How to Apply
MFA Visual Narrative is going online for the Summer of 2020. Apply now to join the Class of 2022. Drop us a line for details at email@example.com.
Hello Storytellers! In the MFA Visual Narrative program, creative writing and image-making are considered a single language—visual storytelling. Only when we have mastered this language, discovering our own internal process, are we able to communicate our unique vision of the human experience. Comprised of three eight-week summer sessions in NYC and two academic years online, our low-residency MFA program places equal emphasis on creative writing and figurative visual expression. The program is designed for both working professionals and recent graduates from all creative disciplines who are dedicated to the art and craft of visual storytelling as both artist and author.
Applications are open now for summer 2020 entry. We look forward to seeing your work!
Summer 2020 Application Submission GuideDownload
How to Apply
In addition to the standard graduate school requirements such as transcripts, portfolio materials and a resume, every applicant will be required to submit a two-part visual narrative assignment based on one of three prompts.
Step-by-step guides can be downloaded here:
1. For each PDF or film/video submitted, label in the description field using the names listed here (Creative Writing, Visual Narrative Assignment etc.)
2. Proofread, proofread and proofread again.
3. Please review directions carefully-submission errors may reflect poorly on your application and will slow down the review process.
4. When submitting film or video, indicate all of your production role(s) in the description area, (i.e. director, cinematographer, writer)
5. Official College Transcripts:
Transcripts must arrive to us sealed and stamped/signed by your institution. SVA accepts electronic transcript submission through Parchment, National Student Clearinghouse, and Scripsafe.
6. Supplemental Portfolio Materials:
The department will review other visual and written materials that outline the applicant’s expertise in this discipline. Please mail in on a CD or thumb drive. All physical items will be accepted, but
cannot be returned.
Questions about the MFAVN program? Contact us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the FAQ tab above for more common questions.
Scholarships & Aid
Incoming and Returning Student Scholarships
The MFA Visual Narrative program annually selects incoming (first summer) and returning (second summer) students for modest Merit-Based Scholarships. These scholarships totaling $25K are awarded on the recommendation of the application review committee. The returning student merit-based scholarships totaling $25K are awarded on the recommendations of the first-year faculty based on academic performance and story development during the first three semesters of study.
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 Tuition-Free Classes
During the four fall and spring semesters, enrolled students can audit one SVA undergraduate or continuing education class tuition-free. Lab fees only must be paid. Department and instructor permission is required. SVA now offers a growing listing of online classes as well. Classes on Lynda.com will also be open to students at no charge.
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 “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 2020 would fill out the 2020-21 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 detail and their FAQ section can be found here. Current tuition and fees for the MFA Visual Narrative program are listed here at the bottom of the list.
SVA is honored to welcome veterans to our campus. SVA is a Yellow Ribbon Program participating school.
Key Dates 2020
September – Applications open for June 2020
January 15th – Recommended deadline for scholarship awards, application reviews begin
Early March – Second round deadline for applications
Remaining admissions and awards then continue on a rolling basis as space allows
May 29 Program Orientation for all classes
June 1 – July 24 Summer session
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.
President, School of Visual Arts
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. SVA offers on-campus housing for the MFAVN summer session. Fees will be published 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. Some students have enrolled in ESL studies at other institutions in NYC during the fall and spring to bridge this gap, in which case the visa gets transferred temporarily to the other school during those periods, returning to SVA for the summer sessions. 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 mid-April in order have time to obtain an educational visa to start the program in June, although these processes vary by country. 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, email@example.com, (212 592-2236).
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.
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 detail and their FAQ section can be found here. The International Students Office can be contacted here: firstname.lastname@example.org, (212 592-2236). For additional program questions, please check our FAQ document or connect with us at email@example.com.
