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MFA 2018 All Art ADMISSIONS freak-out forum!!!!!!!!

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Hear hear! I couldn't resist checking to see if any action started yet, but I'm going to forbid myself from coming on here for one more month lest and early onset anxiety kick in.

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This is my first time applying (directly out of undergrad). I am planning to apply to painting programs at:

  • University of Maryland: college park
  • University of Michigan
  • Ohio State
  • University of Illinois: Champaign 
  • University of Indiana: Bloomington 
  • Rutgers
  • Northwestern
  • Cornell 

My website: www.hannahduggan.com

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This is my first time applying too -  I am really happy to have found this forum. 
I am looking for a high profile school with a rigorous conceptual program, that is interdisciplinary. 

My top two choices are:
- MIT
- UCLA

 

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Hi Everyone

I am currently an MFA student and this forum helped me quite a lot when I was going through my application process. I thought I would come in to help in anyway that I can. I don't want to reveal where I am currently studying as my program is quite small and as grads we do have a voice in the new MFA application process. 

Last year I did get accepted to every school that I applied to including the Ivy leagues. After starting my MFA and getting the know the faculty, I learned quite a lot about how their application process works and what they are looking for in their students. Different institutions are looking for different things, however this is an over arching theme that most institutions want in MFA students. I am an interdisciplinary artist and know how to work in photo, sculpture, painting, film, instillations etc. 

When I had applied for my MFA, I did not have a B.F.A., I was coming from a Liberal Arts background. I never had any of my work shown in any gallery. Hopefully this will give some of you who aren't coming from a Fine Arts background some hope. For those of you who are applying to grad school with a B.F.A. and have already shown in galleries (big or small), trust me you have an advantage in this application process. 

If you have any questions about portfolios, essays, interviews, recommendation letters, or even why some students make it (when their work seems crappy) and some don't (when their work seems great), I am happy to answer them. 

Good luck on this process!

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Hi Advice4MFA. 

THank you so much for your generosity. 
I have two questions:

What do you think was the combination that made your applications so successful? 

What general process does the faculty take in assessing applications? Is it really portfolio first? 

 

Thank you

 

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@australia00009 

As much as it pains me to say this. No it is not always portfolio first. It really depends on which school you are looking to go to. Some schools do prioritize portfolio first. However the better the school is known for Fine Arts the more important it becomes to know someone who is teaching there, know someone who is friends with someone teaching their, or know someone who is an active alumni who knows the faculty well. 

From what I understand MFA faculty care a lot about student's personality. It is a program where the faculty has to work with students for several years. It is not like undergrad where they can just ignore a student after a semester course is over. 

If you do not know anyone in the art world who can write a solid recommendation for you and you are interested in a program at an Ivy League University, RISD etc. Look of up the faculty. Read about their work. See who's work and personality would match with you the most. Then email that faculty member tell them you are interested in applying for an MFA at their institution and want to know if they would be willing to meet with you for a chat. 

I know an international student who didn't know anyone in the art world in the United States. She e-mailed a faculty member for a meeting. The faculty member didn't have time to make an appointment. She literally flew across the world, showed up at the university, did her research to find the professor's office, and asked him if they could chat. She got in. 

The better the Institution is the more they care about your statement, who you know, and how all of it relates to your work. Most often faculties have already made up their mind about who they want well before interviews start. However there are a few students every year who completely butcher their interview and thus lose that favorable spot. Or there is always that one student who is expected to be on the waitlist that nails the interview so hard that the faculty has to have them.  

Additionally faculties ask around. If you studied at Cal Art for undergrad and they have a buddy who teaches there, they will call and ask about you. Even if that buddy wasn't your recommender for you application. 

I remember having an interview where all I was asked about was my letter of recommendation. Why I picked the people I did? What was my relationship to them? ect. It was probably the hardest interview I had because I had no clue what my recommenders had written about me. 

I believe my application was successful because of my letters of recommendations first, portfolio and statement probably came second, and interview was last. I have never been a good interviewer. 

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@Advice4MFA

That is really inciteful, thank you so much for sharing. I would be an international student, so my recommenders would all be Australian. However I have some mentorships coming up in the USA, but not before the applications are due. 

It's hard to decide weather to respect and trust the system - provide good recommendations, experience and work and hope that the faculty like your vibe if you get an interview. Or if the way forward is to really push, like the international student you mentioned flying all the way there, unannounced. 

