I was wondering if anyone else is pursuing fellowships and other ways of getting full funding for their MFA. That's currently my goal. I'd love to trade strategies around what has worked and what didn't.
I got a full-tuition scholarship to undergrad and it was immensely helpful in terms of getting my career off the ground.
If anyone else wants to chase after this very difficult goal, I do have some advice for you:
Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do it. They've just talked themselves out of an opportunity because they are scared. You can. If there's 30 scholarships available through a program, someone gets them. If there are 5 spots in a program with two full scholarships, someone gets those as well. Why can't you be that someone?
Think about how your work relates to your field and why your work is a valuable contribution to the existing conversations. There's a ton of opportunities to contribute to the existing scholarship that's already out there. If you can't think of anything, go read about what other artists, historians, as well as academics from other fields have written until you find something that hasn't been discussed. The easiest way to do this is to niche down. For example, I realized there's no academic articles around how art can dismantle the psychological mechanisms that enable carnism, the ideology that conditions us to eat animals. There's a ton of art around animal ethics, but very little work that focuses specifically on psychology. By focusing on the intersection of three separate fields, I can create a unique body of work. While you're not expected to have a unique contribution to your field as an MFA and you certainly don't need to to win a big scholarship, doing so can give you a major advantage.
Think about the qualities that you bring to the program outside of your work. Usually, programs want to see that you are a well-rounded student that's easy to get along with. Even if you have the best portfolio, they probably won't want to take you if you don't contribute anything to the class. Show the program what you have to give by talking about why your volunteer experience is so meaningful to you, for example.
Know that if you want a big scholarship, the application process will consume your life for a while. But stop when you need some much needed self-care.
Get your essays reviewed by as many people as you can to make sure they read logically. Make sure your writing is extremely clear.
If you can, work with the fellowship advising office at your university (you should be able to go as an alum.) If you're applying for certain fellowships, please keep in mind that you may need to go work with them up to six months before the deadline, which may be more than a year before the program actually starts. For example, if you want to study through Fulbright, Knight-Hennessy, Soros, etc. you should make an appointment to see your fellowship advisor in the early Summer. I started my fellowship applications in June to complete my final draft by October.
Don't send the same Statement of Purpose for each university. Do some research and mention specific reasons as to why you want to go there.
Apply to as many schools as you can. I applied to 10 schools for undergrad and will likely apply to another 10 schools for graduate studies.
If you are still in university, take a creative writing class, since this will be helpful when you are applying for opportunities.
Crafting a quality application will take you months - and possibly a year. When I was applying as an undergrad, I started attending portfolio fairs to get feedback as a sophomore. If this is your first year applying to postgraduate studies, know that you may need to re-apply next year if you don't do as well as you wanted
Consider schools abroad, but be aware that, regardless of where you go, you will have the same problems as you would at home but with zero support. When I got my MA in the UK, my apartment flooded and I had virtually no help other than the school psychologist. It's not like in the US where campus police and other students will be right there on campus. If you do want to go abroad, look at schools with low or no tuition, since it's very hard to get funding as an international student. PhD in art practice programs are more common than MFAs in the EU (and more likely to be funded), so if you want to study in the EU for free, know that you may be there for more than two years.
Find programs where the whole department is fully funded and apply there.
If anyone has any questions or suggestions for advice to add to the list, please comment ❤️