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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Find answers here to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Admission to our MFA and PhD programs.

Application: What is the application timeline?

Application Opens: September 6th, 2023 for the Fall 2024 application cycle

Application Deadline: December 6th, 2023 for PhD applications and January 4, 2024 for MFA applications 

Application: What is the minimum GPA requirement for admission?

The University of California minimum GPA average to apply is a 3.0 or 'B' average.

Application: Is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or subject GRE required?

No, we do not require either for admission to our MFA or PhD programs.

Application: What are you looking for in the Statement of Purpose?

Focus your Statement of Purpose on the reasons you are interested in attending the Ph.D. or MFA program within the Department of Visual Arts at UC San Diego. This statement should be approximately 750-1000 words (not to exceed 3 pages) and be: well organized, concise, free of grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors. Before submitting the statement, seek constructive comments and criticism from friends and advisors.

There may be some overlap in content between the statement of purpose and your artist statement/research statement. Although the prompts are similar, you should view these as unique prompts that allow the admissions committee to get a better sense of who you are and what your research/practice goals are.

Five primary topics to cover in your statement of purpose:

  1. How did you become interested in this field? Give the committee members a sense of your particular talents and abilities and their relevance to your academic interests.
  2. What experiences have contributed toward your preparation for further study in this field? Demonstrate your interest by providing examples of: research experiences, internships, work experience, community service, publications, or life experiences. Briefly describe what you did in each experience and articulate what you have learned or how those lessons stimulated you to pursue an advanced degree.
  3. What are your future goals? Specifically, state your degree objective (MFA or Ph.D.) and specify what subdisciplines you are interested in pursuing. Specify your career goals, i.e. that you are planning a future career as a university professor, artist, researcher, consultant (or other profession or goal).
  4. What are your research interests? Within your subdiscipline, you should be able to identify one or two topics that are of interest to you. When possible, be specific about your initial research agenda. 
  5. How are you a "match" for the program to which you are applying? Explain what attracts you most to the institution/program to which you are applying. If possible, align your research interests with those of one or more of the affiliated professors. 

Application: I have questions about the writing sample...

What spacing should I use for my writing sample?

Our faculty have a preference for double spacing.

What font and size of font should I use for my writing sample?

Standard fonts (Times New Roman, Cambria, Helvetica) in standard sizes (11-12 point).

Should I include footnotes or works cited pages? 

Yes. You should always include footnotes or works cited pages. This helps us assess you as a researcher.

Is there a word limit for the writing sample?

You are welcome to submit a writing sample that is up to 7500 words.

Application: Do I need a BA/MA in Art History or BFA in Art to apply to the Graduate Program?

You do not need a BA/MA in Art History but most of our students have a strong background in Art History or adjacent disciplines; and have an MA or MFA prior to applying for the PhD program. You do not need a BFA in Art Practice to apply for the MFA program, but most of our students have a strong background in art-making with humanities and social science research interests.  For either the MFA or Ph.D. program, it would be to your advantage to take classes in Art History before you apply.

A Bachelors degree is required to apply to the graduate programs. For international applicants, a baccalaureate degree with exceptional scholarship is required.

Financial: What financial support is provided by the department?

The Department of Visual Arts is a fully funded program: MFA= 3 years, PhD= 5 years. Several types of financial support are available to admitted graduate students: employment, coverage of tuition and fees, fellowships and external grants. Graduate students are eligible for one or a combination of these types of financial support. Offers of support are defined in each applicant's departmental offer letter.


Financial: Are there additional funding options for Graduate Students?

Financial Aid:

UC San Diego graduate students may apply for need-based aid by completing a Free Application for Federal student Aid (FAFSA). Need-based aid is administered through the Financial Aid Office, not the Graduate Division:


Fellowships and Awards:

Fellowships are generally merit-based awards that provide a stipend and tuition assistance to graduate students. Additional financial support and eligibility requirements may vary by award.


Financial: How do I get a Graduate Application fee waiver?

The fee waiver request is done online within the online graduate application. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents may request a waiver of the application fee. Waivers are provided to applicants who are:

  1. currently receiving need-based financial assistance from an undergraduate or graduate institution; or
  2. claiming financial hardship based on current federal tax return income data; or
  3. participating in selected federal or state-funded graduate school preparation programs.

You must have the name and email of the program director. All fee waivers are granted provisionally and applicants may be required to provide supporting documentation to finalize the waiver.

International Applicants: Am I required to complete additional application requirements?

Demonstrated English language proficiency is required of all international applicants whose native language is not English. Non-native English language speakers may either display proficiency by meeting the minimum speaking scores listed below or can be exempt from the test scores requirement if they received a degree from an institution which provides instruction solely in English. Please refer to the following link for more information regarding the degree from an institution exemption: English Language Proficiency.

The minimum speaking score on each exam:

  • TOEFL iBT speaking scores of 26-30
  • IELTS speaking scores of 8-9
  • PTE speaking scores of 84-90

International Applicants: What English proficiency scores are required for Visual Arts?

Students within our program are funded through employment. This means that all international applicants whose native language is not English MUST complete an acceptable English proficiency exam AND meet the minimum speaking score to be employed by the university. The minimum speaking score on each exam:

TOEFL iBT speaking scores of 26-30
IELTS speaking scores of 8-9
PTE speaking scores of 84-90

International Applicants: Am I exempt from the English proficiency requirement?

Only international applicants from countries whose native language is English are exempt from taking an English proficiency exam. Even if you have completed previous academics within an English speaking higher education institution, you are still required to complete an English proficiency exam and submit your scores with your application. As students are funded through employment, all international applicants need to demonstrate they meet this English language requirement to be considered for admission to our program. Exceptions to this requirement are not permitted.

Support: Should I contact faculty members whose research matches my interest before I apply?

Yes! It is highly recommended that you contact faculty whose research is of interest to you, prior to applying or during the application process, to develop relationships with those faculty and to find out if they are currently accepting students. Please make sure you introduce yourself properly, be specific about what you are interested in, and attach a CV and your portfolio/website. Please also be respectful of their time.


Support: Can I contact any of your current students?

The Graduate Advisor for the Department can connect you to a graduate student representative. To initiate this process, please send an email to with the following information:

  • Name
  • Email Address
  • Program of Interest (MFA-VA75, PhD-VA76, PhD-VA77)
  • Area of Research Interest 
  • Possible Faculty Mentor 
  • Previous Attended Institutions
  • Note that you are interested in speaking to a student representative and any questions you may have

This will be forwarded to our graduate student representative(s) to address your questions. Please be respectful of the students' time.


Support: How do I arrange to talk to the Graduate Advisor or a particular professor?

Prospective students who would like to meet with faculty will need to contact them directly to arrange an appointment. Contact information is located here. Please keep in mind that there may be times when faculty members are not available to meet with prospective students.

If you would like to talk with the Graduate Advisor, you can email with your questions. Please note, due to the pandemic, we are currently understaffed and reserving our advising hours to support our current cohort. Appointments and campus visits are not currently available for prospective students. 

Additional Resources

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