Applying to Graduate School, Part I

Applying to graduate school is a big decision that can be a worthwhile option with great benefits. However, it’s also important to understand that it is a serious commitment. For those considering this path, think deeply about the investments that come with it—time, money, energy, patience. So, what are the issues you should consider if you are thinking about graduate school?

Location, location, location.

First, it’s important that you be happy wherever you will live for the duration of the program, if not longer. Consider the landscape and setting (urban vs. rural, climate, seasons), distance from home, cost of living, etc. Rural surroundings can help you avoid distractions and focus wholly on your work. Cities, however, may offer more exposure and opportunities. Since each person and program is different, really take the time to contemplate which environment is best for you. You may also want to consider something that offers a bit of both, or is somewhere in the middle. For example, when I was applying, I knew that I wanted to be in a major city with close proximity to lots of galleries, museums, and professional practicing artists, while still feeling a sense of community. Consider what is most important to you, both as a person and as an artist.

Which Program?

The type of program you are looking for is a crucial factor to consider. When I was researching schools offering MFA programs in Fine Arts, I knew that I wanted an interdisciplinary program that would expose me to a wide range of disciplines, as opposed to focusing on just one. I also wanted amenities and facilities where I could learn and develop skills in areas that I had not previously developed. If you are specifically looking for a program that specializes in painting, for example, research programs that are tailored for that. Check out the programs’ brochures, spend time on their websites, and if possible, visit the schools in person before making the decision to attend, if not before even applying. Request information, ask your professors, advisors, and friends if they have any wisdom to share with you, and look at sites like Grad Café, US News, Bright Hub, College Confidential, and other blogs and websites to gain as much information as possible to help you on your path. (These should serve as supplemental sources, rather than be the basis of your choices).

Ask questions, since this is a big investment that you want to feel confident in. Look at the course offerings and program information for each institution you’re considering. Is this a place where you can envision yourself? Find out about the facilities, studio spaces, amenities, faculty, and alumni benefits. These are all important components of the programs.

Researching and applying to grad school is a lot of work, but can also be incredibly rewarding if you choose to pursue this path. Just be sure to weigh your decisions carefully, do plenty of research, and devote plenty of time to the application process.

Read Part II for a follow-up on what to do once you’ve decided to apply to graduate school.

Editor’s Note: This site was hacked and the original content lost in 2014. This article, originally published in 2013, was recovered form a draft version and updated. #lost&found