Grad school was one of the best experiences of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. For the creative, being able to focus solely on ones artwork for an extended period of time is extremely gratifying. Of course there’s the argument that you can learn on your own. The problem with learning on your own is that most people are just too busy to focus on learning. Grad school will help you dedicate yourself to your craft by giving you a community to help support your creative en devours.

The duration of MFA program varies from two to three years. There is a MFA program for almost any creative field of study. They are all set up slightly differently but begin with students taking classes, then end with a independent capstone project that often lasts one year. Normally, you will be assigned a thesis adviser for your capstone project. Many graduate programs are more self directed that undergrad, for examples in some programs a portion of your time is dedicated toward independent study each semester.

There are small and large graduate programs. Many of the smaller programs with fewer students are often at state universities. These programs normally offer fewer classes and students do more independent study while getting direction from an adviser you meet with weekly. In many of these programs grad students often have the opportunity to teach and they will receive a stipend. In the larger programs you’ll have have more opportunities to take a variety of different class offerings. You’ll also have a larger population of fellow grad students to share experiences with.

US News and World Reports offers a comprehensive review of top MFA programs in the United States. This is the best single source of up for learning about various MFA programs. They charge $14.95 to access the list. It has acceptance rates, costs and other helpful information that will assist you in picking what schools to apply to.

When choosing a graduate school I strongly recommend you visit the university and get a tour. Talk with students in the program and ask them any questions you might have. They will give you the most realistic perspective of what the program is like. I recommend you make a list of questions before you visit and ask in person. The following is a list of questions to get you started.

1) What are the strengths in the program?
2) What are the weaknesses the program?
3) What are recent graduates currently doing?
4) What is your schedule like?
5) How do you like the area?
6) What are you not learning that you’d like to learn?
7) Are there scholarship opportunities?
8) How many students dropped out of your class the first year?
9) Are faculty professionally active?

I recommend you apply to multiple graduate programs and have a backup plan encase you don’t in into your first choice. Most programs will expect you to send in a portfolio on a CD with approximately 12-15 of your best works. You will also send in a resume and letters of recommendation. Talk to graduate admission councilors or faculty at the school to see what type of work they hope to see. Scholarships are often awarded based on the quality of work displayed in your portfolio.