Master of Fine Arts in Studio

SAIC's highly acclaimed Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio is a 60-credit program that supports creative work, inquiry, and investigation across 12 different departments as part of the advanced preparation of fine arts practitioners.


Application Deadline: January 10

If you are ready to apply to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio program through the Department of Visual Communication Design, you will need to first submit SAIC's Graduate Application form and then a corresponding ePortfolio for the Visual Communication Design department. ePortfolios are required for each additional program to which you wish to apply. All submissions happen via the software SlideRoom. Admission to SAIC is for the Fall term only.

Completed Online Application

SAIC requires applicants to apply online. Filing an online application requires a valid credit card and a current email address. You may apply to up to three programs with one application and fee. If you are applying to either the MFA in Studio or the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Studio you may select up to three departments of entry. Applications must be submitted prior to 11:00 p.m. (CST) on the appropriate deadline.

Start your application here: Graduate Online Application.
Questions? Contact the Office of Admissions at or 800.232.7242.

Nonrefundable Application Fee

When you click the "submit" button on your the Graduate Application form, you will be prompted to enter credit card information to pay the application fee. Your application form is not fully submitted until you have entered your credit card information. Under no circumstances will an application fee be waived or refunded. After you submit the application form you will be directed to a dashboard where you can begin working on your ePortfolio(s).

Application fee: $90
Application fees will be discounted by 50 percent through December 1.

Official College Transcripts

During the application process an unofficial transcript is acceptable for review pending an Admissions decision. Official transcripts are required upon admission. Include transcripts both official and unofficial from all universities/colleges from which a degree was obtained or prerequisites were fulfilled. You can attach unofficial transcripts as .pdf or .jpg files in the Educational History section of the application form. If you are in the process of completing a bachelor's degree when you apply, a transcript showing your first three years of study is acceptable.

Transcripts are considered official if sent directly from the degree- or credit-granting institution to the SAIC Graduate Admissions Office. Hard copy transcripts are considered official if the documents remain in the registrar's original signed and sealed envelopes.

Official transcripts can be sent both in digital and hard-copy format. Digital transcripts can be sent from the degree- or credit-granting institution to Hard copy transcripts can be mailed to:

SAIC Graduate Admissions
36 S. Wabash Ave., Suite 1201
Chicago, IL 60603

Statement of Purpose

Write a 500- to 700-word statement that describes your work or research. Discuss how you came to focus on the medium, body of work, or academic area you wish to pursue at the graduate level. Also discuss future directions or goals for your work, and describe how the Master of Fine Arts in Visual Communication Design is particularly suited to your professional goals. Upload your statement of purpose to the Attachments section of your ePortfolio.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should be submitted electronically via the References section of the application form. In this section you will be asked to provide an email address for each of your references. Once you click "send request," an email will be sent from SlideRoom to your references with instructions on how to submit their recommendations online.

If your references are unable to provide an online recommendation please contact the Graduate Admissions office at


Applicants are required to submit an ePortfolio. You must submit a separate ePortfolio for each program or studio department to which you apply. After you pay the application fee and submit the application form, an ePortfolio for each of the programs you selected in the application form will automatically appear in your SlideRoom dashboard.

Your portfolio should include samples of your recent work documented in 15–20 still images, or up to 10 minutes of time-based work, or a combination of the two in which one image is equivalent to approximately two minutes of time-based work. Support materials may include notes and scores and other similar items.

  • Images: .jpg, .gif, .pdf (up to 5 MB each)
  • Videos: .flv, .wv, .mov (up to 60 MB each)
  • Audio: .mp3 (up to 10 MB each)
  • Text documents: MUST be in .pdf format (up to 10 MB each)


The Department of Visual Communication Design conducts interviews by invitation only. Applicants who pass the preliminary review will be invited to schedule an on-campus interview in February. Notification will be sent by late January.

