Undergraduate FAQs Graduate FAQs International Student FAQs
Visiting SFAI Applying to SFAI TOEFL Requirements
Applying to SFAI Financial Questions Student Visas
Academics Academics Financial Assistance
Campus Life Campus Life  
  Other Graduate Questions  

Undergraduate FAQs

Visiting SFAI

Where is SFAI located?
We are located at 800 Chestnut Street in the heart of Russian Hill.

How do I tour the campus?
Tours are scheduled Monday through Saturday by appointment and can include a portfolio review. Please contact the Office of Admissions at 415.749.4500 or by email at admissions@sfai.edu to schedule your personalized visit to SFAI.

Applying to SFAI

What does rolling admissions mean?
Our priority application deadline for undergraduate students is February 1. After that, SFAI processes applications on a rolling admission basis meaning we will continue to receive and review applications as they are completed for the upcoming term. Students are typically notified of their decision within 3 weeks after the application is completed.

Do I need to submit all my application materials at once?
You may submit your application materials individually; however, we encourage you to submit one package of materials whenever possible. Please be sure to label your portfolio with your name and contact information.

How will I know if you have received everything you need for my application?
We will send you email updates regarding your application status. If you are missing one of your application materials we will email you with time to submit it. You will hear from your Admissions Counselor by phone or email when your decision letter has been sent.

When will I be informed of my admissions decision?
Typically the process takes about three weeks from when an application is complete to a student receiving their decision letter. You will receive a decision letter by mail notifying you of your application outcome.

What is required for my portfolio?
Since we recognize that there is no single approach to developing a portfolio, we carefully review each one we receive on its own terms. Your portfolio should consist of 10 to 20 examples of your best and most recent work. It may include examples of painting, drawing, digital media, mixed media, photography, film or video (no scripts), printmaking, sculpture, or documentations of performances or installations. Please review our Portfolio requirements

You can also schedule an in-person portfolio review with your Admissions Counselor before submitting your final portfolio. These appointments can be arranged by contacting our admissions department at 415.749.4500 or admissions@sfai.edu.

Who should write my letter of recommendation?
SFAI requires that undergraduates submit one letter of recommendation. Your letters of recommendation can be from an art teacher, guidance counselor, any academic teacher, a boss, or a teacher from a PreCollege program. Your reference should be able to speak to your artistic and educational achievements as well as your college potential. It is not appropriate to have family members or peers write your letters of recommendation.

What is an artist’s statement?
An artist statement is a brief essay that explains the artist’s working practice. It often illuminates specific details in the artwork and explains why certain materials were chosen to construct the artwork. It is also an opportunity to situate your working practice in the larger spectrum of art history or to reveal other artists who inspire your work. While some biographical information may be included in the artist statement, the writing should focus mainly the motivation for specific artwork or projects.

What scholarships are available for new students?
Upon admission to SFAI students are reviewed for the Merit Based Scholarships, which are awarded based on GPA and the Portfolio submission. The awards range from $5,000 to $12,000 and are renewable each year.

We also encourage students seeking need-based grants, scholarships, and loans to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The priority deadline is March 1, but institutional and federal aid may be available after that date. See Financial Aid for more information.

I am applying as a transfer applicant. Will you need my high school transcripts?
We require a high school transcript for all undergraduate applicants. Second degree students are exempted from this requirement.

If I’m applying as a transfer student, how many credits can I transfer?
We accept up to 60 units of transfer credit. When you apply, submit any transcript from a previous institution where you were earning credit for college-level coursework. We will evaluate your transcripts and provide you with an update of the remaining credits you will need to complete at SFAI. Learn more about transfer credit guidelines.

Does SFAI accept AP credit?
Yes, we accept test scores 3 and above for liberal arts AP courses and 4 and above for studio art AP courses. Please submit your test scores for review.

How can I get an application fee waiver?
SFAI will accept application fee waiver forms from the College Board and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). We strongly encourage you to speak with your guidance counselor to begin this process.

