How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

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Our counselors answered:

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair High School

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

Look at portfolio requirements before your junior year and use junior year to work on your portfolio.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery Educational Resources, LLC

Portfolio, Check!

Carefully. Arts students will be required to demonstrate their artistic talent which will translate into additional time-consuming work on their part. 

Heather McCowen
Post Secondary Counselor The Chicago HS for the Arts

Arts Students and the College admissions process

Students in the arts have an extra layer of procedure to go through when they apply for schools. Step one is the application process, and all the different pieces- Transcript, test scores, recommendation letters and essays. Like any student, these must be submitted by the deadline. Step two is the audition/portfolio review. If the student is majoring in the arts, this portion can be as important, if not more important than grades. Colleges state very clearly what the portfolio or audition requirements are. The key is to be prepared for the audition/portfolio review, and to adhere to the requirements.

Helen Cella

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

They need to prepare a portfolio

Erica White
College & Career Counselor Middletown High School

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

Most art students will be required to submit a portfolio of their work for acceptance. Art students should look at prospective schools and see what the portfolio requirement entail (how many items, what format, specific types of art, etc). This should be done early on in the process so that they will have enough time to put together all that is required. They should also work with their art teachers who have experience in this area. Many art schools will offer portfolio review days, where a student can bring their materials and get suggestions on what to add or change. I would highly suggest attending one of these local sessions, even if isn't at school they are considering.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Artistic Students

If you are an artist, a theater major, film maker or a musician chances are you will be required to audition or present a portfolio. You must prepare your portfolio/audition carefully and methodically. Most portfolios are submitted online now, but don't wait until the last minute to put it together. As soon as you have a college list, read the audition requirements for your major and start preparing EARLY. Chances are you may need to travel to some of the auditions, so save your pennies. Begin during your sophomore/junior year looking at schools so that you will be ready to concentrate on preparation spring of your junior year and the summer before your senior year. The early bird gets the worm!

Geoff Broome
Assistant Director of Admissions Widener University


Start working on your portfolio and get it in front as many people as you can so that they can review it and give you feedback so that you can improve it. Check out the dates for the National Portfolio Days. This event gives you an opportunity to take your portfolio around to a bunch of different colleges who happen to be in once place for the day and will review your portfolio. Make sure that you use a lot of different mediums.

Mark Gathercole
University Advisor Independent University Advising

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

Portfolio, portfolio, portfolio. Start early and build a good, complete one that represents the artist you are - not one that represents the artist you had to be in the last month when you had to hurry to put the last eight pieces together to finish before the deadline! And don't neglect your other academic subjects. Conscientiousness in those subjects will reflect well on you. Art schools and departments do care about you as an overall student and person.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

First you need to consider whether you want to major in the arts or go to an art school. Whether you choose an art school or a college art major depends largely on your goals and what you are really looking for in your education. If you go to the art school you can focus on your art work to the exclusion of pretty much everything else while an art major at a university will only be a part of the overall program and you will still be required to fulfill other academic requirements. But you will also have greater access to the other things that can characterize the college experience. You can find the appropriate career preparation through either approach. In either case you will need to have a fully developed portfolio of your work to show the admissions office. That wil be a critical part of their selection process.

Kris Hintz
Founder Position U 4 College LLC

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

For the visual arts, applicants need to be working on portfolios from the beginning of junior year. It is a good idea to take a course in portfolio development, either in your high school or in a summer pre-college program. In the NY area, for example, check out portfolio programs at Pratt or FIT. Check out college counselors who actually specialize in this area, who can help you develop a portfolio and even set up a website. When you visit colleges, meet with the arts department to find out the portfolio requirements. For the performing arts, applicants need to plan on a second application layer beyond just applying to the school academically: the audition process. During junior year, begin to identify (and visit) colleges and develop a "master plan" for applications and auditions. Work with a coach to choose repertoire and prepare for your auditions. Consider developing a personal website to showcase your performances.