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Apply to the MFA in Illustration & Visual Culture Program

Applications are open through February 7!
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What makes the MFA-IVC program unique? Just ask program chair John Hendrix!

Thank you for your interest in the Sam Fox School’s MFA in Illustration & Visual Culture (MFA-IVC) program at Washington University in St. Louis!!

Applicants must submit a visual portfolio and writing samples for admission, but we understand that candidates may not be equally proficient in both areas.

No applicant will be offered admission into the program until all required items have been received by the Graduate School of Art.

Application Instructions + Information

Application Tips & Advice

The MFA-IVC program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Admissions decisions are based on the applicant’s portfolio, academic records, writing sample, statement of objectives, and references. You may be admitted to the program upon completion of the BFA degree or equivalent academic preparation.

All candidates must submit an online application. Please note: Candidates cannot apply for spring enrollment.

Application materials may be submitted over time; however, all materials, with the exception of the letters of recommendation, must be received by the application deadline. No applicant will be offered admission into the program until all required items have been received by the Graduate School of Art. Applicants will need to submit a visual portfolio and writing samples for admission, but we understand that you may not be equally proficient in both areas.

NOTE: The Graduate School of Art does not require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for admission to the program.

  1. A non-refundable $40 application fee, paid online by credit card.

  2. Personal and academic information.

  3. Concise written statement of objectives for graduate study (300-600 words, PDF or text) that pertains to the applicant’s work and educational experience. The statement should include a modest personal history and focus on the prospective student’s interests and connections to illustration and/or visual culture. The statement should also identify any additional disciplinary-specific interests and/or any historical and contemporary influences the applicant may have. Please make sure your name is at the top of this document.

  4. Unofficial transcript. Please upload a PDF copy of your unofficial college transcript(s). If more than one school has been attended, please consolidate all transcripts into one document to upload. Note that official hard-copy transcripts or similar records related to your degree completion will be requested at a later date from those who are admitted and who plan to enroll. Full instructions for submitting official hard-copy documents will be provided in late spring or early summer.

  5. Curriculum Vitae (CV). Provide in PDF format.

  6. Other documents (optional). You are welcome to attach additional documents, including professional reviews or articles about your work, through the online application. Upload PDFs only.

  7. English language scores (if the applicant’s native language is not English). For fall 2022 admission, applicants for whom English is not your native language must submit a score report for the Test for English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT), International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module, or Duolingo test. See the International Applicants section for full details.

  8. References. Each applicant must provide names, titles, and email addresses for 3 references. You should get reference letter consents from professors, instructors, or professionals with whom you have recently worked or studied. Let them know they will receive an email request from SlideRoom once you have applied; they will have up to 7 days beyond our application deadline to submit their reference.

  9. Writing sample. (PDF format only). Please provide a sample of expository writing. Expository writing is intended to describe, explain, or analyze a given subject in textual form. There is no requirement for length, but it should be enough to demonstrate your ability to express your ideas clearly. Content is more important than extensive word count. Examples of writing samples could include: an undergraduate paper in art history, a critical literary analysis, a personal essay in material culture study (film, comics, illustration, objects), an article or published review, or any other piece of writing that demonstrates your ability to construct and defend an argument, position, or idea.

  10. Visual Materials/Portfolio. You will be prompted to upload a portfolio in Slideroom. Submit 12-20 images or samples of your work, including illustrations, prints, artist’s books, collage images, drawings, sketchbook pages, comics, GIFs, videos, and/or samples of time-based media that best represent your work and visual voice. Variety is encouraged; a single mode or style of work is not necessarily preferred or required. The work presented should be current and should also showcase your future potential as an image maker.

    Specifications for submitted work:

    • Images (up to 5MB each): Each still image should be submitted in .jpg format, no larger than 1200 pixels on the longest side and no larger than 72 dpi overall.
    • Video (up to 250 MB each): Must be in a Quicktime-compatible format: .mpeg, .mov. Each submission should be no longer than 5 minutes in length.
    • Audio (up to 30MB each): Acceptable format: .mp3.
    • PDFs (up to 10MB each).

