Art and design professors in college or university are strict when it comes to accepting high school students into their course, particularly when that program is one of the top schools in the country. The reason here is that they want to maintain the high academic standards of their program and their reputation in their industry. When professors deny applicants from entering their program, it is because the applicants did not exhibit the skills and attitudes that reflect the standards set by the academic program.
However, the application process is not as dry cut as simply meeting the academic standards set by the college. Art and design professors in college consider a lot of factors in assessing applicants on whether or not they are worthy to be absorbed into the program.
For college applicants, they must learn how to think like professors in college. Below are some of the things they ask themselves when evaluating aspiring art and design students to their program.
Is the student here just to get a diploma?
Some students are applying to college because their parents told them to; they want to secure a high-paying job in the future, or both. The reality with some of the art professions is that it doesn’t necessarily equate to a profitable career, at least not in the short term. Being a top paid professional in the arts takes dedication, paying your dues, branding and a high degree of talent. Therefore, if professors take a hint that students are there for any other reason other than learning, enriching, and cultivating their skills as an artist or designer, then there’s a big chance that the student would not get into the program.
What you should do: If you’re not interested in arts to begin with, then feel free to jump off to a college course that connects better with you. But for those serious in improving their craft, it all starts in your willingness to learn about the arts in general. Attending a college is not about the destination, which is to pass the subjects, but it’s about how you get there. It is about how you learn and what to learn, as well as how you apply the knowledge you’ve acquired to good use.
Is the applicant passionate about their chosen art field?
College professors want to see that you have a burning passion for your art that will fuel you through not only the challenges of the program but well into your career in the arts and design. They are looking for people who deeply desire to live a life dedicated to art and are willing to put in the work, thought and sacrifices that will ensure a high level of success and make a significant contribution into that art form. Professors look for someone that exhibits an understanding of their life trajectory and is using the college as a jumping off point into their career. Another key point the professors watch for is evidence that the student applicant knows why they want to study art and design and can clearly convey their goals for their future.
What you should do: You really need to reflect on your goals, dreams and reasons for wanting to study art and why you want to study at that particular school. Don’t go in unprepared! Formulate some responses before you go to your interview so you can exude confidence and excitement for your art.
Do the applicants actually know anything about their chosen profession?
By applying to an art and design school, you should at least know that art is not simply about drawing or designing pretty things on a sketchbook, canvas, or computer. There’s something exhilarating about art and design, especially in how it is able to visually express ideas, emotions and relate on a human level. Although you are still not expected to fully comprehend how art operates at this level yet, you are at least expected to have the attitude and discipline that is geared towards becoming a professional artist or designer in the future. That all starts with learning and absorbing anything that you can about the arts.
What you should do: At this point, you’re probably undecided about which form of art you want to specialize in upon entering art school or what separates you from other art students. Months before your scheduled application interview, take the time to actually read and learn about types of art and design and how they work (not necessarily how to do them). Attend art exhibits and examine how artists are able to express themselves through their medium. Educate yourself about leaders and innovators in your field of study. Know why you like their work and don’t name drop for the sake of it thinking that is what the professor’s want to hear. Have something truly personal, truthful and insightful to say about who you admire in your field.
This kind of exploration will help you formulate a deeper understanding into your craft and what compels you to want to study it. These insights and greater awareness of art in general will give you an advantage over your peers in expressing yourself to professors during the admissions interview.
Is the student an original thinker?
The most important element that professors look for in successful students is original and intriguing ideas. You want your portfolio to have some truly unique content and a way of documenting your idea process. The richness of some ideas don’t always show themselves in a quick viewing of a portfolio so the interview is your chance to impress the professor with your original thoughts and in-depth design process.
What you should do: Don’t hold anything back! Show your brilliance and be sure that you have pushed yourself to include your absolute best and most intriguing work in your portfolio. This means preparation for your interview and portfolio compilation needs to take time and forethought. Just compiling high school art projects is not enough! You need to push yourself outside of the typical boundaries and create something unique and new just for your portfolio and think deeply about your work and ideas for your interview.
Does the applicant have a good portfolio to show?
Your knowledge about the arts will boil down to your portfolio. This will contain the best and most compelling works you have done so far. This will also serve as a barometer for art professors in college to see where you stand as a potential student in their program. If your portfolio impresses the professors, then your chances of getting accepted to their program have increased substantially.
What you should do: An art portfolio should effectively tell a story. It is not merely a collection of artworks that you haphazardly put up together for submission to the art schools you applied to. Arrange the artworks in your portfolio in a logical sequence so art professors in college can understand the ideas behind your work. Also, provide descriptions to each of them so people will have reference to look into if the artwork is too obscure for them.
For more tips on how you can create a compelling art portfolio that art professors will love, refer to our post “Applying to an Arts Program in College? Here’s What to Include in Your Portfolio.”
If you have yet to create works to include in your portfolio, let Karen Kesteloot provide you tips and advice on how to make an art portfolio for college by maximizing your current skill set. Try out her FREE portfolio assessment, which should get you started with building your portfolio from the ground up.