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photo inside artist's studio

MFA Program

The Department of Visual Arts MFA program (VA75) designed to provide intensive professional training for the students who wish to pursue a career within the field of contemporary art—including all aspects of art making, criticism, theory and curating. The scope of the UC San Diego program includes painting, sculpture, performance, installation art, public art, photography, film, video, and digital media. The program is unique in that the course of study provides for and encourages student mobility within this range of traditional and media-based components. It also offers opportunities for collaborative work. It is strongly recommended that applicants be at least one year removed from completing their undergraduate degree prior to submitting an application

To Apply:

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

Application Deadline: January 3rd, 2024 for the Fall 2024 application cycle

Program Specializations

This is an Interdisciplinary Studio Program where students are encouraged to work critically across disciplines and media definitions. Working in:
  • Film
  • Video
  • New Media
  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Sculpture
  • Installation
  • Sound
  • Performance
  • Photography and lens based media
  • Social Practice
  • Public Culture
  • Speculative Design
  • Computer Arts

Admissions Requirements

All applicants must satisfy the following to be considered for admissions to our department:

Completion of a four-year Bachelors degree or equivalent: 

  • 3.0 GPA minimum or 'B' average
  • Submission of unofficial transcripts required 

English Language Proficiency:

  • 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

Letters of Recommendation:

  • Minimum of 3 recommendations required
  • Letters of recommendation should come from individuals, preferably previous professors, who can best explain why you are prepared and would be successful in rigorous academic studies at the graduate level.

Statement of Purpose:

  • 750-1000 word limit, not to exceed 3 pages
  • Focus your Statement of Purpose on the reasons you are interested in attending this graduate program. You can include the research/practice you hope to pursue within our program and give the Admissions Committee a sense of who you are and what you hope to accomplish. The statement should be well organized, concise, and completely free of grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.



  • Artist Statement, 1000 word limit
  • Still images and time-based work (as appropriate)
  • Optional- link to personal website or VIMEO page

Portfolio Requirements

Artist Statement (1000 words):

The Artist Statement should aim to explain, justify, extend, and/or contextualize your body of work, while placing your work in relationship to art history, theory, and the contemporary world. The Artist statement will be read by the Admissions Committee and current graduate students within the program, while the Statement of Purpose is reviewed by the Admissions Committee only. For this reason, applicants may upload their Statement of Purpose with the Artist Statement and include in the portfolio.

Portfolio of Work (maximum of 20 still images and 12 minutes of time-based work, as appropriate):

The samples of your artwork should best showcase your research abilities and current/recent projects. You may create your Visual Arts Portfolio in a number of different formats. Our program is cross-disciplinary and it is not unusual for an applicant to have several different artistic mediums within their portfolio. The admissions committee is interested in seeing your most accomplished, recent work, rather than a chronology of work done over the span of your career. A good gauge would be to include work you've done within the last two years.

  1. Still Images in Digital Format (REQUIRED FOR ALL APPLICANTS)
         - Submitted in an acceptable format listed (jpg, jpeg, etc.)
         - File sizes may not exceed 5MB per file 
         - Images must be correctly rotated for viewing
         - After uploading an image, applicants should edit details to provide the title, date,
         dimensions and medium for each artwork. Applicants submitting images documenting
         installation, performance, and project-based work should also include brief descriptions.
         - Maximum of 12 minutes total time-based content
         - After uploading a file, applicants should edit details to provide the title, date, duration of
         the work, medium and a brief description. 
  3. Optional: applicants may also submit a link to their personal website, VIMEO, etc.

File Names for Portfolio Items:

Please name your files, with your Last Name, First Initial underscore and the document type. So if my name was Terry Triton, I would have the following File Names:

TritonT_Artist Statement
TritonT_Project title 1
TritonT_Project title 2

Graduate Student Exhibitions

MFA students are expected to formally present their work multiple times per academic year to receive formal feedback on their research and body of work. Access the Visual Arts Graduate Student Exhibitions. This site includes documentation of solo thesis shows of graduating MFA students, First Year Reviews and past Open Studio Exhibitions. Please explore the recent work completed within the department, in addition to the Faculty and Graduate Student personal pages.