Compiling a list of the “best” fine art programs in college can be contentious. We need to set the criteria on what makes a fine art program one of the best, if not the best.
Should it include the number of graduates who have been featured in galleries, collections, and exhibitions? Should we break down the income of each professional artist and gauge from there? Or should we simply review the artwork produced by the artists from a purely critical and academic level? Of course, we should also consider the non-artistic aspects involved in becoming an artist (i.e. the drive and determination of the person to succeed, the marketing strategy used to promote their brand and work, etc.), some of which aren’t even taught by the best fine art programs.
This inexact science of determining the best among the rest will raise the ire of different artists who have gone through the colleges listed. However, instead of going through the lengths of researching each criteria to determine the best fine art programs, it’s probably best and efficient to let actual students who have gone to the more popular programs do the talking for us!
Below are what students at College Confidential are saying about the more popular and well-reputed fine art college programs. The goal here is to provide you with unfiltered opinion from college students about the different fine art programs in college that you can take. Thus, if you are an aspiring art student, then you should read on and find out which program suits you best.
Click on the links below to go straight to the opinions about the specific fine art program.
Yale University School of Art
Rhode Island School of Design
University of California Los Angeles Department of Art
School of The Art Institute of Chicago
School of the Museum of Fine Arts
School of Visual Arts
“I submitted a portfolio, and I’ve won numerous state and national competitions (and was a semifinalist to an international competition) and yet I was still rejected because my SATs were below the threshold (not by much – 2170) and my GPA is a 90.1/100 (UW)” — click here for the source
“If your portfolio is really good, it might be a little bit of a hook, otherwise, you are just like anyone else applying to Yale. You have to have the whole package, and even then it’s anybody’s game. Once you are in, I don ‘t know how hard it is to get into the art major.” — click here for the source
“Yale differs from many other elite research universities because it has a vibrant, respected MFA program in visual arts. Of course it has good art facilities and faculty. (Look into Harvard’s art facilities and permanent faculty if you want a baseline for contrast.) But that’s not the same thing as having arts practice being the very essence of the institution’s reason for being. And, yes, artists at Yale, while accepted, cherished, and supported by the wider community, are always going to be a tiny minority there. That’s what I was getting at by citing the numbers above. If you need dozens and dozens of colleagues, and a wide choice of faculty, you won’t find them at Yale.” — click here for the source
“RISD is an art school. It’s one of the best in the world, and people come from all over. Everyone there lives, breathes, and sweats art 24-7. People there are building careers as professional artists. There are something like 350 studio art majors per class, plus another 80 or so grad students per class. It has some gen ed requirements, and I believe you can take the occasional class at Brown (which is essentially adjacent), but you go there to study the practice of art, period. And there’s probably no academic institution anywhere in the world that’s better for that.” — click here for the source
“One of her art teachers told her that RISD although a great school, is so rigid in its training, they don’t allow for much freedom of expression. She is also looking at SAIC and a few others. Go see the school and see if its a fit, that is the best way. She also went to Yale for a pre college program and they told her there that most artists got to RISD as a first choice but if your a great artist, does it really matter which school you pick? I would go with your gut and look at what each gives you. That what we will be doing. Many of the Ivy leauge also have great art programs, like Columbia, who knew, so don’t limit yourself to any just one.” — click here for the source
“Work- Wow. If you are faint of heart, and cannot function if you dont get 8 hours of sleep every night.. i dont think this is the place for you. I have not pulled an all nighter yet, but a few of my friends have already pulled quite a few. The work is hard, im usually in the workroom or studio until 2am, and my usual sleeping time is around 3-4am. crazy eh? What adds more is that i usually have studio starting at 8am and ending at 6pm. simplified- YOU WILL WORK A LOT. no matter what. there just isnt any way to get around it. Unless you half-ass, but if you do that.. prepare to get torn apart in crit. However, there are those “nice” teachers who just skip you if it sucks. Even though i go to sleep so late… i enjoy everything. if you work in the workroom or studio, you are usually not alone so prepare to have a lot of fun. there is a lot of random burst of song, dancing in the workroom, and just friendly talk. It’s pretty funny, because most of your conversations at RISD have to do with the amount of homework one has received. You will come to love your section, for everyone has their on little quirks. Studio is long, but veryy helpful. Dont be afraid to challenge yourself, or do stuff you’ve never done.” — click here for the source
“4 years ago my older son applied to UCLA art and was informed clearly that if his application/portfolio was not accepted by that major, he would not be considered by UCLA for any other major/school. Last year, my S2 applied to the theater design major and, again, the application (plus audition/portfolio review/supplements) went directly to the School of Theatre & Film–do not pass go, do not get considered for any other UCLA admission.
