Jul 19, 2024  
2018-19 CATALOG 

Graduate Studies

Office of Research and Graduate Studies

Craven Hall 5210
(760) 750 4066

General Information

Graduate education is advanced study that goes substantially beyond the baccalaureate level in terms of specific content and academic rigor. Graduate study involves both greater independence and closer intellectual interaction with faculty mentors as the student develops focused knowledge and expertise in a subject area. The graduate student is expected to master advanced coursework as well as engage in independent study and research, scholarship, or creative activity.

The faculty who teach in graduate programs at Cal State San Marcos possess the appropriate terminal degree and experience needed to provide the advanced mentoring involved in graduate research, scholarship, and creative activity. In addition to the core graduate curriculum in each program, students are required to complete an appropriate culminating experience (thesis, project, or comprehensive examination).

A master’s degree from Cal State San Marcos prepares students for academic careers in higher education, including continued study at the doctoral level; or for advanced positions in business, industry, and the public sector.

Admission Requirements for Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate Students

Admission to the University

Graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants may apply for a degree objective, a credential or certificate objective, or where approved may have no program objective. Depending on the objective, the CSU will consider an application for admission as follows:

General Requirements — The minimum requirements for admission to graduate and post-baccalaureate studies at a CSU campus are in accordance with university regulations as well as Title 5, Chapter 1, Subchapter 3 of the California Code of Regulations.

Specifically, a student shall at the time of enrollment: (1) have completed a four-year college course of study and hold an acceptable baccalaureate degree from an institution accredited by a regional accrediting association, or shall have completed equivalent academic preparation as determined by appropriate campus authorities; (2) be in good academic standing at the last college or university attended; (3) have earned a grade point average of at least 2.5 on the last degree completed by the candidate or have attained a grade point average of at least 2.5 (A=4.0) in the last 60 semester (90 quarter) units attempted; and (4) satisfactorily meet the professional, personal, scholastic, and other standards for graduate study, including qualifying examinations, as appropriate campus authorities may prescribe. In unusual circumstances, a campus may make exceptions to these criteria.

Admission to the Department or Program

The applications of students meeting University requirements for admission and desiring admission to a master’s program must also be reviewed in the appropriate department, to determine whether the student meets requirements for admission to its particular program. All programs may require a separate application in addition to the university application. Students who meet both departmental/program and university requirements for a master’s program will be admitted as either Graduate Conditionally Classified or Graduate Classified. Students seeking a teaching credential who meet both college and university requirements will be admitted as Classified Post-baccalaureate.

Students who meet the minimum requirements for graduate and post-baccalaureate studies may be considered for admission in one of the four following categories:

  • Post-Baccalaureate Unclassified — To enroll in undergraduate courses as preparation for advanced degree programs or to enroll in graduate courses for professional or personal growth, applicants must be admitted as post-baccalaureate unclassified students. By meeting the general requirements, applicants are eligible for admission as post-baccalaureate unclassified students. Admission in this status does not constitute admission to, or assurance of consideration for admission to, any graduate degree or credential program (most CSU campuses do not offer admission to unclassified post-baccalaureate students); or
  • Post-Baccalaureate Classified, e.g., admission to an education credential program — Persons wishing to enroll in a credential or certificate program, will be required to satisfy additional professional, personal, scholastic, and other standards, including qualifying examinations, prescribed by the campus; or
  • Graduate Conditionally Classified — Applicants may be admitted to a graduate degree program in this category if, in the opinion of appropriate campus authority, deficiencies may be remedied by additional preparation; or

Applicants who do not address deficiencies or other conditions within the time specified by the program (usually 1 to 2 semesters) may be discontinued from the program.

  • Graduate Classified — To pursue a graduate degree, applicants are required to fulfill all of the professional, personal, scholastic, and other standards, including qualifying examinations, prescribed by the campus.

