Graduate FAQ

How do I apply to SAIC's graduate program(s)?

Please refer to the application requirements and deadlines by program for both graduate degrees and post-baccalaureate certificates.

What are the application requirements?

Requirements vary by program. Please refer to the application requirements and deadlines by program for both graduate degrees and post-baccalaureate certificates.

Can I apply to more than one program or studio area?

You may apply to up to three programs. If you are applying to the MFA in Studio or the Post-baccalaureate Certificate in Studio you may apply to up to three departments of entry for each program. You must submit a separate ePortfolio, statement of purpose and letter of reference for each program and department to which you apply, or your application will be considered incomplete and you will not be reviewed. Please submit all other application materials including official transcripts, and test scores, only once. There is no additional fee for applying to multiple programs or studio areas.

How do I build a competitive admissions portfolio?

Portfolio requirements vary by degree. We highly recommend meeting with faculty from your prospective department(s) at one of our admissions events held throughout the fall, as each department will be able to provide you specific feedback on what they look for in an applicant's portfolio. You can see a list of our events and RSVP at saic.edu/grevents. Graduate admissions counselors are also happy to provide general tips and recommendations- feel free to schedule an appointment with us by emailing gradmiss@saic.edu.

Is a BFA required to apply to the MFA program?

While you must have a portfolio and an undergraduate degree, you are not required to have a BFA. Applicants are welcome to apply regardless of their academic backgrounds.

Can I transfer as a graduate student? 

Yes, a maximum of 15 credits may be transferred to SAIC. If you are requesting transfer credit for graduate work completed at another institution you must submit a written request and relevant transcripts with your application. On the online application, check the box indicating your request for transfer credit and list each course for which you are requesting credit. Transfer credit must be approved by the Graduate Review Committee and is granted only at the time of application.

When and how will I be notified of my admissions decision?

Admission notification is usually sent out by Mid-March for programs with a January 10 application deadline. You will be notified by mail and/or email.

Are scholarships available? How do I apply for a merit scholarship?

Yes, SAIC offers a wide range of scholarships. All students are considered for SAIC's merit scholarships, which include up to full tuition awards, at the time of admission. No separate application is necessary. Additionally, a list of outside scholarships researched by SAIC staff can be found at saic.edu/outsidescholarships.

How many full-tuition scholarships are awarded?

Each department has at least one full-tuition scholarship, however most departments have multiple. Additionally, all departments offer additional scholarships to cover varying portions of tuition. Feel free to reach out to Admissions or your individual department for specific scholarships available.

Where do I send my official transcripts?

It is highly recommended that you upload your transcripts via your ePortfolio when you apply online to SAIC. If you are sending a paper document, please send your official transcripts to:

Graduate Admissions
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
36 S. Wabash Ave., suite 1201
Chicago, IL 60603

If you receive admission you will be required to submit an official transcript with graduation date posted.

Do I need to submit GRE scores with my application?

No, GRE scores are not required for admission to any of SAIC's graduate programs. 

Are teaching assistantships available?

Teaching Assistantships are available each semester in most studio and academic departments. TA positions require 3–6 hours of class time per week in addition to preparation time outside of class. These positions are intended to provide graduate students with valuable teaching experience and to offset a portion of their living expenses. TAs are paid an hourly rate. All graduate students are eligible to apply. Contact Career Services for more information.

Is financial aid available?

Yes. There are 2 types of financial aid awards available: merit-based and need-based aid.

All applicants, regardless of domestic or international status, are considered for merit-based scholarships without a separate application. These are competitive and are determined by faculty at the same time as when final admission decisions are made, and awarded based on the content of your application, your interview (if your program conducts interviews), and your overall fit in the program against all other applicants applying. This is where the content of your application in its entirety is most crucial-- are aspects all considered. The number and amount of available merit awards vary by program and by year.

Need-based financial aid and awards are issued after completing the FAFSA (at fafsa.gov using SAIC's school code 001753). Only U.S. citizens, U.S. naturalized, or U.S. green card holders (Permanent Residents) are eligible for this federally-sourced financial support. The amount awarded is based on financial information confidentially reported in the FAFSA. Students demonstrating the highest need (Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) at or close to 0) often receive up to 35-40% in gift funding-- that is, grants (not loans) that are not borrowed nor required to be paid back. Those with the highest reported need are also typically eligible for loans to offset the remaining tuition balance.

Merit-based scholarships are awarded in addition to need-based aid, however, receiving a merit award may also affect your need-based award. Starting October 1, applicants can fill out the FAFSA online at fafsa.gov. If you are admitted and have filed your FAFSA, you will receive your financial aid package within approximately two weeks of your acceptance. 

Are international students eligible for financial aid?

Graduate international students are eligible for merit-based scholarships, which are awarded during the admission process. Unfortunately, the U.S. government does not provide funding for foreign nationals to study in the U.S. Most grants, scholarships and loans from public and private sources within the United States are also restricted to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Students should make every effort to identify potential funding sources (national, provincial or private) in your home country.

What is the current tuition rate?

Current tuition rates can be found at saic.edu/tuition/yearly-tuition.

When do I need to submit my nonrefundable $500 tuition deposit?