Do not use presentation programs such as PowerPoint for submission of any of your work.

All digital files submitted should follow a naming convention that includes your last name and the first initial of your first name, such as: DoeJ_GhostSeries_Image1.jpg.

Please enter details about each piece you submit, including title, size, medium, and year.

As noted in Item 7, applicants for whom English is not your native language must submit a score report for one of the tests below in order to obtain admission to the MFA program:

  • Test for English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT), with a minimum acceptable score of 90 (traditional iBT only—we do not accept the TOEFL iBT Home Edition).
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module with a minimum composite score of 6.5.
  • Duolingo test with a minimum acceptable score of 115.

To ensure that we receive your official test score results:

  • TOEFL test takers must use our institution code (6929) when making arrangements with the testing agency for score reporting.
  • IELTS score results must be delivered to us electronically via the IELTS Results Service e-Delivery system. Be sure to use the name of our E-Delivery Account: Washington University in St. Louis.
  • The Duolingo test can be taken at home and is recommended for those who encounter TOEFL or IELTS test center closures. Send PDF or link with scores to

It takes six weeks for scores to arrive, so plan to take the test well in advance of the application deadline.

An exception to the English language score requirement may be made for applicants who have studied in the United States or another English-speaking country for a minimum of three years toward a baccalaureate degree or higher. The TOEFL, IELTS, and Duolingo tests and writing sample do not in and of themselves presume adequate qualification for study. Functional English and familiarity with additional art-related terminology are required upon entrance in order to pass coursework. International students will be interviewed prior to the issuance of an I-20 for a student visa. In select cases, students will be tested upon arrival and may be required to enroll in reading and comprehension classes.

International students will receive specific instructions regarding the necessary financial documentation for visa purposes when admission letters are issued. For questions regarding non-immigrant student visas, contact Melissa Whitwam, Graduate School of Art programs coordinator, at 314.935.8423 or

In summer 2023, matriculating students will receive a request for official transcripts from all post-secondary study to be sent to us directly from their previous college or university. Transcripts must include the degree(s) awarded and date(s) of conferral, as applicable. Students who attended a Chinese university must also have their transcript and qualification certificate verified (in English) by the China Higher Education Student Information and Career Center (CHESICC).

Please note: If you have graduated from a university in the United States, you may still be required to submit a TOEFL score. As institutions vary in their language requirements, the Graduate School of Art does not automatically grant TOEFL waivers. In addition, all international students will be interviewed by the Chair of the MFA in Illustration & Visual Culture program.

For information on cost of attendance, as well as scholarship and financial aid opportunities, please click here.

An application for financial aid will have no effect on the admission decision. The Graduate School of Art strives to provide aid to as many fellows as possible. Financial aid packages most often consist of a combination of fellowships or scholarships, teaching and/or technical assistantships, and loan assistance. Fellowship, scholarship, and assistantship awards are based on artistic and academic merit, as well as need. Federal loan assistance for eligible U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents is awarded based on financial need.

During the 2021-22 academic year, 100 percent of our MFA students received scholarship/remission assistance. Scholarship/remission awards ranged from $7,182 to $46,188 annually, depending on each individual’s situation.

Visit the Financial Aid & Scholarships page for more information.

Each year, representatives from the Sam Fox School attend Graduate Portfolio Days held across the country. The National Portfolio Day Association (NPDA) hosts annual National Portfolio Days specifically for visual artists and designers. These events provide opportunities for those who wish to pursue an education in the visual and related arts to meet with representatives from colleges accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Representatives will be available to review your artwork, discuss their programs, and answer questions about professional careers in art.

Full event details are and registration are available on the National Portfolio Day Association website.

Washington University encourages and gives full consideration to all applicants for admission, financial aid, and employment. The University does not discriminate in access to, or treatment or employment in, its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, veteran status, disability, or genetic information. Applicants with a prior criminal history will not be automatically disqualified from consideration for admission. Inquiries about compliance should be addressed to the University’s Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Washington University, Campus Box 1184, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130.