Ask La Bricoleuse: Grad school application timeline

Okay, so first my usual disclaimer: I don't run a graduate program, nor do I speak in an official capacity on behalf of the one for which i teach.

I make these posts from the perspective of someone who has worked in an overhire/freelance capacity for graduate program productions and for professional theatres in residence at universities with graduate programs since 1998, and as someone who has done graduate coursework at three such universities. I have a more informed perspective than the average layperson, but for wholly accurate info specific to a particular program, you should definitely contact that program's director.

Anyway, if i were to apply to graduate school, here's the timeline i'd follow. Let's say i want to apply for admission in the fall of 2020 (it currently being late summer/early fall 2019).


  • Begin the process of going through your portfolio, bringing it up-to-date, busting out the old resume and combing it for mistakes. 
  • Make a spreadsheet of the schools to which you want to apply, listing relevant info like what the applications should contain (GRE scores? personal artistic statement? interview? etc.), and when deadlines are for various things, contact names and numbers, tuition costs, etc.

Sept/Oct/Nov 2019:

  • Contact the heads of the programs on your list, stating your interest in applying to the program for the following year and asking any pertinent questions (such as, "What sort of work would you like to see in a portfolio?" and, "When is a good time to come visit the program?"). 
  • Talk to potential references and ask them to be brutally honest--if they don't feel they can write a glowing recommendation, ask where they feel you can improve. If you find yourself with only two references, put off your application for a year while you work hard on proving yourself to a third one.


  • Plan to visit the program. Ideally plan that visit for more than one day--even if you are only able to schedule one day on campus visiting the classes and meeting the faculty and touring the facilities, the second day allows you time to poke around the town/city that might be your home for the next 3 years.
  • Inquire about sitting in on classes, and if the program offers particular courses of interest on a rotating basis, plan accordingly. (Say, if tailoring is your primary interest and their tailoring courses are only offered in fall semesters, then you want to try to visit in Nov/Dec so you can observe that class, whereas if you are particularly interested in dyeing and that's a spring class, try to schedule a visit for Jan/Feb.) 

Caveat:  Often, assistantships and scholarships have much earlier deadlines than just the normal graduate school application deadlines--ours is in March. Sometimes we have great candidates apply, but just too late for the assistantship deadline, or just under the wire. Get all your stuff in well in advance.

Are these posts helpful? It feels like I'm getting significant shares/Likes on various social media where I cross-link them. There are more yet to come, too, on whether you should go to U/RTA or LiNK, what the interview will be like (here at UNC-Chapel Hill at least), and what other schools have grad programs like ours.

Various block shapes from our hat block collection.


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