Reading time 9 minutes

For those considering a career in art, a bachelor’s degree will be an important part of your resume. There are degrees for students of art – called bachelor of fine arts degrees (BFAs). No program is the same, so you need to target your art portfolio to each school. Also, you need to think about how your work fits into a tradition or school of thought.


[Edit]Doing Your Homework

  1. Decide if art college is right. You may be pessimistic about your chances at a career in art, but there are actually many jobs employing people with those degrees.[1] The drawback is, however, that you won’t get hired as Leonardo Da Vinci after graduating. Instead, you should look at the careers available to artists. While traditional college (or liberal arts college) may offer similar degrees, a BFA is fine.
    • Some careers enjoyed by people with arts degrees are graphic design, advertising, studio management, education, art therapy, communications, cinematography, and computer graphics – just to name a few!
  2. Talk to your art teacher. Tell him or her that you want to apply to an art college. Your teacher was in your place not so long ago, and will have some advice and insight for you. Tell him or her that you want to prepare your portfolio, and let them help you craft an application.
    Apply to Art College Step 2 Version 4.jpg
  3. Visit local art museums. Admissions offices at arts colleges will want to know who has influenced you. On the one hand, you shouldn’t trick them into thinking something influenced you by learning some famous names and pieces of art. On the other hand, however, telling them movements and artists who have given you general inspiration is a mature way to prepare.
    Apply to Art College Step 3 Version 4.jpg
  4. Research a few art schools. You should have decided on a few potential career options. Picking a school that specializes in those areas is the best way to decide which to apply to. However, college is a time when you discover who you are and how you want your career to take shape. Applying to art colleges with a general curriculum is fine as well.[2]
    Apply to Art College Step 4 Version 4.jpg
  5. Attend an art college fair. Some fairs may be called ‘national portfolio days’ – meaning that you will bring your portfolio to show it to potential schools. This is a good way of showing interest to your dream school. While many movies glorify the reclusive artist who never darkens the door of a classroom except to unveil their masterpiece upon the world, this just isn’t real life. A little networking and flattery will go a long way in showing a school you want to be a serious student.
    Apply to Art College Step 5 Version 4.jpg
  6. Apply for pre-college art programs. In the United Kingdom, this is sometimes called the ‘foundation year.’[3] In the United States you can elect to do a summer program in the arts to get advice on improving your craft. Not only will this help you become a better artist, but it will also look good on your resume. Again, a little preparatory work for your resume, in addition to your artwork, will go a long way toward getting you that accepted letter.
    Apply to Art College Step 6 Version 3.jpg
  7. Keep making art. While you are working on your resume, don’t forget about your artwork. At the end of the day, the schools will care most about the quality of your work. It is something you have to practice at, no matter how much talent you think you have. Besides, any art portfolio needs more than one presentable piece of art. Show the schools you can produce more than one nice-looking piece of art by spending time every day creating something beautiful.
    Apply to Art College Step 7 Version 3.jpg

[Edit]Putting Together an Application

  1. Visit open houses. Part of a good application is knowing something about the schools you’re applying to. When you write the application, indicating that you are aware of the school’s philosophies and goals is important. Ask the schools what they expect from applicants, and they will be more than happy to tell you.
    Apply to Art College Step 8 Version 3.jpg
  2. Get good grades. This is a classic example of ‘easier said than done.’ However, don’t let pop culture convince you that grades don’t matter for artists applying to college. If you are up against someone with a similar portfolio to you, your GPA can be what sets you apart. If you are in your last year of high school, make an effort to get the best grades possible so you can show an upward trajectory.
    Apply to Art College Step 9 Version 3.jpg
  3. Put together your portfolio. This is the most important part of your application. You art is what the admissions committee will be looking at. Pick pieces that are representative of every stage of your creative process: planning, sketches, final products, etc. There are a few things to think about when putting together your portfolio:
    Apply to Art College Step 10 Version 3.jpg
    • Display your best work.
    • Make the layout itself a representation of your artistic talent. Be creative with the portfolio!
    • Add unique flair to it. With art as opposed to other academic fields, you can be a little more visually abstract with how you present your work.
    • Update your work regularly. You want your portfolio to be a representation of your best as well as your current work. Showing what you are creating right now is important.[4]
  4. Show your application to your art teacher. Show them your cover letter, portfolio, and any other pieces of the application besides your grades. They will be able to help you craft your materials for the specific school you are applying to. Furthermore, they will offer you guidance on which pieces of art you should and shouldn’t include in your application.
    Apply to Art College Step 11 Version 2.jpg
  5. Find recommendation writers. You will need between 1 and 3 recommendation writers for art schools. You will want to ask your art teacher(s) to write these. If you have multiple, that is great. If you only have 1 art teacher, find recommendation writers who can speak about your performance as a student. The best way to do this is to think about classes you have gotten especially high grades in, with a teacher who likes you.
    Apply to Art College Step 12 Version 2.jpg
    • When you ask them to write you a recommendation, phrase it like this: “Would you be able to write me a good recommendation?” Sometimes, teachers and mentors aren’t straightforward enough to tell someone that they wouldn’t write a good recommendation. A negative recommendation letter will hurt your application, so make sure they have indicated that they will write good things about you.
  6. Submit the application on time. Make note of the deadline for the schools you want to apply to months in advance. Start working on the application immediately and ask your recommendation writers as soon as possible. This will give all of you time to write and edit any application materials. A good application will allow your art and grades to speak for themselves – but only if you submit it!
    Apply to Art College Step 13 Version 2.jpg
  7. Think about your art. While you are finalizing your application(s), reflect on your art. The finishing touches to your application materials may benefit greatly from your ability to connect your art to bigger ideas. This may involve talking about other artists, or more general thoughts about your work.
    Apply to Art College Step 14.jpg


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *