Nervous Potential Student Applying to MFA Film Schools for Fall 2021

JCAGBA

New Member
Hello! I am very new to this whole graduate school process - let alone, TOTALLY new to the whole Film graduate school process. I fear that I do not know what I am doing, or if I am doing it correctly. I am seeking to apply to film schools in Fall 2021 and I am currently looking at the following schools and their programs:

1) UCLA - Producers Program
2) USC - Writing for Screen & Television
3) NYU - The Graduate Film Program
4) Columbia University - School of the Arts Film Program
5) Emerson College - Film and Media Art
6) Art Center - Film
7) American Film Institute (AFI)
8) New York Film Academy

For some of these schools, I know that they have announced when their Fall 2021 application will go live, but for others I am still unsure, and want to be prepared for when they announce that they are now accepting new applications for the next school year. I’ve made a spreadsheet of any deadline dates, portal passcodes, number of letters of recommendations and anything pertaining to what the school will be requesting. Some of the questions that I have are the following:

1) Should I start now in preparing for applying to these schools? Or should I wait until the information for their 2021 application goes live?
2) For my undergrad I did not major in film and (ironically by my senior year) I took a bunch of film classes and realized that I really liked it a lot. Will that work for me, or against me?
3) I enrolled in Emerson’s certificate program and obtained my Digital Media Certificate from the school. Do these MFA programs accept letters of recommendation from professors who taught for my certificate program, or does it have to be professors primarily from my undergrad school?
4) From the list of schools that I’ve provided is there one that is hard to get into? (I heard that NYU only accepts around 35 students per year - YIKES!)

I am nervous because I want to do well on this, and want to give it my best shot. Any recommendations or tips that you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
 

JazzWhiplash

New Member
Hello! I am very new to this whole graduate school process - let alone, TOTALLY new to the whole Film graduate school process. I fear that I do not know what I am doing, or if I am doing it correctly. I am seeking to apply to film schools in Fall 2021 and I am currently looking at the following schools and their programs:

1) UCLA - Producers Program
2) USC - Writing for Screen & Television
3) NYU - The Graduate Film Program
4) Columbia University - School of the Arts Film Program
5) Emerson College - Film and Media Art
6) Art Center - Film
7) American Film Institute (AFI)
8) New York Film Academy

For some of these schools, I know that they have announced when their Fall 2021 application will go live, but for others I am still unsure, and want to be prepared for when they announce that they are now accepting new applications for the next school year. I’ve made a spreadsheet of any deadline dates, portal passcodes, number of letters of recommendations and anything pertaining to what the school will be requesting. Some of the questions that I have are the following:

1) Should I start now in preparing for applying to these schools? Or should I wait until the information for their 2021 application goes live?
2) For my undergrad I did not major in film and (ironically by my senior year) I took a bunch of film classes and realized that I really liked it a lot. Will that work for me, or against me?
3) I enrolled in Emerson’s certificate program and obtained my Digital Media Certificate from the school. Do these MFA programs accept letters of recommendation from professors who taught for my certificate program, or does it have to be professors primarily from my undergrad school?
4) From the list of schools that I’ve provided is there one that is hard to get into? (I heard that NYU only accepts around 35 students per year - YIKES!)

I am nervous because I want to do well on this, and want to give it my best shot. Any recommendations or tips that you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Hi! To answer some of your questions:

1) I'd work on nailing the personal statement. Try to find a creative way to express your passion for film. The committee is really focused on who you are as a creative artist and what makes you different from everyone else.

2) Most film schools (especially USC, Emerson, NYU) like to interview/accept people from all kinds of backgrounds, as long as you have passion for the craft and make that apparent through your application materials you should have a good chance.

3) If I'm not mistaken, the norm is that at least one of the rec letters has to be from a professor/academic advisor. The rest are up to you.

4) Out of all the schools you listed I find Columbia the hardest to get into as its really finicky with the film reel and writing samples.

I would say Emerson is the easiest to get into seeing as you already have a certificate from them.

USC is pretty fair game so long as your application really pops (they accept 60, I believe).

I haven't applied to the others but I've heard good things about AFI too! Kind of depends on the program you're applying to.


Hope this helps! ;)
 

dkimg21

Member
Supporting Member
UCLA
Gonna be completely honest, buuuut I decided to go to grad school 3 weeks before the first deadline. Now, I'm attending UCLA depending on how stuff unfolds in Los Angeles.

Pretty much this is how I came to the decision: For a few months after my undergrad, I found a job (banking) to support myself. I absolutely hated it, and I decided to visit my undergraduate college in Rochester. After speaking with my former advisor for a few hours, I came to the conclusion that graduate school could be the path I needed to take for my career in film. I was definitely last minute to the grad-school game.

I think it's important to mention my situation because I did not think I would get into film school! Always remember that it's going to be different for every single applicant. Now, onto the questions!

1. Start thinking about the essays NOW. One of the most stressful things to think about was myself. The admissions committee is looking for unique individuals with a strong passion in film. That might be too simple of looking at it, but you have to stand out from the thousands of other applicants. The two essays you need to focus on are the Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement. The SoP explains WHY you want to study film and WHY you want to go to the particular school. Think of it as a cover letter for a job! The Personal Statement should read like a story/narrative. Most schools will not want your whole life story, so provide them with some context and move onto the main event.

2. As far as I know, not everyone studied film for their undergrad. Especially for Columbia and UCLA, I think they are looking for students from unique backgrounds who have a story to tell. The point of going to film school is to study film, so I'm sure you will be fine.

3. Look into the requirements of each school for rec letters. If you have professors/teachers who can write for you, then great! I don't think it really matters if it's certificate or undergrad.

