MFA students are expected to take the courses specified on their SOFA planning sheet. However, students who can prove they already have the knowledge covered by a particular course can speak with the graduate director and request substituting that course with another. If needed, the graduate director will consult with an instructor who specializes in the course content. An examination may also be required.
It is possible for production and screenwriting students to use their CIAS electives to fulfill the requirements of both sub-plans. In such cases, students may choose whether to complete their MFA with a production or a screenwriting thesis.
Students in the animation sub-plan may specialize in either 2D or stop-motion animation. 3D students follow the 3D animation sub-plan.
MFA students can only earn credit towards their degree with courses numbered 600 or higher, must maintain a 3.00 (B average), and must complete their degree within seven years of starting their MFA studies (including the archiving of their thesis). These rules, full time status (below), and other graduate polices including academic probation and suspension, leave of absences, grading, and co-ops are discussed in CIAS Graduate Policy and Guidelines.
To qualify as a full time student, graduate students must register for a minimum of 9 credits each semester. While some students may need to maintain full time status to qualify for financial aid or delay loan repayment, international SOFA students are required to maintain full time status each semester unless pre-authorized to have a reduced course load (RCL) or registered for curricular practical training (CPT).
Students generally qualify for a RCL with full time equivalency (FTE), which requires students to have the equivalent of at least 9 credits of activity in their field. Each credit requires three hours of work per week. Hence, students enrolled with four-credits of thesis will need 15 hours of activity per week. Students can accomplish this by enrolling in classes or independent studies; working as a teaching, research, or lab assistant; or completing incomplete grades. It can also come from creating an accountable, degree-related research plan not covered by thesis credit. This could include learning specific software, watching specific films, or reading specific books. FTE research plans must be carefully laid out. For the thesis year this should be done with the student’s thesis committee. In all cases, a FTE Form must be submitted to the graduate director for approval after all course registration is complete in the semester preceding desired FTE status. A RCL is also granted for students in their final term.
International students should consult with ISS if they need more information on RCL, FTE, CPT, or optional practical training (OPT).