Frequently Asked Questions

The Application Process

How do I apply for admission?
Complete the application for graduate admission. The online application will give you a space to upload your resume and statement of purpose. There is also a space in the online application for you to indicate your recommenders and allow the system to prompt them (via email) to upload their letters of recommendation electronically.

Any supporting application materials (such as official transcripts and official test score reports) that cannot be transmitted electronically should be mailed to the Office of Graduate Admissions at:

University of San Diego
Office of Graduate Admissions
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110

What are the requirements for admission to your programs?
Our program pages include an application checklist and requirements for admission for each of our programs.

Where can I find the deadline for submitting my application?
Access our online list of upcoming application deadlines.

Does SOLES offer spring, summer or fall admission?
Some programs offer admission for the fall or summer semesters only, while others admit students for spring, summer and fall semesters. Access our online list of upcoming application deadlines for more information.

How much does it cost to apply? 
University of San Diego’s graduate application fee is $45. If you have any questions regarding the application fee, please email us at

I have questions about using the online application system. Can someone help me?
Please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions at (619) 260-4524 or for support with the online application system.

How should my recommenders submit their letters of recommendation?
The best way for your recommenders to submit their letters is through the online application system. In the application form, you are asked to designate three recommenders and indicate whether or not they will be submitting their letters online or not. If they plan to use the online system, an email will be automatically sent to them with instructions on how to complete the process online. If they plan to instead submit their letters in hard copy or via email they are welcome to do so.

How can I make sure all of my materials have been received?
You can track the status of your application online via the MySanDiego portal. Log-in instructions will be sent from the Office of Graduate Admissions approximately one week after your application is received. We encourage applicants to be proactive in ensuring that their applications are complete.

Your application status can change daily. Please note that processing time for materials can be one week or more during busy periods, so even though your materials may have been received, they may not yet show as such because they have not been processed by Graduate Admissions staff.

What is the difference between the University of San Diego Office of Graduate Admissions and the SOLES Office of Admissions and Outreach?
The University of San Diego Office of Graduate Admissions is the central unit for the processing of all application materials for all USD graduate divisions, including SOLES (but excluding the School of Law). Staff ready application materials for review, communicate admissions decisions via mail, accept enrollment confirmation deposits, and assist international students with obtaining student visas. Graduate Admissions staff also represent USD at some graduate school fairs and conduct application status checks.

The SOLES Office of Admissions and Outreach coordinates SOLES-specific recruitment events such as information sessions and open houses, and represents SOLES at graduate school fairs and off-campus events. Our office also maintains SOLES' web presence for prospective student information, manages communications to interested students and applicants, and creates SOLES marketing materials. SOLES Admissions staff provide SOLES-specific admissions advising and can assist prospective students with connecting with current students, alumni, faculty and relevant campus offices. Our office also conducts analysis of overall SOLES admissions trends and practices.

Prospective students may also communicate with USD's One Stop Student Center. This office's counselors provide advising and assistance in the areas of financial aid, student accounts and the Office of the Registrar.

How long does the admissions process take?
The admissions timeline varies by program, but most programs notify students of their admissions decision within 4-6 weeks of the time their application is complete and goes under review. Please note that an application will not be reviewed until the deadline has passed and all required materials have been received and processed.

After your application is submitted, the Office of Graduate Admissions must process all of your materials and ready each application for review. Each program’s faculty must then review all applications for admission and in many cases interview applicants. Once admissions decisions are rendered, this information is communicated to the Office of Graduate Admissions, which will mail decision letters, and the Office of Financial Aid, which will begin the process of creating financial aid awards for admitted students who have filed the FAFSA.

The status of your application can be tracked online via the MySanDiego portal. Log-in instructions will be sent from the Office of Graduate Admissions approximately one week after your application is received.

