Master’s Advising FAQ

The following is a list of commonly asked questions and answers about the Geography Master’s program at SDSU and completing the degree:


SDSU limits transfer credits to 9 semester units. Also note that during your first year in our program you must file an Official Program of study approved by the department Master’s advising committee. Transferring units is not automatic; they must be approved as appropriate to the Official Program of study.
Yes, Geography 701 and 700 during the first two semesters. All students must take these two classes.
We generally require that a student hold a Master’s degree before entering the Ph.D. program. Many of our incoming Master’s students come in with the expectation of eventually working on the doctorate. We believe that working on a Master’s degree provides important training for subsequent doctoral research. Any inquiries regarding the doctoral program should be directed to:

Professor Fernando Bosco
Department of Geography
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182-4493.

Most students who have attempted this never came close to completing the program. Furthermore, most of the classes you may need to take may never be offered at night. Think very carefully before deciding to do this.
Yes. All students must complete the degree within seven years of matriculation.

Program of Study and Course Requirements

The POS is a list of courses that you will take in order to graduate with the MA/MS degree. Some courses in the POS are mandatory for all students (e.g. 700, 701, 799A), while many are elective. See the POS forms in the Master’s Handbook for the requirements for your specific degree program (MA, MS-GIS, MS-Watershed).

If you filed for concurrent graduate credit while in your last semester as an undergraduate then the course would be footnoted in your undergraduate record and it will also be carried over into your graduate record. The course would be listed twice on the transcript; once under your undergraduate record and once under your graduate record.

If you did not file for concurrent graduate credit then you would need to make up the 3 units associated with the POS requirements in order to achieve the 30-unit total. The Graduate Advisor (Biggs) determines whether to 1) waive to content and have you take another course towards your POS requirements or 2) recommend that you retake it based on the grade earned or if you need to take it as a graduate student and be required to perform at the graduate level, since some courses require additional tasks/homework/papers for graduate students.

If you need to change the courses in your POS, you need to submit:

  1. A revised version of the departmental POS form in the MA/MS handbook, which includes lines for signatures of both your Thesis Advisor and the Graduate Advisor (Biggs). The revised form needs to show clearly what course(s) you are dropping by drawing a thin black line through the course listed in the original form, and a list of the new courses that are to replace those courses.
  2. The Petition for Adjustment of Degree Requirements form, which is signed by the Graduate Advisor and submitted to Graduate Division for approval.

Student are eligible to take courses through Open University as long as they are not matriculated into the University and have those courses count towards their POS requirements or possible pre-reqs should the student be admitted at a later point. Any course that is taken through Open University appears on the SDSU transcript so, if the student does poorly while taking Open University courses the SDSU cumulative GPA will be impacted. Students are limited to a maximum of 9 Open University or other university units for a 30 unit POS; this total includes a combined total of courses coming from another institution and Open University. Should the student include an Open University course on the POS, the 7-year deadline by when they must complete their degree requirements begins with the Open University course that is on their POS and not when they were admitted to the MA/MS program.

Open University courses count towards the GPA requirements, program requirements, unit requirements, and time to graduate as they basically are SDSU courses but are being paid through the College of Extended Studies should the student have missed admission deadlines, are trying to bring their GPA up prior to being considered for admission, or have pre-reqs and are not wanting to wait until the next admission cycle.

Advancing to Candidacy and Thesis Proposal Defense

Advancement to candidacy means you have completed one year of coursework, maintained a 3.0 GPA, and can now formally declare your thesis committee with the Thesis Committee Form. You advance to candidacy once you a) submit your Program of Study to the Geography Department coordinator and b) finish at least 12 units of coursework with a 3.0 GPA. Most Geography Master’s Students will have completed 15 units by the end of their first year. The official advancement to candidacy in WebPortal occurs in the summer after your first year, usually by July.
You should start forming your thesis committee by consulting with your Thesis Advisor in your first two semesters. You can convene your thesis committee for your thesis proposal defense anytime after your first semester. Do not wait until you have advanced to candidacy and get the Thesis Committee Form to form and consult with your committee.
The committee is normally composed of two members from the Geography Department and one member from another department (e.g. Geological Sciences, Anthropology, etc). In some cases the committee can have a fourth person, but note that this can complicate scheduling of the Proposal and Final Thesis defenses. The committee members are determined by the student consulting with the Thesis Advisor.
If the prospective committee member is adjunct faculty in a department at SDSU, that person could serve as the third member on your committee. If they are not adjunct faculty at SDSU, the person could serve as a fourth member of the committee, and would need approval via the form “Petition for lecturers, Adjuncts, and outside experts without SDSU affiliation to serve on Thesis committees.”
Yes. The Thesis Committee Form will only be issued to you by Graduate Division after you advance to candidacy, which usually happens in summer after your first year. You may defend your thesis proposal before this, and have the committee sign the Thesis Committee Form in the fall of your second year.
Yes, pending approval of your thesis advisor, though this is strongly discouraged because it gives inadequate opportunity for the committee to have meaningful input to your thesis, and puts you at risk of the committee not approving of your study design, which could delay completion of the thesis.
Print out and bring the “Completion of Thesis Proposal Defense” form to your thesis defense, and give the signed form to the Program Coordinator.

