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Investing in Arts Education

5 Tips for Applying to Art and Design Schools

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portfolio-art and design-college application-admission-colleges

Are you considering a major in one of the many fields of art and design? While every college has different application requirements, many programs share qualities that they are looking in potential students. Here are some of our tips that can help you best prepare and apply to an art and design college program:

Ryan O’Keefe

Assistant Director, Programs and Operations, Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design

Research your options

Not every art and design program is one-size-fits-all. In fact, you likely have more options than you know! Be sure to research the colleges that you are interested in. Be prepared to learn about their student populations, notable programs, and location. Engage with these colleges on social media, introduce yourself to an admissions counselor via email, and find out if there are any events you can attend to meet alumni or professors. You may be shocked to find that your perfect college is one you hadn’t heard of before.

Build your portfolio

One of the most important materials you will submit with your college application to an art and design school is the portfolio. Although there are many differences in the admissions requirements across art and design schools, all view a strong portfolio as fundamental criteria for admission. Your portfolio should include your most recent work, and when selecting that work, quality is going to matter more than quantity. A common misconception is that the portfolio should only include work in the medium you are interested in studying. However, including original works in different mediums, especially observational drawings, will show admissions reviewers a willingness to grow and expand your abilities.

Have your portfolio reviewed

Once you have gathered your top pieces of work, you should get second, third, and fourth opinions on how to make it better from professionals and people you trust. In addition to your art teachers, you can also get your portfolio reviewed by admissions counselors and professors by attending a National Portfolio Day in person or online with AICAD’s free Portfolio Review portal.

Be prepared to talk about your work

It’s likely that during the admissions process, you’ll be asked to explain your work. Practice being comfortable talking about your process, your methods, what the work means to you, and why you chose the medium you created it on. Share what you like about the work and what you think you could get better.

Grow your skills

Take every opportunity you can to expand your artistic skill set before applying to art and design college. This can include art classes at a local community center or studio, or private lessons with an established artist. Create a routine of using your sketch book on a regular basis and challenge yourself to get inspired in new ways. Many art and design schools offer pre-college summer programs, which is a great way to learn while experiencing what life may be like at the college of your choice!

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