You must submit your tuition deposit by the date stated on your admission letter to secure your space. If you defer your admission, you still must submit a tuition deposit to hold your space. Tuition deposits can be paid online through SAIC Self Service, or with a check made out to SAIC and mailed to the Admissions office. Be sure to include your student ID on the memo line. We cannot process credit card payments over the phone.

Can the tuition deposit be waived or refunded?

Under no circumstances can the tuition deposit be waived. The tuition deposit is nonrefundable.

Where can I find comprehensive information about financial aid?

Please visit saic.edu/sfs. You may also contact Student Financial Services at 312.629.6600 or saic.sfs@saic.edu.

Can graduate students take undergraduate studio classes?

Students may enroll in one 3000- or 4000-level class per semester. If a graduate student wishes to take a 1000- or 2000-level studio elective or more than one undergraduate studio class they must receive approval from the Graduate Division Chair.

Do all graduate students have private studio spaces?

All students in the Ceramics, Fiber and Material Studies, Painting and Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture departments are guaranteed private studio spaces. Students in all other departments or studio areas must apply for studio spaces and will receive an email over the summer with application instructions.

Do I have an option to select the faculty I want to work with during my studies?

Yes. SAIC's commitment to an open, interdisciplinary structure is embodied in a curriculum of self-directed study, and students are encouraged to work with faculty of their choosing across departments to craft their individual course of study and research.

How long is the program and can I study part-time?

Most of SAIC's graduate degrees are designed to be completed in 2 years with a full-time course load, with the exception of the Low-Residency MFA, Master of Arts in Art Therapy and Counseling, and the Master of Architecture or Interior Architecture, which are 3 year programs. Students attending part time have a maximum of four years to complete their degree. This includes time off for leaves of absence. Students will have access to studios for four semesters only.

Can the program be completed while working full-time?

Yes. Many programs offer flexible course schedules, allowing students to complete their studies while working full time. This will vary by each program, please reach out directly to your department to discuss your options. Please note that students have a maximum of 4 years to complete their graduate degree at SAIC.

Can I attend the program through distance learning?

Yes. Our specially-designed Low-Residency MFA allows students to complete their spring and fall semesters working remotely from a home studio, paired with an SAIC alumni advisor in their geographic area. Three consecutive summer residencies will bring students to SAIC to create, construct, and critique work during six-week intensives structured through both studio- and classroom-based courses and symposia.

What facilities, equipment, or technology are available to graduate students?

In addition to the specialty departmental resouces available to students listed by department under the "resources" tab, all SAIC students have access to our world-class facilities including Woodshops, Metal Shops, Foundry, Advanced Output Center (3d printing, laser cutting, large-format printing), Media Centers (tool and equipment checkout), Service Bureau (professional printing), Moldmaking facilities, Libraries and Special Collections, and more.

How do SAIC's facilities and resources compare to other liberal arts colleges and art schools?

Students at SAIC have access to an extraordinary array of facilities and resources not available at any other college, including our Libraries and Special Collections, Media Centers equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, Gallery Spaces that allow students to showcase their art across multiple exhibition venues, public lectures by world-renowned visiting artists through our Visiting Artists Program, Instructional Shops equipped with a wide range of hand, power, and stationary tools to help you realize your projects, facilities for laser cutting, moldmaking, and 3D printing, a foundry for metal work, 3 Jaquard looms, Blaauw computer controlled kilns, labs for bio-art, kinetics, neon, electronics, and audio art, professional printing, binding and finishing via our Service Bureau, access to the latest design software, individual graduate studios, and much more. In addition, the city of Chicago is home to world-class museums and galleries including our Art Institute of Chicago museum, unparalleled public art and architecture, and diverse and historic neighborhoods linked by an extensive public transit system.

What are the exhibition opportunities for students?

In addition to the annual MFA show, and other departmental graduating student exhibitions, SAIC offers numerous opportunities for students to show their work across campus and in venues throughout Chicago. A list of calls for work for SAIC's galleries can be found at saic.edu/exhibitions/show-your-work. In addition, departments frequently share external calls for work with students throughout the year.

Do you have a Visiting Artist Program?

Yes. Founded in 1868, the Visiting Artists Program is one of the oldest public programs of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has featured over 1,000 international artists, designers, and scholars representing more than 70 countries through a diverse mix of lectures, screenings, conversations, and readings. In addition to school-wide public lectures, individual departments frequently host nationally and internationally renowned visiting artists who directly engage with SAIC students through studio critiques and roundtable discussions, fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of contemporary art and culture.

Is on-campus housing available to graduate students?

Yes. Although most graduate students elect to live off campus, certain residence halls are reserved for upperclassmen and graduate students. If you are interested in living on campus, contact Residence Life for more information at 312.629.6870.

How do I arrange a campus tour?

You may arrange a campus tour online. The graduate campus tour is offered Mondays and Fridays at 1:30 p.m., and select Saturdays at 11:45 a.m. throughout the year. The tour lasts approximately two hours and is followed by an opportunity for conversation with a graduate admissions counselor. If you are unable to attend a regularly scheduled campus tour you may arrange a special tour by contacting Admissions at gradmiss@saic.edu or 800.232.7242.

What is SAIC’s readmission policy?

Degree-seeking students who have exceeded the five-year limit for leaves of absence or the statute of limitations for degree completion and wish to re-enroll at SAIC must submit a new application.