Prospective Graduate Student FAQ

How do I arrange a campus visit?

The best time to visit is when the department holds its annual MFA Open Studios event in mid-November each year (the department instagram page, @artdept_ucsb, will always have advertising leading up to the event.) This event allows you to meet current MFA students, faculty, and to see a showcase of current work from our wonderful graduate students in their studios. Please also note that in general, campus visits are only possible when classes are in session and staff are present (so please note that during the holiday season during the months of November and December, there are departmental closures that occur due to holiday breaks.) Please contact the Staff Graduate Advisor to arrange a tour. We also have created a virtual tour that you can view to get a great summary of our facilities and studios.

Can I hear from current students about their experiences?

You are welcome to contact the Staff Graduate Advisor for assistance in connecting with current graduate students.

How competitive is the admission process?

The total number of students in the two year program is about 12-16. Out of 90-100 complete applications, we accept 5-9 students per year.

Is a BFA required to apply to the MFA program?

No, it is not required, but applicants should have an undergraduate degree with some emphasis in visual studies, although this is not necessary. We feel artists can come from a broad spectrum of interests.

Is there an application fee waiver?

A limited number of fee waivers are available for qualified US citizens and permanent residents who demonstrate financial need. McNair Scholars and Project 1000 applicants are among those eligible. Fee waivers are not available to international applicants. Within your application click on the Payment Information tab and scroll-down to the fee waiver information. Submit your request online by selecting the option relevant to you and uploading your supporting documentation. You must submit your fee waiver request at least two weeks before the application deadline.

Can I submit my application if my letters of recommendation have not been uploaded?

We require LORs to be submitted to both your UCSB application and to your Slideroom application. Please submit your applications prior to the deadline. Your recommenders can still submit their letters afterwards, but they must be received by the end of the week of the application deadline at the absolute latest, in order to be reviewed by the admissions committee.

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

You may receive an email or phone call if you are being considered for admission as early as the middle of January, or as late as the end of April. Official offers of admission or denials will be available to the applicant on their UCSB application. An email will be sent to the applicant when the decision can be viewed. If you need information about your status before you have heard anything from either the department or the University, please email the Staff Graduate Advisor.

How do our facilities compare to other liberal arts colleges and art schools?

We are told every year when prospective students visit that they had no idea we had such fantastic facilities to make work and that our studios are larger than most. All students have access to large, private studio spaces which are located on campus at Harder Stadium. Studios range in size from 250sqft to 450sqft, and there is substantial shared common space available for events and additional storage.


In addition to 24/7 access to the graduate studios, the following labs are open to graduate students: woodshop, digital print studio, printmaking, sculpture yard, foundry (metal and mold making), computer/digital arts lab, and a 3D fabrication lab. See the Facilities tab above for more information.

Are Teaching Assistantships available?

Usually, we can offer TA positions at 25% time (approximately 10 hours per week) to our graduate students if we have the funding, and the student is qualified to teach. These positions come with partial fee remission for California resident tuition and fees, and a salary of approximately $3,342 per quarter.  Historically, the department has been able to provide all of our MFAs who aren’t already receiving tuition/fee remission through central campus fellowships with employment as Teaching Assistants for all registered quarters in the program. For more details, see “what is the total cost of the program” tab below.  For more information please refer to the Graduate Division website.

When/how to apply for financial aid?

Applicants can fill out the FAFSA form online at by March 2. The school code for UCSB is 1320. See Financial Aid for more details.

What is the total cost of program?

For the academic year 2023-24 CA resident tuition and fees are $12,264, out of state tuition and fees are $29,680. After the first year, a student can establish California residency if they are a U.S. citizen. All students are required to have health insurance. Note that TAships of at least 25% time come with full tuition and health insurance fee remission. For out-of-state students in their first year, the department pays for their out-of-state tuition with the expectation that they will establish CA residency for their second year.


