How to Apply

We’re excited about your interest in the MFA Visual Narrative program. More than just a degree program, MFA Visual Narrative is a school of thought that immerses you in story.

Applicants will submit materials within two platforms:

The SVA Graduate Admissions portal

This portal primarily processes administrative materials such as transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Step 1: Open an SVA Graduate Admissions Portal Account, so SVA can support the process. 

Step 2: Follow the instructions to request transcripts. 

Step 3: Contact your recommenders to ask if they are willing to write you a letter, and then enter their contact information. Grad Admissions takes it from there and contacts these people and follows up with reminders.

NOTE: Complete the requirements in steps 2 and 3 as soon as you have an interest in applying, as the receipt of these can sometimes delay the admissions process. 

Step 4: Upload a resume and a statement of purpose.

The SlideRoom portal

SlideRoom is the portal where the MFAVN Faculty Review Committee will access and evaluate your portfolio and other materials. 

Although you are free to upload and edit each item separately, we recommend fully preparing your materials before uploading anything-this can avoid errors later. NOTE: Until the “Submit” button is pressed by the applicant, SVA does not see any materials. They only see an active account. Once submitted, no further changes can be made.

There will be a few items that are needed in both places. You’ll be able to see a checklist throughout of the status of all the required materials- please follow up as needed.

For a full outline of submission materials and detailed instructions and links to apply, please go to the MFA Visual Narrative Department Requirements page. Read through all of the materials that you need to prepare.

While preparing all of your application materials, you can contact or call 212-592-2412 to:

  • Connect with current students or alumni directly to get a sense of the program. 
  • Schedule an appointment with Chair Nathan Fox for a portfolio review. 
  • Speak with SVA’s Financial Aid staff about options. 
  • Arrange to chat with MFAVN with questions or just to learn whether the program is a good match.
  • Get answers to your questions about the program, application portfolio and/or submission process. Check out the FAQ tab above for more common questions.

If you’d like to receive an info packet at your shipping address, click here

Scholarships & Resources

The MFA Visual Narrative program is proud to offer an Educator‘s Scholarship award for qualified full-time instructors and teachers for up to 50% of tuition – see the Educators tab here for details.

SVA is honored to welcome veterans to our campus. SVA is a Yellow Ribbon Program participating school.

The MFA Visual Narrative program annually selects incoming (first summer) and returning (second summer) students for modest Merit-Based Scholarships. Scholarships totaling $25K are awarded to the incoming class on the recommendation of the application review committee. The returning student merit-based scholarships totaling $25K are awarded on the recommendation of the first-year faculty based on academic performance and story development during the first three semesters of study.

Summer Housing
Housing on campus differs with availability each summer. Please check back for information in January on availability and fees. 

One of the major economic benefits of the MFA Visual Narrative program’s design is its low-residency model. Students are able to retain their permanent residence, current lifestyle and career through the fall and spring semesters, while maintaining our part-time course load online. The low-residency model does not require relocation to NYC for the duration of the program. Students are only required to attend three summer intensives at SVA in NYC from June through July.

Auditing Classes Tuition-Free
During the four fall and spring semesters, enrolled students can audit one continuing education class tuition-free. Lab fees only must be paid. SVA now offers a growing listing of online classes as well. Classes on will also be open to students at no charge.

SVA Resources
SVA matching scholarships are available to full- and part-time graduate students, based on the student‘s financial need, as determined by the completion and submission of the FAFSA. Details here, under “Type of Aid”,  “Graduate.”

Once enrolled, students are eligible for other internal SVA and affiliated scholarships, grants and competitions, including the Alumni Scholarship supporting thesis development. As part of the SVA community, students also receive frequent communication about outside grants, residencies and competitions.

The SVA Office of Financial Aid coordinates the many sources of aid to meet as much of the students’ financial needs as possible. Their site includes a listing of free scholarship search engines, including a specific one for international students. We recommend that US citizens have the FAFSA completed as soon as possible- this can be started before or in parallel to the application. Be sure to use the form for the starting year through the following year. For example, applicants with a start date of June 2022 would fill out the 2022-23 FAFSA form. Once accepted, having this already completed will speed up your process of obtaining loans and other aid, which is important with a June start date. This form also determines whether you are eligible for the Federal Work Study Program.

The Office of Career Development also maintains a database of work opportunities both on and off campus. Consultation with SVA Financial Aid staff can be arranged at any time prior to or during the application process. Student Accounts will work with you on a payment plan, and additional details can be found here.