(These and other CSU admissions requirements are subject to change as policies are revised and laws are amended. The CSU web site www.calstate.edu and the CSU admissions portal www.calstate.edu/apply are good sources for the most up-to-date information.)

Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate English Language Requirement 

All graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants, regardless of citizenship, whose native language is not English and whose preparatory education was principally in a language other than English must demonstrate competence in English. Those who do not possess a bachelor’s degree from a post-secondary institution where English is the principal language of instruction must receive a minimum score of 80 on the internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), a minimum score of 550 on the paper-based TOEFL, or an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) minimum score of 6.0.

Individual degree programs may require a higher score.

Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate Application Procedures

All graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants (e.g., Ed.D., joint Ph.D. applicants, master’s degree applicants, those seeking educational credentials or certificates, and where permitted, holders of baccalaureate degrees interested in taking courses for personal or professional growth) must file a complete graduate application as described in the graduate and post-baccalaureate admission materials at www.calstate.edu/apply. Applicants seeking a second bachelor’s degree should submit the undergraduate application for admission unless specifically requested to do otherwise.

Applicants who completed undergraduate degree requirements and graduated the preceding term are also required to complete and submit an application and the $55 nonrefundable application fee. Since applicants for post-baccalaureate programs may be limited to the choice of a single campus on each application, rerouting to alternate campuses or later changes of campus choice are not guaranteed. To be assured of initial consideration by more than one campus, it is necessary to submit separate applications (including fees) to each. Applications submitted by way of www.calstate.edu/apply are expected unless submission of an electronic application is impossible. The CSU graduate application is available at www.calstate.edu/apply. Specific program applications may be found at www.csusm.edu/gsr/.

Graduate and post baccalaureate applicants are encouraged to submit applications to the University during the initial filing periods (November for fall semester admission and August for spring semester admission). Graduate applicants to masters and credential programs must apply to both the University and the program intended. Individual masters and credential programs may have specific deadlines for program applications; check the relevant departmental catalog section for program deadlines. Official transcripts from each college or university attended must be filed with both the Office of Admissions and the program office.

International Students

All applicants who wish to enter the United States on a student visa or who are in the U.S. on a non-immigrant, student visa must file a completed “International Student Application” accompanied by a financial affidavit with the Office of Admissions. This form is available at https://www2.calstate.edu/apply/international. In addition, a department application form must be submitted directly to the graduate program. Official transcripts (with certified English translations) must be submitted both to the department and the Office of Admissions. For more information, see the International Student Admission Requirements  in the Admission and Application section.

Special Regulations and Requirements for Graduate Students

Repeat of Graduate Courses and GPA Adjustment Policy

When students repeat a course for the sake of improving upon an earlier, unsatisfactory performance, they may, under certain circumstances, request to have the earlier grade ignored in the computation of their grade point average (GPA). The following policies, applying only to coursework completed at Cal State San Marcos, outline the circumstances under which undergraduate and graduate students may request adjustment of the GPA.

Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate Student Course Repeat Policy

  1. A course taken at CSU San Marcos in which a grade of B- (2.7) or less is received may be repeated once for purposes of omitting the original grade from the GPA calculation and satisfying GPA requirements. A course taken at CSU San Marcos in which a grade of NC is received may also be repeated. All course repeats should involve consultation with the graduate program advisor.
  2. When a course is repeated, both the original grade and the grade earned in the repetition will appear on the transcript.
  3. If a course previously taken for a letter grade (including plus/minus grading) is repeated for a grade of CR/NC, the original grade(s) will be calculated in the GPA.
  4. Unless a student submits a Graduate Student Course Repeat Request Form to Cougar Central, both grades will be used to calculate the student’s GPA.
  5. If a student submits a Graduate Student Course Repeat Request Form to Cougar Central, the original grade earned will be omitted from the GPA calculation. Since CR/NC grades do not enter into the GPA calculation, it is not necessary to submit this form when repeating a course in which a grade of NC was earned.
  6. A Graduate Student Course Repeat Request Form cannot be filed until the student has completed the repeat. A Graduate Student Course Repeat Request Form cannot be filed if the student received a grade of CR, NC, F, I, RD, SP, U, WU, RP, W, or IC when the course was repeated.
  7. A maximum of two (2) different courses may be repeated within an approved graduate program of study at CSU San Marcos. The graduate program offering the degree may approve substitute graduate-level courses that may be taken in lieu of a graduate-level course that the student wishes to repeat, when the original course is not scheduled to be offered again within the term of the student’s expected time to degree. The substitute course must be taken after completion of the original course.
  8. Both the original course and the repeated course must be taken at CSU San Marcos.

