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What It’s Really Like to Apply to Art School

The writer is an art school applicant.

Aerin Wagner, Contributor

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It is no easier applying to art school than it is a regular college, considering the extra supplementals, even though there is a longer timeline.

The college application is difficult and stressful but applications to art school ask for even more supplementals.  Most schools require the student to fill out the Common Application, which is used by most schools, so it only has to be filled out one time.  An art school may ask you to fill out the Common Application, as well as provide essays, a portfolio and a specific project.

For example, The New School requires the Common Application, an essay on why you would like to attend the school, a portfolio and the Parsons Challenge – where the applicant has to create a completely new piece of art and write an essay on it.

It seems like a lot, but art schools’ deadlines are normally later than the other regular decision colleges.  Most colleges have deadlines in December but art schools have deadlines in mid-January and even into February, which gives the applicants plenty of time to work on all of the supplementals.

The most daunting part is the portfolio, especially for first time applicants.  Most schools accept portfolios through a website called SlideRoom, which costs $10 to submit, or the school will have their own similar form.

“A portfolio, especially in this digital era, is a story,” said Erin Stine, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the New School, in a lecture she did in November 2015.  “You are choosing what we see first, what we see in the middle, what we see last.”

If a school is looking for 15-25 pieces from an applicant’s portfolio but the applicant only has 19 strong pieces, just submit those.  The portfolio should only show your best work that you are most confident with. However, they also do not need to all be finished pieces of work. Sometimes, a spread of your sketchbook showing your process and experimenting with different techniques and styles can be incorporated.

“One thing you won’t see today is a bowl of fruit.  I’m on a personal crusade for fruit, and that’s because so many of us, that’s how we learn.  So, you do a bowl of fruit – you know, the banana, the orange – they’re laid out in a bowl.  Perfect pastel piece, it’s so good that I could reach in there and pull it out and eat it, but you know what?  I bet that says nothing about you, except your technical ability.  I’m going to bet that most of us do not have a personal passion for fruit, whereas you might want to talk about your relationships, the people that surround you, the activities you’re involved in, the issues you are excited about.  That’s the kind of thing that makes better subject matter for a portfolio,” said Erin Stine in the video attached here.

Likewise, pieces do not require statements to accompany them, unless they are relevant and important. Perhaps there is a message that the art conveys and it can use some writing to help clarify it.

For help working on a portfolio, the art teachers at SEM are more than willing to look over your portfolio and give you suggestions!

The following video goes into great detail about applying to art schools, specifically The New School, and what sort of things your portfolio should include:

 

 

 

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What It’s Really Like to Apply to Art School