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"BFA required" for MFA admissions - how strict/flexible?


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This is for those of you who DON'T have an undergraduate degree in art (or, for those of you who know MFA candidates that don't).


For the MFA programs that have a requirement that "BFA/BA in art required" in order to be considered for an MFA, how strict are they on that? I've done a LOT of continuing ed through SVA and SAIC (including a certificate there). Without a doubt, my CEd coursework would MORE than cover the requirements for a studio art major at my alma mater, and my recommenders would be drawn from that pool of continuing ed instructors.


Clearly, a lot depends on the school, who else is applying, and how strong your portfolio is. Just curious if any of you has had any experience with this stated prerequisite and could talk a little bit about how rigid or not rigid schools have been about it.

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I have known quite a few individuals who have their MFA in fine arts and a bachelors in a different field. I also have experience behind the scenes of an admissions office. 


I have no doubt however that if they list specifically on their application requirements that a BFA/BA is a 'Must', that they will stick to it, else they wouldn't list something that directly.  For the majority of schools who have a focus in arts, these requirements that are displayed on their websites are meticulously put together and updated regularly (yearly) to fit their admissions process needs.  There are plenty of programs that only require a bachelors without a specification to fine arts; however, they may have a requirement about how many credits you 'should have' that are art related. Any time there is 'should' verbiage, it lends to a bit of leniency per situation... its kind of like saying 'preferred'.   I recommend that you always look at the department specific requirements which can differ between departments within one school. 


So, its a tricky situation for sure.  The best way to know officially is to contact the graduate admissions coordinator or director for the school(s) you are interested in. Via email would be best so that you have it in documented writing and that you have a date stamp for when you submitted the inquiry for a faster response. You can ask if your certificate would be an acceptable substitute since this is what certificates and post bac programs are partially designed for. Even one step further, you can offer digital documentation of your additional studies for them to review to make sure that it would meet their standards.


You might as well go through this type of research to make sure your not going to waste your time and money applying to a school that might have such a specific filtration process. Else, someone else in admissions may not allow your application to reach a department reviewer and the quality of your portfolio becomes irrelevant.  

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let me further clarify that when i say "updated regularly (yearly)", they do it when they want to add or change something in the requirements or how the way materials are submitted.  They generally make this change in advance of the application season and the school application goes live.  Sometimes they are happy with their requirements and it doesn't change from the year prior. 

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  • 1 month later...

I agree with Yellow Magnet's advice, with one caveat, from personal experience.


A couple of years ago, I applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts for an interdisciplinary MFA in Creative Writing and Painting.  At the time, the admissions department's official policy was that they judged your application on the strength of your portfolio, artist's statement, and essay.  When I interviewed, they boasted of the "many" non art majors that were in the program, who presumably were admitted on the strength of their portfolio.  However, in reality, they wanted a certain amount of credits within your area of study, as was stated in my rejection letter( I didn't have enough English credits although I don't remember the "suggested" requirement of undergrad credits in Art or English at the time).  They have since explicitly stated on their Website what they expect in the way of undergrad Art / art History Credits.


In my limited research thus far, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston requires a certain number of art history credits.  ON their website, I believe they will provisionally admit you to their MFA program upon successful completion of the required Art History classes, which they propose be taken at Tufts (their affiliated University).


So I guess, my advice is to read the fine print, and really grill the admissions department on the stats of how many accepted students truly have "non traditional" majors and or backgrounds.  In my Medical School Class, we had a former Ballerina.  Yes they accepted her and she did well, but she was the only ballerina I have ever met in my 20 years of medicine! 

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