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  • Writer's pictureSophie van Os

How to gather your Art school portfolio requirements

Let’s say you have a list of art and design schools you want to apply to. The next thing you want to do is gather as much information about the application process as you can. Usually, their websites are filled with information about due dates and portfolio requirements. Here’s a list of what you should look up:

  • How many portfolio pieces are required?

  • Do they want to receive the portfolio digitally? 

  • What kind of writing sample is required?

  • Is a transcript required?

  • Is a recommendation letter required? How many?

  • When are the application deadlines?

  • Are there any Open Houses that I can visit?

What is an Art school portfolio?

The best way to get a glimpse of your talent is by showing your creative work in a well curated portfolio. This portfolio should reflect your personality, your character and your eagerness to learn. Besides the requirements of how many portfolio pieces you’re expected to bring to your admission, the admission officers want to see who you are as a person. In most cases they’re not even interested in the final result, but in the process you went through to get there. They want to know why you did what you did, what inspired you in the first place and what your way of thinking was. Because of this, it is important to prepare these kinds of questions before your admission.  

Do all Art schools require a portfolio for admission?

Most of the private art and design schools have certain requirements for your portfolio. These requirements can be very different from one another, so it’s very important to look this up beforehand. Some of the public schools, however, don’t have any requirements. I highly recommend creating pieces for your portfolio even if the school you’re applying to doesn’t ask for it. Why? 

First of all, you’re interested in this field so you must be excited to create something! Secondly, you’ll definitely stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of getting accepted. 

Lastly, the sooner you develop your creative skills, the faster you will grow as an artist or designer. 

5 Things to keep in mind while working on your portfolio

1. Ask for clarification

Usually you can find tons of information about the admission on the website of the school you’re applying to. As to what you should and should not submit in your application, it can be unclear. For example, some schools are interested in your process and are dying to see your sketchbook, whereas other schools are very strict on only seeing your final work where there can be no spot/drip/fingerprint. Why not send an email with some questions or give them a call to clarify things? This will also show that you’re involved and motivated to make the best out of your application.

2. Ask for advice

This can be from your high school art teacher or a local artist downtown. Now, it can happen that these people have different opinions on what pieces you should and shouldn't submit. What you do with their feedback is up to you. If you don’t have any art teachers or know any artists, you can consider to register for National Portfolio Day. They organize events where multiple art teachers from top art and design schools gather to give you free advice on your work! Due to the COVID-19, all events have been moved online and can be attended for free by students anywhere around the world. 

3. Research the program

See what the program (or programs) entails, where alumni work and what kind of pieces students show during Open House. This way, you’ll get a glimpse of what they might expect from you during admission.   

4. Bring your sketchbook to the admission interview

Inform if the school that you’re applying to, is interested in the process of your work. If this is the case,  bring your sketchbook to your admission interview to show how you approached a certain assignment. In this sketchbook you can experiment with different techniques. For example: make a drawing with charcoal, chalk or even ink instead of the usual pencils.

5. Digitize your work

In some cases, you are asked to send in your portfolio before you’re invited to the admission interview. You can send photos of your portfolio, or you can think of a more creative way to digitize your work. For instance, make a video or use another medium to stand out.

The final question you have to ask yourself 

The final and most important question you have to ask yourself before handing in your portfolio is: Does my work reflect why I want to be an artist or a designer? 

Art and design schools have been growing in numbers in the past years. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that your chances of getting accepted have gotten higher. The number of students who apply is also growing. Which is why it is super important to really think for yourself why you want to study at the art and design school of your dreams. What drives you, what motivates you that is different from the rest? Incorporate this passion in your portfolio and you will definitely stand out from the crowd.

Don’t know where to start? A moodboard is often a very good starting point for your projects. Sign up for this online module and apply this technique to your portfolio.


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