Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of frequently asked questions relating to admission and application questions. If your question is not answered on this website, please email gradstudies@sfu.ca.

The Graduate General Regulations govern the administration of SFU's graduate programs. Graduate students, graduate secretaries and chairs/directors of graduate programs can find answers to many questions concerning every stage of a student's career, from admission to graduation. Changes to Graduate General Regulations are made by Senate, on the recommendation of the Senate Graduate Studies Committee.

Admission Questions

Does SFU require GRE test results?

The university does not require a GRE for admission to graduate programs, but some individual departments do.  If your target department requires a GRE General Test please note the following:

  • A revised GRE General Test is being introduced on August 1, 2011.  There is information about the new test available at www.ets.org/gre.
  • The scoring of the new test is changing: 
    • The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores will be reported on a 130-170 scale in 1 point increments (versus 200-800 in 10 point increments)
    • The Analytical Writing component will continue to be reported on the same 0-6 point scale.

Applicants who need their test scores before November 2011 should take the existing GRE before August 1, 2011.

Can applicants with a bachelor's degree be admitted to a doctoral program?

Graduate General Regulations provide university standards for admission of students to Ph.D. programmes. From time to time departments wish to admit students with a Bachelor's degree directly to a PhD program. The minimum requirements for such an admission are as follows:

  1. A CGPA of at least 3.5 in the undergraduate program
  2. Submitted evidence that the applicant is capable of undertaking substantial original research.

Please note that acceptable evidence for (2) consists of letters of reference and the completion of a scholarly piece of work. The wording of the penultimate paragraph of Graduate Regulation 1.3.4 clearly implies that the scholarly research should be the equivalent of a Master's thesis.

Departments that wish to admit a student without a Master's degree to a Ph.D. programme should attach a brief memo to the application package. This memo should provide a rationale for the admission, and should address the following points:

  • To what extent is direct admission to a Ph.D. program without a Master's degree practised nationally in the relevant discipline?
  • What scholarly research has the student undertaken, and why should this be considered the equivalent of a Master's degree?
  • What statements from the referees suggest that the student is capable of undertaking substantial original research?

My GPA is lower than 3.0/4. Can I still apply for graduate admission?

The University Senate (via the Graduate General Regulations) requires a minimum 3.00 CGPA for admission to a master's program, and a minimum 2.50 CGPA for admission to a graduate diploma. Students with a bachelor's degree who apply directly to a PhD program are required to have a minimum CGPA of 3.50. The Dean of Graduate Studies will not waive this requirement because of the considerable expenditure of time that would be required in dealing with individual cases, as well as the potential unfairness of publishing one regulation but practising another. There are two options for students who wish to enter graduate school but who lack the minimum CGPA.

If you have less than the minimum CGPA, the graduate program may recommend you for admission as a qualifying student.

Qualifying students are recommended for admission mainly for the purpose of taking undergraduate courses in order to increase their chances of being accepted into a graduate program. Normally, these students will have been advised that they do not meet the minimum standards of the University or the graduate program, but they can improve their chances of admission at a later date by taking some extra courses. Qualifying students take undergraduate courses either to demonstrate that they are capable of improving their grade point average, or because they lack some background material necessary for graduate school.

When a program admits a qualifying student, there are two options. The program may wish to state that completion of one or more semesters as a qualifying student does not guarantee future admission to the graduate program. Alternatively, the student may be advised that admission to a graduate program is guaranteed upon successful completion of a qualifying period of one ore more semesters. In the latter case, there should be a written statement included with the recommendation for admission from the department with a list of the courses that must be taken and the GPA that must be achieved.

Normally, qualifying admission is granted only to a student who wishes to enter a masters program.

Second, a student may demonstrate significant professional experience.

A student who has professional experience relevant to the research s/he wishes to undertake may be admitted, provided that the graduate program/admissions committee can make the case that the professional experience is relevant to the graduate program. Normally, there must be some evidence submitted of the relevance of the professional experience (e.g. publications, or letters of reference from employees detailing the nature of the experience).

