Applicants are required to hold an undergraduate degree with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0. A research emphasis in visual studies is recommended. Applicants with degrees outside the visual arts or non-traditional backgrounds may be eligible if their application shows promise and relevance to the current research environment, which includes digital media interdisciplinary laboratories. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required.

The selection of candidates is based on their potential for growth and deeper development indicated by the strength of their submitted materials, which can reflect a wide range of practices. The overall assessment of the individual candidate is based on their complete profile, an aptitude for intensive investigation and suitability to the interdisciplinary focus of this particular program. Qualification is determined on a case-by-case basis. Finalists will be interviewed by a committee of faculty to gain a more thorough understanding of the candidate and their research interests.

Following their first year of study, graduate students are required to formulate their graduate thesis committee, comprised of 3 members from the Department of Art and university faculty. This committee oversees the completion of the final graduate thesis project as well as the written thesis, which is a required document for each student as part of his or her fulfillment of an MFA degree.

The body of research within the program may reflect a wide range of creative practices, including writing, theory/criticism, art history, film studies, digital media, performance, design, architecture and media studies.

It is advised that anyone interested in graduate studies in the Department of Art should investigate the program thoroughly before applying. Communication by e-mail to the graduate advisors and individual faculty prior to the application process is recommended. The department welcomes any potential candidates to tour those facilities and campus resources that may be an integral part of their graduate experience at UCSB.