Continuous Enrollment Requirement and Time-Limit to Degree

Conditionally Classified or Classified graduate students must be continuously enrolled unless an authorized Request for Graduate Student Leave of Absence has been granted by the program and filed with the Office of Registration and Records. No more than two (2) semesters can be excused through authorized leaves of absence. Students who do not maintain continuous enrollment are dropped from the graduate program and must reapply to the university and the graduate program to be considered for reinstatement.

Requirements for the master’s degree are to be finished within five (5) years following admission as a Conditionally Classified or Classified graduate student at CSUSM. Authorized leaves of absence do not extend the time limit for completion of the master’s degree.

Graduate Student Leave of Absence

Graduate degree students may take an authorized leave of absence for up to two (2) semesters leaves of absence can be authorized for conditionally classified or classified graduate students providing the student is: (1) in good academic standing (as defined by the program’s requirements), (2) has completed at least six credit hours of CSUSM coursework toward the graduate degree in the program, and (3) has filed a completed Request for Graduate Student Leave of Absence form. The completed form, including signatures of the student’s faculty advisor (where applicable) and the graduate program coordinator, must be filed with the Office of Enrollment Management Services Operation/Registrar before the end of the add/drop period of the term for which the leave has been requested. A leave of absence will not be authorized if the student has completed all requirements except the culminating experience. Unauthorized leaves and failures to return from an authorized leave of absence will result in the student being dropped from the graduate program. In such cases, the student must reapply to the university and the graduate program to be considered for reinstatement.

An authorized leave of absence preserves curriculum rights regarding catalog requirements. A student on a leave of absence may not have access to or use of university resources. Students submitting the completed thesis or final project must be regularly enrolled or enrolled for thesis or project extension credit through the Office of Extended Learning; the completed thesis or final project will not be accepted during the term of an authorized leave of absence.

Authorized leaves of absence do not extend the time limit for completion of the master’s degree.

Students with exceptional circumstances that fall outside this policy may petition the Dean of Graduate Studies for special consideration. A petition must include the recommendation of the graduate program coordinator.

Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL) 

Students enrolled in master’s programs at California State University must fulfill the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement: Graduate Level (GWARGL) as described in the Procedure below prior to advancement to candidacy.

This Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement: Graduate Level (GWARGL) applies to graduate students enrolled in master’s programs.

The writing requirement must be completed before a graduate student advances to candidacy. A student may satisfy the GWARGL in one of two ways:

  • an acceptable standardized test score, such as the Analytical Writing subtest of the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)
  • a paper(s) that receive(s) a passing score as described below.

The College/Department/Program from which the student will receive the graduate degree determines the manner by which a student satisfies or does not satisfy the GWARGL.

The College/Department/Program from which the student will receive the graduate degree determines the passing score on standardized tests.

If a student is satisfying the graduate writing requirement through a submission of a paper(s), the student’s writing should demonstrate graduate level skills in:

  • style and format
  • mechanics
  • content and organization
  • integration and critical analysis

The paper(s) will be scored using a rubric (1 - 4) in each of four areas: “I. Style and Format,” “II. Mechanics,” “III. Content and Organization,” and “IV. Integration and Critical Analysis.” The minimum acceptable combined score from all of the four (I-IV) sections is 10 points, with no scores of “1” on any section, resulting in a minimum of a 2.5 average for all sections. A master’s program may establish a higher minimum average score for passing. Contact the Office of Graduate Studies and Research for more information about the rubric.

