Comparing the Top MFA Programs: Yale School of Art

Yale School of Art (

Yale School of Art is arguably the most elite of art schools, and one that would make any gallery drop what they’re doing and check out your porfolio. According to a 2003 survey “of deans and department chairs, one per school, at 213 master of fine arts programs” conducted by U.S. News & World Report, the School shares a number one ranking with the Rhode Island School of Design and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for Masters of Fine Arts programs. Notable alumni (at least, the ones that I know) are household name artists such as Matthew Barney, Eva Hesse, Chuck Close, Richard Serra, etc. Apparently, only 21 applicants a year are admitted to the painting program.

Here’s what you would need to apply to the art school:

Portfolio Requirements (


Portfolios are submitted online as part of the online application. The portfolio submission interface will allow you to label each image with a title, a date of completion, the materials used, and a brief description of the work. Digital files must adhere strictly to the specifications outlined below.

Portfolio Contents

Upload a total of sixteen (16) still images and/or moving image files. Only work completed within the last three years should be included, and at least half (8) should be work made in the last twelve months. In the review process, the admissions committee is concerned with scale and the tactility of the work. For this reason, paintings and drawings must be photographed showing the surrounding wall or background. Paintings and drawings must not be digitally masked in black to the edges of the work. Three-dimensional works should also show the surrounding space and context. Do not include detail photos of work in your portfolio unless you consider them absolutely necessary. Under no circumstance should more than two detail shots be included. If you are presenting both still and moving images, please present them in two groups with all still images followed by all moving images. Within these groups, all still and/ or moving image files should be in chronological order starting with the oldest and ending with the most recent work.

File format for still images

To conform to our viewing format, each still image file may be no larger than 16 MB. Do not format images in any presentation program (e.g., PowerPoint, Keynote), or include composite images (more than one work per file). Still image files may be sent in jpeg, png, bmp, or tiff format.

File format for videos and moving images

Videos will be accepted in QuickTime, AVI, FLV, MP4, or WMV format. Video files should be no longer than one minute in length, and the size of your video uploads is limited to 250 MB. Please note that videos are considered as part of your selection of sixteen files, not as additional material. Do not include titles or credits within the video files. If you are primarily a video artist and wish to submit a longer video, you may post it on your own website and provide that website link at the bottom of the portfolio page.

The Price Tag

So, a typical budget for a student at the Yale School of Art looks like this:

Total of $54,500/year (9 Months) comprising of $32,500 Tuition, $15,100 Living expenses, $1,900 Required hospitalization insurance, $5,000 Books, art supplies, and academic fees.

YIKES. I’m pretty sure you can add a few more thousands dollars on top of that for the art supplies.

OK, so the MFA program has a few study areas, including Photography, Graphic Design, Sculpture, and Painting/Printmaking, but I’m interested in the Painting one, so here it is. Study Areas:


Instruction in the program is rooted in the investigation of painting as a unique genre with its own complex syntax and history. Within this setting, the program encourages diversity of practice and interpretation, innovation, and experimentation on the part of students.

Credit Requirements

42 credits in area of concentration, including Art 949a, and 18 additional credits, including a minimum of 6 academic credits in courses outside the School of Art.


First year minimum credits

Painting 545: … Fall: 9; Spring: 9

Printmaking Elective: … Fall: 0; Spring: 3

Art 949a, Critical Practice: … Fall: 3; Spring: 0

Academic or Studio Electives: … Fall: 3 … Spring: 3

Total minimum credits for Fall Term: 15

Total minimum credits for Spring Term: 15

Second year minimum credits

Painting 545: … Fall: 9; Spring: 9

Academic or Studio Electives: … Fall: 6; Spring: 6

Total minimum credits for Fall Term: 15

Total minimum credits for Spring Term: 15

These don’t really say much, but if you take a look at the courses offered, it might give you a good idea as to what is being covered. Courses: For example, one of the first classes you can take as a painting major, is Art 111a, Visual Thinking.

PAINTING / PRINTMAKING Art 111a, Visual Thinking
G01 Green Hall; Tuesday/Thursday 3:30 – 5:20

An introduction to the language of visual expression, using studio projects to explore the fundamental principles of visual art. Students acquire a working knowledge of visual syntax applicable to the study of art history and popular culture, as well as art. Projects address all four major concentrations (graphic design, painting/printmaking, photography, sculpture). No prior drawing experience necessary. Open to all undergraduates; required for all art majors. Materials fee: $25. Anna Betbeze and faculty.

Looks like a good place to start. Anyone know how I can get a login to sign on and check out their syllabus/textbook list? 🙂

One Comment on “Comparing the Top MFA Programs: Yale School of Art”

  1. That was extremely depressing news. It was informative and interesting.
    I have pondered getting an MFA – but lack the funds and time to pursue the accomplishment. Our Canadian Universities aren’t any less expensive these days. Unfortunately the course description sounds a lot like my BA classes. i would have thought the MFA would be more mentoring and preparing a body of work that shows off your talent, while improving your skills.
    Sadly I must be content with my life’s education as it stands, even if I am denied the ability to teach at a college or university without a MFA.

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