APPLYING TO SCHOOLS IN THE VISUAL ARTS
Are you are a student interested in applying to college to major in the visual arts, such as painting, photography, graphic arts or digital media and film? If so, there are many options open to you, depending on how specialized a course of study you desire.
If you want to focus intensely on the arts there are visual arts conservatories or stand alone fine art schools. Here the vast majority of your coursework would be centered around the visual and applied arts and art history. There most likely will be classes offered that are unavailable in a broader based arts program at a liberal arts university.
However, you should be very certain before you apply that you want to pursue the arts, as there are fewer options should you desire to switch your major later on to another area of study. Some fine art schools offer concentrations in the full range of the visual and performing arts such as fine art, music and theater. Some examples of specialized art schools are:
California College of the Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Pratt Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, Savannah College of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
If you are still fairly sure you want to specialize in the fine arts but want to leave yourself more leeway to pursue other fields of study, some colleges have a separate art school within their larger university. Here you could pursue a more specialized focus and still take a few liberal arts classes. You could possibly take a double major, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) as well as a BA in another field such as business or history.
Some schools recommended by the National Association for College Admission Counseling(NACAC) that have an arts college within the broader university are: Alfred University, Drexel University, Lesley University, The New School Parsons, SUNY New Paltz, Towson University, and UPenn.
Of course, like any prospective student, you can attend a liberal arts college or university, taking a broad range of courses in addition to those offered for your major in the arts, and earn a Bachelor of Arts(BA) degree. There are also options to double major in two areas of study. In some newer science oriented majors involving computing such as graphic design, motion graphics, animation and digital arts, several colleges of art have recently started offering a Bachelor of Science(BS) degree.
Majoring in art at a liberal arts college or university is the safest choice if you are not sure about committing to the fine arts and want a chance to try it out, or if you have several different areas of interest. Be aware that the depth and range of art courses may not be as broad as with a specialized college or school. Some examples of liberal arts colleges, recommended by NACAC counselors, that offer the visual arts as majors are: American University, Drew University, Goucher College, Oberlin College, Skidmore College, University of Maine, Wheaton College.
You may want to check out the National Association of Schools of Art & Design(NASAD), a national accrediting agency, to get more information on visual arts programs. In order to determine what kind of a school might be a good fit for you, it is important to understand terms used in the field, to better help you make a decision.
If you want to go to a specialized art school, you should endeavor, where possible, to take several art classes in high school. In addition it's advisable to try and utilize your summers for additional experience as well as have after-school outside instruction with an independent teacher. Any art shows or exhibitions where you have been able to showcase your work will be an advantage.
Having a portfolio with a good sampling of your range and best work is very important so the colleges' art departments can become familiar with your work and your abilities. Your portfolio should be in print form as well as able to be digitally uploaded, as schools may ask to see it online as part of your application.
You should consult with one or more of your art teachers in assembling the portfolio to get a professional perspective.
Each year, between the fall and early winter, National Portfolio Day is offered at different cities around the country. Students can bring their portfolio and get feedback from different participating colleges. This can help you to make improvements to your work and give information as to how competitive the programs are and how well your work is received.
Your chances of being accepted to a college involve a multitude of factors: your high school courses and GPA, test scores, your extracurricular activities, your essay(s), letters of recommendation, your resume with any art shows or awards, and your portfolio, which might be shown in person at an interview with an art admissions staff, or digitally online.
For a specialized art school the portfolio will certainly be the most important factor. It may also be the predominant element in other college programs as well. For some colleges you have to be accepted first to the university and then your application can go to the arts admissions staff.
Every college offers their own curriculum in the visual arts and has their own requirements for the major. You have to check each school you are considering to see if they have classes in your areas of interest or specialty such as printmaking, animation or industrial design.
Studio art, which is also called fine art, usually implies art that is visual, such as drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture and ceramics and working with other media such as wood or metal. You work under professional artists to enhance your creative skills with the goal of showing/selling your artwork in galleries, museums and businesses.
Visual arts include the previous areas of focus and additionally include illustration, graphic arts, 2D and 3D animation, video and film-making, and even architecture. It may also include conceptual art, textile art and the applied arts such as fashion design, interior design, industrial design, and the decorative arts. There are many career options for visual artists such as commercial artist, book illustrator, computer animator, graphic designer, art restorer, gallery manager and industrial designer.