How Getting Your MFA Works

How to Apply to an MFA Program

All MFA admissions boards request a sample of your work. This is by far the most important part of the application process. To apply for an MFA in photography or another visual arts specialty, for example, you must provide a portfolio of your work. If you're pursuing creative writing, you must submit an original manuscript. And MFA programs in acting require an audition. Ultimately, admissions boards are looking for strong work that shows talent and creativity. Experience and a strong record of performance are important to not only getting accepted, but also securing scholarships.

The application process varies by graduate program; however, many are quite similar to one another. Some of the biggest differences among programs include deadlines and required application materials. Standardized tests like the GRE aren't always mandatory to apply to an MFA program, but official transcripts and a completed graduate college application form are. Typical MFA applications require recommendations from people familiar with your talent, whether that's acting, filmmaking or another specialty. Programs ask you for a personal statement that addresses your goals and reasons for pursuing the degree. Others may also request a professional resume that identifies employment, awards or special achievements of distinction.

Usually, applications need to be received by early January for entry into the fall semester. This includes everything: samples of work, letters of recommendation, personal statement, transcripts and any other materials requested by the school to which you're applying. Admissions decisions and financial aid awards are usually made the following March or April.

MFA programs emphasize the execution of a performance, artwork or design more than academic study. So, what's the coursework like? Turn to the next page to find out.