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How to Get Into Art School

How to Get Into Art School

Christina Macres | ArtBistro

Getting an art degree will give the right skills and abilities to make a living out of what you love, as well as help you meet people and mentors who share your passion.

For students seeking a Bachelors or Master’s degree in Visual Arts, it’s more than just artistic talent that will get you accepted into your dream art school. Successful applicants must be motivated, must be willing to push the boundaries of their work, and must have an awe-inspiring portfolio.

So how do you go about getting into your top choice? We’ve complied the three most asked prospective art student questions. If you’ve ever wondered what the admissions staff is looking for in a prospective student, what you should include in your portfolio, or how to ace your interview, we’ve got the answers you need to get accepted into the school you want.

1. What key factors does the admissions staff consider while assessing prospective students? Even though each art school has a different set of criteria by which they measure and evaluate prospective students, many of the key factors are similar. These include:

• Academics (educational achievement)
• Letters of Recommendation (ability to form professional relationships and a third-party character assessment)
• Admissions Essay and Interview (career and artistic goals)
• Portfolio (a measure of creative ability)


The take-away:

It’s necessary to find out the key traits and criteria important to the schools you’re applying. Find this out early in the admissions process and give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Convey the four P’s; passion, preparation, portfolio, and passion and you’ll make the admission staff’s selection process easy!

Visual Art Degrees

2. What are the most important aspects of a potential student’s portfolio? It’s not only important to have a great portfolio for your own records; it’s a requirement when applying to highly regarded art schools. Why? Your portfolio presents your potential as an artist, is a place to showcase your skill, and is a means of communicating original ideas. But students aren’t just measured by their demonstrated skills — the admissions staff wants you to be a well-rounded artist too. Here are a few examples of what your art school applicant portfolio should include:

Strong technical art skills. This means a thorough knowledge of the tools and materials used to create visual arts. An example of this would be a display of stippling, hatching, and cross-hatching for prospective illustrators and a solid demonstrated knowledge of Photoshop for graphic designers.

Creativity. Can you effectively convey your creative process? Do you think outside the box? Are you a well-rounded and thoughtful artist? Is your art inspiring, exciting… different? Ask these questions of yourself throughout your career as an artist and make sure you’re on the right track to maintaining your creative vision.

Drawing from direct observation. As an artist, it’s important to be observant of the world around you and to be able to capture it in your artwork. Drawing directly from observation shows that you’re perceptive and that you have the technical skill needed to succeed as an artist.

Examples of skills. This means showing your talent in more than just one artistic medium. Art schools look for well-rounded artists, students who are interested in learning many different skill sets and those who can work cross-functionally.

The take-away:

Again, it’s important to understand that each art school looks for different criteria in its prospective students’ portfolios. Be sure you’re aware of each school’s requirements before you apply.

3. What impresses the staff in an admissions interview?

If the art school you are applying to requires that you go through an interview, you must — above everything else — exude confidence and passion. The admissions staff is looking to confirm that you’re not only able to communicate your creative process, but that you are serious about your future artistic career. Think of your interview as a unique advantage and an opportunity to show and tell your prospective school (with confidence!) you’re the one they want.

Keep these conversation points in mind while preparing for and during your interview:

• Express your motivation and enthusiasm for your work, as well as your artistic education
• Show devotion to your art, artistic vision, and creative process
• Share your openness to new ideas and concepts, critiques, and analysis
• Discuss the importance of your artistic education
• Demonstrate that you are capable of clearly articulating your work


The take-away: Be honest. Communicate your skills. Express who you are as an artist. The more truthful you are in your interview about your aspirations as an artist and your education, the better the admissions staff will know if you’re a good fit for their school.

Most importantly, keep in mind that… The best art schools are looking for the best students — meaning the students who are the best fit for them. A school can be a fantastic fit for one student and an awful fit for another. When applying to schools, make sure to do your research, give yourself plenty of time to prepare, visit the campus, talk with current students, and contact a few educators in your area of interest. Being a good match is important and these are the best ways to determine the personality of the school and the programs offered.