Each master’s program will have a remediation protocol for admitted graduate students who do not satisfy the GWARGL on their first attempt. Each master’s program will specify the maximum number of attempts that students may be allowed to satisfy the GWARGL.   

Each master’s program will file its respective GWARGL and remediation protocol with the Office of Graduate Studies and Research (OGSR). Each master’s program will provide the OGSR with annual aggregate student GWARGL performance data.

The Culminating Experience

Every Master’s degree program is required to include a culminating experience. The form of this experience differs according to degree programs, but all Master’s students must satisfactorily complete either a thesis, a project or a comprehensive examination.

A finished Master’s thesis or Master’s project is a scholarly work that is the product of extensive research and related preparation. The University will make Master’s theses and Master’s projects publicly available online in the University’s institutional repository, ScholarWorks at CSUSM. Electronic theses and projects provide increased visibility of research produced at the University. The immediate and widespread availability provides worldwide access to scholarship. Students should consult the University’s guidelines for electronic Master’s theses and Master’s projects at the University Library web site.

Graduate Student Course Load

Graduate students who are enrolled in nine (9) units or more in a fall or spring semester are classified as full-time. Graduate students who hold a University assistantship requiring one-third time services or more are considered full-time when enrolled in six (6) units during an academic term.

Use of Undergraduate Courses in Master’s Degree Programs

Master’s students may not count any course at the 300-level or lower toward fulfillment of Master’s degree requirements, nor may courses which bear General Education credit be counted toward Master’s degree requirements.

Only with prior, case-by-case approval of the graduate program offering the degree may Master’s students, on an individual basis, count a 400-level, non-General Education course toward the Master’s degree requirements.

Under no circumstances may a Master’s student apply more than nine (9) units of 400-level coursework toward fulfillment of Master’s degree requirements.

Withdrawal Policy for Credential and Graduate Students

Withdrawal from Courses

Students may withdraw on or before the Add/Drop deadline (end of the second week of semester or end of approximately 10% of the academic term) and the course will not appear on their permanent records. No symbol need be recorded in such instances. After the second week of instruction and prior to the 19th day of the semester, students may withdraw with a “W” for reasons such as inadequate preparation. In connection with all other approved withdrawals, the “W” symbol shall be used. Students may withdraw from no more than 18 semester-units attempted at CSU San Marcos during each of their respective undergraduate, credential, or graduate studies.

Withdrawals After the 19th Day of the Semester and Prior to the End of the Twelfth Week of Instruction. Withdrawal during this period is permissible only for serious and compelling reasons (see below). Permission to withdraw during this time shall be granted only with the approval of the instructor, and the department chair or dean or dean’s designee. Permission to withdraw during this time from graduate or credential courses shall be granted only with the approval of the appropriate graduate or credential program coordinator or the Dean of Graduate Studies (or designee). All requests to withdraw under these circumstances and all approvals shall be documented as prescribed by the campus. The requests and approvals shall state the reasons for the withdrawal. Records of such approvals shall be maintained in accordance with the campus record retention policy.

Serious and Compelling Reasons. The following situations are typical of those for which “serious and compelling” is appropriate justification for approving withdrawals.

  • An extended absence due to a verifiable accident, illness, or personal problem serious enough to cause withdrawal from the University.
  • An extended absence due to a death in the immediate family. This applies to absences exceeding a week due to family affairs that must be attended to by the student.
  • A necessary change in employment status which interferes with the student’s ability to attend class. The student’s employer must verify this change in employment status in writing for the term in which the withdrawal is being requested.
  • Other unusual or very special cases, considered on their own merit.
  • For graduate and credential courses, level of academic preparation may be considered as a factor for justification in approving withdrawals.

