MFA Documentary Film and Video Admission

The Department welcomes graduate applications from individuals with a broad range of life experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds who would contribute to our community of scholars. Review of applications is holistic and individualized, considering each applicant’s academic record and accomplishments, letters of recommendation, and admissions essays in order to understand how an applicant’s life experiences have shaped their past and potential contributions to their field.

The program is intensive and requires residency for two consecutive years. The admissions committee seeks applicants who are highly motivated, have some work experience beyond their undergraduate years, and can articulate why they want to learn documentary film and video production. The committee looks for evidence of the likelihood of success in an academically demanding program that emphasizes creative work. The conceptual and technical skills required for documentary work are sufficiently different from fictional narrative to make the Stanford program inappropriate for students interested in narrative filmmaking.

University Application Materials

The application for admission as well as general information about applying is available from the Graduate Admissions website, please visit Graduate Admissions to apply. Prior to applying you must first determine if you are eligible - application eligibility (undergraduate degree requirements). International applicants, please also see Bechtel International Center and Graduate Admissions International Applicants for more information and any additional application requirements.

Prospective students may begin to apply late September (please verify this date on the Graduate Admissions website). The following documents are required by the university and can not be waived. Please click on the links for more detailed information about each:

  • Letters of Recommendation: Three letters of recommendation are required. The department does not accept applicant recommendation via a letter service (i.e. Interfolio or other service). For additional information, please see Submitting Online Recommendations. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that letters are submitted to the electronic application by the published deadline. Please only submit three letters. 
  • Transcripts : Upload a scanned copy of your official transcript(s) with the online application. Applicants must upload transcripts from every post-secondary institution attended as a full-time student and for at least one academic year. Transcripts from current degree programs also need to be submitted.
  • Statement of Purpose: You must indicate in the first sentence of your SOP the name of the program to which you are applying and the area you wish to study. The Statement of Purpose should describe succinctly your reasons for applying to the proposed program at Stanford, your preparation for this field of study, research interests, future career plans, and other aspects of your background and interests which may aid the admissions committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study. The Statement of Purpose should not exceed two pages.
  • Application Fee: The application fee $125, is non-refundable, and must be received by the application deadline (fee waivers are available to eligible students. Please see Graduate Fee Waivers for more information). The Department does not offer fee waivers outside of the process at the Graduate Fee Waivers page. Please do not contact the department requesting to waive the application fee.
  • GRE Scores: Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test is no longer required for admission to the Department of Art & Art History.
  • TOEFL Scores: Required when first language is not English; IELTS is not accepted. Please note that the department can NOT waive the TOEFL requirement. If you wish to submit a request for TOEFL waiver, please see GRE and TOEFL Requirements. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the scores are submitted to the electronic application by the published deadline. (Note: To bypass the entry of TOEFL scores in the application, enter a future test date. You can add in the additional information section of the application that you have received a waiver from Graduate Admissions.)

Online Application

* Please note all application materials, once submitted as part of your application, become the property of Stanford University. Materials, including your portfolio, will not be returned and copies will not be provided for applicants nor released to other institutions. Please keep a copy for your records. Re-applicants must submit new supporting documents and complete the online graduate application.

Writing Sample Requirement

In addition to the University application materials listed above, applicants are required to submit a writing sample. The writing sample should be a five to eight-page essay on a documentary film or a documentary film related topic of your choosing (for instance a study of a specific documentary filmmaker or documentary film movement). This may be an essay written for the application or from a College/University course the applicant has taken in the past. The essay should read as a film analysis not a film review. You should upload your writing sample along with your online application (only one writing sample will be accepted). Please submit as a PDF and include your full name.

Start Your Application

Portfolio Requirement

In addition to the above University and departmental application requirements, applicants must submit an online portfolio by the application deadline (9:00pm PST, December 1).  Your portfolio must be submitted through SlideRoom: (please note your name and email address on your online graduate application must match the name and email address on your portfolio in SlideRoom. Otherwise, the department will not be able to identify your portfolio and/or online application). There will be a $6.00 fee. Please follow the instructions on how to upload your portfolio in SlideRoom (for technical assistance with this process, please email support [at] (support[at]slideroom[dot]com)). If possible, we would like to screen a film or video work for which the applicant has had creative control. The work must be well labeled and accompanied by a brief synopsis, running time of the clips, and the applicant's creative role. Total running time for the work sample should not exceed 15 minutes and may consist of more than one project. Please do not submit work on which the applicant had only a "production assistant" role. You may submit student work.  Applicants who have had only minimal film or video production experience should submit an example of their best creative work, in any visual medium. Please note we do not save or return portfolios.


For admission in Autumn Quarter 2022-23, all application materials, including your test scores and portfolio, must be submitted on-line by December 1 at 9:00pm (PST).


  • All materials required to be submitted electronically must be uploaded by 9:00pm Pacific Time on the application deadline date.
  • Please allow extra time to upload your portfolio materials to SlideRoom, in case of any technical difficulties (late applications will not be accepted).

Note: The Graduate Admissions period opens in late September each year for applications to be submitted by the published deadline in December (for matriculation beginning in the following academic year). After April 15th each year, the Graduate Admissions period is closed, and the online application will reopen during the following September.

Selection Process

The application review takes place between mid-February and mid-March; applicants are notified by email of their status by March 15th. Accepted students are admitted for the following Autumn Quarter; no applicants for mid-year entrance will be considered.  You will be contacted via e-mail regarding your application status after the deadline; please do not contact the Department.

The Art and Art History Department recognizes that the Supreme Court issued a ruling in June 2023 about the consideration of certain types of demographic information as part of an admission review. All applications submitted during upcoming application cycles will be reviewed in conformance with that decision.

Financial Support

Students in the MFA Program in Documentary Film and Video receive a generous amount of  financial support. In the first year of the program, students receive fellowship including a stipend and tuition. In the second year, students are eligible for teaching assistantships which provide both salary and tuition allowance.

Finally, the program offers funds toward the costs of student productions made within the program. The program also provides each student with a fully equipped individual editing room, access to production equipment, and technical support. Students retain copyright of the films they made within the program.

Additional information about graduate financial aid, including a student budget and tuition calculator are available at

Knight-Hennessy Scholars

oin dozens of Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences students who receive up to three years of funding and valuable leadership skills as Knight-Hennessy Scholars (KHS).

KHS admits up to 100 select applicants each year from across Stanford’s seven graduate schools, and delivers engaging experiences that prepare them to be visionary, courageous, and collaborative leaders ready to address complex global challenges. As a scholar, you join a multidisciplinary and multicultural cohort, participate in up to three years of leadership programming, and receive full funding for up to three years of your graduate studies at Stanford.

Candidates of any country may apply. KHS applicants must have earned their first undergraduate degree within the last seven years, and must apply to both a Stanford graduate program and to KHS.

If you aspire to be a leader in your field, we invite you to apply. The KHS application deadline is October 11, 2023. Learn more about KHS admission.