Thanks so much for your reply, it's given me a lot to think about. 

I am going to be applying to Northwestern, MIT and UCLA, did you have any experience with any of those schools? 

Thanks again. 

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@australia00009

I am familiar with Northwestern and UCLA. However I am surprised that you mentioned MIT because I didn't even know they had an MFA program there. I am familiar with MIT's ACT program. I know a few Art Historians who have taught at MIT and I know a few students who graduated with degrees in architecture or engineering and later became Fine Artist. However I don't know anything about MIT in relation to MFA programs. Would you be able to send me a link to their degree program. I am very curious about who is teaching there. 

Both Northwestern and UCLA are good schools. Doing an MFA in Northwestern will get you noticed simply because it is an elite university. The school is a very good and can afford a strong faculty. Chicago's art scene is slowly growing thanks to artist like Jeff Koons. It is the type of school where you want to know who is the faculty and what type of work current MFA students make there. It is also important to know how your work fits with the Chicago art scene. in Chicago SAIC tends to dominate the city's art market which is one of the reasons Northwestern's MFA program tends to get over looked. Faculty at Northwestern want to know you are choosing their school over SAIC because there is something Northwestern offers that you can not get from another institution in Chicago. When applying to Northwestern a few questions you want to have a clear answer for are things like Why Northwestern over SAIC? Why Chicago as a city? What are some specific things about Northwestern's MFA program that better informs your practice, that you can not get at SAIC? 

As for UCLA. I never applied there, however I have a few friends who were accepted there. At UCLA you want to be informed about the faculty, because their work might help inform with how you want to shape your artist statement. It is important to remember the faculty is your audience and they will be the ones reading your writing. At UCLA your portfolio and statement tend to be equally important. Interviews and recommendations tend to come second. 

Every applicant has different methods, but the main thing you want to show schools is that you are an applicant who has really researched the program, and you are choosing the school because it is a place that will take your work to the next level. 

Edited by Advice4MFA

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@Advice4MFA

You were right, MIT isn't an actual MFA but the Masters of ACT is the program i was referring to. The mission statement says the program is still centred around critical art practice http://act.mit.edu/about-act/mission-statement/ - part of what my work already does, and what i wanted to further achieve with a Masters is developing an interdisciplinary practice, centered around photography/geology and technology. 

 

Thank you for the in depth reply regarding Northwestern and UCLA. It is so useful for me to have that level of information at this stage of my application preparations. There are definitely reasons why I am looking at those universities, so I will try and be really explicit in my statements. I really appreciate you help. 

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@australia00009

As a student it is important to know what you want from your MFA. Northwestern, UCLA, and MIT all have very different goals in terms of where they see their students working post graduation. If you want to be an Artist selling work in the US art market you want to look into schools like UCLA, Cal Art, Columbia, Yale, RISD, Hunter, SAIC, Rutgers, (maybe) NYU, and University of Texas at Austin (they have a growing alumni who are creating a foot hold in the US art world). 

If you are looking towards being an academic/ teaching all of the schools mentioned above will allow you to have that opportunity with an MFA. More so with Columbia, Yale, and RISD. 

MIT's ACT program is catered more towards rethinking design and material. Although some of their students end up making work in the art world. They aren't very present or dominate in the art world thus making it harder for them to get their work shown in galleries. 

If you want your work to become interdisciplinary, almost all universities with an MFA program in the USA allow for their students to become interdisciplinary artist. Look up some contemporary artist who you like and see where they went to school. E-mail those artist about their work and ask them what they are thinking about. 

If you like Jeff Koons consider SAIC

if you like Dana Schutz consider Columbia

If you like Susanna Coffey consider Yale  

All of these artist have close ties to the universities they graduate from. If there is a contemporary artist who you like. Look up what they are thinking about, look up the school they graduated from, look up who their classmates were and what they were thinking about in terms of art, and look to see what relationship the University continues to hold with these alumni. If they see a younger version of a successful student who they perviously had, they will want you. It is not about making the same work as past students. It is about thinking like them, but also having your own understanding and critique of the world as it is shaping today.   

Edited by Advice4MFA

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@Advice4MFA  Thank you so much in advance for being so kind and generous with your help/advice.  I hope when I'm in an MFA program one day, I can give back the same way as you.
I am a painter and I have some questions: if I am applying to my dream program, and I do know alumni or students from there, how does meeting them help ~ what kind of conversations should I be having with them/what is the goal?  I ask because simply conveying my strong interest for a school by speaking to their alum might not matter so much if they are not associated with or in contact with the admissions panel, right?

