The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Academics

Graduate Program FAQ

What percentage of your admitted students get offered Teaching Assistantships?
We offer TA-ships to every student we admit, with a stipend of about $23,000 for the 2019-2020 school year. We offer this support for all three years of the student’s study here, pending successful academic progress. The TA-ship also includes a waiver of tuition and generous medical benefits.

What do the TA-ships consist of?
The TA-ships vary from area to area, and semester to semester. In Directing and Dramaturgy, they regularly include teaching our introductory classes. They may also include public relations, production management, arts management, or shop-related responsibilities. In the Design programs, they regularly include shop-related responsibilities. They may also occasionally include teaching, public relations, production management, or arts management.

How does the “hiatus year” in admissions work?
We admit a cohort of students two out of every three years. There will be an entering class for Fall 2020, 2021, 2023, 2024, etc. There will be no entering class for Fall 2022 or 2025. The next admissions deadline is therefore January 15, 2020, for the class to enter Fall 2020. We design our admissions cycle this way to allow our faculty to offer a wider variety of classes and to increase the size of each entering cohort.

What’s the average age of your cohort? I’ve been out of college many years -- will my application be considered?
Our MFA students vary widely in age, from right out of college to the later stages of their careers. Most of our entering students are in their mid to late 20s, but we warmly welcome applicants of all ages. In general, we look favorably upon applicants with some level of experience beyond college.

Do I need to have majored in Theater to be a serious applicant?
No. We have admitted students from a wide variety of majors. We do look for students who have a record of commitment to the MFA program they are applying for and/or a portfolio that shows the promise to succeed in that program.

Are international students encouraged to apply?
Absolutely. We receive applications from around the world, and have admitted students from France, China, India, Iran, Mexico, Taiwan, Turkey, and the UK, to name a few places. UMass has a large population of international students and offers good support for their needs.

How big is your program?
We are a small graduate program: currently, 15 MFA students (4 in Directing, 4 in Dramaturgy, 7 in all areas of Design.) The Department itself is medium-sized, with about 140 undergraduate theater majors.

Does the program offer opportunities for mainstage production work?
Absolutely. All MFA students will be assigned multiple, fully produced mainstage productions over the course of their three years. Directors normally direct a mainstage show in their second and third years. Dramaturgs and Designers will be assigned at least one mainstage show for each of their three years. Generally, MFA students are at the heart of our mainstage season, and we see the season as integral to our curriculum.

Can I use credits from previous graduate study or professional experience to complete the program in less than three years?
No. Our MFA program is designed for three years of residency. In some instances, previous graduate work may allow a student to place out of certain required classes, but all students are still required to complete 60 graduate credits at UMass, which requires three years of study.

Can I combine multiple MFA programs at UMass Theater?
You have to apply to one of our five specific programs. With very few exceptions, students pursue their MFAs in this chosen program. On occasion, we encounter students with multiple interests, and we are sometimes able to tailor programs individually for them, though generally one specific MFA program remains their primary area. If you have more questions about combining specific programs, you should ask the Graduate Program Director and area faculty either during the application or interview process.

Does the program require my residence over the summer?
No. You only need to be here for the academic year, September through early May. Some students choose to remain in the area over the summer, others go elsewhere or pursue internships.

I am a prospective MFA applicant – can I tour the Department or sit in on classes?
Because we are a small program, we do not offer formal tours or class visits for prospective students. However, if you are planning on visiting campus, you are encouraged to reach out to the Graduate Program Director, who may be able to meet with you or connect you with a faculty member in your area.

I have applied to the MFA program – can I tour the Department or sit in on classes?
We review all applications in late January and early February. Once all applications are reviewed, we will invite all finalists to campus for day-long visits and interviews. These visits take place in late February and early March.

What’s the nearest airport, and what’s the area like?
UMass/Amherst is the flagship campus of the state’s higher education system. We are located in beautiful Western Massachusetts, a culturally vibrant and highly desirable place to live, famed for higher education, arts and culture, and recreation. We are part of the Five College Consortium. Hartford is an hour’s drive, Boston is approximately 90 minutes away, and Times Square approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes.

The nearest airport is Bradley International (Hartford-Springfield), about an hour away. Logan Airport (Boston) is about two hours away.

Where can I stay?
The Hotel UMass, the official sponsor of accommodations for UMass Theater guest artists, is right on campus.