4. Outside of Chapman, Columbia, USC, NYU, and UCLA, I'm pretty sure most film schools are easy-ish to get into. From personal experience, I applied to NYU, UCLA, and Columbia (basically threw a hail mary to see where it would land). I was rejected by NYU without interview, waitlisted by Columbia after interview, and accepted to UCLA after interview. (For extra context,
I went to the University of Rochester for my undergrad, and I majored in both Economics and Film Studies. I also held a couple of film-related internships and got letters from 2 professors and 1 staff member.)

Hopefully, this helps! One more bit of advice is to trim down your list of schools. The application fees are ridiculously expensive, and they take a lot of time. Focus on quality, not quantity!
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
BU
Some great advice already in the this thread! :)

If you haven't read it yet I highly recommend checking out our exclusive interview with USC admissions as I'm sure you'll find it helpful and inspiring:

How to get Into USC Film School: An Interview With an SCA Admissions Committee Member

How to get Into USC Film School: An Interview With an SCA Admissions Committee Member

Considered by many to be the best film school in the world, it’s no wonder why the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) is so sought after by prospective undergraduate and graduate students alike. However, the film school’s prestige can often make the application process particularly stressful and...

Good luck!
 
Last edited:

argonautical

New Member
Hello! I am very new to this whole graduate school process - let alone, TOTALLY new to the whole Film graduate school process. I fear that I do not know what I am doing, or if I am doing it correctly. I am seeking to apply to film schools in Fall 2021 and I am currently looking at the following schools and their programs:

1) UCLA - Producers Program
2) USC - Writing for Screen & Television
3) NYU - The Graduate Film Program
4) Columbia University - School of the Arts Film Program
5) Emerson College - Film and Media Art
6) Art Center - Film
7) American Film Institute (AFI)
8) New York Film Academy

For some of these schools, I know that they have announced when their Fall 2021 application will go live, but for others I am still unsure, and want to be prepared for when they announce that they are now accepting new applications for the next school year. I’ve made a spreadsheet of any deadline dates, portal passcodes, number of letters of recommendations and anything pertaining to what the school will be requesting. Some of the questions that I have are the following:

1) Should I start now in preparing for applying to these schools? Or should I wait until the information for their 2021 application goes live?
2) For my undergrad I did not major in film and (ironically by my senior year) I took a bunch of film classes and realized that I really liked it a lot. Will that work for me, or against me?
3) I enrolled in Emerson’s certificate program and obtained my Digital Media Certificate from the school. Do these MFA programs accept letters of recommendation from professors who taught for my certificate program, or does it have to be professors primarily from my undergrad school?
4) From the list of schools that I’ve provided is there one that is hard to get into? (I heard that NYU only accepts around 35 students per year - YIKES!)

I am nervous because I want to do well on this, and want to give it my best shot. Any recommendations or tips that you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Hey I hope you’re doing well. This is a very big decision and you should feel good about following your passion.

One thing about your question that concerns me is that you mention several different film programs in some very different disciplines within film. You mentioned a producers program, a screenwriting program, and then just names of schools. If I were you I would narrow down what exactly you would like to study and not just getting into any film program itself.

Really narrow down your preferred discipline and that will make choosing a lot easier.

Studying screenwriting and directing, for example, are wildly different things.

I’m curious to see what you pick. Good luck!
 

JCAGBA

New Member
Wow! Thank you so much everyone! I truly appreciated all of your feedback! I’ll probably have a couple of more questions to ask as I continue working my way through these applications, but this was EXTREMELY helpful!
 

LaceyT

New Member
Thanks for starting this thread - reading through everyone's answers to your questions is super helpful! I am also planning to apply for Fall of '21, but with a narrower scope. I'm focused on applying for my Screenwriting MFA from one of UT's two programs. I'm currently working on my feature-length writing sample, and am planning on starting my Personal Statement and reaching out to my letters of recommendation in September.

I have a question regarding recommendations:

I'm a little nervous about my recs because I've been out of undergrad for about a decade and I don't really have a professor I'm close to. I have worked as a writer for the past 6 years, both in and out of the industry, so I have strong professional recommendations, just not ones that are professors. I'm wondering, will this be held against me?

TIA for your insight!
 

dkimg21

Member
Supporting Member
UCLA
You should be fine! I would just double check with the school. Most people applying have been out of undergrad for years. I would say try to find someone in your field or in academia who know you and your work very well.

Good luck!
 

argonautical

New Member
Thanks for starting this thread - reading through everyone's answers to your questions is super helpful! I am also planning to apply for Fall of '21, but with a narrower scope. I'm focused on applying for my Screenwriting MFA from one of UT's two programs. I'm currently working on my feature-length writing sample, and am planning on starting my Personal Statement and reaching out to my letters of recommendation in September.

I have a question regarding recommendations:

I'm a little nervous about my recs because I've been out of undergrad for about a decade and I don't really have a professor I'm close to. I have worked as a writer for the past 6 years, both in and out of the industry, so I have strong professional recommendations, just not ones that are professors. I'm wondering, will this be held against me?

TIA for your insight!
I can’t speak specifically about screenwriting but I think recs work the same for the most part. I had a similar situation to you. Worse even, I majored in something completely unrelated to film (Econ lol). I emailed a few professors even though I didn’t do the best job at keeping in touch with them. I got answers that ranged from “I don’t know how well you would do in a film program so I can’t accurately write a recommendation” to “that’s exciting, let’s discuss it more and we can go from there”. The latter professor was actually incredibly accommodating and went above and beyond writing my letter.

If they see passion they’ll try to work with you. So make sure you convey that when you reach out (shouldn’t be too difficult for you since you’re a writer). In the end I sent 1 academic recommendation and 2 from professional contacts. I ended up getting accepted to my top choice.

My suggestion would be to reach out to potential recommenders sooner rather than later. Let me know if you have any more questions!
 

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