California State University, San Marcos

California State University San Marcos is located in the heart of coastal southern California, which is a wonderful place to live while studying in the United States. A short distance from the campus we have some of California’s most beautiful beaches and coastline where you can surf, swim, and sail. We are also near mountains and deserts, where you can hike, ski, bicycle, and camp. In our ideal climate outdoor activities can be enjoyed all year.

Classes are small, so students receive individual attention, and they are taught by professors who are experts in their respective fields. The university makes full use of modern technology, and all students have easy access to computers and individual e-mail accounts. The library also offers many computer-based resources in addition to a complete collection of books and periodicals.

The University operates on a semester system, with a fall term from early September to mid-December and the spring term from mid-January to mid-May. There is also a 12-week summer semester.

Points of Pride

  • In its “Safest Schools” report, recognized CSUSM as the safest four-year university in California.
  • Our faculty drive the national research agenda. In 2011, we received approximately $7.2 million in grants.
  • CSUSM, in partnership with Palomar Community College, received a $1.95 million grant to develop a five-year program aimed at increasing the number of undergraduates, transfer students and graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
  • The curriculum is focused on writing, critical thinking and collaborative team building skills while integrating an international perspective.
  • Buildings and laboratories are technologically advanced and 100% of the classrooms are equipped with “smart” computer systems.
  • Over 50% of the student population represents diverse ethnic backgrounds including students from over 35 different countries.
  • CSUSM was awarded the San Diego Excellence in Energy (SANDEE) award for a comprehensive energy conservation project that reduced consumption by more than 25%, saving nearly $600,000 in annual energy costs.
  • The university is truly engaged with the community through an emphasis on business connections, community service and study abroad.
  • Through its nationally acclaimed Community Service Learning program, CSUSM students annually log over 160,000 hours of community service valued at over $1.3 million.
  • CSU San Marcos offers 8 men and women’s divisional sports and over 100 social, educational and recreational student clubs and organizations.
  • CSUSM is listed in US News and World Report’s ranking of top US Regional Universities (West).

Student Demographics

CSU San Marcos is home to a diverse group of students from the U.S. and abroad. There are currently approximately 200 degree-seeking international students on campus, in addition to approximately 100 international students enrolled in the American Language and Culture Institute. Many students come to CSU San Marcos from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, with smaller groups from countries throughout Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

ESL program and/or support services

The Intensive Academic Preparation (IAP) program prepares you for study at an American university or college. The IAP program is also useful for professionals who need better skills and an advanced level of academic English.

Completion of the IAP provides a TOEFL Waiver for graduate and undergraduate admission to California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). Conditional Admission to CSUSM is also available to qualified graduate and undergraduate students.

The IAP is a year-round program. Classes begin in the Fall, Spring, and Summer semesters. To enter this program, you must be at least 18 years old or a high-school graduate, and have basic English skills.

Student Housing options

There are two on-campus housing options for international students – University Village Apartments and The Quad.  On campus housing ranges from $665-900 USD per month depending on floor plan.  Entry is for Fall semester only.  Students arriving in the Spring semester are encouraged to apply for American homestay by visiting

Admission requirements

First year freshmen: Applicants who received their secondary education outside the U.S. must have the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma with a GPA of 3.0 on a 4 point scale (a “B” average). While neither SAT nor ACT scores are required, students with slightly lower GPA’s may submit SAT or ACT scores, which if high enough may be used as a balancing factor.

Transfer students: Transfer applicants must have the equivalent of a 2.0 GPA in all transferable post-secondary work. Secondary school work is not considered.

Transfer applicants currently in the U.S. must have 60 transferable units.

A TOEFL score of 61 iBT or above (173 computer-based; 500 on the paper-based examination) with a score no lower than 19 on the Writing section, and no section score below 14, or 5.5 on the IELTS, is required for undergraduate admission. Applicants do not have to submit a score if they have attended a secondary or post-secondary school full time for at least three years (not including time spent in an English language program) where English was the principal language of instruction. Students currently attending higher education institutions in the United States who were admitted with scores below the requirement must retake the TOEFL or IELTS and score a minimum to be admitted to CSU San Marcos.

Upper-division transfer students who have completed all lower-division general education requirements at a California Community College and come to San Marcos “GE Certified” are not required to submit a TOEFL/IELTS score.

Students with a TOEFL score below 61 or an IELTS below 5.5 who are cleared for admission by CSUSM’ s American Language and Culture Institute Intensive English Program are admitted without a TOEFL score report.

Financial Information: All international applicants are required to submit a financial affidavit that certifies they have the financial resources to provide for all expenses as indicated under Expenses. This form is part of the application for admission.

International Student visas issued

F1 and J1

Cost of attendance and financial assistance

Cost of attendance for full academic year:

  • Tuition and fees: $16,226
  • Living expenses: $17,720

Financial aid is not available to international students, however the Office of Global Education provides a limited number of scholarships to assist with non-resident tuition costs.

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