In such an unsettling and charged atmosphere, it’s essential to be clear about what we do know:  SVA is a proudly open and diverse community and that is what we will remain. We are nearly 600 administrative staff members and more than 1,000 faculty literally from everywhere.  Together we work every day to make welcome and to inspire 4,200 students from 45 states and 80 countries.  We come together to create the new, the next. I can imagine no better environment in which to study and to make – and I pledge all my efforts to support and protect our community and you, its members. 

David Rhodes
President, School of Visual Arts
November 2016

Program Structure and Visas
For international students, the MFA VN program is a perfect fit as students are only required to be on campus in NYC for three eight-week periods during three consecutive summers. Housing on campus differs with availability each summer. Please check back for information in January. Because students are not considered “full-time” in the four six-credit fall and spring online semesters, the educational visa with SVA will not allow students to stay in the United States during those four semesters. Typically, students can arrive here 30 days prior to the summer sessions and must leave no later than 60 days after the end. Please carefully review this structure–detailed information can be found on SVA’s international student page here which includes a FAQ section.

If you need to apply for a new visa, there may now be longer wait times and delays at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide.  Be sure to allow extra time to obtain transcripts (which may need to go through an academic equivalency service) for the application, as we cannot render a decision without them. Typically, you would need to be accepted by early April in order to obtain an educational visa to start the program in June, although these processes vary by country, and could be impacted by travel restrictions. We will, of course, do our best to support and accelerate this process.

SVA will commit its resources to see that all students and faculty can continue to pursue their education and teaching. Since the political situation is fluid, as a practical matter, applicants are advised to keep a close watch on the news and feel free to confer directly with our International Students Office, 592-2236).

Language Skills
Fully half of our curriculum is devoted to developing creative writing skills, which makes it essential that students enter exhibiting a strong command of both spoken and written English. MFA Visual Narrative applicants must have a minimum score of 100 (internet-based) or 250 (computer-based) TOEFL to be considered for admission. This may be waived under certain circumstances, on a case-by-case basis.

Financial Resources
The Office of Financial Aid suggests this free scholarship search engine for international students. Student Accounts can work with you on a payment plan, and additional details can be found here. The International Students Office can be contacted here: 592-2236). For additional program questions, please check our FAQ document or connect with us at


What is the difference between MFAVN and other traditional portfolio-based graduate programs?
The MFAVN program is a rich, interdisciplinary and low-residency graduate program in visual storytelling that places equal emphasis on creative writing and visual portfolio development across all media. Our students explore where their creative story voice is rooted, learn what story really is, how it functions and works across all storytelling mediums. This builds the individual confidence needed to conceive, write and produce their stories from the ground up as original content creators and authors—naturally developing their visual skill sets and portfolio in the process. Working alongside a community of peers, students take ownership of their narrative voice, hone their storycraft, and advance their professional practice pursuits as both an author and artist.. MFA Visual Narrative students ultimately define their direction and careers as professional creators of original content and become future arbiters of visual storytelling.

Why is there such a broad approach to storytelling and how will that benefit my experience as a student?
Story doesn’t really belong to one specific medium, profession, format or audience. The core and fundamental principles of story craft and visual storytelling, are for the most part, universal across all forms of media, entertainment and communications. We are bombarded with different forms and mediums of story every day that permeate and influence almost all that we do, see and feel as visual storytellers. To harness and gain a more focused understanding of these universal, multimedia story fundamentals, we feel that a diverse student body creates a rich and unique studio environment, and informs and challenges every student to engage in the ever-expanding profession of visual storytelling beyond their own chosen medium. Our faculty and curriculum reflects this broad approach to story, with professional expertise in areas like children’s literature, comics publishing, television writing, information graphics, typography, game design, theatrical direction and illustration.

What type of students are you looking for?
The MFA Visual Narrative department is looking for visual storytellers from all visual disciplines interested in creating their own original content as both author and artist. We welcome applications from working professionals, educators, and up-and-coming professionals from all creative industries, along with non-traditional applicants interested in developing their visual storycraft. Some of our non-traditional students have come from backgrounds in biochemistry, creative writing, engineering, puppetry, K-12 education, branding and PR, set design, publishing, editing, and film production management. A bachelor’s degree in any discipline is welcome. Because of the nature of a low-residency program, successful students will demonstrate a high level of professional discipline and practice. Visit the “Our People” section of this site to get a sense of our storytelling community and their work.

What computer applications and software are required?
A working knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud applications is highly recommended, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects, and Premiere. Mastery of Adobe Acrobat and word processing software such as Microsoft Word, Pages, and/or Google Docs is required. Remedial courses for those who do not have mastery of these core applications can be arranged and should not discourage candidates from applying.

