A typical graduate school application consists of the following components:

  1. Application
  2. Statement of Purpose or Essays
  3. Official Transcript(s)
  4. Test Scores
  5. Letters of Recommendation
  6. In some programs, students may include their resume or curriculum vitae

Official Transcripts

Your official SDSU transcript provides information about your academic background. Your grades and overall Grade Point Average (GPA), as well as the breadth of coursework you completed, inform the admissions committee how you did as a student. We encourage students to talk to professors and advisers in their fields of interest early to benefit from: 

  • course recommendations to enhance your overall training
  • advice for graduate programs in your field
  • research or special project opportunities
  • referrals to other graduate program faculty in your field
  • scholarship or fellowship advice

Most graduate programs require applicants to have their official transcripts sent directly from the Office of the Registrar.  

Students are highly encouraged to make a list of the top 5-7 graduate programs of interest and graduate application deadlines.  The benefit of beginning this process early allows adequate time for SDSU to process transcript requests and send your official transcripts by targeted deadlilnes. 

Statement of Purpose

The SDSU Writing Center is a free service for SDSU students and faculty. The Writing Center can assist you with consultation on reviewing your personal statements. In addition the Writing Center offers sessions with graduate students completing theses and dissertations and facilitating dissertation/thesis writing groups.  

To register for the workshops, visit

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a critical component of your overall application. They provide the opportunity to inform admissions committees about your strengths and best qualities, and can make up for any weaknesses found in other components of your overall application.  

Depending on the graduate program requirements, writers of your letters may be faculty, internship supervisors, employers, or others who can confidently discuss your potention to succeed and complete graduate-level work.

We recommend you read graduate program web sites and contact graduate program department advisers or coordinators early to see what letters are highly recommended. Letters may reflect a combination of your academic, work, or community experiences, depending on your field of interest. 

Aim for a letters of recommenders that will cover a range of your skills.  Ideally, letters should cover your academic, scholarship, research abilities and experiences, other out of classroom experiences (e.g. internships, work experience, leadership, service). 

An ideal letter of recommendation will definitely come from someone who knows you both in and beyond the classroom. 

Required Tests

The Graduate School Record (GRE) Examination

Most master's and doctoral level programs require graduate school applicants to take a standardized test such as the General Record Examination (GRE) prior to admission.  The GRE is important because it permits admissions committees to compare applicants on the same scale.  The GRE is made up of three test sections to measure the skills you have acquired over your high school and college years: 

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing  

For additional information and sample questions, visit:

Subject GRE Examinations - to Supplement Your Overall Application

The GRE Subject Tests are achievement tests that measure your knowledge of a particular field of study. A graduate program will either state that a subject test is required or recommended. The advantage of taking a GRE subject test shows an admission committee that you know a specific subject and it can help you stand out from other applicants by emphasizing your knowledge and skill level in your area. There are seven disciplines that may require or recommend the GRE Subject Test:

  • Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Literature in English
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology  

Subject Tests are given worldwide three times a year in September, October, or April. To learn more about the GRE Subject Tests, visit:

Financial Aid

To learn about Financial Aid and Scholarshipsfor SDSU Graduate Students, visit the SDSU main Financial Aid and Scholarships website.

Other options to support graduate students are summarized on the Graduate Student Orientation website as part of the Graduate and Research Affairs Division.