Eight Steps for Applying to the MA Degree in Communication

San Diego State University has been ranked as the #1 small research university in the country and previously ranked twice by peers as among the top five M.A. communication programs in the country.

According to EdUniversal, this program is ranked #10 among all Communication M.A. programs in the U.S. When only considering masters-only programs in Communication Studies, this is the top-ranked program in the United States.

We offer outstanding academic preparation, as well as individualized attention, and a culture of ‘working hard and playing hard.‘ If this sounds like a program you are interested in pursuing, the eight steps below will provide a complete explanation of the application process.

For details, click on the step


Read about the MA program and Graduate Teaching Associate Positions on the School of Communication Website


Our M.A. program provides students with the choice of preparing for a career in academe or for developing their research and analytic skills for careers in corporate, nonprofit, and governmental organizations. Instruction is designed to help students discover, analyze, and demonstrate how communication processes are centrally important in creating, shaping, and interpreting quality communities. This program is driven by the close mentorship relationships between faculty and masters’ students. Priority is given to the development of students’ expertise and skills in each of the following areas:
  • Mastery of knowledge and abilities in communication theory and practice.
  • Completion of theses that prepare students to become change agents in the career paths they are pursuing.
  • Collaboration in research and instructional teams.
  • Participation in fieldwork in diverse settings relevant to the social issues being investigated.
  • Presentation of scholarly papers at professional conferences.
  • Co-authorship of research articles with faculty and other graduate students.
The School of Communication offers new and continuing graduate students the opportunity to teach undergraduate classes, primarily Communication 103 – an introductory course in oral communication. Graduate Teaching Associates (GTAs) receive an annual stipend. Some GTA positions may include an out-of-state fee waiver. GTA positions are competitive and admission to the graduate program does not ensure the assignment of a teaching associate appointment. If you would like to pursue a GTA, please indicate in your cover sheet to the School of Communication that you are applying for a GTA position and list any teaching experience you may have had. If you have specific questions about the GTA position (requirements and benefits), please contact the Director of the Basic Course, Mr. Michael Rapp.



Contact the Director of Graduate Studies


If you have questions about our program or the steps for applying, after reading the website, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies:Dr. Kurt Lindemann, Associate Professor of Communication
Director of Graduate Studies



Take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)


The School of Communication requires all applicants to meet minimum GRE requirements. Under the old exam, the minimums were 450 Verbal, 450 Quantitative, 950 total (i.e., combined verbal and quantitative), and 4.0 Written. The new exam has a different scoring system and the minimums for this exam are 150 Verbal, 142 Math, 300 total, and 4.0 written. Some students who are close to the minimum in one of these areas of the GRE may be considered on a case-by-case basis if there is additional strength (e.g. GPA, positive recommendations) to off-set the deficiency. For information about the GRE exam use the Educational Testing Services (ETS) website: www.ets.org. Once you have taken the exam be sure it is sent to SDSU (Institution Code 4682). Students often ask if they can re-take the test. According to ETS:
  • It may be to your advantage to take the GRE General Test more than once if you think that the scores you obtained do not reflect your true abilities.
  • You may take the General Test (computer-based and/or paper-based) only once per calendar month and no more than 5 times within any 12-month period. This applies even if you canceled your scores on a test taken previously.
In the School of Communication, we accept combined scores from two different tests (e.g. the verbal from one test time with the quantitative from another test time).
Since it often takes 6 weeks for the GRE scores to arrive at SDSU, it is important to plan ahead and take the exam at least two months BEFORE the deadline for applying to graduate school. If you want the option to re-take the test you will need to plan farther ahead. You may report the scores as soon as you receive them to get an indication of your qualifications for admission.



Write a Statement of Purpose


A statement of purpose is a 3-4 page, double-spaced document that describes: (a) your interest in communication, (b) your undergraduate and/or professional preparation for graduate studies in the communication program, (c) your personal and/or career objectives that graduate studies in communication will help you pursue, and (d) (optional) your interest in applying for a Graduate Teaching Associate (GTA) position, addressing how the GTA position fits with your interest in communication, your past academic and professional experience, and your career objectives. Describe any teaching-related experience you may have. If you did not earn your BA in communication, indicate if you have taken any communication courses, either as electives or as a minor.
Take time and care with your statement of purpose. It is very important. It is the first thing we read and the first indication we have of who you are and why you should be selected over other very well qualified candidates.