As stated above, historically, the department has been able to provide all of our MFA students who aren’t already receiving tuition/fee remission through central campus fellowships with Teaching Assistant appointments of at least 25% time (approx 10 work hours per week during the quarter) for all registered quarters in the program. Employment as a TA at 25% time or greater provides full in-state tuition remission, as well as remission of most fees (including health insurance.) Additionally, TAs also receive a monthly salary (approximately ~$1618 per month of appointment during the quarter at 25% time.) More info on student academic employment is available here from the Graduate Division.


On the Financial Aid website, there is a calculator to determine the total cost of attendance including housing.

How many/how to apply for Fellowships?

As an applicant to the MFA program you might be considered for a Central Recruitment Fellowship if the Art Department identifies you as a truly outstanding candidate. The department will nominate you, you do not apply for this.


Typically, the Central Fellowship will provide fee remission (CA resident fees and possibly out of state fees) and a stipend in the range of $22,000 to $24,000 for your first year. Some fellowships come with a $5000 stipend for the summer.


If you have taken the GRE (not required for admission) and have excellent scores, you might choose to submit them as part of your application.


Other fellowships that are typically awarded to incoming students may include money from the Department of Art that could be applied to out of state tuition, or given as a stipend. Again, as an applicant, you do not apply for these.

How do I find out about Housing?

UC Santa Barbara offers a variety of housing options for graduate students. For information on how to apply for housing, please visit Housing and Residential Services. The deadline to apply for housing at San Clemente Villages is typically May 15th each year (be sure to check the housing website for details.) As long as you have filled out a UCSB Graduate Division online application form, you can apply for Family Student Housing, if planning on attending with a partner and/or children, even before you are admitted. This is recommended as Family Housing has a rolling placement process based on availability, and wait times for placement can be 6-12 months depending on availability and priority (families with children receive priority for placement.) You are also welcome to seek housing in the community (in which case, you do not need to submit an application for university-owned housing; see the Community Housing Office for help getting started).

What are the Program requirements?

Seventy-two quarter units are required: 36 in Graduate Studio courses (Art Studio 244, 261 and 591), 12 units in Theory and Criticism (Art Studio 245 or 594, or approved graduate level theory from related departments), 12 units of M.F.A. Thesis Preparatory (Art Studio 593); and 12 units of electives (related courses selected from various disciplines). Please see the General Catalog more information on specific courses (click on “Course Listings”; all courses numbered 200 or higher are graduate-level courses).


During Spring quarter of the first year of residency, graduate students are reviewed by the full faculty through open studio visits, group exhibition and/or presentations (which are augmented by written statements) and a vote is taken regarding advancement to the second year of study.


Following their first year of study, graduate students are required to formulate their graduate thesis committee, comprised of 3 members from the Department of Art and university faculty. This committee oversees the completion of the final graduate thesis project as well as the written thesis (25 pages), which is a required document for each student as part of his or her fulfillment of an MFA degree.


For more details on the requirements and structure of the program, see the Graduate Handbook.

What are the Exhibit and Art world opportunities?

There are many opportunities for graduate students to exhibit on campus, in the local arts community and in Los Angeles, through established department connections with arts professionals and a variety of affiliated venues. In fact, many of our recent graduate students have exhibited or are represented by highly respected galleries in California and nationally, further providing an expanding network of future possibilities. Faculty has also been instrumental in bringing our graduates to the attention of curators, in addition to providing a variety of professional opportunities both during candidacy and after graduation. Our job placement in related fields and university programs (including tenure track positions) has been rising steadily over the past five years.

What do your Alumni do?

Most of our alumni have a professional art career or teach in higher education. From a survey of our alumni taken in 2011, when asked to select all the occupations/positions within the arts in which they have worked since completing their UCSB MFA, 57% indicated they worked as an Educator in Higher Education, 28% indicated Museum or Gallery positions, 26% were Arts Administrators/Managers, and 83% indicate their current occupation/position is in the arts.