Do I have an Admissions Counselor?
Yes. All prospective students are assigned an Admissions Counselor who will help you through the enrollment process. Meet our Admissions Counselors.


Is SFAI accredited?
SFAI is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

SFAI was first accredited on April 30, 1954. The first BFA degrees were awarded in 1955; the first MFA degrees were awarded in 1958.

What is the tuition and fees?
Please follow this link for our current tuition and fees.

What types of degrees does SFAI offer?
SFAI offers Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Post-Baccalaureate Certificate (PB), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees. Our undergraduate majors are Design and Technology, Film, New Genres, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture, as well as Exhibition and Museum Studies, History and Theory of Contemporary Art, and Urban Studies.

What is the student-faculty ratio?

Are liberal arts courses offered?
SFAI requires students take a variety of liberal arts courses in fields such as art history, critical theory, English, humanities, mathematics, and natural and social science. See the complete liberal arts requirements.

Are there study abroad options?
At SFAI there are opportunities for undergraduate students to think about and experience their work in a global context and to understand how it can be a catalyst for exchange, dialogue, and social engagement. Study Abroad opportunities are available at prominent institutions in Prague, Jerusalem, London, Paris, Scotland, and other locations.

In addition, through AICAD Exchange, SFAI undergraduate students may study at other prominent art schools throughout the U.S. and Canada that are members of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD), without additional cost or loss of credit. Students can also earn credit on short-term Faculty-Led Programs, offered to locations worldwide.

What are some of your alumni doing?
Alumni from SFAI pursue a variety of careers after graduating. Students have gone on to continue their studio practice at artist residencies, exhibit internationally, teach art education, establish new galleries or join larger museums and cultural institutions, write for art publications, work for non-profits, produce feature-length films, launch design studios, and much more. Read our Alumni Profiles to learn about some of our graduates.

Campus Life

How many students are enrolled at SFAI?
SFAI has approximately 400 Undergraduate students and 250 Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate students.

Do you offer student housing?
SFAI offers two excellent residence hall options for students. Sutter Hall and Abby Hall are conveniently situated near San Francisco’s downtown district in Lower Nob Hill at 717 Sutter Street and 630 Geary Street, respectively. Our buildings are staffed by students and professionals who strive to ensure that the halls are a safe, secure, inclusive, artistically inspiring, and engaging place for students to live. We require that all first year and incoming students under 20 live in the residence hall. See Housing and Residential Life Housing and Residential Life for more information.

Do you have campus security?
We have 24-hour security.

Can I bring my car to campus?
Given the urban environment of San Francisco and easy access to public transportation we strongly recommend that students not bring their car to San Francisco. Parking downtown near the residence hall can be challenging.

Do I need to bring a computer, or will one be provided?
You may bring a laptop or computer from home if you wish to. We do not encourage students to purchase a new computer until they have been enrolled in their first semester at SFAI. SFAI students are eligible for student discounts at the Apple Store.

Graduate FAQs

Applying to SFAI

Do I need BFA degree to apply to the MFA, or do I have to have taken certain courses as an undergraduate?
No. Completion of an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution is required for all domestic applicants and the basis for admission is a full review of the materials presented. Admission to the MFA and MA programs is highly selective, so please pay careful attention to the SFAI Graduate application requirements when preparing your application.

Do I need to submit a GRE score with my application?
We do not require the GRE, but it will be considered with your application if you choose to submit it.

What is required for my portfolio?
Portfolios for the MFA programs should include a cohesive body of work that, while demonstrating your interests and ideas, also communicates substantial conceptual risk-taking, rigorous thought, and familiarity with the historical and contemporary contexts for artistic production. For full details, see Graduate Application Process.

How can I get an application fee waiver?
If you would like to request a fee waiver please contact the Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions.

Is an interview necessary for admission?
A personal interview may be requested for those candidates who have been recommended by the Graduate Faculty Review Committee.

How will I know if you have received everything you need for my application?
Admissions Operations sends emails in January and February notifying students of the completion of their file or of any missing documents. You are also welcome to call the Admissions Office at 415.749.4500 to confirm that your application is complete.