Contact Professors to Request Letters of Recommendation


Your letter writers will submit their letters of recommendation online (see the Decision Desk link  for more information: http://gra.sdsu.edu/decisiondesk/). We require THREE letters of recommendation – at least TWO of the letters must be written by professors rather than employment supervisors. Your letter writers should speak to your ability to do well in graduate school and to your ability to teach if you are applying for a Graduate Teaching Associate (GTA) position. Take the time to follow the guidelines below in order to help your letter writers write the best possible letter of recommendation.

Process for Requesting Letters of Recommendation

1. Contact your professors and ask if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. If they say “yes” then indicate that:
  • they will receive an e-mail from Decision Desk with a link to upload their letter of recommendation
  • they should double check their junk mail and spam folders if they do not receive the e-mail from Decision Desk (after you have submitted their e-mail addresses in your application process).
2. Create a file folder for each professor who agrees to write a letter for you – include your name written clearly on the tab. Inside the file folder include the following:
  • A cover letter indicating what courses you took from the professor, when you took the courses, the grade you earned, and the name of the project you wrote for the class. Also indicate in this cover letter anything else about your time at your institution that might be worth mentioning in the letter of recommendation.
  • A page listing the program(s) you are applying to (description), the deadline for applying, and the name of the person and address to whom the letter should be directed. It is best to sequence this list based on the first deadline a letter is due.
  • A copy of your transcripts
  • A copy of the Statement of Purpose that you will submit with your application.
  • A resume or vita
  • Anything else you can include that might assist the professor in writing the letter (e.g., sample of your writing)
  • Provide them with the link from Decision Desk
  • Double-check to make sure your letter writers have the correct link and have submitted the letters by the appropriate date (see Step 6).



Apply to SDSU by the Deadline


You are required to complete a CSU application and pay your fee online via CalState Apply. International students should visit the International Student Center for International Student Application Procedures.
SDSU only permits admissions to graduate programs in the Fall Semester. The target for submitting an application to the MA program in the School of Communication is February 1. While the university’s official deadline is March 1, applications submitted to the School of Communication by February 1st will be given priority in admissions, early notification, and priority for GTA appointments. This is particularly true for those applications that are complete with all supplementary materials including test scores, transcripts, and letters of recommendations. According to university policy, applicants have until April 1 to complete their files with supplementary materials. However, applicants to the School of Communication that complete their files by March 1 will be given priority.
If you have questions, please contact the Graduate Director, Dr. Kurt Lindemann, at: comm.ma@mail.sdsu.edu



Submit OFFICIAL Transcripts and GRE and TOEFL TEst Scores to:


      Graduate Admissions
      Enrollment Services
      San Diego State University
      5500 Campanile Drive
    San Diego, CA 92182-7416
(a) Transcripts: One set of official transcripts (in sealed envelopes) from all postsecondary institutions attended. (Students who attended SDSU need only submit transcripts for work completed since last attendance.) Students with international coursework must submit both the official transcript and proof of degree. If documents are in a language other than English, they must be accompanied by a certified English translation. Normally, we expect at least a 3.0 cumulative grade point average.
(b) GRE Scores: The School of Communication requires all applicants to complete the GRE. Minimum expectations are: Verbal (V) = 150; Quantitative (Q) = 142; V+Q = 300; Written = 4.0.
(c) TOEFL Scores: If your medium of instruction was in a language other than English, then a TOEFL score is required (www.ets.org, SDSU Institution Code: 4682). A minimum score of 550 on the paper exam, 213 on the computer-based TOEFL, 79 on the internet exam, or 6.5 on the International Language Testing System (IELTS) is required.
Submit photocopies of scores in your package of support materials to the department (described in Step 9). It is essential to send photocopies of your transcripts and GRE scores (& TOEFL scores, if applicable) to the School of Communication. Eventually, we will receive the official transcripts and scores from Graduate Admissions. However, we may be in a position to review your material and make admission and GTA decisions before the materials arrive from the Graduate Admissions office.



Submit Application Support Materials to the School of Communication via DecisionDesk


Application Support Materials

  • Statement of Purpose (described above in Step 5)
  • Resume or Vita
  • Photocopy of Transcripts (include ALL universities attended, redact any sensitive information, like your social security number)
  • Photocopy of Scores (GRE, and for international students, TOEFL)
  • Writing sample (a paper you have written that represents your best academic writing)
  • Fill out the online forms and upload all documents to the appropriate link for the School of Communication here: http://gra.sdsu.edu/decisiondesk/
  • Be sure your letter writers have submitted their letters by the appropriate due date

For your information we have provided the following information in another section of the website:

    • Requirements for the MA degree in Communication
    • Descriptions of our graduate seminars