Undergraduate Frequently Asked Questions

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Is the SF State School of Design the same thing as the former SF State Design and Industry Department?

Yes. The program decided to change its name to better reflect the current reality of our curriculum and students.

Why does the School of Design require a supplemental application?

School of Design is an impacted major requiring selective admission because we had too many students wanting to major and not enough resources to accommodate them. Our application process allows us to accept a reasonable number of students that is more in line with the resources and faculty that we have now, allowing our majors to get the classes they need and graduate in a reasonable timeframe.

Can I include a portfolio of work or letter of recommendation with my application to help my chances of being accepted?

We do not accept portfolios of work or letters of recommendation. Factual information regarding special circumstances, work experience, or other objective qualifications can be described in an addendum to your application if not documented in your unofficial transcripts (which are ultimately confirmed by the university). If we need additional confirmation or proof of certification, we will contact you during the application review period.

Which GPA do you need to provide on the Supplement Program Application, the “All College GPA” or the “SFSU GPA” that I see on my transcript?

The "All College GPA." Note that if you started at SF State as a freshman and have taken no college level courses elsewhere, these GPAs will be the same automatically.

Can I use one of the Advanced Placement (ROP) courses I took in high school as one of my prerequisite pre-major courses?

Advanced Placement courses may be used only if SF State has given you credit for that on your Advanced Standing Evaluation (ASE), your SF State transfer credit list or the new Academic Progress Report (APR) as a college level course. To confirm whether your course is acceptable, please contact the SF State Student Advising Center and confirm this prior to listing it on your application.

I took one or more classes at an art/design school in another country. Can I use those for my required pre-major courses?

If you can include with your application a transcript that certifies that these are college level courses, then they will probably qualify. If possible, please include official transcripts of those courses with your UNIVERSITY application as well as the unofficial one to Design with your supplemental application. That way, the university can review your courses for possible transfer credit and we will have documentation of them. If you have further questions on this, contact the SF State Admissions office or the SF State Student Advising Center.

Does it matter where I take the classes I want to use for the required pre-major classes on your application?

Yes. The two qualifying classes need to be taken from a WASC accredited college/university or community/junior college. If you are planning to take any classes at a non-state supported institution, we advise you to check the WASC website for the accreditation status of either a college/university. Leave the search/filter parameters blank and click the “Filter” button to get a complete listing of all WASC accredited institutions in that category. For further information about WASC, please view the WASC FAQs.

I am not sure which of the Design programs (BSID and BSVCD) I am most likely to be accepted for, so should I send two applications, one for each program, to help my chances?

No, you can only submit one Supplemental Application to the School of Design. However, once accepted, you will be able to change to a different Design degree program should you need or want to do so.

I know I am interested in design, but I don't know whether I should apply to Industrial Design or Visual Communication Design. What's the difference?

Industrial Design relates to the design of industrially manufactured, tangible goods (i.e. physical, concrete objects like furniture, lighting, bicycles, consumer electronics, toys, etc.) and related services. Visual Communication Design is the design of visual communications for a variety of platforms including print, web, mobile, motion, games, spatial graphics, etc. All design fields involve user needs research, user experience design, aesthetics, technology, and creative problem solving. View the bulletin for a list of classes.

If I am accepted, will I be able to enroll in summer School of Design classes before the Fall semester I am applying for?

Each summer session can be different, but if we are able to extend these classes to our newly accepted majors, we will notify them of this fact in the Welcome Message which informs them of their acceptance, what classes to register for in the fall, information about the Design Laptop Requirement, etc.

I only have one requisite pre-major course and won’t be able to enroll in my second one until next (spring) semester. Does that mean I cannot apply?

No, you can still apply but include on your application the spring course(s) you plan to take. We evaluate the applications starting in spring semester. If you have not taken one or more of the pre-major courses during the previous fall semester, then we will not have both the grades by the time we evaluate your application. So, if your application is incomplete but otherwise acceptable, you will be put on the waiting list until the missing grade(s) come in just after the end of spring semester (early June). Some of the accepted transfer applicants decide to go elsewhere, and when we are informed of that in May or June, we fill in from the waiting list.

What percentage of applications are typically accepted into your program?

We currently admit approximately 150 new majors each year. The number of applicants varies from year to year, so unfortunately we cannot provide you with a set percentage of accepted vs denied applications.

When do we find out whether or not we have been accepted?

Notifications of Accepted, Rejected, or Wait Listed typically go out by April each spring though this can vary. Wait Listed students can be notified of acceptance later in late spring or early-summer based on their spring grades for the application-required classes or of slots that have opened up.