When will I be informed of my admissions decision?
If you submit your application by the priority deadline, the notification period for admission decisions is typically between late March and early April. There may be cases where the decision will take longer.

When will I get my portfolio back?
Should you choose to submit your materials by mail, please note that SFAI will not be able to return portfolios. Also, SFAI will not be able to store portfolios past the term in which you originally applied. If you would like your portfolio materials returned to you, please include a self-addressed, prepaid envelope or mailer. Should you wish to insure your portfolio, you should make the necessary arrangements for such coverage through the shipping company of your choice. SFAI assumes no responsibility for any damage to portfolios either in transit or during the review process.

Financial Questions

What is the tuition and fees?
Please follow this link for our current tuition and fees.

How many MFA and MA Fellowships are awarded?
MFA and MA Fellowships are the highest and most prestigious scholarships awarded at the San Francisco Art Institute and a limited number are awarded.

The Fellowships are awarded for partial tuition for selected students whose portfolio of artwork or writing samples and application to the Graduate program are deemed to be of the highest caliber by the Graduate Faculty Review Committee.

International students and Low-Residency MFA students may qualify for MFA Fellowships.

How does one apply for an MFA or MA Fellowship?
All applicants are automatically considered for this award. A separate application is not required.

Fellowships for full time MFA students are renewable for one additional year conditional upon good standing, progress toward the degree, and satisfactory intermediate review. 

Fellowships for Summer Low-Residency MFA students are renewable for up to 3 years, depending upon completion of graduation requirements. Fellowship awards are conditional upon good standing, progress toward the degree, and satisfactory intermediate review.

Are there opportunities for Graduate Students to become Teaching Assistants?
Usually these opportunities are reserved for second, third, and fourth semester students and include both paid and unpaid positions. Students may apply for TA positions in any department. Paid TAs can expect to receive a stipend which is paid out over the course of the semester. Stipends for the 2012-2013 academic year were set at $1,250 per semester.

When should one apply for financial aid?
Students can begin that process immediately following application to the program.

The FAFSA form can now be filled out on-line at http://fafsa.ed.gov. SFAI’s FAFSA code is 003948. See Financial Aid for details.

What are some of the work-study jobs on campus?
Our Career Resources Center has more information about student employment.


Is SFAI accredited?
San Francisco Art Institute is accredited by the Accrediting Commissions for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). SFAI is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD). Information concerning these organizations and their decisions is available through Academic Affairs.

How many credit hours is the MFA? How long will it take me to finish my degree?
The MFA is a 60 credit hour program, which is typically completed in four semesters.

I'm interested in studying for one year, what is the best program for me?
The Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Studio Art program is a one-year, full-time course of study that offers an intensive studio and critique driven environment for mid-career professionals wanting to develop their focus, those seeking to develop a body of work in preparation for application to a graduate MFA program, or practicing artists wishing to expand their ongoing studio work. You can find more information on the Post Baccalaureate Certificate program here

Can I transfer credits I received in another graduate program?
SFAI is unable to accept transfer credits at the graduate level.

Do graduate students get studio space?
Yes. The Graduate Center houses over 150 individual, shared, and group studios for graduate students and visiting artists, as well as classrooms, seminar rooms, a computer lab, film and photography studios, a woodshop, a student lounge, wall space for the display of student work, and installation rooms for the display of installation artwork. Studio spaces are assigned based on program of study, space availability, and the specifics of artistic practice.

Do students have opportunities to exhibit their work?
Yes. SFAI offers extensive opportunities for exhibition. In addition to opportunities to install work in spaces on both campuses by proposal, the Swell Gallery at the Graduate Center features bi-weekly exhibits with openings on Thursday evenings. The Diego Rivera Gallery shows a combination of undergraduate and graduate work, and hosts an artist talk and opening each Tuesday.

Is a thesis or exhibition required to graduate from the program?
Yes. Participation in the annual MFA Graduate Exhibition is the final requirement for the MFA degree. The largest of its kind in the San Francisco Bay Area, the exhibition draws curators, gallery directors, and collectors from the West Coast and beyond.

