Frequently Asked Questions

MFA Admission Questions

MFA Overview Questions

Questions About San Jose

MFA Admission Questions

What is the deadline for submitting materials?

The deadline for submitting for admission is Feb. 1. Applicants will be allowed to submit transcripts and letters of recommendation for three weeks after the Feb. 1 deadline. But the main portion of your application, including uploading your writing sample and statement of purpose as well as paying your application fee, must be received by Feb. 1.

Where do I submit my application materials? 

Submit your application to CAL State Apply: All application documents must be submitted digitally. 

Do you offer Spring admission?

No. Only for the MA in literature program.

Is the GRE required for admission?

GRE scores are not required.

Can I apply if don’t have an English or Creative Writing B.A. or have not taken at least 12 units of English or Creative Writing? 

The most important factor for being admitted to the MFA program is the quality of the writing sample. The writing sample is more important than your academic background. If your writing sample meets the faculty’s admission standards in your primary genre, you will be seriously considered for admission. Admitted applicants who may need additional course work in literature and/or creative writing may be admitted on a conditional basis.

Do I need to submit all my transcripts or just from the last degree completed?

You are required to submit all undergraduate and graduate transcripts, even from institutions where you did not complete a degree. 

Who should write letters of recommendation for me?

Letters should be written by someone who is familiar with your writing or your academic work. Persons to ask for letters would be former workshop or literature instructors, or editors who have reviewed or published your work. Letters from past or present employers or work supervisors are usually not helpful. We suggest you ask your recommenders to provide their letters a month before the Feb. 1 deadline. 

Can I submit a request to be considered for admission in more than one primary genre?

Yes. You may submit more than one writing sample. Let us know which primary genre is your first preference. If you are not admitted in that genre, we will route your second writing sample to faculty reviewers in your other genre. You can select the genre you weren’t admitted for as your secondary genre. (You cannot be admitted to two primary genres.)

What do I need to submit to apply for my secondary genre?

Declare your secondary genre focus in your statement of purpose. It’s also good to mention your primary and secondary genre track preferences in your cover letter. No secondary track writing sample is required, but you may provide a secondary track sample if you wish. It's marked clearly as a writing sample for your secondary genre.

Can I observe MFA classes or meet with current MFA students? 

During Creative Writing Week (first week of November each year) we allow prospective students to visit MFA workshops and seminars as well as attend visiting writers’ events. Other than Creative Writing Week, and our MFA Open House at the end of January, we invite newly admitted applicants to MFA orientation, and to attend the MFA thesis reading and celebration on Mother’s Day weekend. At these occasions, prospective applicants and newly admitted students can meet students currently in the MFA program.

When should I expect to hear about the admission decision?

End of March through mid-April. 


MFA Overview

How do I apply for fellowships and/or assistantships, or other scholarships and tuition support?

When you apply you are automatically considered for a Graduate Steinbeck Fellowship[BROKEN LINK]. Up to six are awarded annually. A number of other scholarships and awards are available to enrolled students, nominated by faculty.  GA and TA applications are accepted in the Fall semester. GA’s and TA’s are interviewed in the Spring by faculty committee, and appointments begin the following Fall. An average of eight to twelve TA’s are appointed each year, usually didvided evenly between MFA and MA students. 

What is the cost of tuition and fees per semester?

Please see the current figures published by the Bursar's Office.

How many students are in the MFA program?

The number of students enrolled in the program varies year to year, averaging between 35 and 50. 

How many students are admitted each year to the MFA?

The number of students admitted tends to vary year to year. The most applications we receive tend to be in fiction. Some years we admit as few as 8 or 9 students; some years we’ve admitted as many as 20 students.

Are classes and activities scheduled at convenient times for working students?

MFA workshops and seminars are scheduled to meet weekly, Monday through Thursdays. Graduate classes start at either 4:00 pm or 7:00 pm. There are some upper division classes offered for MFA credit, including Reed Magazine. These classes generally are scheduled during mid or late afternoon. 

Can I attend part-time?

Yes. You can attend part-time but it’s recommended that MFA students take at least two classes (8 units) per semester. (You have a period of seven years in which to graduate.)

What is the size of an average workshop? 

Range is between 9 and 16 students.

Does SJSU feature visiting writers?

Yes, visiting writers come to campus for readings, talks, conversations, and occasional class visits, sponsored by the Center for Literary Arts

Can MFA students get credit for working on SJSU’s literary magazine?

Yes, MFA students can get course credit for working on Reed Magazine’s editorial team. MFA students play leadership roles on the magazine’s editorial staff, working at the direction of Reed’s faculty advisor. 

Are there travel funds available for MFA students to attend literary conferences?

MFA students can apply for funds to serve on panels and give talks at literary conferences, such as AWP. Reed editorial staff are usually subsidized to attend the AWP Bookfair.  

What other opportunities are there for MFA students?

