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University vs. Art School


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Any thoughts about attending a university as opposed to a dedicated art school?

I completed my BFA at SFAI in 2003, but now 6 out of the 7 schools applying to are universities.

Is there a fundamental difference in approach to university programs? Is the structure any different? Which do you prefer?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Any thoughts about attending a university as opposed to a dedicated art school?

I completed my BFA at SFAI in 2003, but now 6 out of the 7 schools applying to are universities.

Is there a fundamental difference in approach to university programs? Is the structure any different? Which do you prefer?

Hey there fellow SFAI'er...I graduated BFA in 2009. I have been to both university and art school. I much more prefer art school education to university, but I like university funding better. The reason is because it seems as if you are fully immersed into everything art at art school, WITH artists...at university in some classes you may have other grad students who have nothing to do with what you are going to the class for. This goes the same for the other way around, you have the opportunity to take classes in other "schools" within the university. So I don't know, I'm pretty much only applying to UCs for my MFA since the funding is so good and I'm interested in art at the UC level, I'm going to continue to do my thing even if it is a different atmosphere.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey there fellow SFAI'er...I graduated BFA in 2009. I have been to both university and art school. I much more prefer art school education to university, but I like university funding better. The reason is because it seems as if you are fully immersed into everything art at art school, WITH artists...at university in some classes you may have other grad students who have nothing to do with what you are going to the class for. This goes the same for the other way around, you have the opportunity to take classes in other "schools" within the university. So I don't know, I'm pretty much only applying to UCs for my MFA since the funding is so good and I'm interested in art at the UC level, I'm going to continue to do my thing even if it is a different atmosphere.

Thanks for the response! Funding is definitely an issue for me. It's hard to justify spending ~30k each year — on tuition alone — for a studio art degree (again). But having never attended a university, I wonder how private art schools can stay in business with such a difference in price. I was a teenager when I first applied for college, and I had my parents' backing. But now I'm on my own. That being said, I don't want money to get in the way of my education, so if an expensive and prestigious school accepts me I may just bite the bullet.

Many of the university programs I'm looking at are pretty small, so that's a good point to consider about one's relationship to fellow students. I get the feeling that studio art MFAs are in a pretty marginalized position at most universities. For me that could go either way — if you're one of fifteen grad students, there's a smaller community of artists around you and you collectively may be less privileged as a group, but then again you may have deeper relationships with your fellow students and faculty as a result.

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How do art schools stay in business? Most big universities only have 10-20 MFA students, which mean they only accept 5-10 a year, out of upwards of 300 applications. Art schools take 25 or more a year, out of about the same amount of applicants. It's true the funding is so much better, but since the faculty is so small, your only chance of getting in is to be doing work that your potential advisor likes. So, it's a great thing if you can get it, but the odds are so much less in your favor.

Also, do you really think the top applicants at some of these art schools are paying $30k a year? They vary, but a good portion offer some very generous packages. Some even waive tuition completly for the top people in each discipline. So they give funding to about as many people as the universities do, but also accept people who are willing to pay the money since the resources at these schools are pretty vast.

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