What are you looking for in an applicant? Who will read my application?
The strongest applicants can demonstrate an active passion for their chosen field of study through an academically rigorous background and a rich variety of experiences leading to their decision to pursue graduate education. Applications are carefully reviewed by SOLES faculty, who craft an incoming class by choosing to offer admission to individuals who will benefit most from the programs the faculty have developed. All parts of the application will be considered in a holistic review process. All of our graduate-level programs require that applicants have completed a bachelor’s degree, and our doctoral program requires a master’s degree. Many of our programs do not require that applicants have professional experience, but many strongly recommend or require it for admission. Carefully review the admissions requirements tab for your program of interest to ensure that you are eligible to apply.

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Standardized Testing

Do I need to take the GRE?
The only SOLES programs that require the GRE for admission are the PhD in Leadership Studies and the MA in Marital and Family Therapy. Students may submit GRE scores for other SOLES programs, but they are not required.

The Marital and Family Therapy program will accept the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) or the GRE. The program has no preference as to which test is submitted.

When should I take the GRE?
Applicants should take the GRE at least one month in advance of the deadline in order to allow time for the official score report to be sent by ETS and received and processed by the USD. Score reports arriving after the deadline has passed will result in an incomplete application, which will not be reviewed.

Can I substitute another exam (such as the GMAT) for the GRE?
The Marital and Family Therapy Program will accept the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) in lieu of the GRE. However, no other exams may be substituted for the GRE for any of our SOLES programs. The PhD in Leadership Studies does not accept the Miller Analogies Test (MAT).

How recent must my GRE scores be?
You must have taken the GRE less than five years from the application deadline in order for your scores to be valid.

Will you accept an unofficial score report for my GRE, MAT, TOEFL or IELTS?
No, score reports must be official in order to be considered valid.

Do I need to take the CBEST or CSET? Do I need my Certificate of Clearance?
All SOLES teaching and administrative services credential programs require that the CBEST be passed prior to admission, or that the student have a reservation to take the exam at the next available date. Teaching credential applicants must have passed the CSET exam or made a reservation to do so at the next available date. Applicants to the Master's Credential Cohort Program must have the CBEST and CSET passed prior to beginning the program.

Applicants to our teaching credential programs are strongly encouraged to obtain their ccertificate of clearance from the County Office of Education prior to beginning their program, but it is not required for admission.

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How far in advance should I request transcripts?
We encourage you to request official transcripts at least several weeks in advance of the deadline to ensure that your request is processed by your university in time for us to receive the reports.

Students with transcripts from foreign universities should allow more time because those transcripts will need to be evaluated by an outside evaluation agency. This process generally takes a minimum of seven days from the time the official transcripts are received by the agency, though rush evaluations may be available.

Do you need transcripts from every college I have attended?
Yes. We need to receive official transcripts from any institution at which you completed undergraduate or graduate level coursework, including community colleges, even if you did not complete a degree there.

If I studied abroad as part of my undergraduate or graduate program, do I need a foreign transcript evaluation for the study abroad coursework?
No, as long as the study abroad experience was completed as part of your degree program.

If I transferred from a 2-year or 4-year college or university to another university, and the transfer credits appear on that university's official transcripts, do I still need to request transcripts from the first college or university I transferred from?
Yes, we still need official transcripts from both institutions.

Where should I send transcripts?
Please have official transcripts mailed to:

University of San Diego
Office of Graduate Admissions
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110

If your institution is able to send official electronic transcripts, please have them emailed to

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Program Offerings

Where can I find more information about the graduate programs offered by the School of Leadership and Education Sciences?
SOLES offers a variety of graduate programs in our three departments: Leadership Studies, Learning and Teaching, and School, Family and Mental Health Professions. To learn about all the graduate programs we offer, visit our program pages.

Do you offer online or hybrid degree programs?
The only SOLES degree programs that are offered online are the following Masters of Education programs:

These programs are offered through a partnership between SOLES and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. If you are interested in pursuing online coursework through USD, please contact the Division of Professional and Continuing Education at (619) 260-4585.

SOLES does not offer any other online or hybrid degrees.

I don’t want a degree. Is it possible to take just one or two classes at SOLES?
USD offers Open Campus through the Division of Professional And Continuing Education. Open Campus allows non-degree seeking students to take graduate level coursework at USD so long as the seeker already possesses a bachelor's level degree. Application instructions and additional information on taking courses as a non-degree seeking student can be found on the Open Campus webpage.

