Admission to the School of Media Arts and Design is limited and competitive. There are two pathways to full admission to the SMAD major. 

Direct Admission

Direct admission applies to first-year students and transfer students entering JMU who are awarded a competitive scholarship by the university, the College of Arts and Letters, or by the School of Media Arts and Design. These students are directly admitted to the proposed Media Arts and Design degree program without having to apply. The scholarships that allow direct admission include the Dingledine-Bluestone Scholarships; the Senator Harry S. Byrd Jr.—D. Lathan Mims Renewable Scholarship; and the Alison B. Parker Memorial Renewable Scholarship.

Admission by Application

Students interested in majoring in the programs offered by the school must apply for a limited number of spaces in the major. An admissions committee in the school reviews applications and offers admission based on availability to the most qualified students. A student may apply no more than two times for admission to the school. 

September Application Period for Transfers

The September application process is only for transfer students matriculating to JMU in the current fall semester or the immediately preceding spring or summer semesters that have declared the SMAD major.  These students must be officially admitted to JMU as transfer students and must have earned at least 30 hours of JMU approved post-high school college credit.  They must be degree-seeking students and must be enrolled in at least 12 hours at JMU during the fall semester.  The application is due at 4 p.m. on the second Friday of the fall semester.

Annual Application Period (Each Spring Semester)

Currently enrolled JMU students (including transfer students matriculating in January or in previous semesters) may apply during the annual application period that occurs early in the spring semester.  Students applying to the major at JMU must be degree-seeking and have completed at least 12 hours or be enrolled in at least 12 hours at JMU.  The application is due at 4 p.m. on the third Friday of the spring semester.


Students interested in this major must “declare” SMAD as a major and apply to become a “fully admitted” major. Declaring a SMAD major does not guarantee the student will be fully admitted into the SMAD major. Students must declare SMAD as a major prior to being eligible to enroll in SMAD 101. A declared SMAD student may take SMAD 101, but the student cannot enroll in SMAD courses beyond SMAD 101 until being fully admitted into the major.

Once enrolled in SMAD 101, a student will be invited to a separate "SMAD Admissions" Canvas course, which students will use to take the SMAD admissions exam and submit their application components. 

A complete application to SMAD includes the following:

  • Submitting ALL of the following application components on the "SMAD Admissions" Canvas course: 
    • An application letter/personal essay expressing reasons for your interest in your first-choice concentration. If you wish to be considered for a second-choice concentration, submit a seperate letter specifically for that concentration. (A student will only be accepted into one concentration.)
    • Unofficial transcript(s). (Transfer students must include unofficial transcripts from previous institutions and JMU Transfer Credit Report)
    • A SMAD Contract on Canvas.
    • A SMAD Admissions Questionnaire on Canvas that asks about media creation and experience. That questionnaire consists of the following 11 parts:

      1. Preferred first name and last name.

      2. Student ID number (from JAC card)

      3. Phone number to receive texts

      4. JMU Cumulative GPA

      5. Previous College GPA (for transfer students)

      6. Please list previous media-related experiences and leadership experiences you've had, including in high school.

      7. OPTIONAL: If you have any media you created online — such as videos on YouTube or a website with images, writing or videos — place any URLs (website addresses) in the field. (This is not required, so leave it blank if you don't a URL to share.)

      8. As part of the application process, SMAD requests that applicants indicate their top 2 desired concentrations. Please select your FIRST CHOICE for the concentration in which you'd like to be admitted: Creative Advertising; Digital Video & Cinema; Interactive Design; or Journalism. (Refer to this page for more information about the concentrations.)

      9. Please select your SECOND CHOICE for the concentration in which you'd like to be admitted: Creative Advertising; Digital Video & Cinema; Interactive Design; or Journalism. (To be considered for a SECOND CHOICE CONCENTRATION, you must also submit a SECOND CHOICE LETTER. If you don't have a second choice, select "NONE.")

      10. Have you ever been found guilty of academic misconduct at JMU or another school? ("Yes" or "No" and if "Yes," briefly explain.)

      11. Please type your name in place of a signature and type the date

In your Application Letter/Personal Essay, consult resource materials and tell us: 1) why you are interested in our program; 2) what you know about your chosen concentration and why it interests you; 3) how that concentration will contribute to your university education and intellectual growth; 4) how that concentration will prepare you to meet your career goals. Your double-spaced, typed and signed letter should be approximately 500 words. Do not quote any resource material. We will evaluate your essay’s form and content. The James Madison University Honor Code applies to this assignment and it could be subject to plagiarism review.

Following the review by the SMAD Admissions Committee, students will be notified about their acceptance into the major. Admitted students will have to go onto MyMadison to declare the concentration to which they have been accepted. Those admitted students then will be eligible to register for SMAD courses for the following semester. Students not accepted into the major will be notified and may reapply the following spring semester or in a later spring semester during the annual admissions period.

Change of Concentration

Students accepted into the major are assigned to a concentration. Students who wish to change concentrations after being accepted into the major may ask to do so only during the annual application period, which ends at 4 p.m. on the third Friday of the spring semester. 

To request a different concentration, the student must submit on the "SMAD Admissions" Canvas course the following: 

  1. A letter explaining why the student is seeking that change. This letter should be addressed to the Admissions Committee and be no more than two pages in length.
  2. A completed Concentration Change Application form, which the student can download from the "SMAD Admissions" Canvas course and fill out after consulting with his/her adviser and obtaining the adviser’s signature. The student must scan in and submit the finished form to upload on the Canvas site.
  3. The student's unofficial transcripts.

To request access to the Canvas site, contact Prof. Ryan Alessi at

If the Admissions Committee approves the student's request, the application will be reviewed by the SMAD director, who will grant final permission to change concentrations.

Remember — there are no guarantees that the change will be granted, and the switch in concentrations will likely delay a student’s graduation. Students who change concentrations will not receive overrides or prerequisite waivers to expedite graduation.

Minimum Grades

If a student enrolled in SMAD 101 is accepted in the major and makes an “F” in the course, the student will be dropped from the major. In order to be eligible to reapply for the major, the student must re-take SMAD 101 and reapply.  

If a student enrolled in SMAD 101 is accepted in the major and makes a “D+,” “D,” or “D-“ in the course, the student may continue to take classes in the major; however, the student must retake SMAD 101 again in the next semester and earn at least a “C-.”

Students are limited to taking SMAD 101 twice. Failure to achieve a grade of at least a C- after the second time will result in the student being dropped from the major, including being dropped from any SMAD courses for which the student is preregistered and the student may not reapply. 

To graduate with a major in media arts and design, a student must have a grade point average of 2.0 (“C”) or better in the major.

Major Requirements

A student admitted before fall 2023 must complete a minimum of 39 SMAD credits. In addition to courses in the School of Media Arts and Design, students must complete at least 75 non-SMAD credits. 

Students admitted starting in fall 2023 must complete a minimum of 42 SMAD credits. In addition to those SMAD courses, students must complete at least 72 non-SMAD credits.

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