“In other words, you get just that one shot.” — click here for the source
“We recently visited SAIC. I don’t see much about it on here, so I thought I would post a trip report.
“Facilities – Excellent. Lots of studio space. They even have their own foundry. Buildings are not on a central campus, but are within walking distance of each other in downtown Chicago.
“Location – Excellent. Right downtown with the lakefront, Millenium Park, shopping and restaurants on Michigan Ave and State Street, and the art museum. Other museums located nearby. The perfect location for someone wanting an urban environment.
“Residence Halls – Excellent. The best I have seen. We saw a double with one bed in the main room, and the second up in a loft above this room. There was also a bathroom and small kitchen with full-size refrigerator, microwave, and stove top. Shared facilities include laundry, studio space in the dorm, lounges, fitness room, and full kitchens.” — click here for the source
“The facilities are wonderful, the area is wonderful and the museum, well you probably know how great the museum is. My only caution would be SAIC only if you’re very very interested in conceptual art and theory. If you are looking for more traditional instruction in technique and process you might want to look elsewhere. While there are some very strong instructors in certain areas the foundation year is apparently very focused on conceptual art and theory. And I heard that they are extending the length of some of the foundation year courses. (Not verified) If a year or two of this isn’t what you’re looking for you might want to look elsewhere. This is true probably of many art schools currently unless you’re going into a design area. My feeling is that once you move beyond the first two years SAIC gets more flexible.” — click here for the source
I know that SAIC has the No. 1 fine arts graduate program according to the U.S. News & World Reports in 2006. SAIC also recieved 1st place for photography, 2nd place for painting, 3rd place for visual communications, and 3rd place for sculpture. Plus, Chicago is a beautiful city and it’s located right near Michigan Avenue, which is really awesome for shopping among other things. it’s located right next to the art museum. According to U.S news Peter Frank, art critic and curator says, “Of all American cities, Chicago has contributed the most solid and distinctive artwork and art thinking. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is at the nucleus of this longstanding distinction.”
“The CONS: Only 38% of students graduate in 4 years, 53% within 6 years (RISD= 71% within 4 years, 90% within 6 years)
“A PRO/CON (depending on how you view it) It has a high acceptance rate” — click here for the source
“I personally think this school is a bit of a joke and not worth the 50k they ask for (they are also very stingy with their scholarships, for an example, i got a 5k scholarship and when i attended the accepted students day i found out i had the highest scholarship money).
“At first i thought this school would be good for me. I am an abstract artist and really like to do interdisciplinary things. The fact that they do not have majors was really enticing for me, plus you can take classes at tufts and get your diploma from tufts.” — click here for the source
“I’m a recent grad and I enjoyed my experiences at The Cooper Union. There is no question it is a tough school, no matter what your major is. There’s a lot of work and students spend a lot of time on it, but the good thing about it is students tend to bond and there’s a lot of camaraderie. Everybody helps everybody out, even those who aren’t in your year. The people in your class will feel more like family members than classmates by graduation.” — click here for the source
“I am a current student at Cooper, second year ChemE. I transfered to cooper and can testify that the school is hard. However, it is completely doable as long as you do your work, the more time you put into it the better you do. Everybody tries to help each other out and there is no real competition among the student. The education you get is overall good but there are teachers that are terrible and you have to learn the material on your own. Finding an apartment close to campus is not really hard, most people end up looking for apartments with the roommates they had during the first year.” — click here for the source
“Although SVA is a stand alone art school, they don’t have all the majors that you would expect from such a place.It is a fairly small school with about 3,000 total students, which include a substantial graduate population. For example, for design majors, they don’t have an undergrad Industrial or Fashion Design. There is no architecture either. They do have fine art offerings such as painting and printmaking but don’t have majors such as textiles, metals, glass etc. They do have a graduate industrial design program though.
“However, what they have is, for the most part quite good. The also have majors that you wouldn’t normally find such as live action short film, animation, computer art,branding (graduate only), fashion photography (graduate only) and art criticism among others. Their strongest programs would probably be illustration, graphic design, cartooning, animation, which is nationally ranked in top 5, and photography. In fact, I would bet that all of these five majors are nationally reknown. — click here for the source
“Overall, the animation programs at SVA are fabulous and among the best in the country. They are also among the strongest departments in the school. I have seen their work, which, for the most part, is sterling. Faculty are all currently working professionals in the industry,which does give some better contacts than that found at other schools.” — click here for the source
How about you, dear reader – what are your experience with any of the fine art programs mentioned above? Would you recommend these college programs to high school seniors interested in taking up arts? Are there schools that you would also like to recommend that weren’t mentioned in the list above? Share your thoughts by commenting below!