Please note that as non-degree seeking students, you are not eligible for university financial aid and must pay full graduate tuition on a per-unit basis. Availability of courses is on a space available basis after all degree-seeking students have registered. Permission must be granted by the department and course instructor. Permission to take courses through Open Campus does not imply admission to the university, though if the student later applies and is offered admission to one of SOLES' graduate programs, up to 6 units taken through Open Campus may be applied toward their program. International students are not eligible to apply for special student status.

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Class Schedule Information

Where and when are classes normally held? 
The majority of our programs hold classes in the late afternoons and evenings on campus at the University of San Diego. Most classes meet for 2 hour and 50 minute sessions once per week on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. Occasionally classes will be available on weekend days. The exception is our Marital and Family Therapy Program, which holds most classes during the daytime hours.

Please keep in mind that many programs have required field-based components, such as student teaching or practicum, which often take place during the daytime hours.

Am I able to work while I pursue a degree?
Many of our students are working professionals who complete their SOLES graduate programs while pursuing a career. Programs in the Department of Leadership Studies and most master's degrees (without teaching credentials included) in the Department of Learning and Teaching are structured to allow students to attend class after their workday has ended or on weekend days. Coursework in our counseling and teaching credential programs often takes place in the late afternoons or evenings, so some students work full-time until their field-based experiences begin (since these experiences typically take place during the day). Our marital and family therapy students do not typically work full-time while pursuing their degree since coursework takes place during the daytime hours. It is not possible to work full-time while completing the Master's Credential Cohort Program.

How long will it take for me to complete my program? Can I take classes part-time?
Most of our master’s degrees and credentials are completed in about 2 years, but some can be completed more quickly or require more time. Our program pages include the estimated length of time to complete each program.

The length of time needed to complete the program will depend in part on whether the student is attending full-time or part-time. The majority of our programs offer a part-time option, in which students choose to take fewer classes each semester. Though they will complete the program at a slower pace, they will be in the same classes as full-time students and receive the same advising. The typical courseload for a Fall or Spring semester is:

Credential 12 units (approx. 4 courses) 6 units (approx. 2 courses)
Master's Degree 9 units (approx. 3 courses) 6 units (approx. 2 courses)
Doctorate 6 units (approx. 2 courses) 3 units (approx. 1 course)

Many students also take condensed courses during the shorter summer and Intersession (January) semesters.

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Is SOLES an accredited institution?
Yes. The University of San Diego, of which SOLES is one division, is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). SOLES programs are accredited by a variety of accreditors including the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

California Licensure Exam Pass Rates

Per California Assembly Bill (AB) 2086, the following information is made available to provide access to California license examination passage rates for graduates of University of San Diego programs that require California licensure. Data will continue to be updated as California licensing and/or regulatory agencies make the data electronically available.

School of Leadership and Education Sciences Teaching Credential Programs

School of Leadership and Education Sciences Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Marital and Family Therapy Programs

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Tuition and Financial Aid

What is the cost of tuition and fees?
Visit our Tuition and Financing page for tuition information. Please note that tuition and fees are subject to change.

Do you offer scholarships and financial aid?
Yes. The majority of our students receive some form of financial assistance from the University in the form of scholarships, grants and/or student loans. Our Tuition and Financing and Scholarships pages have more information on how to finance your education with us.

When will I know how much financial aid I will receive?
The Office of Financial Aid creates financial aid packages for applicants once a current FAFSA has been filed and the student has received an offer of admission from the university. For graduate students, the package is typically available around two weeks after both of these conditions have been satisfied. Admitted students are notified by email when their financial aid package is available on the MySanDiego portal.

Does SOLES offer graduate assistantships?
Doctoral Graduate Assistantships are available for students pursuing the PhD in Leadership Studies and Student Affairs Graduate Assistantships are available for students pursuing the MA in Higher Education Leadership. Applicants for admission to these programs will be contacted by the department with information on how to apply for assistantship positions. Students in other programs are encouraged to explore on-campus work opportunities.

