USC Cinematic Arts - Writing for Screen & Television (MFA)

5.00 star(s) 5 Stars (3 Member Reviews)
The Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing for Screen and Television, is an intensive two-year degree program that concentrates on writing.
Degrees Offered
  1. 2 Year M.F.A.
  1. Screenwriting
  2. Writing for Screen & Television
Yearly Tuition
$40k to $50k
Tuition Detail
Application Deadlines
November 15, 2020

Film School details

Arguably the best film school in the country – or the world, depending on who you ask – the John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television is considered the ‘holy grail’ of MFA in Screenwriting programs by many. The program receives hundreds of applicants a year for a mere 32 spots and is designed to teach students how to create the kinds of scripts that excite directors, producers, agents, and managers.

Curriculum at USC is structured to allow students to build a foundation while also specializing in film or television with further specialization available in either comedy or drama. Writing is taught in small workshop style classes with a focus on the visual tools of storytelling and developing stories from its characters.

USC is notoriously one of the most competitive schools in the country. Faculty members are current working industry professions with extensive backgrounds and success in film and television. With an alumni list that reads more like a ‘who’s who’ list of Hollywood – Shonda Rhimes is an alumnus – USC offers an extensive network, exposing students to mentorship and internship opportunities as well as state-of-the-art facilities. To top it off, USC frequently brings in industry leaders for workshops and lectures and offers students exclusive screening opportunities.

The application for USC’s MFA in screenwriting includes USC’s graduate application and transcript requirements as well as a supplemental application comprised of an autobiographical character sketch, two creative challenges, a ‘most challenging moment’ personal essay, writing sample, curriculum vitae, creative portfolio, and three letters of recommendation, one of which must be from a professor or faculty member. The due date is typically November 15 for the next year’s fall cohort. Unlike many MFA programs, there is no interview component at USC.

If you’re curious on what the admissions committee is looking for, read an interview with an SCA admissions committee member about how to get into USC here. Learn more about the MFA in Screenwriting requirements for admission here.
What is the Application Fee? $ 90
What is the official minimum GPA requirement? No Minimum GPA Requirement
Is a GRE required for admission? No
Is a portfolio required for admission? Yes
How many applications does the school get per year?
400 and they admit 32

Who owns the copyrights of the films made at the school? The School
How many Letters of Reference are required? 3 ( 1 must be from academic reference)

Application Requirements

1) Autobiographical Character Sketch (1-2 pages),
2) Creative Challenges (2-5 page scene),
3) Most Challenging Moment (1-2 pages),
4) Writing Sample (10 pages of creative writing), and
5) Creative Portfolio List

Internship Opportunities

Y (possible)

DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time it was last updated. PLEASE verify with the school ALL due dates and requirements as they may have changed since our last update. If any info on this page is incorrect please let us know and we will update it. We are not responsible for missed deadlines or rejected applications due to out of date information on this page. Please do your due diligence.

Latest reviews

Reviewed by
  • Experienced Professors
  • Industry Contacts
  • High Achieving Peers
  • Supportive Environment
  • Scholarship Opportunities (Mostly Second Year)
  • Cost
I couldn't ask for anything more from a writing program. During my time at USC I interned on two TV shows run by my idols. After I graduated I got an entertainment lawyer and management through a USC professor. Then I was hired by a different USC professor to write and develop IP. Ten months later I was staffed by a yet another USC professor on a TV show. Now I also have a book deal and a
pilot in development with my dream company.

This is obviously not everyone's experience. My results were a combination of extreme hard work and lots of luck. I also came into the program with a lot of experience, TONS of failures under my belt, and very thick skin. I'm not saying the program is perfect, but it can definitely help start your career. In my opinion, that's worth the crazy price tag.
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Alumni Network
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Career Assistance
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Thank you for your post. Could you go into more detail about your background which contributed to your experience to give you a head start on preparedness? If you don't mind saying some failures that helped you. Thank you.
Reviewed by
  • faculty faculty faculty
  • course flexibility
  • incredible TV alumni network
  • talented and motivated peers
  • industry internship accessibility
  • student diversity
  • not totally a con, but self care is important while in any intensive program
  • scholarship opportunities exist, but expect to have student loans
I completed USC's MFA screenwriting program in 2018. I'm beyond happy with the education and mentorship I received. Within two months of graduating, I landed my first industry job as a showrunner's assistant on a Netflix drama series. Most of my peers (a total of 32 in my year) are currently employed – a handful in development, a few with features or TV pilots optioned, multiple TV staff writers (yes: multiple, right out of the gate), and a good number of assistants in TV writers' rooms (for shows on Netflix, the CW, CBS, ABC, and more). This follows in the footsteps of the year above mine.

These friendships are what I value most from my time at USC – we're reading scripts and giving notes in writers' groups, we're meeting up frequently for drinks and events, and we're landing each other interviews, connections, and jobs. Working in LA is never easy, but goals feel so much more attainable when surrounded by talented people striving for the same thing. Having intelligent friends who are eager to vouch on your behalf is a further reassurance.

