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Writing: Master of Fine Arts in Writing

SAIC’s two-year Master of Fine Arts in Writing (MFAW) program celebrates the unique potential of writing in an art school affiliated with a world-famous art museum. Unlike other workshop-driven programs, SAIC’s graduate projects are the heart of the curriculum. Adapted from studio art training, this old-world style mentorship, rigorous workshops, interdisciplinary seminars, and one-on-one extended dialogue with faculty leaves room to imagine longer, wilder, and more ambitious work.

Chicago Graduate SAIC Day

Sunday, October 1
10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

Discuss your work one-on-one with key faculty members from our graduate departments.

RSVP

An online application is required for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing program. You will need a valid credit card and current email address in order to complete the form. Please review the following requirements carefully before submitting your application:

  • Applications must be submitted by January 10.
  • There is a $90 nonrefundable application fee. The application fee is discounted by 50% through December 1. 
  • You must upload a 500- to 700-word statement of purpose that describes your writing or research. Discuss how you came to focus on writing at the graduate level, as well as why you are interested in SAIC for your graduate education and what you hope to gain from your time here. Please include a short description of your reading practice and interests. Upload your statement of purpose via your ePortfolio.

In addition to your application, you must submit an ePortfolio before January 10. Your portfolio should include a sample of your recent writing from at least one of the following (in .pdf format up to 10 MB each):

  • 8–10 poems OR
  • 2 short stories OR
  • 1 excerpt from a novel OR
  • 1 play or performance text OR
  • 1 hybrid text from multi-genres OR
  • 1–2 short works of nonfiction

If your work incorporates other media—images, video, sound, comics or performance—you can upload video, audio recordings, or digital files to supplement your writing sample in one of the following formats:

  • 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)

You also must submit an official college transcript and two letters of reference for admission into the program. You can ask your references to upload their letter to your online application or mail them directly to the school.

 

WRIT 5001 Writing Workshop  12  
WRIT 5500 Topics in Writing Seminar 12  
MFA 6009 Graduate Projects 
(minimum of 12 credits with writing advisors)
24  
Electives
Courses at the 3000 level or above. Art History courses must be at the 4000 level or above.
12  
Participation in four graduate critiques   
Inclusion in graduate publication or participation in the Graduate Exhibition or equivalent   
Completion of the thesis   
Total Credit Hours 60  

Students may elect internships to satisfy up to 6 hours of elective credit.

Degree requirements and specifications

  1. Completion schedule: Students have a maximum of four years to complete the degree (this includes time off for leaves-of-absence).
  2. Transfer credits: A minimum of 45 credit hours must be completed at SAIC. Up to 15 transfer credits may be requested at the time of application for admission and are subject to approval at that time. No transfer credit will be permitted after a student is admitted.
  3. Thesis requirement: During their final semester, students are required to submit a thesis of appropriate length in any genre.
  4. Exhibition requirements: MFAW students planning to participate in the Graduate Thesis Exhibition or Time Arts events are required to complete at least 6 studio credits by the end of the third semester AND to advise with a studio faculty member in their final semester.
  5. Studio space: Individual studio space is not provided automatically to students in the MFA in Writing; however, Writing students with a visual arts practice in addition to their writing may apply for a space through the Administrative Director, Graduate Division, at gradstudio@saic.edu.
  6. Graduate Projects: MFA 6009 Graduate Projects enrollments must be in increments of 3 credit hours. No more than two advisors and a total of 6 credit hours may be scheduled for a given semester. The number of credits earned by the student has no correlation with length or frequency of the advising sessions or to faculty assessment of student work.

Full-time status minimum requirement: 12 credit hours

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 Writing program, you will need to build a portfolio, gather all of your application materials, and complete the electronic application.

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 gradmiss@saic.edu or 800.232.7242.

Nonrefundable Application Fee

When you click the "submit" button on your online application, you will be prompted to enter credit card information to pay the application fee. Your application is not fully submitted until you have entered your credit card information. Under no circumstances will an application fee be waived or refunded.

Domestic application fee: $90
International application fee: $100

Application fees will be discounted by 50 percent through December 1.

Official College Transcripts

Submit one official transcript from each college you have attended. If transcripts are issued directly to you, forward them to SAIC with the seal unbroken and the registrar's signature intact. A transcript request form is available for download from the online application, but is not required. If you are in possession of unofficial copies of your transcripts you are welcome to upload them to the Attachments section of your ePortfolio, but you are not required to do so.

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. If admitted to SAIC, you must submit a final, official transcript verifying the completion and award of your degree directly to SAIC's admissions office prior to your matriculation.

Address transcripts to:
SAIC Graduate Admissions
36 S. Wabash Ave., suite 1201 
Chicago, IL 60603

Students admitted to a graduate program who have not received a high school diploma, GED or equivalent are not eligible for federal Title IV financial aid funds.

