Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
213214325

Tips for researching MFA programs? (besides going to their website)

Recommended Posts

Hi everyone, first off I apologize if this is not the right place for this topic or if it has already been discussed. I'm literally brand new, made the account today.

A little about myself, I graduated from my undergrad this past december from Appalachian State University, a small school in the mountains of North Carolina. I moved to Albuquerque NM to take a year off and build new work in solitude. My plan is to apply for a graduate program in painting this upcoming cycle. I am a little overwhelmed with all the options, and need some advice on how to REALLY research a program besides reading through each program's website and sending emails. 

I am really looking for a school that gives their students the direct attention we deserve for committing so much time and effort into a unpredictable business. I really do want to go to a school with a good reputation, but that's not my primary motivation, however, there is something to be said from having a good reputation. A lot of my work comes from my interest in literature and philosophy, which ends up having a lot of representational abstraction.

Any help would be wonderful! If any of this sounds good to you let's stay in touch!

Edited by Chris Yuda

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Chris!!

Right off the bat some programs that might be a good fit for you: UChicago, Northwestern, Rutgers, UCI, UMichigan.

For that sort of direct attention, you would likely be best served in a smaller program. Do you want to be having a painting-focused discourse? Or do you want something interdisciplinary? The programs I listed above all are small (12-30 students) & interdisciplinary. UChicago, Northwestern, UMich, and UCI lets you take classes outside the school of art; UCI has sort of theory "minors" that you can do. Yale—not interdisciplinary—also has you take classes outside of art.

The process I went through to research schools was deciding upon a list of priorities for my ideal program—interdisciplinary or a sculpture program with the openness to experiment in other media, not huge, a good sense of community within students, close to either NYC or LA, good funding, large studios. Be honest with yourself for what environment is best for you. Know that you will likely stay in the area where you get your MFA bc that is where your connections will be built. 

Reading through past freak out forums was really helpful in starting to build a list of schools. I put down some that didn't necessarily match my list at first. From that list, I picked 10 to focus on. Most schools are quite open about you talking to current students about their experiences; reach out to the school's department coordinator & see if you can do a phone call with a student. The people I talked to were all very honest and told me both the ups & downs of their school.

Visit if you can!!! This is absolutely the best way to get a sense of what the program is like. Obviously it is cost prohibitive, but it might save you money in the end by culling your list. There were some programs I visited & instantly knew I'd be unhappy with. There were others that I wasn't certain about initially that I fell in love with. It also helped me enormously in writing my statements. Try to not just get facetime with faculty & staff—hang out with the students. Sit in a class if you can. Open houses generally aren't the best way to see the program, so I'd email ahead and see if you can schedule time outside the open house. 

I still have a google doc saved with my initial list—I'm happy to PM it to you if you'd like. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Chris Yuda said:

 

I am really looking for a school that gives their students the direct attention we deserve for committing so much time and effort into a unpredictable business. I really do want to go to a school with a good reputation, but that's not my primary motivation, however, there is something to be said from having a good reputation. A lot of my work comes from my interest in literature and philosophy, which ends up having a lot of representational abstraction.

 

 
 
2

Hello, Chris!

I think what you said, especially the part I am quoting is making a lot of sense, which is a good starting point! Check out the US News ranking, just to get a sense of which schools are being mentioned and deemed to be the educational institutions of quality. I wouldn't trust the ranking itself, though. 

It sounds like you want a program with a smaller size that puts emphasis on concepts and interdisciplinarity. I think research institutions that have the art department tend to provide an intimate setting and encourages crossover more than traditional art schools. You might want to check out under which department of the university their MFA programme is being hosted. Each school is different. For instance, Cornell's MFA is within AAP (Architecture, Art, and Planning), in contrast to UChicago, where they placed MFA within the Humanities department. 

The student to faculty ratio, which I think is an important one for you, is usually quite an easy one, since they have a list of students or a number that indicates the size.

I often judge the quality of programme by googling "[School Name] MFA". I check out the works and CVs of recent and old graduates. Look at 1) what they are up to right after the graduation and 2) which direction their career is going to after 7-10 years, this really gives you an insight to what the programme is like: on things like whether graduates tend to stay in the area, keep close connections with the school, etc. 