MFA students have the opportunity to earn Individual Studies units for doing a variety of internships on campus and in the Silicon Valley and Bay Area arts communities. Many MFA students become paid writing tutors in the English Department-run University Writing Center. 

Do MFA students have the option to submit their theses on paper rather than being required to publish on a digital thesis repository or open access database?

MFA students can choose to submit either a University Thesis or a Departmental Thesis. A University Thesis is uploaded on a digital thesis repository, and can be embargoed on a yearly basis from being published. A Departmental Thesis, which is not uploaded to a digital thesis repository, can be printed and bound to be shelved in the University Library. MFA students control copyright of their thesis manuscript. 


Questions About San José

What are living costs in San José and the greater Silicon Valley?

Silicon Valley is known as an expensive place for renting an apartment, and has high living costs. You can find below market-rate housing at SJSU in Campus Village[BROKEN LINK], where there are a number of different types of rentals; rental costs include utilities and Internet.

What is the weather like?

San José has a Mediterrean climate, with mild temperatures in the winter, and temperate summer temperatures that are warmer than the coastal sections of the San Francisco Peninsula and the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay areas. Visit for more details about San José’s climate.

Is there a literary community outside the university?

San José has a growing and active literary community. One of the most active literary organizations is Poetry Center San José. The Center presents or co-presents a number of reading series featuring prominent local and emerging writers, as well as hosts poetry readings in coffee houses and bars in downtown San José. There are also reading series hosted by the San José Public Library in several branch libraries. Nearby universities such as Stanford and University of California, Santa Cruz also host literary readings, both within about 30 minutes by freeway from SJSU. There are active literary communities within driving distance, including the ever-thriving San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland literary communities. Each of which have their own reading series, journals, and presses -- a diversity of literary life unparalleled in North America, including the legendary City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco’s North Beach, and Moe’s Books in Berkeley. For information about Bay Area literary programs, check out Poetry Flash and LitSeen . The San Francisco Bay Area is also home to one of the world’s largest literary festivals, LitQuake held every October at venues in San Francisco, the East Bay, and now the Silicon Valley/South Bay.

What kind of cultural amenities are available in Silicon Valley?

Downtown San José has become a major arts destination in Silicon Valley. The premier venue for the performing arts is the Hammer Theatre Center, situated a few blocks from campus in downtown San José. San José also boasts regional and community theater companies, the Silicon Valley Symphony, and the San José Museum of Art. Downtown San José also annually hosts Cinequest, one of the largest independent film festivals in the U.S., and the San José Jazz Summer Fest, one of the largest outdoor jazz festivals in the world. Monthly, downtown San José hosts First Fridays, when downtown art galleries stay open light and the streets are taken over by the performing and visual artists, including many local bands and spoken-word performers.

Do I need a car to attend SJSU?

No! San José State’s downtown campus is easily accessible by public transportation. All SJSU students receive a SmartPass good for free rides on the VTA bus and light rail system [pdf], covering Santa Clara county from Palo Alto to Gilroy. The Highway 17 Express bus connects SJSU with Santa Cruz. San Francisco is an hour away via Caltrain. The Altamont Corridor Express train serves Livermore, Tracy, and Stockton. Finally, for cyclists, the City of San José has redesigned several streets to make it safer, more convenient, and more comfortable to bike to and from the SJSU campus.

What kind of food can I find in the restaurants in San José?

Downtown San José is paradise for the adventurous eater. Home of the largest Vietnamese community in America, our neighborhood features student-friendly spots for pho (noodle soup) and banh mi (sandwiches served on French baguettes), as well as inexpensive Vietnamese markets full of fresh fish, meat, bread, and produce. Downtown San José is also famous for its taquerias, coffee houses, and dive bars. Venture out a few miles and enjoy world-renowned falafel, authentic Japanese sushi and ramen, and more. (The food on campus is pretty adventurous, too.)

What kind of recreational opportunities are there in Silicon Valley and the South Bay?

San José is located at the far southern end of the San Francisco Bay, 55 miles south of San Francisco and 33 miles north of Santa Cruz. Ranked as one of the healthiest cities in the United States, San José is within easy driving distance of redwood forested mountains, coastal canyons, and some of Northern California’s most popular surfing and diving beaches. The city itself contains a number of city and county-run wilderness parks with abundant hiking and biking trails. Within the city limits and also nearby, there are a number of world-class botanical gardens. The Diablo Range foothills stretching north to south along the eastern edge of San José feature a number of regional parks containing lakes and reservoirs that allow swimming and boating as well as horse-back riding and even hang gliding. Spring is the time when these foothills are covered with myriad of wild flowers, the favorites of many local hikers. And on Mt. Hamilton, the region’s highest peak at 4,265 feet overlooking San José, there is Lick Observatory, the first mountain-top permanently occupied observatory built in the U.S. The observatory, operated by the University of California, contains several state-of-the-art reflecting and refracting telescopes, and is open to the public Thursday - Sunday. Here is more information on outdoor amenities in San José