M.A. TESOL Admissions


Applications for Fall admission: Accepted from January 30 – April 1.

Applications for Spring admission: Accepted from July 30 – November 1.


Admission to the M.A. TESOL program is based on evaluation of the following:

  • Completion of general admission requirements, as stipulated by SF State’s Division of Graduate Studies
  • The quality of the applicant’s academic record. • Completion of a B.A./B.S. degree from an accredited four-year college or university. Many of our applicants are English majors; however, a B.A. in English is not required. We consider applications from interested candidates with a B.A. or B.S. in diverse fields.
  • Minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) or higher, in the last 60 units of undergraduate (and post-baccalaureate) study.
  • A statement of purpose which indicates why graduate work in SF State’s M.A. TESOL program is appropriate for the applicant's current academic interests and future academic and professional goals.
  • Letters of recommendation are not required but are strongly recommended if the applicant's academic record is not strong.

The GRE is not required.

Prior teaching experience is strongly desired but not required.

Note: the majority of successful candidates are admitted “conditionally” into the programs, which means that they are admitted on condition that they complete pre-requisite courses in their first year in the program. For more information, see M.A. TESOL Program Prerequisites.


Graduate Studies: Step to Apply for Admissions

International Applicants: also see Graduate Studies International Admissions

  1. Submit the online application through Cal State Apply. Paper applications are not accepted. If you do not have Internet access, send a message to the Graduate Admissions Office and request a paper application (gradstdy@sfsu.edu, 415-338-2234, 415-338-2232, address below).
  2. Request 2 official transcripts from all colleges/universities you have attended, including all community/junior colleges. All documents must be in English or accompanied by certified English translations. Request that each college/university mail the official transcripts to you in two separate sealed envelopes. Do not open or tamper with the sealed envelopes. Your application cannot be evaluated until all transcripts are received; late receipt of transcripts causes serious delays in application processing.
  3. Send the following items to the appropriate office.

Package A

Send the following materials in one package to the Graduate Admissions Office:

Graduate Admissions Office, ADM 250
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94132

  1. Submit the online application to Graduate Studies through Cal State Apply.
  2. Do not submit your statement of purpose to Graduate Studies. Your statement of purpose should be included with the materials you send directly to the department (see Package B guidelines below). On page 9 of the graduate studies application, state that your personal statement has been sent directly to the Department of English.
  3. Send 1 set of official transcripts from all colleges attended (including community/junior colleges), in sealed envelopes mailed from the colleges.
  4. International applicants who are non-native speakers of English must also have official TOEFL scores sent (institution code: 4683, department code: 14).
  5. International applicants who are non-native speakers of English must also submit a certified financial statement.

Package B

Send the following materials in one package to the Department of English:

Department of English
Attn: M.A. TESOL Admissions
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132

  1. A copy of your current résumé.
  2. One set of official, sealed transcripts from all colleges attended.
  3. A 750-word statement of purpose, in carefully written academic prose, that explains your motivations for pursuing graduate studies in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at San Francisco State University, and your future academic or career objectives. To help the admissions committee members understand who you are, please use specific examples and comment on one of the following areas in your statement:

    o Prompt A; Discuss your experience as a language learner and the specific ways this experience has shaped your goals and beliefs as a language teacher.

    o Prompt B: Discuss your prior teaching/tutoring experience and the specific ways this experience has shaped your goals and beliefs as a language teacher.

    o Prompt C: Discuss something you have recently read about language teaching/learning and the specific ways the reading prompted you to reflect on your goals and beliefs as a language teacher.

    Please indicate in your statement of purpose which prompt you chose

  4. International applicants who are non-native speakers of English must send a photocopy of a TOEFL or IELTS score report.
  5. Optional letters of recommendation from instructors or other persons qualified to comment on your ability to succeed in graduate studies. Because admission to the program is competitive, recommendation letters can help to support your application. There is no standard recommendation form; recommenders should simply use letterhead and address letters to "M.A. TESOL Admissions.”

International Applicants

Submit supplemental application material via mail and within a month of the application deadline. Per university policies, international students are required to show sufficient funding to cover the first year at the time of application. The English Dept. has limited financial awards for graduate students.

The time to process documents for international student visas can be lengthy, so it is very important to submit complete applications (with all required documents including official transcripts from all universities, official TOEFL score, and the fee) as early as possible.

