The only program of its kind tied to a cinematic arts school, the Interactive Media & Games Division offers unprecedented opportunities for students to explore media convergence in an environment that leverages the natural advantages of its Los Angeles setting. Presenting a broad and deep curriculum, the division explores the methods and technologies that are shaping art and entertainment today, and provides leading edge research and a hotbed of ideas for future professional storytellers.
The faculty admissions committee evaluates applications for originality, clarity, personal insight and artistic excellence. Considerable importance is placed on the Cinematic Arts personal statement, writing samples, portfolio list, creative work sample and letters of recommendation. There are no admission interviews. By limiting the evaluation to the items listed, the committee ensures that all applicants are judged by the same criteria.
All applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree (or have a bachelor’s degree conferred before the start of the intended first time at USC) from a regionally accredited institution in order to be considered for admission. Applicants who studied overseas should review USC’s country-specific requirements for more information about degree equivalency.
The following items must be submitted to be considered for admission to the Interactive Media M.F.A. program.
- USC Graduate Application for Admission
- SlideRoom Application
- Cinematic Arts Personal Statement
- Writing Sample
- Creative Portfolio List
- Creative Work Sample
- Project Question 1
- Project Question 2
- Letters of Recommendation (3)
- Official Transcripts (From all academic institutions attended)
- Official English Proficiency Test Scores (International Students Only)
In order to be considered for admission, all required applications and materials must be submitted by the deadline. Late applications will not be considered. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that all materials are submitted.
The School of Cinematic Arts cannot verify receipt of any application materials. Applicants may check their youSC portal and SlideRoom Application portal for the status of materials.
View additional detailed information regarding graduate admission on the Office of Graduate Admission's website.
- Fall Admission Deadline: November 15th (Application will open on August 20th)
View all Application Deadlines.
All applicants wishing to be considered for admission must complete the following steps in the application process where applicable:
Step 1: Submit the General USC Graduate Application for Admission
Step 2: Submit Supplemental Materials via the SlideRoom Application
In addition to the Graduate Application for Admission, all applicants are required to submit supplemental materials via the SlideRoom Application. Please be sure to submit the SlideRoom Application titled: " Graduate Interactive Media M.F.A. Program.” You may access the SlideRoom Application via the SlideRoom tab in the Program Materials section of the Graduate Application for Admission. All materials must be submitted via the SlideRoom Application and any materials sent by mail or email will not be considered.
Cinematic Arts Personal Statement (Must be uploaded in PDF format only):
The Cinematic Arts Personal Statement is an opportunity to express your ideas about and interest in Interactive Entertainment, help us to understand your background and creative potential, and explain why you would like to study interactive media production at the School of Cinematic Arts. This statement will be read by the admissions committee as a measure of creativity, self-awareness and vision. Your statement should give the committee a sense of your long-term goals and artistic ambitions. It should answer the questions: "Who are you as a person? What are you trying to say, using interactive media? Why do you want to attend the Interactive Entertainment Program? What are your career/professional/artistic goals?"
Writing Sample (Must be uploaded in PDF format only):
Describe an experience that has inspired you to enter the field of interactive media. This might be the experience of playing a particular game, visiting a museum installation, seeing an interactive artwork, etc. Or, it might be a story about how you created an interactive experience for others to participate in or play with. Tell us the story of how and why this experience affected you, how it changed your way of thinking about interactive media, and what it means for your plans for the future.
- Creative Portfolio List (Must be uploaded in PDF format only)
The Creative Portfolio List is a written record of the applicant's creative material. Please list all of your creative work, when and in what capacity it was created. For example, was the work made in a class or for a show? What was your role? List your most recent work first and list related work as a single entry, such as a group of drawings completed for a single showing. If you have created interactive software, animation or games, please be sure to list these on your portfolio and describe the development environment for the piece. For example, the program or language used. If you have created paper-based games, please list these as well. The name of the institution or publication should be included when listing creative materials prepared for a class or publication. An example is below:
- June 2008, Honors, 16mm black-and-white film, one hour. Position: writer/director. Honors is a story about two competitive college roommates. Produced for an advanced film production workshop: "Film Production II," University of San Diego, San Diego, California.
- February 2008, "Cellomorphosis," short story. Position: writer. A variation on the novella by Franz Kafka; published in Writing, vol. IV, 2007, at Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts.
- Jan 2008, No-Tag Team, Flash game. Position: game designer, programmer. A short, experimental game about two game avatars who wander an unknown land without ever finding each other. Made in a Flash Workshop at Boston Community College. Available to play at http://www.mysite.com/thisisnotagteam.html.
Creative Work Sample (Upload in Portfolio section)
The creative work sample represents your best or most relevant work. Choose a major piece of work that you are extremely proud of for your creative sample. If you have completed a game or animation project, you should strongly consider including this. Otherwise this work might be digital or analog, it or may be a film, photo essay, script or story. For visual art, you may submit a small selection of pieces. Make sure your piece is easily viewable by the admissions committee. If you are uncertain that your software will run, include screenshots and a video play-through just in case.
You should keep in mind that the committee has limited time to look at each applicant's file, so send a creative sample that can be viewed, played or read in less than 10 minutes. Please limit the length of a written creative sample, e.g. movie scripts and prose should be no more than 20 pages.
We are looking for individuals who show both proven talent and personal initiative. Use the creative sample to show us your best work and the portfolio to show us the breadth of your creative endeavors.