The following situations would not fall under the intent of “serious and compelling.”

  • Grade anticipated in class is not sufficiently high, or student is doing failing work.
  • Failure to attend class, complete assignments, or take a test.
  • Dissatisfaction with course material, instructional method, or instructor.
  • Class is harder than expected.
  • Pressure of other classes, participation in social activities, or simple lack of motivation.
  • A change of major.

Documentation. All requests for withdrawals after the 19th day of the semester must be for verifiable reasons and require appropriate documentation.

Withdrawals after the Twelfth Week or Retroactive Withdrawal. Requests for withdrawal from courses after the twelfth week of instruction (retroactive withdrawal) are seldom granted. Students are expected to formally withdraw from classes or the University prior to the end of the twelfth week of instruction if work, personal, or health reasons interfere with class attendance or ability to complete work or exams.

Withdrawals for Extenuating Circumstances

Complete Withdrawal for Medical Reasons. The University may allow a student to withdraw without academic penalty from all classes if the following criteria are met:

  • A completed Withdrawal Form, including any required medical documentation, is submitted to Cougar Central before the end of the semester, and
  • The student presents evidence to demonstrate that a severe medical or debilitating psychological condition prevented the student from attending and/or doing the required work of the courses to the extent that it was impossible to complete the courses.

A grade of “W” will be used for withdrawal from all courses for the term due to medical reasons, and will not be counted toward the maximum 18 units allowable for withdrawals.

Repeat Complete Medical Withdrawal. If the student has been granted a complete medical withdrawal in the subsequent preceding term, then additional medical withdrawal requests must consider the question of whether or not the student can complete appropriate educational objectives, and must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

After a repeat medical withdrawal is granted, the student may be required to obtain a clearance from an appropriate medical or psychological professional that states the student is well enough to return to classes with the full expectation that the student will be able to complete the semester and intended educational objectives.

Withdrawal Procedures for Students Mobilized for Active Military Duty. Students called for active military duty may withdraw from courses throughout the term without restriction or penalty with the appropriate documentation. For clarification of Veterans Administration policies on withdrawals, incompletes, course repeats, etc., please contact the veterans’ representative located in the Office of Registration and Records.

Graduate Probation, Disqualification, and Reinstatement


A student will be placed on academic probation if, during any academic term, the student fails to maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 in all units attempted subsequent to admission to the program.

A student may also be placed on administrative probation by the Dean of Graduate Studies for any of the following reasons (see Exclusion Section for exclusions): 

  1. Withdrawal from all or a substantial portion of a program of studies in two successive terms or in any three terms. (Note: A student whose withdrawal is directly associated with a chronic or recurring medical condition or its treatment is not to be subject to administrative probation for such withdrawal).
  2. Repeated failure to progress toward the stated degree objective or other program objective, including that resulting from assignment of 15 units of No Credit, when such failure appears to be due to circumstances within the control of the student.
  3. Failure to comply, after due notice, with an academic requirement or regulation, as defined by campus policy, which is routine for all students or a defined group of students (examples: failure to complete a required examination, failure to complete a required practicum, failure to comply with professional standards appropriate to the field of study, failure to complete a specified number of units as a condition for receiving student financial aid or making satisfactory progress in the academic program).

The student shall be advised of probation status promptly, and shall be provided with the conditions for removal from probation and the circumstances that would lead to disqualification, should probation not be removed.  Notification shall occur through one of the following actions, as appropriate:

  1. Students whose GPA places them on academic probation shall be informed in writing by the department/program’s graduate coordinator, or designee, prior to the beginning of the next term (with a copy provided to the Dean of Graduate Studies). 
  2. Students shall be placed on administrative probation by the Dean of Graduate Studies, following consultation with the program/department. The probationary student shall be informed in writing by the graduate dean (with a copy provided to the department/ program).