The second question I have is... I was waitlisted at my dream school last year, so am reapplying.  I think I bombed my interview. 
Is there anything you think I can do between now and January (when applications are due) to help make sure I get a second chance to interview this time round?
With a new portfolio, should I re-submit 16 new works, or can 1-2 images in the portfolio be from the last application to help them jolt their memory that I have applied before?
Finally, do you have any advice for how not to bomb an interview terribly, or how best to prepare?

I realize there are so many questions here.  Please feel free to answer any/just a few; I'm sure other applicants will find whatever advice you can offer so helpful too and thank you again :)

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@Advice4MFA

Hi, thanks for helping us with our apps. If anyone else wants to chime in, feel free.

My first question concerns the portfolio. So, I did my bachelor's and master's in the humanities. Should I include still-lifes or something to show a mastery of the fundamentals even if my main pieces are conceptual and abstract?

And how do gallery exhibitions weigh in?

 

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@torritgrey

 Admissions panel in MFA programs are made up from the full time faculty. Most alumni and students in the program already have a relationship with the full time faculty. Having conversations with these people makes an impact when it comes time for admission. These friends mention their friends to full time faculty. For example, right now I have an acquaintance who wants to apply to the same program I am in. I have only talked to this person once however he sought me out in a bar just to asked me about the program. As a result I mentioned him to one of the full time faculty at my University. Within a few weeks almost everyone in my program and faculty knows this person by name. Knowing one person who is willing to mention you to the full time faculty makes an impact.

With portfolios, admission committees want to see potential for growth. It is ok to have 1-2 images of old work if it fits together well with your new works. However if the 1-2 old works does not tie together with your theme and way of thinking today, then it is not a good idea to put them in. 

The best way to prepare for an interview is by knowing the full time faculty by name, be able to mention artists who you like, be able to name artist who the full time faculty is already connected with, but not necessarily teaches at your dream school. Know which galleries full time faculty usually show their work. Be aware of artist who also show work at the same galleries. Chances are the full time faculty know those artist as well. Be able to name books you like that is not related directly to art, however have shaped how artist think. For example the debate between Barnard Lewis and Edward Said or "The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead. 
 

 
Edited by Advice4MFA

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On 10/8/2017 at 8:14 PM, æsthetics said:

@Advice4MFA

Hi, thanks for helping us with our apps. If anyone else wants to chime in, feel free.

My first question concerns the portfolio. So, I did my bachelor's and master's in the humanities. Should I include still-lifes or something to show a mastery of the fundamentals even if my main pieces are conceptual and abstract?

And how do gallery exhibitions weigh in?


Never include still lifes into a portfolio. MFA programs don't care about mastery of fundamentals. They expect that if there is a skill you don't have, you can learn it on your own. Your portfolio should be about your work now. What concepts are you thinking about and how does it tie to the art world today. MFA programs want to see your ideas and how well you execute those ideas. When I had applied for my MFA I had never shown my work in any gallery. However, I knew all the major galleries in the city that my program is located in. I knew which galleries showed what type of artists. 
 

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Have applied to :

Notre Dame

Ohio State University

USF

Planning on also applying to UCLA and maybe Portland State.

Graduating UW Seattle  in 2018.  Excited and trying not to get my hopes up....

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@Advice4MFA Hey thanks for all the generous advice! Hope you are having a productive and great time in school!

I have a general question for everyone: I interviewed for Painting at Yale last year, got rejected. I am thinking of applying again to several schools this year, including Yale, which is a dream school and top choice for me. (I know there are mixed feelings about it here!) I had applied very selectively and decided to take another year off. 

I knew there was one person in the forums last year who had gotten an interview the year before but not last year. I am wondering if they flat-out don't call previous interviewees back as policy. Does anyone have insight? I see that @torritgrey is asking a similar question as well.

 

Good luck to everyone applying! 

Edited by 98Charleston
added comments

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@98Charleston

Yale does call previous interviewees back if they like the work they are doing the second time around. I know people who have been called back to Yale for an interview three times, However Yale does recommend that if you are rejected three times to not apply again the fourth time. At Yale many students are rejected at least once before they end up there. 

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