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Graphic Design Graduate Admissions + Program FAQs

What does the faculty look for in the letter of intent?

The letter of intent tells the faculty reviewers the extent to which the applicant:

  • Understands the MGD program focus and research orientation;
  • Recognizes her/his interests and aims in relation to the program focus;
  • Articulates her/his intellectual and creative pursuits;
  • Anticipates professional goals following successful completion of the MGD.


What does the faculty look for in the portfolio?

Faculty assesses the applicant’s readiness to pursue graduate level work based on consistencies found among the letter of intent, work/study history, and the portfolio. Applicants who intend to change direction, who have been unable to pursue certain lines of thinking in the workplace, or who have created self-generated work that indicates nascent interests, need to explain these limitations in the letter of intent.

Faculty look for indications of:

  • Formal/technical skills and visual acuity pertinent to the graphic design discipline, including but not limited to typography, image manipulation, and design appropriateness to content.
  • Awareness of contemporary issues in graphic design and visual communication, for instance, visual meaning, user-centered design, and/or systems design.
  • Initiative and imaginative responses to client-driven or teacher assigned briefs.

Non-design visual work may be submitted but should not comprise the total portfolio.

MGD III applicant portfolios must show experience that is equivalent to 36 undergraduate credits of design or visual study. Such evidence may arise from formal instruction in design or from job experience. (Applicants with portfolios not equivalent to this level should consider applying for a second bachelor’s degree before pursuing graduate work in design.)

Can I get advance indication of how well I might do in the review process?

The university requires that applicants undergo the formal review process before any indication of admission potential be given. Additionally, how applicants present themselves is part of what the faculty evaluates in the review process. Therefore, it is not appropriate for faculty to coach applicants on the preparation of their application.

How important are the academic components of the application?

Undergraduate transcripts and the GRE offer insight into the applicant’s preparedness for the extensive reading, comprehension, and writing components of the program. College transcripts also indicate the breadth and depth of previous study. A 3.0 minimum GPA is required for admission.

How many students are admitted?

The program typically enrolls a combined total of 20 MGD II and III students. The program accepts 8 to 12 each fall, depending upon the number of students matriculating or graduating in a given cycle. Students are admitted for the fall semester only.

How can I find out about financial aid?

Prospective students may speak with the university Financial Aid Office and International Student Services Office about general loan and financial issues. Assistantships granted by the department are awarded after admissions decisions have been made.

Does the program accept applications for Spring admission?

Applications are reviewed in the beginning of the spring semester for admission the following fall. The program does not admit students to begin the program in the spring semester.

Does the program accept applications after the January deadline?

The program continues to consider applications as seats are available, however, faculty make decisions and extend invitations to accepted applicants by mid- to late-February.

Can I complete this degree program online?

The faculty believes that accomplishing work on-site, within a committed design community, is critical to achieving graduate level insight. The department offers two online courses in design history and theory, but all other coursework and student interaction takes place in the dedicated graduate studios, where all students have space and 24-hour access.

Can I enroll part-time?

The MGD is a full-time, in-residence program. Because the content across courses in any given semester is interrelated, they cannot be taken separately or out of sequence.

Can I work while I am enrolled in the graduate program?

Many students need to sustain outside employment during their studies. Faculty recommend no more than 12 hours of outside work per week.   

Can I take graduate courses in the program before admission to the program?

Graduate seminars may be available to special students with design backgrounds if space is available and if the student meets the prerequisites for the course. Program permission is required to register for these classes. Courses taken as a special student may not be applied to degree requirements if the student is later admitted to the program. Studio classes are not open to students who have not been admitted to the degree program.

Can I take undergraduate courses in the department to prepare for application to the graduate program?

The department conducts a competitive admissions process for the Bachelor of Graphic Design program and admits a small number of students among many academically qualified applicants. Therefore, the undergraduate program is unable to offer studio courses, with the exception of students who have been admitted to the MGD III track.

Might I be admitted even if my TOEFL/IELTS scores are lower than 100/7?

International applicants who do not meet threshold language requirements will not be recommended for admission to the university by the College of Design. Language proficiency must be demonstrated at the time of application.