We encourage potential students to visit our department and welcome exploratory conversation at any time. And sign up for our newsletter, The Storyteller’s Bulletin at mfavn.sva.edu if you are a visual artist with the spirit of a storyteller. Learn more: sva.edu/grad/visit. If you have any questions about the application process, contact Graduate Admissions at 212.592.2107 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re located on the west side campus at 136 W 21 between 6 & 7th Aves. on the 11th Floor
To schedule a visit please email Joan McCabe, Director of Operations at email@example.com to make an appointment.
To contact by mail, please address to:
MFA Visual Narrative
c/o School of Visual Arts
141 W 21 Street
NY NY 10011
What is the difference between MFAVN and a comics, illustration or solely visually-based graduate program?
The MFAVN program is a rich, interdisciplinary and low-residency graduate program in visual storytelling like no other. We focus on and explore what story is and how it functions in all visual storytelling mediums. Our program is also equally balanced between the visual arts and creative writing. Our students don’t just “illustrate” assignment or rough narratives, they find, write, produce and tell their stories from the ground up as original content creators and authors. They take ownership of their narrative voice and define their career and professional journey – The “Artist as Author”. Students find their direction as professional creators of original content and gain a greater understanding of their own foundation for becoming future arbiters of visual storytelling.
What type of students are you looking for?
We are looking for visual storytellers from all visual disciplines interested in creating their own original content as both author and artist. This creates a diverse and rich student body of interdisciplinary visual storytellers. We are interested in working with all self-driven creatives from designers, animators, professional writers, illustrators, photographers, and film makers to information graphics specialists, game designers, concept artists, children’s book illustrators and more. The type of students we want to collaborate with are students interested in digging deeper into themselves in order to understand where they come from, what story means to them and want to explore in telling their story(s) in any medium that best suits their voice, message and narrative.
What is “Low-Residency”?
MFAVN is a fully accredited, low-residency, MFA degree program – requiring only three eight- week summer sessions 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. Classes are accessible 24/7 and primarily self-paced, with manageable deadlines.
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 fundamental principals of story, are for the most part, universal. 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 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 talented and original content creators. The MFA Visual Narrative program fills that need—regardless of medium or style—enabling students to become creative, 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 blazing their own new trails and defining their own careers as their work and narrative voices dictate.
Who is the ideal candidate and what skills do they need to bring to the table?
Every year, we look for talented storytellers who are interested in generating their own original content as both authors and artists.
That being said, students will need to be well – versed in traditional forms of art, familiar with digital art practices and possess a thirst for the English language and open communication, with a passion for putting it to good narrative use. The study of what story is, how it functions and communicates, plus short story writing, scriptwriting and the visual development of each student’s original short story will dominate the first year of the program along with advanced digital techniques. Students will also engage in traditional book arts and digital publishing, experimental writing, dabbling in a range of writing genres along with character development and theatrical techniques. This process will prepare every student for the second year thesis project that will culminate in a graduate thesis presentation, professional practice development and an immersive gallery exhibition.
Though the MFAVN program is a broad approach to the craft and process of storytelling, the first spring semester short story and the final thesis projects are opportunities for each student to concentrate on a professional focus and/or direction of their choosing.
Applicants should be able to demonstrate technical proficiency in creative writing as well. Because of the nature of a low-residency program, successful students will be self-reliant and able to demonstrate a high level of professional discipline and practice.
All applicants to the MFA Visual Narrative program must have a Bachelor’s degree or international equivalent, or be scheduled to receive a degree before the start of the first summer semester. However, your degree may be in any discipline.
The MFAVN program is NOT a fully staffed film or animation department. Nor are we dedicated to one single profession over another. The MFAVN program provides an advanced approach to the study, craft and process of visual storytelling as both an artist and an author. The student brings the medium, choice of discipline, and professional practice to the program.
Applicants should have a basic skill level in Adobe Creative Cloud Design Suite applications and word processing. During the first semester, an advanced course in digital narrative arts is required.
We suggest you review the student section of our site to get good sense of our student body.
What is the application deadline?