I also found it quite useful to google the name of schools in this forum, and see what has been said about the schools in the past few years. Some opinions are deeply personal, but mostly people are considerate and helpful. 

Which art scene do you resonate the most? Midwest? LA? New York? London? Berlin? Paris? Tokyo? Does it matter? That could also be another thing that you might want to answer. 

If done right, MFA can be very cheap. A lot of times, not so much. I wonder whether funding opportunity is a make-or-break factor for you.

Judging from what you said about what you want, I think that you might want to check out the MFA programme of schools like Cornell, UIC, UChicago, Northwestern, Bard, Cranbrook, and Columbia... but these are all I've been interested in and there's literally hundred other options that you might be more aware of.

Hope this would help!

 

 

Edited by 7edkim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@sylviecerise Hey thanks for the input, much appreciated. I will certainly take a look at those schools you mentioned. As far as interdisciplinary focused programs, I just assumed at a grad level most programs support that way of working if it becomes the natural next step. However, I guess it is important to consider the faculty at each program, and whether or not they have reputable experience working interdisciplinary, rather than just a direct focus on painting. 

I also forgot to mention both my parents are professors in economics, so teaching has always been a strong interest of mine as well. Do you know of any programs that offer  or support teaching positions for their students?

And please! send over that document, I am very curious to see your list.

Thanks again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@7edkim Great advice and input, really appreciate it. UChicago is definitely on my radar now. I've honestly been very interested in anthropology, and would have possibly majored in it during my undergrad if I could have a do-over. 

As far as art scenes go, I definitely have a strong dislike in the LA art scene. I've visited New York quite a few times, however when it comes to those international scenes I'm lost. Which is also another overwhelming option when considering school in Europe. I mentioned this to sylviecerise above, but I forgot to add in my post I'm also interested in programs that offer or support teaching positions for their students.

Anyways, really great feedback, appreciate you taking the time to write a thoughtful response. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Chris Yuda said:

@sylviecerise Hey thanks for the input, much appreciated. I will certainly take a look at those schools you mentioned. As far as interdisciplinary focused programs, I just assumed at a grad level most programs support that way of working if it becomes the natural next step. However, I guess it is important to consider the faculty at each program, and whether or not they have reputable experience working interdisciplinary, rather than just a direct focus on painting. 

I also forgot to mention both my parents are professors in economics, so teaching has always been a strong interest of mine as well. Do you know of any programs that offer  or support teaching positions for their students?

And please! send over that document, I am very curious to see your list.

Thanks again.

Just sent it to you!

Rutgers and SUNY Purchase both have really strong teaching positions. For Rutgers, you shadow a professor first semester and then are assigned 2-3 teaching positions throughout the 2 years. You're not TA'ing; you're teaching the undergrads directly. They give you a rough syllabus to follow, but it gives you very very strong teaching experience. It also pays really well as Rutgers has a very strong adjunct & grad student union. Their teaching positions pay the best in the country ($7k/course). If I remember correctly, Purchase has you take a pedagogy class your first semester and then you also start to teach undergrads. UChicago has its MFAs TA courses. Almost everyone gets a teaching fellowship at the end of the MFA program, though it's not guaranteed. You could be assigned fall, winter, or spring quarter of the year after you graduate, which means you have to figure out what to do in between. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, sylviecerise said:

Just sent it to you!

Rutgers and SUNY Purchase both have really strong teaching positions. For Rutgers, you shadow a professor first semester and then are assigned 2-3 teaching positions throughout the 2 years. You're not TA'ing; you're teaching the undergrads directly. They give you a rough syllabus to follow, but it gives you very very strong teaching experience. It also pays really well as Rutgers has a very strong adjunct & grad student union. Their teaching positions pay the best in the country ($7k/course). If I remember correctly, Purchase has you take a pedagogy class your first semester and then you also start to teach undergrads. UChicago has its MFAs TA courses. Almost everyone gets a teaching fellowship at the end of the MFA program, though it's not guaranteed. You could be assigned fall, winter, or spring quarter of the year after you graduate, which means you have to figure out what to do in between. 

