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John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television review committee places considerable importance on the autobiographical character sketch, story ideas, writing samples, portfolio list and letters of recommendation during the application review process. There are no admission interviews. The committee ensures that all applicants are judged equitably by limiting evaluation to the items listed.

This section includes information needed to apply to the Writing for Screen and Television MFA Program. Please read all the following information carefully.

Application Overview

All candidates must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Applicants whose prior study was outside the United States must have completed the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor's degree. To verify that your bachelor's degree is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor degree, as well as learn about specific academic and language requirements you may need for admission, click here.

The following items must be submitted to be considered for admission to the Writing for Screen and Television MFA Program.

  • USC Graduate Application for Admission
  • SlideRoom Application
    • Cinematic Arts Supplemental Materials
      • Autobiographical Character Sketch
      • Creative Challenges (A & B)
      • Most Challenging Moment
      • Writing Sample (Maximum of 10 pages)
      • Curriculum Vitae
      • Creative Portfolio List
      • Letters of Recommendation (3)
  • Official Transcripts (From all Academic Institutions Attended)
  • Official English Proficiency Test Scores (International Students Only)

All matters relating to admission are the applicant's responsibility. When submitting an application, make sure you have completed both USC's Graduate Application for Admission and the SlideRoom application. Both applications allow you to check your application to verify your application materials have been uploaded and submitted. Incomplete applications, or applications not submitted, will not be considered.

Each year, we strive to develop a well-balanced cohort of students for each of our programs. As such, we do not grant admission deferrals and we recommend that applicants apply for a future term when certain they can accept admission.

Application Deadlines

Graduate Writing for Screen and Television

  • Fall Admission Deadline: November 15th

Note: Spring admission is not available for the Writing for Screen and Television M.F.A. graduate program.

View all Application Deadlines.

Application Instructions

In addition to the Graduate Application for Admission, all applicants are required to submit supplemental materials via the SlideRoom Application. 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.

Clearly title all documents with the appropriate supplemental document title (e.g. Autobiographical Character Sketch, Creative Challenge A, etc.).

Step 1: Submit the General USC Graduate Application for Admission

  • To begin the application process, you will be required to submit the USC Graduate Application for Admission.
  • Be sure to indicate that you are applying to the USC School of Cinematic Arts and select the "Writing for Screen and Television M.F.A." program.

If you experience any technical issues, please contact Graduate Admissions here.

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. 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.

The following supplemental materials must be submitted via the SlideRoom application for admission consideration:

  1. Autobiographical Character Sketch (please upload in PDF format under the "Forms" section):
    Write a creative essay or short story that evokes an understanding of how you became who you are. This should reflect your individuality. It's not a resume. (1-2 pages in length)

  2. Creative Challenges (please upload in PDF format under the "Forms" section):
    1. Write a scene between two very different kinds of people who get stuck in an elevator on New Year's Eve. 2-5 pages. Please use screenplay format.
    2. Write a scene between two people (e.g., a parent and child, roommates, spouses, etc.) who live together. The first character strongly desires to go out; the second desperately wants the first to stay home. Emphasize visual elements as well as dialogue. 2-5 pages. Please use screenplay format.
  3. Most Challenging Moment (please upload in PDF format under the "Forms" section):
    Convey in writing the greatest challenge you have faced and how you responded to it. The challenge may be of any kind you care to write about -physical, emotional, moral, creative, personal, professional or some other sort. (1-2 pages in length).

  4. Writing Sample (please upload in PDF format under the "Forms" section):
    One sample of your creative writing. This may be an excerpt with a note explaining the context. Writing in script form is not required. Please only include original material-do not submit a television spec episode of an existing television show. Maximum of 10 pages. If you send more than 10, only the first 10 will be read.

  5. Curriculum Vitae (please upload in PDF format under the "Forms" section):
    A record of the applicant's background and experience, listing education, employment, etc.

  6. Creative Portfolio List (please upload in PDF format under the "Forms" section):
    A list of all significant creative projects in which the applicant has participated, noting the role the applicant has played. Formal recognition such as awards, publications, and exhibitions should also be noted. An example of the portfolio list is below:
    • July 2008, A Day in the Life, digital video, 12 minutes. Position: writer/director. A documentary on a homeless Iraq vet who has lived on the streets since his return from the military. Created for senior-year multimedia term project, San Raphael High School, Miami, Florida.
    • March 2008, Doorways, a series of 5 black-and-white photographs. Position: photographer. "Second Prize Winner" in the Des Moines Sunday Journal photo contest.
    • February 2007, Cellomorphosis, short story. Position: writer. A variation on the novella by Franz Kafka; published in Writing, vol. IV, 2007, at Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts.
  7. Letters of Recommendation (One letter from an academic reference.)
    Three letters of recommendation are required. All letters of recommendation must be submitted via the SlideRoom reference system. Applicants are responsible for requesting letters of recommendation as well as confirming that they have been received.

Step 3: Send Official Academic Transcripts

Official transcripts from all schools attended since high school graduation must be submitted to USC. For guidelines on how to send your official transcripts to USC, please click here. It is recommended that you send all official transcripts to USC's Office of Graduate Admissions at least 3 weeks prior to the application deadline. All transcripts must be sent to the Office of Graduate Admissions, not the School of Cinematic Arts.

If your institution sends e-transcripts, please instruct the vendor to email the transcript to etrans@usc.edu . Do not send any other materials or correspondence to this email address yourself. Electronic transcripts e-mailed to any other address will not be downloaded, resulting in a delay of your file review and an extra expense to you because the transcript will need to be re-sent. Official transcripts can be mailed to the address below.

University of Southern California
USC Office of Graduate Admission
3601 South Flower Street
Room 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 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.

Duolingo English Test scores are not accepted for graduate applicants. USC is unable to accept TOEFL ITP Plus for China at this time.

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

All graduate applicants are invited to apply for scholarships funded by the School of Cinematic Arts. Scholarships are open to both domestic and international students. A scholarship application will never impact admission consideration. USC is need-blind in its admission process—a student’s financial need will never influence an admission decision.

You may learn more about SCA scholarship opportunities on the SCA website. All Writing for Screen and Television M.F.A. applicants will be considered for The Robert Rodriguez Fellowships to Support New Voices in Entertainment funded by The USC Fogelman Family Fund for Diversity (no separate application is required to be considered for this fellowship)

Please note that in order to be considered for SCA scholarships, domestic students are required to apply for financial aid at USC. Instructions on how to apply may be found here.

Proof of Financial Support & Passport Copy (International Applicants Only)

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.