Can I study abroad?
There are extensive opportunities for graduate students to study internationally. Multi-week programs are taught throughout the year in locations around the globe including Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Berlin, and Venice.

Campus Life

Is there housing for graduate students?
Although many graduate students elect to live off-campus, there are some who choose to live in the residence halls. Learn more about graduate student housing options.

Does SFAI have ties to the Bay Area art community?
Yes. SFAI was the first art school West of the Mississippi and it is one of the earliest cultural organizations in San Francisco still in existence today. This, along with the History of SFAI and outstanding alumni, connects the college to the many outstanding cultural institutions in the Bay Area.

What kinds of campus organizations do you have?
We have a wide range of student organizations Clubs and Organizations on campus, including the Legion of Graduate Students (LOGS), which acts as a communicative bridge between the graduate student population and other important members of the SFAI community. 

Do you have campus security?
Campus safety patrols the main SFAI campus 24 hours a day and can be contacted via cell phone as well. The Graduate Center has designated student safety monitors until 1 am seven days a week and is a secure facility that is locked to the public after 6 pm.

Can I hear from current students about their experiences?
You are welcome to contact the Assistant Director of Graduate Admission for assistance in connecting with current students.

Will I have classes on both campuses? If so, how do I travel to and from each campus?
Most students will commute to and from the Chestnut Street campus and the Third Street Graduate Center at various times during their enrollment at SFAI. Students commute between campuses in a variety of ways including car, bike, and public transportation.

Is public transportation available near SFAI?
Yes. The public transportation system in the city is very good, and many of the city’s residents do not own vehicles. 511.org is an excellent resource for transit trip planning.

Other Graduate Questions

Where is the Graduate Center located?
The Graduate Center is located at 2565 Third Street in San Francisco, between 22nd and 23rd Streets, in a neighborhood known as the Dogpatch near Potrero Hill.

What is the college's studio-access policy?
SFAI students have 24-hour access to both campuses throughout the academic year. Some facilities have slightly more limited, clearly posted hours.

What is the placement rate of SFAI’s graduates?
This is difficult to determine because the range and interests of our students tend to defy precise placement rates. The history and reputation of the San Francisco Art Institute are a valuable contribution to the exhibition and employment opportunities our alumni enjoy.

What are some of your alumni doing?
Read our Alumni Profiles to learn about some of our graduates.

International Student Questions

What are your TOEFL score requirements?
For undergraduate students we require a minimum TOEFL score of 79 ibt/550 paper.

To be admitted to the MFA program you must have a TOEFL score of 580 or higher (paper-based), 92 or higher (internet-based), or 237 or higher (computer-based).

In lieu of the TOEFL, applicants may submit results of the Academic IELTS. To be admitted to SFAI's Graduate program a minimum Academic IELTS score of 7.0 is required. Please note, the General IELTS is not accepted.

To be admitted to the MA program you must have a TOEFL score of 600 or higher (paper-based), 100 or higher (internet-based), or 250 or higher (computer-based).

In lieu of the TOEFL, applicants may submit results of the Academic IELTS. To be admitted to SFAI's Graduate program a minimum Academic IELTS score of 7.5 is required. Please note, the General IELTS is not accepted.

Can I seek an exemption for the TOEFL requirements?
If your postsecondary education was conducted in the English Language, provided it is clearly stated on your academic documents, the TOEFL requirement may be waived at the discretion of SFAI.

What is SFAI’s TOEFL code?
Our code is 4036.

Whom do I contact for questions about obtaining my I-20 or student visa?
It is strongly recommended students begin this process as early as possible. For details, please see Student Visas.

If you have questions regarding this process contact the Global Programs Office at international@sfai.edu.

Where can I find information about international student financial assistance?
International students may qualify for MFA Fellowships. Learn more about scholarship opportunities and employment options for international students.

How many international students are at SFAI?
SFAI is continuing to grow the incoming student body. This year our international student population made up 11% of the student body.