For advising and assistance, please see the University Bulletin or contact the following offices:

Office of International Programs

     Phone: 1.415.338.1293

     E-mail: oip@sfsu.edu

Division of Graduate Studies

     Phone 1. 415.405.4005

     E-mail: intlgrad@sfsu.edu

Required Tests

The GRE is not required for admission to the SF State M.A. TESOL program.

Level I Writing Proficiency is determined on the basis of the final research paper written for English 426 (Second Language Acquisition) or, if English 426 is waived, an equivalent paper.

Students whose native language is not English and whose B.A. was completed outside the United States must present evidence of a computer-based TOEFL score of at least 240 (Internet-based TOEFL: 95, paper-based TOEFL: 590) with a writing subscore of at least 4.5 (Internet-based writing score of at least 24). As an alternative to TOEFL, scores from the IELTS test are accepted as follows. Students must present evidence of an IELTS (Academic) overall score of 7.0 with at least 6.5 for each component. (The IELTS test is available in two test formats: Academic or General Training. All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking modules. It is the Reading and Writing components that differ. The Academic version of IELTS measures English language proficiency needed for an academic, higher learning environment. This is the format that is required.) A TOEFL score of 24, or an IELTS score of 7.0, is considered to be very minimal; applicants who demonstrate stronger English proficiency with a higher TOEFL score (and higher writing subscore), or IELTS, will have a better chance of being recommended for admission to the Master of Arts in English with Concentration in TESOL.

The TOEFL or IELTS is not required for non-native English speakers who completed their Bachelor’s degree in the U.S. or another English-speaking country. However, applicants who obtained a B.A./B.S. from an American university in a major other than English might consider submitting a recent TOEFL or IELTS score as evidence that their language proficiency is strong enough to do graduate study in an English Department.

If you do not meet the minimum TOEFL or IELTS requirement, you CANNOT be admitted conditionally to the M.A. TESOL program. To build your English proficiency and academic skills in preparation for graduate study, consider studying at the American Language Institute on the SF State campus where you will have opportunities to prepare for and take the TOEFL, to improve lecture listening and note-taking, oral presentation, and academic reading and writing skills, and to become oriented to the American educational system.

Applicants who are required to take the TOEFL, who are admitted to the M.A. TESOL Program, and who enroll, must take the CMS Placement Test (CMSPT) for assessment of their English writing proficiency upon entry to the University. CMSPT results will be used to determine placement in a writing class. The CMSPT is given one week prior to the beginning of classes each semester. Contact the CMS Program for registration information.

Those students whose academic writing is not strong enough may need to take English 670 (Graduate Writing) class during their first semester or other additional writing courses. Since English 670 must be successfully completed before enrollment in core graduate courses, students whose academic writing is weak may need to delay entry into core graduate courses by one semester which may prolong time to degree at SF State.

Transferring Credits

The M.A. TESOL Program is 30 semester units (10 courses). The University will accept a maximum of 6 units to be transferred from another institution and included on a student’s Graduate Approved Program (GAP) (the 30 units which count toward the M.A., not prerequisites). Transferable courses must be upper-division or graduate-level classes taken after completion of the student’s B.A., not counted for another graduate degree (units cannot be double-counted), relevant to TESOL and recent (taken within seven years of the semester when the student plans to graduate).

SF State will not accept units from another university if that university does not accept the units for its own advanced degree programs. Because courses taken as part of a certificate program are usually not regular academic courses that count towards a university degree, such courses usually cannot be transferred. If you wish to transfer courses taken at another university (typically, for Group III electives), see an advisor about filing a Graduate Transfer Unit Evaluation form for approval of these courses.

Note that this policy only applies to the 30-unit core M.A. program. The M.A. TESOL Program also has three prerequisite three-unit courses (423, Language Analysis for Language Teachers; 425, Language in Context (Sociolinguistics); and 426, Second Language Acquisition), one or more of which can be waived for students who have taken three-unit equivalent courses elsewhere. If you believe that you have already taken courses that are similar to one or more of these four prerequisites, you may request waivers.

Waiving Prerequisites

Waivers of prerequisite courses are granted only if the student has already completed equivalent course work at another institution. Prerequisite courses cannot be waived by examination. Students who believe they are eligible for waivers of prerequisites based on previous course work should contact the faculty listed under waiving prerequisites on the Requirements and Guidelines page.  Bring syllabi listing topics covered, textbooks used and samples of tests and papers.

Read more about waiving prerequisites.