MFT California
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"Do I need to take the GRE??" MFT Grad School Requirements

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A major consideration as you launch your graduate school search is which application requirements you already meet and which you still need to complete in order to apply. It's rare to be accepted to a master's program without first having a bachelor's degree, but apart from that, graduate schools vary widely in what you need to be considered. In this post, we'll go over some of the common application requirements of many marriage and family therapy graduate programs.


One metric MFT grad programs often consider when reviewing applications is the undergraduate grade-point average (GPA). Some schools, like Antioch University, have no minimum GPA requirement whatsoever. Others, like University of the West, have a relatively low GPA requirement; in the case of this particular program, this is because they want to make the program accessible to students with diverse academic and life experiences and prefer to consider the application as a whole rather than weed out applicants based on a GPA requirement. Most programs, however, have a minimum GPA requirement with the caveat that candidates with lower GPAs who are strong in other areas should still apply. Alliant International University, for example, has a relatively high minimum GPA (3.0), but offers a GPA waiver petition process to students with a GPA of lower than 3.0. Similarly, the Wright Institute has the same minimum GPA requirement but encourages applicants with relevant volunteer, clinical, or other work experience to apply anyway. Some extremely competitive programs, like Fuller Theological Seminary, suggest that normally candidates have a minimum GPA of 3.0, but even this is not a hard-and-fast rule. The takeaway here should be to not let your GPA rule out any program.

Field of Undergraduate Study

Some programs do require a candidate's undergraduate degree to be related to marriage and family therapy. For example, the Pepperdine University Day Format program requires candidates to have a degree in "psychology or a closely-related field" because there are no foundational courses offered as part of the master's program curriculum, and students need to be ready to hit the ground running; the Pepperdine University Evening Format program, however, does offer foundational courses for students whose undergraduate degree was in an unrelated field. The California Polytechnic University, Pomona states that "applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in psychology with at least 24 upper division semester units or 36 upper division quarter units in psychology. Consideration will also be given to students from other majors who have completed the same number of units (24 semester or 36 quarter)."  However, the vast majority of marriage and family therapy master's degree programs in California do NOT require that your undergraduate degree be in psychology, though a related degree may strengthen your application.


For many students, the GRE is the most feared grad school requirement. This requirement also varies widely from program to program. California State University, Stanislaus requires "satisfactory performance" on the GRE, while California State University, Dominguez Hills waives the GRE requirement if you have a GPA of 3.5 or better. California State University, Northridge, however, only requires the GRE if your "cumulative undergraduate GPA is less than 3.0," but you must "score at or above the 50th percentile on one of the three sections of the aptitude test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), [i.e., verbal, quantitative, or analytical or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT)." You can find a list of programs statewide that require the GRE no matter what here. On the other hand, many of the other California State University MFT degree programs don't require the GRE at all! The good news is that if your top priority is avoiding the GRE, you will have plenty of programs to choose from.

Prerequisite Classes

Fewer programs have prerequisite courses, but if one of your top choices does have classes you must complete before enrolling (or in some cases, before even applying), it's best to find out as soon as possible so you don't miss any important deadlines. For many programs, any prerequisite classes are usually fulfilled by an undergraduate degree in psychology or related field, though it is critical to ensure that you have taken these courses within the required time frame--for example, the prerequisite courses required by California State University, Northridge must have been completed within the past seven years for the requirement to be considered fulfilled. If you need to take prerequisite classes to apply to your programs of choice, these can generally be affordably completed at local community colleges. It's a good idea to directly contact the program you're applying to in order to discuss prerequisite courses and your plan for fulfilling this important requirement.

Other Application Components

Usually, marriage and family counseling programs require an essay, a resume/CV, and letters of recommendation as part of the application process. Many schools emphasize these more subjective components as areas that can bolster weaker elements like a low GPA or an undergraduate degree not in the field of psychology. Some programs split the essay portion into multiple mini-essays that address specific questions; others prefer one general personal statement, which may or may not be expected to respond to any particular questions or prompts. Whatever the format, essays are generally not very lengthy, though you may be expected to cover quite a lot of ground; therefore, it is recommended that you begin work on your essay early, as it will most likely take several drafts to arrive at a finished product. The resume/CV requirement is an excellent place to demonstrate work and/or volunteer experience, especially if you don't have space to address all of your relevant experience in the written statement portion. And finally, strategically selecting individuals to write letters of recommendation can help address any weakness in the rest of the application. For example, if your undergraduate GPA is not great, but you've excelled in the workforce since graduation, a recommendation letter from a supervisor could demonstrate your professional growth since college. If you have little to no work or volunteer experience in the health services field, a letter of recommendation from a professor who can speak to your readiness to tackle work at the graduate level may go far to balance your application out.

Start Early, Work Strategically

Remember to look at your application as a whole from the perspective of the program you're applying to--which parts are stronger than others? What weaker areas can you balance out in other ways? And remember to get started working on your application as soon as possible. A 2-page personal statement can seem like not such a big deal, but once you start trying to address all the areas you need to, you'll realize your statement needs to be unique, interesting to read, and also very efficient. It can take many drafts to get to a finished product! Similarly, you'll want to make sure you give as much time as possible (a couple months if you can) to the people writing your letters of recommendation. Nothing's worse than, "Could you write me a letter of recommendation? Also, can you do it by the end of the week??"

No matter your situation, there is an MFT program in California that is a good fit for you.  Our free Graduate School Application Planning Guide can help you think about the most important questions to consider when picking programs, and will also help you plan out your application process. Good luck!

Carrie Wiita