Who should apply

The ideal candidate:

  • holds a BFA or BA in Illustration or related studio discipline, or a BS/BA in a humanities or social science field supported by a strong visual portfolio.
  • has two years of active practice in visual communication, with demonstrable professional/practical experience beyond their undergraduate degree.
  • possesses strong writing and critical thinking skills and is creatively curious, eager to experiment and interested in artistic research.
  • is passionate about issues around equity, social justice and/or environmental sustainability and desires to pursue related goals through creative practice and public partnerships and/or professional engagement.

Tuition and fees*

Annual tuition: $58,690
Activity fee: $270
Orientation fee: $200

* Tuition and expense info is for academic year 2023/24. For housing options and costs, go to the RISD Student Hub.


Graduate application: January 5

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (domestic applicants only): February 1


  1. Submit your RISD application form, and all other credentials, through the RISD Applicant Portal. The application fee is $60.

  2. Initially, you must provide unofficial transcripts of all undergraduate and/or graduate study indicating satisfactory completion, or evidence of anticipated completion, of an undergraduate degree program from an accredited college or university. You can upload your unofficial transcripts within the RISD Applicant Portal. If your academic credentials are prepared in a language other than English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator before submitting. Enrolling students will later be required to submit official transcripts.

  3. Applicants are required to submit a portfolio of 10–20 examples of visual work. Use SlideRoom to submit your portfolio.

  4. In 750-1500 words, please describe how you hope to engage your values as a critical thinker and maker within the context of your illustration studio practice and as a citizen of the world. Your statement should also reflect your understanding of the Illustration MFA course of study and what you hope to gain by completing the program.

    Supplemental writing prompt (500 words or fewer): RISD is a community of determined and engaged makers. This common bond invigorates our campus. The backgrounds, lived experiences and curiosities of our students deeply enrich our community. Describe an aspect of your background or life experience that defines who you are. How has this influenced your creative process?

  5. Applicants are required to submit three letters of recommendation from teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential for studying illustration at the graduate level. You may invite your recommenders to upload their letters through your Applicant Portal. If your recommenders are unable to submit using this method, their letters may be emailed to or mailed to:

    Graduate Admissions Office
    Rhode Island School of Design
    20 Washington Place
    Providence, RI 02903

  6. English language proficiency: All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from any one of these three options: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or Duolingo (an online English test). Since proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on their chosen test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL or a 6.5 on the IELTS.

    Duolingo is changing its scoring system beginning with tests completed on July 15, 2019 and beyond. If you took this test prior to the change, we require a minimum result of 63. Applicants who completed the Duolingo test on or after July 15, 2019 must achieve a minimum score of 115, which is the equivalent of 63 in their prior scoring system.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take three weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency. Duolingo test results may take up to four days to be received by RISD.

    The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who have studied in an institution where English is the language of instruction. You must contact the Admissions Office to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible.

    Graduate Record Exam (GRE): Results from the Graduate Record Examination are not required.


Students who will have completed an undergraduate bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university by June 2023 are eligible to apply to the MFA in Illustration program for admission in the 2023/24 academic year.

Financial aid

All admitted graduate students are considered for fellowships and assistantships. There is no application process to be considered for these awards.

RISD’s office of Student Financial Services (SFS) is dedicated to helping graduate students understand the financial aid process and how best to finance their education.

US citizens and permanent residents may also apply for federal student loans by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

More information about fellowships, loans and other financial aid is available on