What are some career paths for the MFA in Visual Narrative graduate?
In all forms of advertising, plus fine arts, game design, picture books, graphic novels, film, illustration and animation, there is a growing demand for strong story, writing and visual communication skills. The MFA Visual Narrative program fills that need—regardless of medium or style—enabling students to become creative, original content designers and responsible arbiters of visual storytelling who shape their own identities, artistic voices and narrative art. Potential job pathways might be Creative or Art Director, Story Editor, Editorial Designer, Storyboard or Concept Artist, Animator, Editorial and/or Commercial Freelance Artist, Copywriter, Scriptwriter or Screenwriter and more.

We encourage all of our students to pursue clearly defined career pathways as well as blaze their own new trails and define their own careers as their work and narrative voices dictate.

Ask us for more details on our alumni’s current job placements.

What is “Low-Residency”?
MFAVN is a fully accredited, low-residency, MFA degree program – requiring only three eight- week summer sessions on SVA’s campus in NYC, a schedule which allows students to maintain their professional practices and personal lifestyles. The two intervening academic years are online only through the SVA learning management system. Online classes are accessible 24/7 and primarily self-paced, with manageable deadlines, and designed for students who are working full-time. During the on-line periods, students engage in rich-media coursework on the Canvas system, with supervision from faculty and opportunities to engage virtually with fellow students. The student will be required to submit written material and participate in online forums, as well as contribute online content as both a writer and visual artist.

Classes are posted once a week. Although there is flexibility in the schedule, there will be some assignments with specific due dates. We will provide training for this web-based learning prior to the first semester.

How much time can I expect to spend on my work/classes?
For the online workload, a guideline is six to nine hours of coursework for each credit hour of “class time”. That means for each three hours of class weekly, you can expect 18-27 hours of work time. During the first year spring semester short story project and second year thesis project, those class hours and work times will be directly related to each individual’s project.

During the eight-week summer semester in NYC, students will be in class or in their studios for 40-50 hours per week. We will also be planning outside studio visits and individual and group critiques, and trips to museums and galleries and other cultural events.

Does SVA offer housing for the summer session?
This differs each summer, please check back for information in January about availability and fees.

What other SVA resources will be available to me?
All campus resources are open to you. And during your online semesters, you still enjoy full SVA student status. Campus resources include the SVA Library (including many online databases and other resources), the Visible Futures Lab, the department’s RisoLAB and the Writing Resource Center. In addition, you are entitled to unlimited classes from LinkedIn Learning as well as the ability to audit one tuition-free class per online semester (four in total) from the Continuing Education Department. Some of these classes are offered online.

The MFAVN department founded and manages the RisoLAB. Risograph duplicator printing technology combines the vibrant spot colors of silkscreen and the high resolution and speedy mass production of offset lithography with the user-friendly automation of an advanced color copier. It was founded in fall 2015 by Chair Nathan Fox as an interdisciplinary space for printing, publishing and production of Risograph-based printed works. Students will be trained on the machines and have access during their entire enrollment period. The mission is to become a hub of small scale and experimental printing and publishing activity that brings together artists of all backgrounds and disciplines to encourage dialogue across different creative worlds and foster discussion about the role of print media as a vehicle for art and culture, and a way to work out creative ideas to lead to unexpected results that would not be possible with a sole reliance on today’s digital tools.

The department also sponsors CE classes in other subjects, such as comedy structure and Risograph production. Some of these are taught by program faculty. These classes do not count towards the MFA Visual Narrative degree.

What other access will I have to outside professionals?
The MFA Visual Narrative program has lined up a rich and diverse pool of cross- disciplinary professionals who will be involved in the program as guest lecturers, artists and authors. During the second year, each student will work with the chair to nominate and collaborate with a thesis mentor of their choosing for the duration of their thesis project. A roster of vetted professionals is available, although students can also arrange for their own, with approval from the Chair. Past and current mentors are featured here. And SVA’s teaching model is to draw from working professionals, so all of the faculty are connections for students as well. In addition, the Career Development Office offers extensive workshops, counseling and recruitment events with top industry professionals.

Is the program accredited by NASAD?
Yes, we are fully accredited.

Ok, you convinced me.
What are you waiting for…??!!! Look over the Application Requirements here and Apply Now!

Our low-residency model means that students come to SVA in NYC for three consecutive on-campus summer intensive semesters of eight weeks each.  The two interim academic years are entirely online. This has an effect on the visa structure for international students, see here for details.

January 15, 2024
Deadline for First Round Application Review, including scholarship consideration. Applications received after that date will be reviewed on a space-available basis.

Summer 2024
May –  Some training and onboarding meetings

5/30 Orientation
6/3 Classes begin
6/19 Day off, Juneteenth holiday
7/4–7/7 Holiday break
7/26 Last day of classes.
There is no part-time version of this program during the summer. Students must be fully available. During the academic year, the online program is designed to be workable for people with full time jobs.