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By: Scott Cline on June 12th, 2017

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3 Ways to Boost the Odds of Getting Into the Art School of Your Dreams

Applying to College

When you dream about following in the footsteps of the world’s most influential artists and most successful creative professionals by attending a top-tier art school, sometimes it can feel as if the odds are stacked against you. Some of the country’s most prestigious art colleges boast acceptance rates under 50 percent — and that’s not including the thousands of potential applicants who, intimidated by the competition, set their sights lower.

But not you; when it comes to your art education, you won’t accept second best. For you, earning acceptance at a top art college is just the first step towards:

  • Achieving your full artistic potential, growing into the artist you know you’re meant to be.
  • Landing a rewarding creative job with innovative employers.
  • Using your art to make a difference in the world, pushing the boundaries of creative expression and society.

With so much riding on the outcome of your education, how can you maximize your chances of gaining acceptance into the art college of your dreams?

Here are a few tips:

1. Work Your Butt Off; Take Every Opportunity to Learn More

You can’t expect to cruise into a top art college on raw talent alone. The old joke about getting to Carnegie Hall (“practice, practice, practice”) also applies to art school. To get into a great art college, you need to work hard at it — because you know your competition is doing exactly that.

Taking as many art courses as you can at your high school is a start. But also seek out opportunities to expand your artistic vocabulary beyond what your high school can offer:

  • Enroll in a summer art program at a local art college or university.
  • Attend community art classes and seminars with amateur and professional artists of all ages.
  • Develop an independent art habit. Set aside time every day to practice observational sketching in your town, or to animate your own short films.
  • Frequent your local art galleries and museums — notebook at the ready — and plan pilgrimages to the nearest big-city art museums for inspiration.

2. Reach Out and Make a Connection

Wouldn’t it be a relief to have someone influential in your corner?

In one interview, an admissions professional at a top art school advised applicants to “establish a relationship with an admissions counselor who can fight for you if necessary. Make sure the school knows it is your first choice.”

But to truly “get your name out there,” think about going beyond admissions personnel to faculty and even alumni. With the rise of social media and online communication, it’s never been easier:

  • Email a respectful (direct and personalized) note to a faculty member you admire. Ask to sit in on a class or meet with them briefly during office hours.
  • Follow the social media feeds of each school you’re considering: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on. Comment on interesting posts, asking questions when appropriate to spur a dialogue.
  • Search for recruiting events hosted by area alumni.

3. Get a Second (and Third and Fourth) Opinion on Your Portfolio

We can’t say it enough: Your portfolio is far and away the most important element of your art college application. So if you’re serious about art college, take the time to perfect your portfolio, choosing your absolute best work, presenting it as cleanly and professionally as possible.

Then ask for merciless feedback from art professionals whose opinion you trust, such as the art teachers at your high school and instructors from your summer art programs. If you or your parents know people who work in an artistic field — the lead designer at your mother’s office, perhaps, or the architect who lives nextdoor — summon the courage to ask for their feedback, as well.

Once you think your portfolio is as good as it can possibly be, bring it to a National Portfolio Day event. These are events held all over the country where prospective art students like you can have their work critiqued and their questions answered by representatives of some of the best art schools. It can be intimidating, but also a great way to get the inside track on what your dream schools are looking for while making invaluable personal connections.

Do you have any tips for improving your chances of getting into the art school of your dreams? Share them with other artists in the comments section below.

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About Scott Cline

Dr. Scott Cline is vice president of enrollment at California College of the Arts, where he leads the financial aid and undergraduate admissions offices. He has worked at CCA for over six years, previously as director and associate director of financial aid.

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