Statement of Purpose

You must upload a 500- to 700-word statement of purpose that describes your writing or research. Discuss how you came to focus on writing at the graduate level, as well as why you are interested in SAIC for your graduate education and what you hope to gain from your time here. Please include a short description of your reading practice and interests. Upload your statement of purpose via your ePortfolio.

Letters of Recommendation

You are responsible for securing two letters of recommendation from persons who are qualified to write about your potential for success at SAIC. If you are currently a student or are a recent graduate, we recommend you request letters of recommendation from current or former instructors. 

Letters of recommendation should be submitted electronically via SAIC's ePortfolio. When completing the References section in your ePortfolio, you will be asked to provide the names and other information associated with each of your references. Once you click "send request," an email will be sent to each of your references with instructions on how to submit their recommendations through the ePortfolio.

If your recommenders prefer, they may submit recommendations by mail. Be sure to supply your recommenders with addressed, stamped envelopes and ask them to sign across the seal.

Address recommendations to:
SAIC Graduate Admissions
36 S. Wabash Ave., suite 1201 
Chicago, IL 60603

ePortfolio

The Admissions Committee reviews portfolios for clear direction and potential for development. Applicants are required to submit an ePortfolio with a deadline of January 10. You must submit a separate ePortfolio for each program or studio department to which you apply. Instructions for submitting ePortfolios will be sent either to the email address associated with your SAIC application, or to the email address associated with your ePortfolio account, if you already have one. You will receive the link to your ePortfolio 24 to 48 hours after you save the first page of the online application.

Your portfolio should include a sample of your recent writing from at least one of the following (in .pdf format up to 10 MB each):

  • 8–10 poems OR
  • 2 short stories OR
  • 1 excerpt from a novel OR
  • 1 play or performance text OR
  • 1 hybrid text from multi-genres OR
  • 1–2 short works of nonfiction

If your work incorporates other media—images, video, sound, comics or performance—you can upload video, audio recordings, or digital files to supplement your writing sample in one of the following formats:

  • 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)

Direct all inquiries regarding the ePortfolio to admiss_portfolio@saic.edu, 800.232.7242, or 312.629.6100.

Interview

After an initial review of all applications, the Writing department may contact some candidates for interviews.

International Students

Students whose native language is not English, or who do not have a degree conferred by a U.S.-accredited university, are required to submit evidence of English language proficiency. Submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) results with your application. The Institution Code for SAIC is 1713.

Minimum Required Scores

TOEFL: 100
IELTS: 7.0
For more information about the TOEFL, please visit here.
For more information about the IELTS, please visit here.

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.

Prerequisites

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

The MFAW at SAIC allows for a rigorous, yet flexible curriculum. Students work with their advisors to select workshops, seminars and electives to best support and provoke continued growth.

The Master in Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing welcomes writers of all genres—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and playwriting—as well as visual artists who work with language as an integral component of their practice. The two-year program provides a rigorous yet flexible curriculum to challenge and accommodate individual explorations of process and form.

Curriculum includes:

  • Graduate Projects are the heart of the MFAW. Modeled on the tradition of artists’ studio visits, MFAW students meet one-on-one with faculty advisors who offer intensive, focused insight and feedback on independently driven projects. Students may work with advisors from both within the Writing Program and across the School to expand the critical vocabularies that are pertinent to their practice.
  • Workshops might focus on process, or on a specific topic or literary theme, for example, Process/Project, Narrative Design, Text in Space and Literary Animals. Workshops may include interdisciplinary participants who help to foster creative workshop methodology and innovative in-class exercises.
  • Seminars stretch across genre to present models and histories of literary practice and frequently include a generative, creative component. Current seminars include Code Switch & Reclaim, Systems of Writing, and Literature of the Senses, among others.
  • Electives offer students an opportunity to engage with interdisciplinary study in the context of an acclaimed school of art and design. MFAW students are encouraged to work with their advisors to develop a plan that takes advantage of adjacent fields of study, such as performance, film, sculpture, arts journalism and art history, as well as many other possibilities, to best support their continued growth.

Thesis. The thesis is the major creative project that all MFAW students submit during their final semester. There are no restrictions on genre or content--for some, it reflects an overall plan and design of a finished book; for others, it’s a means of documenting their graduate work and/or process; yet others use it as an opportunity to put together a collection that adopts variant strategies in relationship to their engagement with interdisciplinary work. Please visit the SAIC Thesis Repository at the Flaxman Library to view recent MFAW thesis abstracts.

MFAW students are invited to participate in the MFAW Thesis Reading during their final spring semester; those students who demonstrate a visual art practice may also apply to exhibit in the spring semester MFA Thesis Exhibition, the FVNMAS Festival, or the IMPACT Performance Festival. MFAW students may also contribute work to in the annual, student-edited publication Collected.

In addition to the MFAW’s expansive curriculum, Teaching Assistantship and Writing Fellow positions provide opportunities to gain professional teaching experience. MFAWs may also seek internships and other professional opportunities through SAIC’s Office of Career and Professional Experience (CAPX).