About 15 years ago, I knew a guy who worked as a regional sales rep for Verizon Wireless and was known for employing crazy, offbeat sales techniques. He once told me about a time when he tried a new approach on a potential customer. A man wandered over to the cell phone display and was casually looking at the phones. My buddy walks over to him and says, "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave." "Excuse me?" the incredulous customer replied. "I'm sorry, sir, but I can't sell you any of our phones." "And why not?" said the main. "Well, sir, you're just not cool enough."

He didn't make the sale. Years later, I'm starting to wonder if my friend's problem wasn't in his pitch, but instead in his choice of product.

During this time of the year, when many of us are starting to receive, consider, and accept offers from graduate schools, I've noticed an interesting psychological phenomenon among MFA hopefuls. Most of the schools to which we have applied (UCLA, USC, AFI, NYU, Columbia, et al.) are almost as notoriously exclusive as they are notoriously expensive. However, the dialog on this site (and others) seems to focus entirely on the former and nearly disregard the latter. It seems that so many of us are so eager to feel validated as artists and filmmakers that it can obscure the fact that we are diving head-first into one of the most significant purchasing decisions of our lives. The resulting dynamic is a counter-intuitive reversal; we try desperately to sell ourselves to these schools, rather than the other way around, and pray that we will be allowed to become customers.

Maybe my situation is outside the majority, but I have no trust fund, and my parents will be contributing $0 toward my graduate school tuition. I will be exclusively reliant upon two sources to finance my degree: grants/scholarships offered internally at each institution, and the ol' student loan gambit. Therefore, I want to remain keenly aware of the value of each school to which I am accepted. This website is a fantastic resource for reading opinions about the equipment, facilities, and campuses of schools. However, it is surprisingly light on user info about the cost of tuition and how each applicant financially justifies it. With MFA tuition costs easily exceeding $100,000, this is a pretty big elephant in the room.

What I'd love to see are answers to the following questions from all of y'all:

1. How are you planning to pay for the tuition at the schools you are considering?
2. What specific grants/scholarships are you pursuing? If you don't get them, will you pay sticker price for tuition?
3. How specifically are you planning to repay your loans after graduation? What is the basis of your plan?
4. How much does the cost of tuition factor into your choice of schools, and why?

I've heard that when a loved one dies, a good idea is to bring a trusted friend to the funeral parlor to help with the purchasing decisions surrounding the memorial. In those tense times, it's beneficial to have a clear-headed partner that isn't wrapped up inside their own emotions to ask important questions like, "Do we reallllly need to get the EternaRest 9000 Coffin for $75,000? Isn't that a little expensive?" For many of us (myself included), the graduate admissions process is a roller coaster of self-doubt, exhilaration, and anticipation. Therefore, the same wisdom could easily help here, too. We should be there for each other to ask questions like, "But that experimental film degree from CalArts is going to cost you $150,000, and you're planning on paying for it with loans. How will you possibly be able to pay those back?"

Thanks, and please: share your thoughts!


Well-Known Member
This thread is great. It doesn't give a ton of specific details. I suppose maybe that's because most of us don't know. I think it's near impossible to know what job you'll be able to get leaving film school and, for me, is hard to "count" on getting any job that pays more than 30k a year which makes loan payments pretty difficult. The military post gives some good practical advice but more for undergrad.

I really enjoyed reading the ROI article @Chris W shared and am going to look up the books he recommended - just wondering is there one of the three that you think is more relevant today?
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