Normally, the dean will require such students to perform at a minimum B+ level in the first two semesters at SFU.

The dean will not enter protracted correspondence with graduate program chairs or individual faculty members about the merits of students who do not meet the 3.00 minimum.

Does meeting all of SFU's entrance requirements guarantee admission?

Applicants meeting the minimum University requirements for admission are not assured admission into any graduate program.

Most graduate programs have admission requirements in addition to the minimum. In addition, programs must restrict admission to students whose interests are compatible with available resources and faculty expertise.

Who is allowed to supervise graduate students at SFU? Who is allowed to be on my supervisory committee?

According to the Graduate General Regulations, the senior supervisor of any graduate student must hold the rank of assistant professor or above. Students in diploma programs do not require a supervisor. Emeritus faculty may be senior supervisors.

A co-supervisor may be an adjunct or associate member, as defined by Policies A12.07 and A12.08. Co-supervision recognizes significant input in the intellectual direction of a thesis and/or significant contribution of resources to the research. However, a co-supervisor does not have the same responsibilities as a senior supervisor. This would be the most appropriate way of recognizing the supervisory work of external researchers.

SGSC has approved two arrangements with the Faculties of Business and Education. Both faculties teach substantial numbers of students in professional masters programs, and both use limited term faculty to teach those programs. The Dean of Graduate Studies will review requests that such limited term faculty members be allowed to supervise professional masters students. The minimum requirements for such permission are:

  1. there must be tenure-track faculty overseeing the program
  2. limited term faculty member must have a doctoral degree, and either a publication record or a record of significant relevant professional experience

University Research Associates (Policy R50.01) may not serve as senior supervisors, but may serve on supervisory committees and examining committees. Postdoctoral fellows (Policy R50.03) may serve on supervisory committees.

Supervisory committees

For masters degrees that culminate in a final exam, no committee is required.

All other degrees require a committee. In most programs the committee must include at least one other SFU faculty member, or research associate, or adjunct professor. Other "suitably qualified" members may be added with the permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies.

In professional masters programs, the second and subsequent committee members may be "suitably qualified" people, with the approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies.

All recommendations for committee membership that are for people who do not hold SFU faculty positions must be accompanied by a CV of the recommended person. Once such a person has been approved, subsequent committee work is approved without the need for a CV and the Dean's permission.

I am an international applicant, and I have previously completed my education at an English speaking University. Do I need to submit English language scores?

As an international applicant, unless you received your degree from an English speaking University in a country in which English is the primary langauge, you are required to submit English Language Scores.

I am in the final year of my Bachelor’s degree program, but I have not yet graduated. Can I apply for admission to a Master’s degree program?

For graduate admissions, you do not need to have graduated from your Bachelor's degree program at the time of the application, as long as you complete the program before the start of classes, in the graduate program you are applying to.

Application Questions

Why can’t I pay my application fee?

You will be able to pay your application fee, only once you have submitted your application. Note that after you submit your application and pay your application fee, you will then be able to upload your supporting documents.

Why can't I upload my documents on the online application system?

You will not be able to upload your supporting documents on the online application system until you have paid your application fee. Once you have paid your application fee, the system will require 24 hours before your payment is processed. You will then be able to upload your supporting documents on the online application system.

How do I make changes to an application that I have already submitted?

Once you have submitted your application, you will not be able to edit your information any further. In case there are any critical changes that you will need to make to your application, contact the graduate program assistant at the Department you are applying to, or send an email to gradstudies@sfu.ca to request your change.

Do I have to submit hardcopy of all of my reference letters, transcripts and other required documentation?

You may submit all of the documentation through the online application system. If paper documentation is required, you will be advised at the appropriate stage of the application process. Most Departments require that you send a hard copy Official Transcript directly to the Department you are applying to, in addition to the scanned copy of the Transcript you will upload to the online application system. Please refer to the Department website for complete mailing address.

Letters of reference are submitted through the online application system by the referees directly. Once your application is submitted, an automatic email will be sent to your referees with complete instructions for submitting their letters of reference.