Does SOLES offer the Yellow Ribbon Veteran's Benefit?
Yes! SOLES welcomes veterans and their dependents and is proud to participate in in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a provision of the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. For further information please visit the USD Veteran's Affairs website.

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Transfer Students

I have already completed part of my graduate education at another university, and I want to transfer to SOLES. How will my application process differ?
Transfer students follow the same deadlines and requirements for admission as first-time applicants.

I have already completed part of a graduate program at the University of San Diego and I want to transfer to a different graduate program at USD.

USD students who wish to transfer programs within the same department (such as a transfer from the MA in Higher Education Leadership to the MA in Leadership Studies) should consult their department chair. Some programs will allow students to change to another graduate program within the same department by submitting a shortened version of the application for admission, with the approval of the faculty.

Students who wish to transfer to a program in a department different from their current department (such as a transfer from the MA in Counseling to the MA in Leadership Studies) should contact the Office of Admissions and Outreach at (619) 260-7988. Transfers from other departments must apply following the same deadlines, procedures, and requirements as first-time applicants.

Can I transfer credits from another program?
You may be eligible to transfer a limited number of credits into a SOLES program. The eligibility of courses for transfer will be determined by department faculty after you have received an offer of admission.

Credits must be from graduate-level coursework taken within the past five years at an approved, accredited university, and those credits cannot have been applied toward another degree. You must have earned a grade of “B” or higher in the coursework to be transferred. The maximum number of non-USD credits permitted is:

Credential Only Programs

  • up to 6 units

Master's Level Programs

  • 30-44 unit program: up to 6 units
  • 45+ unit program: up to 9 units

PhD Program

  • up to 12 units

This policy is subject to change.

I have a certification or credential from out-of-state. Will it transfer?
Students with out-of-state certifications and credentials who wish to obtain a California credential or certification should contact the San Diego County Office of Education for assistance. SOLES staff cannot determine whether an out-of-state credential will transfer, and we cannot recommend candidates for a credential unless they completed their credential coursework at SOLES.

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Visiting Campus

Where is SOLES located? 
Mother Rosalie Hill Hall is home to the School of Leadership and Education Sciences. Hill Hall is located on the northwestern corner of the University of San Diego campus, overlooking the city of San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. Directions and maps are available online.

Our state-of-the-art, 80,000 square foot building includes classroom space, faculty and staff offices, department suites, an auditorium, two computer labs, a career services office, counseling observation rooms, a reading room, team project rooms and a café. Hill Hall is also home to nearly a dozen SOLES centers and institutes such as the Center for Education Policy and Law (CEPAL) and the Institute for Nonprofit Education and Research.

Can I visit SOLES?
Yes! The Office of Admissions and Outreach is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. We are located in suite 149, on the first floor of Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, the building that houses SOLES. If you would like to meet with an Admissions and Outreach representative, please schedule a visit in advance or call (619) 260-7988 to ensure that someone is available to counsel you.

SOLES also offers prospective student Information Sessions throughout the year. These events give you the opportunity to meet faculty and current students as well as our admissions staff.

Can I sit in on a class during my visit?
To inquire about setting up a class visit, please contact the Office of Admissions and Outreach by calling (619) 260-7988 or by sending an email to A staff member will be happy to assist you in coordinating a visit to an available class.

Can I meet with a faculty member to discuss my program of interest?
If you are interested in meeting our faculty members we recommend attending one of our on-campus Open Houses or Information Sessions, which are offered throughout the year. These sessions give you the opportunity to meet with our faculty, as well as administrators and current students. If you are unable to attend one of these sessions but would still like to connect with a faculty member, please contact the Office of Admissions and Outreach at or (619) 260-7988.

I am not able to visit campus. Can I still speak to someone to get my questions answered?
You are always welcome to call the Office of Admissions and Outreach at (619) 260-7988. If you are not able to visit but would like to meet one of our representatives, review the SOLES Graduate Fair Calendar and the Office of Graduate Admissions Graduate Fair Calendar to see if a representative will be coming to your area. You can also communicate with us via Facebook and Twitter!

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