Preparation + presentation

Overall, Graduate Program Directors (GPDs) are looking for students who are committed to pursuing intense, focused work in a specific discipline but who are open, inquisitive and ready to be challenged. Certain departments have specific prerequisites in terms of education and experience, but in general applicants to RISD’s graduate programs must have earned a bachelor’s degree or equivalent at a recognized institution of higher learning.

GPDs in each department take a slightly different approach to vetting prospective students. Many will encourage you to visit RISD, if you haven’t already done so. Some require on-site interviews, while others may suggest a Skype conversation instead. Larger departments that get hundreds of applicants base decisions largely on the materials you submit in support of your application.

For more information on specific graduate programs, please contact the Graduate Program Director in that area.

Application process + timeline

Prospective graduate students apply to RISD through the Admissions Office, following the guidelines spelled out on the Graduate Admissions page. The annual deadline is January 10—for admission the following September, except for the MLA, MA in Interior Architecture and MAT programs, which begin with required summer intensives. RISD also offers Summer Studies workshops and credit-bearing courses that may be helpful as a precursor to specific programs.

All master’s degree programs at RISD require a full-time commitment—for one, two or three years, depending on the program.

Make a point to visit if you can

You can visit RISD at any time that Admissions offers campus tours and information sessions.

Graduate Studies also hosts an IN FOcus information session that offers an overview of graduate education at RISD and an up-close, inside view of specific programs of interest. The IN FOcus session also morphs into an evening of Graduate Open Studios, which offers a great opportunity to walk through studios in use, talk to students about what they’re making and hear from them directly about their experience at RISD.

National Portfolio Reviews

RISD participates in a number of national Portfolio Review events sponsored by the National Portfolio Day Association.

These events give prospective students the opportunity to present their portfolios to representatives from art and design colleges and university art departments across the country.

RISD representatives are available to meet with you to critique your work and provide information about graduate programs. No admissions decisions are made at portfolio days, nor are you required to attend one of these events as part of the application process. It’s simply an opportunity to get more information about RISD while receiving feedback on your portfolio.

see the RISD Portfolio Days schedule »


Apparel Design Architecture Ceramics Digital + Media Experimental and Foundation Studies Film / Animation / Video Furniture Design Glass Graduate Studies Graphic Design History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences Illustration Industrial Design Interior Architecture Jewelry + Metalsmithing Landscape Architecture Literary Arts + Studies Painting Photography Printmaking Sculpture Teaching + Learning in Art + Design Textiles Theory + History of Art + Design