International Students

International applicants are required to submit evidence of English language proficiency. You are waived from this requirement if you meet any of the following conditions:

  • Your native language is English
  • You have an undergraduate degree conferred by a U.S. accredited university
  • You have an undergraduate degree conferred by a university whose primary language of instruction is English<

If you do not meet one of these conditions, you must submit official English language proficiency test scores. You are strongly encouraged to schedule a language proficiency test appointment as early as possible in order to receive official test scores prior to the application deadline. SAIC accepts official scores from both Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The TOEFL Institution Code for SAIC is 1713. Please upload an unofficial copy of your test score results to the International Requirements section of the application form.

Minimum Required Scores

IELTS: 6.5

For more information about the TOEFL, please click here.
For more information about the IELTS, please click here.

Official test scores that meet the minimum requirement must be received by the application deadline.

Academic Records

Transcripts are records of your studies that list the courses you completed, the grades received, and provide evidence of degree conferral. They may include grade sheets, exam results, final diplomas, degrees, or graduation certificates. Official copies are issued in the original language directly by your university. Copies must bear the official stamp or seal of the institution, as well as the signature of the appropriate official such as the dean, rector, registrar, controller of examinations, or office of teaching affairs. Photos, notarized copies, facsimiles, or email transmissions are not acceptable.

Official translations are expected for all educational documents issued in a language other than English. A translation agency or university language department should issue official translations typed on official stationary and the translator must attest proficiency in the original language and indicate their translations are accurate word-for-word.


A conferred four-year baccalaureate degree or its equivalent is required for admission to all graduate programs at SAIC.

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is designed to offer maximum flexibility in addressing your individual needs as a student. Following admission through a department, you will design your two-year plan of study based on optimizing the offerings and opportunities available throughout SAIC. You are encouraged to seek out curricular advising as needed from a variety of available sources including the dean, graduate dean, graduate division chair, department heads, academic advising, the graduate admissions office, and your peers.

Studio—MFA 6009 Graduate Projects, Seminars and/or maximum of 12 credits of 3000-level and above studios 39  
Art History 12  
  • ARTHI 5002 Graduate Survey of Modern and Contemporary Art OR ARTHI 5120 Survey of Modern and Contemporary Architecture and Design(3)
  • Art History Courses, 4000-level or above (9)
Electives—any course in any area at 3000 level or above 9  
Participation in four graduate critiques  
Participation in ONE of the following as appropriate to artistic practice:* Graduate Exhibition, AIADO or Fashion Exhibition, Graduate Performance Event, Graduate Screenings  
Total Credit Hours 60 

* Students who wish to use an alternative venue or presentation outside of these options must receive permission from the Dean of Graduate Studies. The AIADO Department encourages students in their MFA design programs to participate in the AIADO and Fashion Graduate Exhibition.

Degree requirements and specifications

  • Completion schedule: You have a maximum of four years to complete your MFA in Studio degree. This includes time off for leaves of absence. Students will have access to studios for four semesters only.
  • Transfer credits: You must complete a minimum of 45 credit hours in residence at SAIC. You can request up to 15 transfer credits at the time of application for admission, which are subject to approval at that time. No transfer credits are permitted after a student is admitted.
  • Art History requirement: MFA students are required to take ARTHII 5002 Graduate Survey of Modern and Contemporary Art OR ARTHI 5120 Survey of Modern and Contemporary Architecture and Design. Art History courses must be at the 4000-level and above.
  • Undergraduate studio courses: Graduate students are permitted no more than one undergraduate studio course (3000-level and above) per semester without permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies. Courses at the 1000 and 2000-level are allowed only with permission.
  • Full-Time Status Minimum Requirement: 12 credit hours

MFA 6009 Graduate Projects

MFA 6009 Graduate Projects advising, an ongoing individual dialogue with a wide range of full-time and part-time faculty advisors, is at the heart of the MFA program at SAIC, encouraging interdisciplinary study across the curriculum. You are required to register for one MFA 6009 Graduate Projects advisor each semester, and we highly recommend you register for two.