Does failing to get into the Design program with your first application influence the decision of admittance into the program on your second application?

No, but you can certainly improve your chances the second time by taking additional relevant classes during the interim, improving your GPA, etc. Some such students come to SF State, finish GE's, take up their secondary major or work on a minor that they could use in combination with their Design major if their second application is accepted. Valuable minors in related fields can be Marketing, Urban Studies, Art, Cinema Animation, Communication Studies, etc. If you are planning this, talk to the SF State Student Advising Center about unit limits and how those might affect you.

I realize I can apply a second time in case I am not accepted this time, but I don’t want to wait another whole year before starting my major.

Any student can apply twice to the School of Design, but note that we only accept applications once per year. If you are planning to apply a second time, you might pursue a relevant minor (see above) or use the time to take relevant courses at local community colleges to better prepare you to apply again. You can see what non-Design required and elective courses are relevant to each of our majors by navigating on this site to the Undergraduate Program section, select the major of your choice, select Advising Contract, and then select the Current one (be sure to read both pages).

I am currently a senior in high school applying to SF State but I am confused about the required Pre-Major Courses. If I have not yet taken these college classes, what can I do?

If you are planning to attend SF State starting as a freshman, you can declare your major as "Pre-Ind Arts (Design & Ind) B.A." when you apply online to the university and you don’t need any of these courses to do that. Don’t worry that this name doesn’t exactly match the degree you plan; it covers all who intend a Design major.

Then, you will need to apply to the department during fall semester of your sophomore year (or one year before your junior year (which is when you earn 60 units at the beginning or end of a semester). If accepted, you will start taking Design major courses in the fall semester of your junior year.

There are two lists of required courses on the application. If you are already enrolled at SF State, i.e. a 'Continuing" or "Current" student, then you can draw on any of the courses in the second or "B" list. The School of Design has six lower division classes (i.e. 200 level) that can be taken by current students in the Design Pre-Major, four of which are open to all majors (for the other two, email the instructor), so check the class schedules for those opportunities. You can also take Community College classes which fall into the A. categories or which are articulated to the classes in the B. list.

Note that, especially if you are planning on applying to the Visual Communication Design program, first declaring to the School of Art would give you access to valuable pre-major courses and other courses you could eventually use as electives if you are admitted to Design. Similarly, first declaring a major in Marketing, Urban Studies, Art, Cinema Animation, or Communication Studies would give you access to courses that could become a minor or possibly used as Design electives.

I already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject. Will I be able to apply to one of your undergraduate majors?

No, SF State is currently not accepting second baccalaureate applications to any program but Nursing. This policy is set per campus so this may work at other CSU campuses. Note that this policy is subject to change in an era of unpredictable support for public higher education. View SF State's current transfer policy. Note that the School of Design has a graduate program, an M.A. in Industrial Arts.

Does the School of Design offer Internships?

Note that the School of Design offers course credit for design internships with local companies and not-for-profit organizations. We offer workshops and opportunities to network with local companies through courses and our student chapters of AIGA and IDSA.

What types of careers do School of Design graduates go on to pursue?

Because the Design majors offer grounding in design thinking and design principles within the context of an undergraduate liberal arts education, Design majors go on to find rewarding careers in diverse fields. Some graduates pursue design careers as graphic designers, web/mobile designers, UX designers, packaging designers, game graphics designers, model makers, or product designers and developers. From these areas, they move on to become Art Directors and Principle Designers. Other graduates find meaningful careers in marketing, advertising, or retail sales where their design background and problem solving skills are valuable assets. Still others find careers in the media, arts and entertainment fields. Some graduates even start their own businesses. Note that design is a dynamic field with new technologies and new professional opportunities emerging on a continuing basis.

What types of skills will be required in my field?

As a Design major, you will be introduced to the research, design thinking, problem solving, organizational, conceptual, and practical skills of the design trade. Strong sketching and ideation skills, and fabrication or development skills will be important for all design fields. Todayall entry-level designers are expected to have a high level of digital media skills. For Visual Communication Design students, this includes mastery of such programs as Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Prototyping tools such as Invision and Axure, along with front-end web coding (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.). Experience with motion graphics programs such as After Effects and Unity are a plus. For industrial design, software skills might include SolidWorks, Rhino, and other modeling programs.

What is the salary outlook for designers?

As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, and the Occupational Outlook Handbook, here are some links to see in-depth information on vocational prospects for designers: