Pay the Way: Graduate Scholarship Opportunities

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As the Graduate Ambassador for the InterArts & Media MFA program, I answer emails every week from curious prospective students. The questions vary from broad to very specific (i.e. “…the nearest vegan organic coffee house to campus?…Bueller? Bueller?”). However, one question unites all potential InterArts MFA’s in their anxiety and excitement of graduate study: how do I pay for the program?

I’m glad you asked. Let’s look at a few of the scholarships that have helped my cohort and I to cover expenses. [flickr id=”6835982871″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]

First, note these two images. No, I’m not referring to a kitchen or a factory job to supplement your education (though they’re both respectable options, so I’m not discounting them either). Those are photos from part of my Albert P. Weisman Award application for my Thesis project, A Simple Cereal. The Weisman is an amazing boost to your creative endeavors. Have a major performance to stage but not enough funds? A film that needs a little something something for marketing and distribution? The Weisman is a matching grant of up to $4,000 for a given project. If you can find the money for the first half of your budget, the Weisman committee will compensate you for the other.

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You could say I’m starting at the end of the academic journey and working my way backward. Bear with me. I cannot stress the importance of the Weisman award enough. It is the financial backing towards a major project. In InterArts, Thesis is said major project and without the Weisman, installations like A Simple Cereal or Temple J. Cunningham’s Step (pictured above) would not be possible…without scraping the wallet clean.

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Another great opportunity is the Rosenblum Award for travel to conferences that graduates plan to attend or give presentations. The College Art Association, or CAA, is the major conference that many InterArts students experience; it is the hub for job networking, critical art theory, and the possibility of spotting some art star panel lectures. Plus, CAA rotates between its hosting cities of Chicago, New York, and (and for this year) Los Angeles. Remember that major project you’re going to install for Thesis? You can present your ideas for it at a CAA panel. And if CAA isn’t right downtown in Chicago? Apply for the Rosenblum where you can receive up to $500 for travel expenses…the cost of a plane ticket to the conference of your academic dreams.

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Now, rewind all the way back to the start. You just got into InterArts–now how do you pay? A few things. First, by filling out your application and getting in, you were in the running for the Follett Graduate Merit Award, which can cover your tuition for as long as you’re in school. The department chooses recipients based on the admission cycle, so there are no worries on writing extra essays or additional paper work. The Getz Graduate Award and the Graduate Opportunity Award are awards that require those essays, but it’s writing on your outstanding achievement in graduate study, so don’t sweat it. If you are hardworking and dedicated to your field, the Getz and the Graduate Opportunity are fantastic sources of support.

Your art practice is the most important thing in grad school…but money is a photo-finish second. I know. I’m right there with you. But there are places, committees, departments, and awards that believe in you. They’ll help you make it work…without scraping the wallet clean.