The classes themselves were challenging and rewarding. I pursued a TV thesis track, but I'd say my classmates were split nearly 50-50 between TV thesis and feature thesis. We were forced to write many pages very quickly, and doing so was a crash course on how to generate content and develop a routine. USC allows for some course flexibility – I took a few production classes and was accepted into a size-capped mock writers' room class. The class developed and wrote a four-episode web series, which was produced, filmed, and edited by a companion production department course. We were able to build a large set on one of USC's sound stages, too, so we obtained solid set experience.

Peers of mine took courses on gaming, podcasts, idea pitching, editing, film analysis, directing comedy, interactive media... choral music... so while many courses in the track are solidified for you (for good reason), there is ample room to still forge your own path through the program. The curriculum also includes a business class your second year (covers management, agencies, entertainment lawyers, contracts, IP, fellowship applications...). Frequent lectures by successful screenwriters and producers were also helpful, most of which were only available for MFA screenwriters to attend (i.e., plenty of face time to ask questions and pick brains). Professors also invited working writer-friends to visit classes throughout each semester (and, while at public events asking for contact info is a HUGE no-no, these individuals often wanted to pass along their email addresses to connect further).

While some drawbacks to the program can include cost (there are great scholarship opportunities, but many students ended up without significant aid... the up-side is that the program's only two years), I would choose this program again in a heartbeat. As with any program, your enjoyment of any given class is dependent on other students and on whether you vibe with a professor. Professor diversity is also important to me, so I was personally happy to have an LGBT-identifying professor my first semester. Strides have been taken in recent years to increase diversity among professors even further, I believe. My classmates were an incredibly diverse group, too, which was one of the program's highlights for me.

Final note: the amount of MFA alumni who are working in TV is actually insane. The TV program at USC is pretty innovative (spec courses, pilot courses, pilot re-write courses, structure courses), and everyone in my class who graduated in pursuit of a TV writing career felt very prepared. The program also gave us face-to-face access to successful alumni or other mentors through various end-of-program events (some of which aren't even publicized on USC's website).

I would say my fingers hurt after writing such a lengthy review, but THEY DON'T. Thanks, USC, for preparing me for this moment.
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Career Assistance
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3 members found this helpful.
Last edited:
I am elated for you (obv!) but i need help and advice panda-chan!! I'm thinking of applying for mfa screenwriting later on so can i hit you up in the dms for some light convo? or an email is fine too!!
I think your review just solidifies how much I want to attend USC for this MFA program. Thanks for the in-depth and thorough thoughts!
Can you detail what a TV thesis consists of? Do you produce a thesis script? How much flexibility is there to do electives in production?
Reviewed by
Current Student
  • esteemed faculty
  • talented cohort
  • successful mentors
  • guest lecturers
  • easy to question your skills when compared to successful cohort (big fish, big pond)
  • not much flexibility with the 2-yr program (for writer/dir/producers)
  • compartmentalized
It's tough to rate the pros and cons, since I'm still early in Writing program.

I will say that the benefits of being in LA, in a prestigious program, with working professionals as professors and mentors far outweigh any anxiety about tuition or eventually making it as a working writer (tongue-in-cheek).

I was personally apprehensive about being at a private school in the land of the "super-fake", where everyone's scheming to exploit you (I'm from the Midwest). I originally favored the NY schools because I wanted to be a "pure writer" and focus on developing my "voice", but USC SCA provides that by vouching for you and your talents.

And luckily, the screen/tv writing program isn't cutthroat... but our guest visitors and lecturers never hesitate to remind us that the industry can be a tough nut to crack. And the cohorts bring a wide array of talent and experience. A lot of lessons that would take years to learn alone in the industry are expedited through the decades worth of experience shared.

Plus, let's be honest: It's USC film school. Even though there are other GREAT programs out there to choose from, The Industry is out here and there's a lot of Trojans making big moves. It's highly encouraging to know that many alumni are finding success in various facets. From being staffed within years of graduation, to linking up with other students to develop pilots, web series, and short films.

Yet, with only one semester to "judge/review", it seems like each program is compartmentalized. We spend a lot of time writing, while the other depts. focus on their projects. The writing program is only 2 years, while the production program is a 3yr MFA and they admit in the spring for their program too. There's probably more chances to collaborate later on, but there's also value in distinguishing yourself first and working on your individual craft.

All in all, I feel like I'm in the best program to help prepare me for a long career in film/tv. Even the cons are valid for specific reasons. There's no perfect program out there, but USC definitely makes sure to challenge you, while also preparing you for a long career. I'm much more confident in this program, LA, and producing good content.

(feel free to ask more specific questions if this is still too vague)
Last edited by a moderator:
Hi, there. Can you elaborate here?

but there's also value in distinguishing yourself first and working on your individual craft.

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