Finessing Art College

Senior planning to attend art college advises fellow students on how to apply

Kaitlin Yu, Co-editor in chief

After months and months of pain, torture and suffering, I am finally done with the college applications process. Even though I’m done and through with it, I know that there are plenty of underclassmen who are poised to suffer through it next year without any resources online. So, here I am, helping you prepare for what may be the most painful aspect of high school.


I’m a chronic procrastinator. So, take it from me, I know the consequences of my actions. Nothing ever turns out as well as you think it will if you complete it in a short period of time. I recommend beginning to cultivate your portfolio at the beginning of junior year and writing your essays during the summer.


What media of art do you enjoy, and what do you want to explore?

Do you like big cities, or do you want to live in a small college town?

What colleges can you afford, and what kind of financial aid can you receive?

These are all necessary questions that you need to ask yourself. If you want to accurately narrow down your college list, this is the way to go.

Once you have inquired yourself, then compile a list of locations and schools to research. I recommend creating a spreadsheet to organize all of your information in.

Eventually, narrow down your list to two to eight schools that have a variety of difficulty. As an art student, you may not be able to apply to as many schools as others because there are just so many additional assignments and artworks you may have to accomplish for each school.

Know anybody who knows somebody who knows somebody in the art industry who went to art school? Email them. Talk to them. Figure out what the schools are skilled in and what majors they boast. This was very helpful for me in deciding.


If you know anything about art schools, then you’ll know they love observational drawings. In addition to still lifes and studies of different environments (urban and nature), you need to draw people from life. Coffee shops, libraries and malls provide great models, but if you want to be able to sit down and study one person, then take summer figure drawing classes or have a friend sit for you.

Outside of showing your observational and technical skill, be sure to include experimental works. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying a new medium or playing around with art principles—art schools want to see who you as an artist are.

If you have time, be sure to come up with a concentration or theme—something that ties a range of your works together.


Get outside of your comfort zone at BV and talk to other artists by going to National Portfolio Day. You can get to know colleges there, and they can critique your portfolio and suggest changes that will increase your chances of getting accepted to that school.


I recommend visiting junior year so that you can get an understanding of the submission process, as well as if you like the school.


Most colleges use a digital submission forum called Slideroom, so you will need to take good quality photos of your artwork and edit them (especially making sure that the photos fit the size requirement, which is usually 5 MB). Talk to art teacher Mark Mosier about taking portfolio pictures.

As far as organizing the portfolio, I always start with the best and end with the best. I also try to group similar artwork together, so I separate my self-portraits, oil paintings and abstract artwork, sprinkling my figure drawings throughout. Every person will find their own way of organizing—you just need to experiment and get others to critique your portfolio.


Senior year is stressful, far more than many give it credit for. Just remember that some things are out of your control, and if you don’t get into a college, it’s not the end of the world. At the end of the day, it’s not what college you go to that makes you a good artist—it’s you and your work ethic and your passion and your point of view that will make you successful.