Apply-MFA in Illustration & Visual Culture

Online Application

The application period for fall 2020 admission to our MFA in Illustration & Visual Culture program has ended. Details about fall 2021 admission will be available in the coming months.

To download a pdf version of the instruction sheet for application and financial aid for our most recent admission cycle, click here.

The MFA in Illustration and Visual Culture program is ideal for practicing illustrators and comic artists, as well as people interested in thinking seriously about visual and material culture. Candidates may have a BFA or BA in art, design, or illustration, or an undergraduate degree in another field. 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. Please contact John Hendrix, program chair, if you would like guidance on your portfolio and/or writing submissions, or if you have questions about the program or application materials.

For more information about the program, click here>>

Required Application Information & Deadlines

All candidates must submit an online application as directed below. All parts of the application are due by February 3.

The following 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.

* Please 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. Official transcripts. Upload a digital copy (PDF format) of transcript(s) from post-secondary academic or art studies. When submitting digital academic records from multiple schools, please organize them into a single PDF file. 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. Test for English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module score is required if the applicant’s native language is not English. See International Applicants section.

7. Three letters of recommendation. Applicants must have three letters of recommendation written by professors, instructors, or professionals with whom they have recently worked or studied. These letters are required, and will be submitted through the online application. Please note that, along with other contact information, the applicant will need to provide an accurate e-mail address for each recommender.

8. Writing sample. Provide a writing sample that demonstrates your ability to clearly express your ideas. The sample can be narrative or expository. The length of submissions can be variable; content is more important than word count. Examples include: an undergraduate paper, a personal essay, a poem, a short story, an article or published review, or any other piece of writing that demonstrates your ability to construct clear ideas and/or narratives in text form. You may upload PDF only.

9. Twelve to twenty images and/or samples of your work. See Visual Materials/Portfolios section below for guidelines.

Visual Materials/Portfolio
Applicants must 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 800 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, such as .mpeg or .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).

 - You may also link to media from YouTube, Vimeo, and SoundCloud.

 - 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.


Applicants for whom English is not the native language must submit a score report for one of the tests below in order to obtain admission to the MFA program:

1. Test for English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a minimum score of 90 on the Internet-based test, 577 on the paper-based test, or 233 on the computer-based test.

2. International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module with a minimum score of 7.5.

In addition to entering your score online, the official scores must be submitted to our office by the testing agency. To ensure that official TOEFL and IELTS score reports arrive as needed, please use our institution code (6929) and department code (15) when making arrangements with the TOEFL testing agency. Applicants who are submitting IELTS scores must arrange to have the testing service send a hard-copy version of the scores to our office. It takes six weeks for your scores to be sent to us, so plan to take the test well in advance of the application deadline (January 15). Our mailing address is:

Graduate School of Art
Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Washington University in St. Louis
Campus Box 1031
Bixby Hall, Suite 1
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130

The TOEFL and IELTS scores and written essay 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. In addition, international students will be interviewed by phone prior to the issuance of an I-20 for a student visa. In select cases, students will be required to enroll in reading and comprehension classes recommended by the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS).

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 Cris Baldwin, assistant dean and registrar, at 314.935.4761 or

Financial Aid & Scholarship Support

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.

For more information about the financial aid application process, click here. For more information about scholarships, click here.

Contact information

All hard-copy application materials (e.g., IELTS scores) should be sent to the following address:
Graduate School of Art - MFA-IVC
Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Washington University in St. Louis
Campus Box 1031
Bixby Hall, Suite 1
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130

All inquiries pertaining to the curriculum and admissions should be directed to:

John Hendrix, Chair, MFA in Illustration & Visual Culture
Graduate School of Art
Phone: 314.935.8402
Fax: 314.935.6462

For information about financial aid, click here.

National Portfolio Days

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.

For 2019-20, Sam Fox School representatives will attend the following National Portfolio Days:

October 27: New York, New York
November 2: Chicago, Illinois

For the most up-to-date information about times and venues, visit the NPDA website.

Non-Discrimination Policy

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.