Applying for Graduate School Timeline and Advice Considerations
Deciding to attend MFA programs in the visual arts can require time and personal reflection. There are compelling reasons to do so if you are interested in evolving as an artist, teaching at the college level and/or at independent K-12 schools. An MFA can offer significant opportunities that you would not otherwise have to expand your vision and understanding of your own work and other artists’ practices. It does not guarantee employment in the field, and the cost of MFA programs should be seriously considered.
MFA programs are competitive and varied. It is important to do due research to find the program that is right for you. Explore the faculty, graduate student work, teaching assistant, or other professional development opportunities, the culture, and community you would be a part of, financial aid, facilities, and/or opportunities outside of the art program in determining where you would like to apply.
It can take time to develop a strong, independent portfolio. The average age at many MFA programs in the mid to late twenties. It is not uncommon for applicants to wait for one or more years to apply to graduate programs in the visual arts. Your portfolio is the most important element of your application. Ensure that your work is well documented. It may make sense to hire a professional photographer with extensive experience photographing art.
The Department of Art and Art History has copies of The CAA Directory of Graduate Programs in the Visual Arts. This is a valuable resource. It is also important to consult with your professors, alumni, and other individuals who have attended or are attending MFA programs to get advice as you decide if and where you want to apply.
MFA programs provide time, space, a community of other artists, faculty mentors, and visiting artists’ perspectives. This combination can be very challenging and enriching. There is no better way to focus on your work at a critical juncture in your development as an independent artist.
- Begin researching programs 1-2 years before you plan on applying. Applications are generally due between December 15th and February 1st.
- Begin the application process 2-3 months before the first deadline. It takes time to document your work, finalize your artist statement, request recommendations, polish your CV, and contact programs.
- It is important to request letters of recommendation 6-8 weeks before the first graduate program deadline.
- Provide recommenders with the following:
- Images of your work
- Artist Statement/Personal Statement
- List of programs and deadlines
- Make sure your send recommenders with thank you cards and let them know whether you are admitted to programs.