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  • Writer's pictureDina

How to Get Into College With Your Art Portfolio!

So, you know that there is such a thing as art school. You’ve heard of Rhode Island Sschool of Design, Savannah College of Art and Design, Otis College of Art and Design and the like. And you know that you love art. But you aren’t sure about whether you want to choose it as a major. Or maybe you know you want to choose it as your college major, but don’t know what are the options for studying it in college.

How To Use Your Art Portfolio!?!?!

But you have a great art portfolio, and you are not sure what to do with it! This post will give you some ideas for how you can use your art portfolio in your college application process and beyond!

Art Portfolios in the College Application Process

For colleges, you know that you have to write some killer essays, right? But you might not have known that some colleges will allow you to show your artistic talents in the admissions process, even if you are not planning to study art in college! They let you submit a collection of your art, a portfolio, in the actual application process.

Art Supplement

Some colleges will allow you to submit your art portfolio as a SUPPLEMENT to your regular application. They often have special requirements:

  • earlier / special deadlines

  • extra processing fee, on top of the normal application fee

  • does not replace “normal” app

  • extra writing work, typically an artist’s statement, descriptions / captions for your works, etc.

  • options for either physical copies or electronic submission of artworks

Sampling of Policies & Processes

So let’s take a look at the policies and processes for a bunch of schools to familiarize yourself with what they look like.

  • Upload up to 15 images, up to 5MB each...

  • Portfolios should be a strong supplement to your application, thoughtfully conceived and demonstrating above-average visual art talent.

  • Class assignments, as well as work produced outside the classroom indicating your personal area of interest, are encouraged.

  • If photographs are included, they are expected to go beyond hobbyist photography such as vacation snapshots or casually conceived images, and should include a variety of artistically sound content. A short statement about your interest in art may be included as well.

Do you see the burn on “hobbyist photography”? It makes you wonder what exactly are people submitting! So that is surely a strong warning against spamming them with random shots from your Instagram account.

MIT also allows students to submit a portfolio of visual art and architecture as one of the categories it allows:

We encourage all types of media art, including design, drawing, painting, mixed media, digital media, photography, sculpture, and architectural work. You may submit a portfolio of up to 10 images of your work for review. Include the title, medium, a brief description, date completed, and a brief description of each work’s concept or inspiration.

Occidental College allows applicants to send one or two images (that is not very many!) and reminds you that, “Understand, however, that your academic qualifications will matter most in admission.”

In addition to creative materials, each portfolio requires you to list the name and contact information of a reference who may be contacted to corroborate your depth of talent in and/or dedication to your creative discipline. Examples of appropriate references may include, but are not limited to: club or activity supervisors, in-school teachers, private instructors, internship or job supervisors, and mentors.

Now, how would you know how talented you are? Stanford says:

Who should consider submitting an arts portfolio?

Any student who wishes to highlight their extraordinary talent in the fine or performing arts is welcome to submit an Arts Portfolio. Arts Portfolio applicants have often received significant awards and honors at a state, national, or international level.

How to Choose Your Pieces

You definitely want to cherry-pick, as in, choose the best pieces. You may even need to think beyond technical ability. UCLA’s School of Art and Architecture advises you to choose your pieces carefully:

We look for students who give evidence of creative thinking, rather than simply conforming to commercial or academic models. We may not be as interested in seeing proof of your technical skills or ability to draw a nude or still life perfectly, as we are in your subject matter, ideas, your composition, use of color, or of form, or materials.

Although this advice is intended for people applying to an actual arts program, it is worth considering for anyone submitting a portfolio.

Artist’s Statement

Colleges accepting a portfolio typically require or at least, suggest, that you create a piece of writing that sets forth your intentions and goals as an artist - an “artist’s statement.”

Portfolios should include a minimum of 10 different works. An artist’s statement (approximately 300 words) is strongly encouraged.

UCLA requires a personal statement for anyone applying to the School of Art, which is typical for art departments but can serve as guidance for people submitting portfolios for any purpose:

Please provide a concise statement describing your interest, experiences, and influences in art, and your goals for studying art at UCLA. You will have 2200 characters (including spaces) / approximately 300 words. We recommend that you write your statement in a separate word processing program, then copy/paste it into the web application.

Yale assigns portfolio review to art faculty, not admissions officers, which is an indicator of the level of scrutiny your works may receive:

Whether or not you wish to major in art as an undergraduate, if you are an advanced visual artist you may consider submitting an art portfolio as part of your application. Please bear in mind that Yale School of Art faculty members review selected portfolios, not admissions officers. You should only consider submitting work if your artwork is a strong and important part of your application and demonstrates a high level of ability for a high school artist. You should limit the submission to between 5 and 8 pieces and include at least one drawing.

Portfolio Evaluation

You will want FEEDBACK on your portfolio. It’s worth checking whether your favorite colleges have day for evaluating your portfolio. For example, Washington University at Saint Louis encourages applicants to meet representatives of WUSTL on National Portfolio Days as an option for receiving feedback from the school before submitting an application. So...what is National Portfolio Day?

These are FREE opportunities to have your portfolio evaluated by a professional from the college you desire. From the National Portfolio Day Association:

National Portfolio Days are annual events held in multiple locations across the United States, Canada and Europe. They are designed to provide a unique opportunity for you to meet individually with professional representatives of accredited colleges and universities and receive valuable feedback and guidance on your portfolio before you submit it as part of your application.

Bonus: College Credit for Art Classes

Oftentimes, if you are passionate enough to create an art portfolio, you may very well be taking advanced art classes in your high school, such an AP course. CollegeBoard offers AP Studio Art 2D Design, AP Studio Art 3D Design, AP Drawing and AP Art History.

In addition to reporting this class in your college applications, colleges may award you credit towards graduation for doing well on art-related AP exams.

Harvard awards credit for scoring a 5 on the AP Art History exam. MIT awards credit for a 5 in AP Studio Art whereas Reed will accept a 4 or higher. The UC system awards credit for many AP classes, which includes courses such as AP 2D or 3D Studio Art.

We, of Enlighteens Education, are providing this post so that you can understand how important it is to reveal your underrated talents so that they can shine in the college application process. We hope you have learned a little bit about how your art portfolio can be relevant for your college application process.

Going beyond the obvious use of an art portfolio, for example to use in applications to art schools, is important for you when choosing strategies for your college application process and maximizing your results!

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