Defending your thesis and graduation: Deadlines

799A is typically taken in the spring semester of your second year. The schedule number is obtained from Graduate Division. In order to get the schedule number, you need to have submitted your Thesis Committee Packet, which can be obtained in person from the Graduate Affairs Office (SSE-1410). It is not required to have defended your proposal in order to register for 799A, but it is highly encouraged to defend your thesis proposal before spring of your second year.
The deadlines to apply for graduation are posted at Graduate Affairs Leave geography site.

Note that for spring and summer graduation, the deadline for application to graduate can be as early as January.

See Montezuma Publishing Leave geography site. The “Final deadline” is the most important. The “Without Risk” deadline does not apply to Geography students, whose advisors and not Montezuma Publishing approve the final thesis content and format.
No. That deadline is only relevant for students doing Plan B (Exam), while all Geography students are in Plan A (thesis). The deadline for the “Report of Final Examination or Thesis Defense” form is the same as the Montezuma Publishing Deadline.
The first deadline, “Final Deadline” is to graduate in that same semester, while the second one, “Last day to submit”, is to graduate in the subsequent semester, but without having to register for 799B. If you file by the “Last day to submit” you’ll need to reapply for graduation but would not have to take 799B.

Defending the thesis: Forms and procedures

You should have the signature page of your thesis with you, since all committee members need to sign that form. The other forms (Completion of Thesis in an Approved Format, Report on Final Thesis Defense Form) will be signed after you submit your revised thesis document to your committee chair and/or thesis committee.
  1. If your committee requested revisions to the thesis document, you must complete those revisions to the satisfaction of your advisor and/or thesis committee, depending on what was agreed upon at the defense.
  2. Once your revisions are complete and the final format of your thesis PDF document is approved by your advisor, have your main thesis advisor sign the Completion of Thesis in an Approved Format form.
  3. Fill out the “Report of Final Examination or Thesis Defense” form but do not have it signed by your thesis advisor. Bring the signed “Completion of Thesis in an Approved Format” form and the unsigned “Report of Final Examination or Thesis Defense” form to the Master’s Advisor (Dr. Biggs) for signature.
  4. Submit the “Completion of Thesis in an Approved Format” form to the Graduate Program Coordinator in the Geography Department.
  5. Submit the “Report of Final Examination or Thesis Defense” form to the Graduate Division.
  6. Submit a hardcopy of your signature page to Montezuma Publishing.
  7. Email a PDF of your thesis to Montezuma Publishing ( See Montezuma Publishing for details Leave geography site.
No and no, except for the preliminary pages. Your thesis advisor is responsible for approving your thesis in its final format, except for the preliminary pages (Title page through Acknowledgements), which need to follow MP’s requirements. Formatting suggestions and templates Leave geography site. Note that you do not need to follow the Montezuma Publishing instructions Leave geography site.

Graduation delay and Leave of Absence

You will have to enroll in at least one unit of 799B during the summer, and reapply to graduate in summer. To do so, go back into your WebPortal account and “transfer” your application for Spring to Summer (August) and repay the $55 fee.

799B enrollment and deadlines Leave geography site

If you don’t finish and graduate in the spring semester of your second year, you must register in 799B the semester you plan to graduate and reapply to graduate (see previous question). Students who have completed all of the coursework on their POS and only have to complete their thesis are eligible to enroll in 799B through the College of Extended Studies, and so do not need to file for leave of absence and do not have to enroll in 799B continuously, only in the semester they plan to graduate. Students would only need to apply for the leave of absence if they planned on enrolling for 799B through main campus. As long as you plan on registering through Extended Studies, you do not need to file for a leave of absence.

The Graduate Student Handbook Leave geography site PDF file, page 9, has information regarding leave of absences policies.

799B enrollment and deadlines Leave geography site

A leave of absence occurs when a student needs to take a semester off of their graduate program and has not completed all of the courses on their Program of Study. Students may request no more than four semesters of leave of absence during their time at SDSU. If a student needs more than four leaves or if they do not file for a leave of absence, they will either have to remain continuously enrolled e.g. in 799B, or reapply for admission to the program. See the previous FAQ and the Graduate Handbook for details on how to apply. Note that starting in Spring 2019, application for leave of absence is done online through their webportal account.