website for more details.