For physical games and creative pieces, you can submit a PDF of the rules or text, along with video, photographs and other documentation. An online link will allow you to showcase several of your works, giving the committee a better sense of your skills and talent.
- Project Question 1 (Must be uploaded in PDF format only)
Provide an example of a project that you have contributed to or led. Choose a project that left you feeling proud. Please describe the context of the project (e.g. the people involved the goals, etc.) and also describe your role in the project. Finally, state what about your role in the project gave you a feeling of pride. (No more than one page)
- Project Question 2 (Must be uploaded in PDF format only)
Describe a project that you have worked on that was a failure. Describe the situation in which the project took place, the objectives of the project and others (if any) who were part of the project team. Be clear about your role in the project. Describe how and why the project failed. Finally, summarize what you learned from the project and what you would do differently next time. (No more than one page)
Letters of Recommendation
Three letters of recommendation in particular format are required. At least one letter of recommendation must be an academic reference. All letters of recommendation must be submitted via the SlideRoom references system. Applicants are responsible for requesting letters of recommendation as well as confirming that they have been submitted by the deadline.
Step 3: Send Official Academic Transcripts
Please review and follow transcript requirement and submission instructions detailed on the Transcript Requirements page on the Office of Graduate Admission’s website.
Official transcripts from all colleges, universities and other post-secondary institutions attended must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Admissions, not the School of Cinematic Arts. In addition, scanned copies of all official transcripts must be uploaded to the Graduate Application for Admission.
Electronic transcripts may be sent directly from the sending institution to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not send any other materials or correspondence to this email address yourself.
If sending your transcripts via regular mail, use the following address:
University of Southern California
USC Office of Graduate Admission
3601 South Flower Street, Room 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915
University of Southern California
USC Office of Graduate Admission and Financial Aid
3601 South Flower Street, Tyler 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915
Step 4: Submit Official English Proficiency Test Scores (International Applicants Only)
Please carefully review English Proficiency requirements for international applicants on the English Proficiency page on the Office of Graduate Admission’s website.
The ability to communicate effectively in English — to read, write and speak the language fluently — is vital to your success as a university student. USC graduate applicants are therefore expected to demonstrate their proficiency in English as part of the application process.
Graduate international applicants should earn:
- A minimum score of 100 on the TOEFL iBT (with a minimum score of 20 in each section); OR
- A minimum IELTS score of 7; OR
- A minimum PTE score of 68.
Applicants must receive the minimum required score to be considered. Official scores must be received directly from the testing service and dated no earlier than 2 years (24 months) prior to the start of your intended first term at USC.
International applicants are exempt from submitting English-proficiency scores under the following circumstances:
1) You hold a bachelor’s degree completed in its entirety in the United States or another Anglophone country.
The bachelor’s degree should be earned at a regionally accredited university located in the United States, or at an officially recognized university in another country where English is both the language of instruction and the only officially recognized language of the country. Please note that the entire program needs to have been completed in the qualifying country.
Note: Dual-degree holders who completed part of their degree in the U.S. do not qualify for this waiver.
2) Your native language is English.
This applies to native English speakers from countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (except Quebec), where English is both the only official language of the country and the language of instruction.
USC does not waive the English-proficiency requirement based on any other consideration such as work experience, ESL enrollment, etc. It also cannot be waived for undergraduate programs taught in English in non-Anglophone countries, or for graduate degrees earned in the U.S. or other qualifying countries.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
The School of Cinematic Arts offers scholarships to incoming students. To learn more, please visit the SCA Scholarships page. The SCA Scholarship application is a part of the SlideRoom Application for graduate applicants. Please note that in order to be considered for SCA scholarships, domestic students are required to apply for Financial Aid at USC. Therefore, please make sure to complete your application for financial aid on time.
Learn more about costs and financial aid here.
International applicants (those who are, or will be, in the United States on a non-immigrant visa) must submit proof of financial support that prove you have sufficient resources to stay in the United States during the course of your academic program at USC. The U.S. government requires that all international student applicants provide proof of ability to pay tuition and living expenses for themselves and their dependents (if applicable) before a formal letter of admission and an I-20 or DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility can be issued. The financial support must be sufficient to cover the student's estimated expenses for one academic year as determined by USC. All documents should be issued and dated no more than a year from the start of your intended first term at USC.
To learn about the guidelines for submitting documents, including a list of expenses for the upcoming academic year, please visit the Financial Documentation page on the Office of Graduate Admission’s website.
The School of Cinematic Arts offers scholarships to incoming students; to learn more, please visit the SCA Scholarships page. Many financial aid and scholarship processes run concurrently with the admissions process. Therefore, please be sure to research and apply for financial aid and scholarships as you are applying for admission. For more information about applying for financial aid at USC, please contact the USC Financial Aid Office. Prospective students are also encouraged to consider USC Scholarships as the university maintains a number of prestigious scholarship programs.
International applicants (those who are, or will be, in the United States on a non-immigrant visa) must submit documented evidence of financial support. The U.S. government requires that all international student applicants provide proof of ability to pay tuition and living expenses for themselves and their dependents (if applicable) before a formal letter of admission and an I-20 or DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility can be issued. The financial support must be sufficient to cover the student's estimated expenses for one academic year (9-12 months) as determined by USC. To learn about the guidelines for submitting documents, including a list of expenses for the upcoming academic year, please visit USC's Graduate Admissions web page for submitting financial documents.