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

Entering freshmen and transfer students who are awarded a competitive scholarship by the university, the College of Arts and Letters, or by the School of Media Arts and Design will be fully and directly admitted to SMAD in the concentration of their choice. Such scholarship holders are exempt from the admission application requirement but must fulfill any conditions attached to their awards.

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 is restricted from SMAD courses beyond SMAD 101 until being accepted (fully admitted) into the major.

A complete application to the major includes the following:

  • Submit onto the "SMAD Admissions" Canvas course your application Letter/Personal Essay expressing reasons for your interest in your first concentration. If you wish to be considered for a second concentration, submit a second letter specifically for that concentration. Those will be uploaded as PDF documents to the Canvas "SMAD Admissions" course. 
  • Upload to the Canvas "SMAD Admissions" course your unofficial transcript(s). (Transfer students must include unofficial transcripts from previous institutions and JMU Transfer Credit Report)
  • Complete SMAD Admissions Questionnaire on Canvas.
  • Complete SMAD Application Contract on Canvas.

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.

SMAD Academic Adviser Joe Loyacano provides more details about the process, as well as some tips, in this video: 

Following the review by the SMAD Admissions Committee, students will be notified about their acceptance into the major. If accepted, students will be eligible to register for SMAD courses. Students not accepted into the major will be notified and may reapply the following January or in a later January.

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 January application period. To request a different concentration, the student must submit 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. The student also must fill out the Concentration Change Application form after consulting with his/her adviser and obtaining the adviser’s signature. 

If the Admissions Committee approves the request, the student’s 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 probably 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 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. 

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