The Dean of Graduate Studies shall inform Registration and Records when students have been placed on or removed from administrative probationary status so that student records can be updated. 

When a student is placed on academic or administrative-academic probation, they must work with the program coordinator to develop a plan for remediation, including a timeline for completion. In the case of administrative probation, the remediation plan must be approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies, who will send a letter to the student documenting the plan. 

Without the approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies, a student cannot be advanced to candidacy if they are on either academic or administrative probation1

1 Advancement to candidacy occurs when a master’s program has approved a student to proceed toward completing the final requirements for the master’s degree, e.g., final coursework, and culminating experience (thesis, project, or comprehensive exam). 


A student who has been placed on administrative probation may be disqualified from further attendance by the Dean of Graduate Studies (see Exclusion Section for exclusions) if: 

  1. The conditions in the remediation plan (or removal of administrative probation) are not met within the period specified; or
  2. The student becomes subject to academic probation while on administrative probation; or
  3. The student becomes subject to administrative probation for the same or similar reason for which they have been placed on administrative probation previously, although not currently in such status.

When such action is taken the student shall receive written notification including an explanation of the basis for the action.

In addition, the Dean of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the graduate program coordinator, 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 them 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.

Disqualification may be either from further registration in a particular program or from further enrollment at the campus, as determined by the Dean of Graduate Studies. A student disqualified for academic deficiency may not enroll in any regular session of the campus without permission from the appropriate campus authority, and may be denied admission to other educational programs operated or sponsored by the campus. 

In the event that a student fails the thesis/project defense, the student may repeat the thesis/project defense once. Failure at the second thesis/project defense will result in disqualification from a program. The thesis/project committee will specify the time period and/or conditions of the repeated defense. 

A student may repeat a comprehensive examination once. Failure of the second comprehensive examination results in disqualification from a program. The comprehensive exam committee will specify the time period and/or conditions of the repeated examination. 

Students who are disqualified at the end of an enrollment period should be notified by the Dean of Graduate Studies before the beginning of the next consecutive regular enrollment period. Students disqualified at the beginning of a summer enrollment break should be notified at least one month before the start of the fall term. In cases where a student ordinarily would be disqualified at the end of a term, save for the fact that it is not possible to make timely notification, the student may be advised that the disqualification is to be effective at the end of the next term. Such notification should include any conditions that, if met, would result in permission to continue in enrollment. Failure to notify students does not create the right of a student to continue enrollment. 


If the student is disqualified, either academically or administratively, they may petition for reinstatement. Reinstatement must be based upon evidence that the causes of previous low achievement have been removed. Reinstatement will be approved only if the student is able to provide compelling evidence of their ability to complete the degree. If the candidate is disqualified a second time, reinstatement will normally not be considered. 

Master’s students should submit a petition requesting reinstatement to the Dean of Graduate Studies. The petition, along with a recommendation from the student’s graduate coordinator, will be forwarded to the reinstatement subcommittee of the Graduate Studies Council. The subcommittee will make recommendations to the Dean of Graduate Studies, who has final authority to approve reinstatement. The size of the reinstatement subcommittee may vary, depending on the volume of applications, but shall have one member representing each college at a minimum. The subcommittee must evaluate the probable impact of any medical condition on previous unsatisfactory performance. If the student is approved for reinstatement, the Dean of Graduate Studies will send a letter granting reinstatement that specifies the conditions and time frame for achieving good standing. Students must achieve good standing to advance to candidacy and to be eligible to graduate. 

Reinstatement for credential students is handled by a separate process in the School of Education and is not governed by this document.


Administrative probation, disqualification and reinstatement for students in College of Education, Health, and Human Services professionally accredited graduate and teacher credential programs are handled by a separate process inside the College and are not governed by this document. Note that this exclusion pertains only to administrative probation, disqualification and reinstatement arising under Probation, #3.