All candidates are encouraged to submit applications by January 15th to be considered for first-round reviews and merit-based award. Remaining admissions and awards will continue on a rolling-deadline basis as space allows. We recommend that US citizens have the FAFSA completed as soon as possible- this can be started before or in parallel to your application. Be sure to use the form for the year that you would start through the following year. For example, applicants with a start date of June 2020 would fill out the 2020-21 FAFSA form. Once accepted, having this already in place will speed up your process of obtaining loans and other aid, which is important with a June start date.
If you are applying as an international student, be sure to allow extra time to obtain transcripts (which may need to go through an academic equivalency service) for the application, as well as be able to obtain a visa if accepted. Typically, you would need to be accepted by mid-April in order have time to obtain an educational visa to start the program in June, although these processes vary by country. We will of course, do our best to support and accelerate this process.
Is there a simple overview of the application process?
Why, yes there is, glad you asked. The MFAVN Application Guide outlines all the steps necessary for the standard application. You can download them here.
STRUCTURE, LOGISTICS & RESOURCES
Tell me more about the low residency model.
Our low residency program is structured as a combination of two academic years of web-based learning and three intensive on-campus summer periods at SVA in NYC. 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 the web-based learning prior to the first fall online session.
During your online semesters, you still enjoy full SVA student status, including access to the SVA library (many online data bases and other resources), the Visible Futures Lab, the department’s RisoLAB, and all other on-campus resources and services. In addition, you are entitled to unlimited classes from Lynda.com, as well as the ability to audit one tuition-free class per semester (four in total) from any department at SVA (student must pay any associated lab fees.) Some of these classes are offered online.
As an added resource, the department manages a new 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. Students will be trained on the machines and have full access while enrolled. The lab 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 the summer semesters, and can then pay a modest access fee during the academic year if desired. Several Continuing Education courses are also offered. 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 both online and on campus. Some of these are taught by program faculty. These class credits do not count toward the MFA Visual Narrative degree.
What are the dates for the summer residency?
Typically, there is a required orientation the Friday after Memorial Day, with classes beginning the following Monday and running eight weeks, through late July.
Does SVA offer housing for the summer session?
SVA offers on-campus housing for the MFAVN summer session. Fees will be published in January.
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 “classtime”. That means three hours of class weekly, plus 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.
There is currently no alternate structure or schedule for this degree program.
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 advisor of their choosing for the duration of their thesis project. A roster of vetted professionals is posted on our site, although students can also arrange for their own, with approval from the Chair. And SVA’s teaching model is to draw from working professionals. In addition, the Career Development Office offers extensive workshops, counseling and recruitment events.
What is the tuition for this program?
Tuition and fees are outlined here. Payment plans are available.
What are my options for financial aid and scholarships?
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 your application. Be sure to use the form for the year that you would start through the following year. For example, applicants with a start date of June 2020 would fill out the 2020-21 FAFSA form. Once accepted, having this already in place will speed up your process of obtaining loans and other aid, which is important with a June start date. Consultation with SVA financial aid staff can be arranged at any time prior to or during the application process.
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 “Graduate.” The Alumni Association offers a thesis grant award competition during your thesis year.
All candidates are encouraged to submit applications by January 15th to be considered for first-round reviews and merit-based awards. Remaining admissions and awards will continue on a rolling-deadline basis as space allows.
Do you provide assistance for veterans?
SVA is honored to welcome veterans to our campus. SVA is a Yellow Ribbon Program participating school. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is the program accredited by NASAD?
Yes, we are fully accredited.
Can international students apply to this program?
It is a perfect fit as students are only required to be on campus in NYC for three eight-week periods during three summers. 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 session and must leave no later than 60 days after the end. Some students have enrolled in ESL studies at other institutions in NYC during the fall and spring to bridge this gap, in which case the visa gets transferred temporarily to the other school during those periods, returning to SVA for the summer sessions. Please carefully review this structure– detailed information can be found on SVA’s international student page here which includes a FAQ section.
What is the English language requirement?
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.
What are you waiting for…??!!!