In the registration process, you may elect to earn 3 or 6 hours of credit with each advisor. This option is designed to allow for maximum flexibility in designing your program. You can earn as few as 3 and as many as 6 credits with each advisor each semester, thus dedicating a maximum of 12 credit hours to your studio activity. The number of credits you earn has no correlation with the length or frequency of the advising sessions or to faculty assessment of student work.

The remainder of credits required for the full-time 15 credit hour load may include graduate seminars and academic or studio electives. MFA students are urged to take graduate seminars, and an introductory seminar in their department of admission is highly recommended. In addition, the MFA student may choose from all the art history, studio, and academic offerings across the curriculum (including undergraduate offerings above 3000 level) in any given semester to customize their degree experience.

Graduate Critiques

As one of the principle means of assessment each semester, you will be required to participate in Critique Week, a week-long schedule of critiques during which classes are suspended.

Fall semester critiques are organized by department with panels representing the discipline. This provides you with an opportunity to understand the department’s expectations, have your work reviewed from a disciplinary point of view, and to reiterate the expectations for graduate study.

Spring semester critiques are interdisciplinary, with panel members and students from across SAIC disciplines. Interdisciplinary critiques allow for a broad range of responses to your work, and are intended to assess the success of your work for a more general, albeit highly informed audience. Critique panels include faculty, visiting artists, and fellow graduate students.

Graduate Exhibition or Equivalent

At the conclusion of your studies, you will present work in the SAIC Graduate Thesis Exhibition, other end-of-year events at SAIC, or the Gene Siskel Film Center—or arrange with the graduate dean or division chair for an alternative thesis of equal professional quality. Each year more than 200 graduate students exhibit work, screen videos and films, and present time-based works, writings, and performance to a collective audience of 30,000 people.

Students wishing to install work around prevalent themes, strategies or stylistic affinities can participate in a juried and curated section of the SAIC Graduate Thesis Exhibition. A faculty and staff committee conducts extensive studio visits and as a collaborative project with student participants, organizes and installs the show in designated space at the exhibition.

Undergraduate Courses

MFA students are advised to understand the expectations of their faculty when enrolled in undergraduate studio classes. Although graduate students are an asset to the group dynamic, faculty requirements for graduate students in undergraduate classes are variable. The student is responsible for understanding the faculty member's expectations about completion of assignments, attendance, and any other criteria for earning credit. To assure that graduate students are working at degree level, they are permitted no more than one undergraduate studio course (3000 level and above) per semester without permission of the dean of graduate studies. Courses at the 1000 and 2000 level are allowed only with permission.

Interested in learning more about how you can apply?

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 800.232.7242 or

Students have the distinct advantage of gaining in-depth knowledge and competence in a single field of specialization or acquiring advanced competencies across multiple fields of study.

We encourage our MFA Studio students to move beyond their home departments and work with faculty and peers in any area that supports their graduate work and research. Graduate studios for MFA students are spread across campus in clusters that allow for robust interdisciplinary exchange.

Graduate-level courses and topical seminars support individual studio work by exposing students to the larger dialogues around the production, exhibition, and function of art as well as its expanded cultural production and reception. Students design a personalized curriculum by choosing from a wide variety of seminars, courses, and graduate advisors linked to numerous studio, design, and academic departments. Graduate critiques, central to the MFA experience, alternate between discipline-specific panels in the fall semester and interdisciplinary panels in the spring semester.

The purpose of the graduate studio program is to prepare students to enter into their chosen fields of practice or to pursue their unique professional pathways as independent artists or cultural practitioners. It is a rigorous and demanding degree in ways that often exceed the boundaries of the studio. As important as demonstrating perfection of technical skills, articulate communication, and conceptual acuity is a student's ability to demonstrate insight, independence, and a generosity of spirit.

Each of the studio departments at SAIC has a distinct, but porous, culture. Our extraordinary faculty and facilities are at the core of the MFA Studio program, but the exceptionally talented student body drawn from national and international contexts is what makes graduate study at SAIC unparalleled.