Yeah I took a look at SUNY and it seems like a hidden gem, for almost all aspects (size, tuition, faculty, teaching experience). As far as rutgers go, don't know much about the brunswick area, seems kind of random? Then again I don't know much about New Jersey in general. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Chris Yuda said:

@7edkim Great advice and input, really appreciate it. UChicago is definitely on my radar now. I've honestly been very interested in anthropology, and would have possibly majored in it during my undergrad if I could have a do-over. 

As far as art scenes go, I definitely have a strong dislike in the LA art scene. I've visited New York quite a few times, however when it comes to those international scenes I'm lost. Which is also another overwhelming option when considering school in Europe. I mentioned this to sylviecerise above, but I forgot to add in my post I'm also interested in programs that offer or support teaching positions for their students.

Anyways, really great feedback, appreciate you taking the time to write a thoughtful response. 

 
 
 

Thank you for your kind words! 

What do you not like about the LA art scene? I have a feeling that I might be able to relate to you on this one... though I have positive opinions of the city.

Re: Europe, British schools tend to be quite interdisciplinary and very conceptual, but rarely offer a teaching assistantship or graduate assistantship to a Master's student. They also have a very limited financial aid available for the international. The schools in continental Europe seem to be either very traditional (Belgium, Hungary, Paris) or very forward-thinking (Netherlands, Germany, Finland, etc). ECAL in Switzerland, de Atelier in Amsterdam are not frequently mentioned but I think they are incredible. Although, I don't think the European schools would be able to offer a crossover with a field like anthropology as organically as the American institutions. It has been my understanding and observation that those who want such structure would have to (but are definitely encouraged to) reach out outside the school on their own. 

I am waitlisted for UChicago this year, and am 90% sure that I might go to another school, but I think the school has a fantastic prospect. Check out their report on "The Future of the Arts at UChicago", both 2001 version and 2015 version. They have been making incredible progress, and there is more to come.

Those admitted to UIC also has a great teaching opportunity, especially in their second year. They get to teach their own class. The school has fine art, art history, and uniquely, exhibition studies. Interesting dynamics that you might want to check out. 

 

Edited by 7edkim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/14/2017 at 1:07 PM, Chris Yuda said:

@sylviecerise Hey thanks for the input, much appreciated. I will certainly take a look at those schools you mentioned. As far as interdisciplinary focused programs, I just assumed at a grad level most programs support that way of working if it becomes the natural next step. However, I guess it is important to consider the faculty at each program, and whether or not they have reputable experience working interdisciplinary, rather than just a direct focus on painting. 

I also forgot to mention both my parents are professors in economics, so teaching has always been a strong interest of mine as well. Do you know of any programs that offer  or support teaching positions for their students?

And please! send over that document, I am very curious to see your list.

Thanks again.

Chris, you've gotten some great advice here so far. 

As someone who is from Chicago and visited many of the interdisciplinary programs mentioned (U of C, Northwestern, UIC) and seeing that you're from NC and have an interest in teaching I feel compelled to mention that you should explore UNC-Chapel Hill as an option. It is small, interdisciplinary, has a specific teaching component, generally well funded and your style of work sounds like it would suit in the mix. It's not a big name art school, but for me, personally, it was the first one I really connected with out of those mentioned (Disclosure - I start in the fall) though U of Chicago in particular I did like - if I had still lived in Chicago that would be my pick.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, felixo said:

Chris, you've gotten some great advice here so far. 

As someone who is from Chicago and visited many of the interdisciplinary programs mentioned (U of C, Northwestern, UIC) and seeing that you're from NC and have an interest in teaching I feel compelled to mention that you should explore UNC-Chapel Hill as an option. It is small, interdisciplinary, has a specific teaching component, generally well funded and your style of work sounds like it would suit in the mix. It's not a big name art school, but for me, personally, it was the first one I really connected with out of those mentioned (Disclosure - I start in the fall) though U of Chicago in particular I did like - if I had still lived in Chicago that would be my pick.

Hey Thanks for the feedback. I definitely am guilty of not looking at schools within North Carolina. I really just want to get out. However I may take a look now that you mentioned the teaching component. You know the economy isn't going to stay relatively "okay" forever, job security is pretty important so I really do want a program that assists in getting some good teaching experience or even lead to a full time position quite quickly. However, location is a big thing for me as I am still young and don't want to be stuck in North Carolina forever. Where from NC are you from?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.