How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

Katherine Crane

Preparing for a Major in Art

Going through the admission process for a major in art is a little different than applying for other majors. A potential art student should be continually working on their portfolio and constantly seeking critiques. An artist should not only have a hard copy of their portfolio, but also be able to present it through an online portfolio platform. Typically students that want to major in art have probably taken Advanced Placement classes in art and are used to the rigor of portfolio review for potential college credit. They should be prepared for the admission interview but also for an interview with an art department representative whereby they can speak eloquently about art in general and be able to defend their ideas. They should also be open to constructive criticism and open-minded to all forms of art and opinion.

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.

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

Most art schools require a portfolio with a representative sample of a student's prior work in the field of art. Some schools will ask for a portfolio which demonstrates a particular spectrum of skills, themes, or styles, but in other cases, there will be no specific requirements, and students may submit whatever of their past work resonates with them. There may be a request for a minimum/maximum number of samples or a very specific number. Look on the websites of the institutions in which you're interested to determine their individual requirements. Also note how various schools would like to receive the portfolio - CD, etc. As with all parts of the application, a student should be aware of and meet deadlines for submission. Some art schools or art departments within colleges/universities offer Foundation courses for students who have had little or no prior demonstrable experience in the field of art. In these cases, students will not be asked to submit a portfolio, but there might (or might not) be additional requirements ascertaining a student's understanding and existing knowledge of the field. Portfolio Days are offered at various times of the year in the U.S. and abroad. Representatives from a selection of art schools are available on these Portfolio Days to provide guidance to students in effectively assembling their portfolios for art school/college admissions. Students may bring their existing portfolios to these sessions and receive individual constructive critiques from the art professionals participating. More information about "where" and "when" can be found by googling "Portfolio Days".

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.

Aurora Bonner
Educational Consultant Bonner Educational Consultants

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

Students interested in the arts must prepare for the college admissions process just as every other college-bound student with one exception. Students interested in the arts must begin compiling works for a professional art portfolio. The art portfolio requirements vary at each college and so it is essential to contact your college admissions counselor or Art department for these specifications. However, some general tips are as follows: -Have your artwork photographed, videotaped, scanned or graphically converted to display in a professional manner. -Show a range of techniques and mastery in the works you choose -Choose works that show creative thinking and a unique perspective -Begin developing your portfolio during your Junior year so that you may evaluate what works you already have and plan to create works in areas that you are lacking. -Take your works to a professional for critiquing! An art teacher, local artist, art professor or a current art student may be good sources to give your portfolio a trial run. -Look online at the college's art department site to see what their current students are doing. They usually have current student's works available to preview.

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.

Zulema Wascher
Counselor Rio Rico High School

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

Have your portfolio ready and available for reps.Make sure your portfolio is up to date and that you have all areas of your expertise, drawing, shadowing, coloring, what types of supplies you know how to use, etc.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

Yes it does. Each campus has their own ideas about what makes a high quality freshman class. For some it can mean more men because there are to many women attending, for others it is more minorities and then of course geography plays into this process as well. Why does it all matter? Plain and simply it's variety that adds to the discussions in class (us West Coast folks see things very differently from those on the South), a different dynamic on campus from a Iowa farmer kid to a city life New Yorker, different types of education experiences from high schools around the country, and new social, political and religious perspectives that brings new life into any college campus.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

How should art students prepare for the college admissions process?

Well in advance. Here's an old caveat: Plan your work, work your plan. Nobody plans to fail, but too many fail to plan. Make sure your portfolio is the best it can be, and set up an interview. Having an LOR from a world class person in the field can be worth an admission ticket!