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California Pre-Doctoral Scholarship


The California Pre-Doctoral Program (a.k.a. Sally Casanova) awards funds to approximately 70 juniors, seniors, and graduate students in the CSU. These funds are designed to enable students to explore and prepare to succeed in doctoral programs in their chosen field of study. Scholarships are based on a competitive review of student applications and awarded to current upper-division or graduate students who, in the judgment of the review panel, demonstrate academic excellence while having experienced economic or educational disadvantage, and who are committed to a career in teaching or research at the university level.

Students who are chosen for this prestigious award are designated California Pre-Doctoral Scholars as a tribute to Dr. Sally Casanova, for whom the scholarship is named.

Each of the applicants selected will be designated a Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar and will work closely with a CSU faculty sponsor to develop an overall plan which prepares the student for enrollment in a doctoral program. The plan should be tailored to the specific goals and career objectives of the student.

If you are selected as a California Pre-Doctoral Program Scholar, you will receive:

An award of $5,000 for:

  • Visits to doctoral-granting institutions in the continental United States
  • Attending or presenting research at professional conferences
  • Journal subscriptions in your field or membership fees to professional organizations
  • Graduate school application fees, GRE or other graduate exam preparation course or registration fees

In addition, each Pre-Doctoral Scholar is eligible to apply for:

  • A fully funded Summer Research Experience with a faculty member of their choosing in their discipline at an accredited Ph.D.-granting university in the continental United States.

The application deadline for the 2024-2025 cycle is February 16, 2024. Applications should be submitted directly through the Chancellor's Website here.



    To be eligible to apply to the California Pre-Doctoral Scholarship, applicants must:

    • Be a CSUSM junior, senior, or master’s student.
    • Be enrolled in Spring 2024, and for at least one semester in the 2024-2025 academic year.
    • Have a faculty sponsor from CSUSM who will be available for the duration of the plan specified in the application.


    Those not eligible:

    • Current or former Pre-Doctoral Scholars are not eligible to reapply.
    • International students
    • Students interested in obtaining professional degrees (law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or an MBA degree)


    *DACA students are also eligible for this scholarship.


    To apply to become a California Pre-Doctoral Program Scholar, you’ll need to provide the following Application Materials:

    Essays (3)

    1. Describe the field of study in which you would like to pursue a doctoral degree and the research questions or theoretical perspectives that interest you in this field. Please be specific.
    2. What elements of your educational, research, community service and/or personal experience have contributed to your interest in and preparation for pursuing doctoral study, and your determination to succeed in it?
    3. Many professionals with doctoral degrees enter careers to serve as college and university faculty, and most faculty serve a diverse student body. Describe your interest in such a career and experience that would prepare you for it.


    One (1) copy of your transcripts (official or unofficial) must be submitted with your application. Graduate students must include a copy of both undergraduate and graduate transcripts from all institutions, including the CSU.

    Student Budget Plan (use this template)

    Please provide details on the components of the plan and assign a tentative dollar amount to each. An award of $5,000 is made to each Scholar. Please note that travel is permitted only within the U.S., and visits to doctoral degree-granting institutions are limited to those universities that are accredited. Summer research experiences are funded separately from this budget.

    Letter of Recommendation

    Letter from Faculty Mentor that details the abilities, skills, mastery of theory and method, accomplishments, and motivation that are likely to contribute to this student’s ability to succeed in doctoral study.

    The PDF Example Application can be accessed here.

    Consider these application guidelines​ when preparing for your application.


    The 2024-25 application for the California Pre-Doctoral Program will be submitted through Smartsheet. Be sure to monitor your spam folder for emails and alerts from Smartsheet.

    Once you have all of your application materials, use this link to begin your application through Smartsheet. The deadline to upload the application materials to the Chancellor's Office is February 16, 2024

    Selection Timeline:

    • March/April 2024: Applications are reviewed and scored
    • May 2024: Eligibility of potential scholars are verified
    • June 2024: Applicants who are selected as Sally Casanova Scholars and Honorable Mentions are identified

    NOTE: Although not mandatory, it is recommended that you meet with the Campus Coordinator to have them review your application before submitting. If you'd like your application reviewed, please send them to Nam Nguyen at by February 5, 2024.


    Applicants will be selected based on three major criteria:

    1. Potential for success in completing a doctoral program.
    2. Probable effectiveness of the student/faculty plan.
    3. Level of economic and educational disadvantage.

    Our Information Sessions for this cycle have passed. A recording of a previous information session can be viewed here.

    Please contact should you like to schedule a 1:1 meeting to discuss the program and the application process.


    Review the Chancellor's Pre-Doctoral website which includes information about the benefits of the CDIP and further resources.

    The PDF Example Application for the 2024-2025 cycle can be accessed here.

    Questions? Contact the CSUSM Pre-Doc Campus Coordinator: Nam Nguyen,