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By: Noel Dahl on December 7th, 2016

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Admissions Advice: A Standout Art Portfolio Can Help You Get More Scholarships


Good grades, personal letters, and a track record of success are all important when it comes to securing art school financial aid. But what really matters for winning a scholarship is your portfolio. If you invest enough time into your portfolio, it can pay off in several ways:

A quality art school portfolio can increase a tuition award

While many people apply to win scholarships, remember that colleges and universities also have an interest in attracting top-tier talent. If you create a portfolio that dazzles the school you apply to, they may offer you more than the original scholarship or award amount in an effort to get you to commit to them.

You can use your art school portfolio for multiple applications

The time you spend updating and organizing your portfolio isn't restricted to one specific college or scholarship. While you might have to change or tweak certain elements of your portfolio based on the scholarship you are applying for, much of the work you do on your portfolio will carry over from one application to the next. Each minute you spend improving your portfolio helps your overall outlook and opportunity as an art student, not just a specific application.

Working on your art portfolio improves presentation skills

The way you describe your work can help the viewer understand your piece. The better you get at explaining your portfolio and what it represents, the more likely it is that viewers will connect with it – which improves your chances of receiving more financial aid.

Tips for your portfolio

So how do you go about creating a masterful portfolio that displays your skill as an artist?

  •  Choose a diverse range of pieces that demonstrate your skills in several areas. If you are looking to enter into a painting program, for example, include both drawing and painting.
  •  Provide deeper insights about the work. If the application allows for it, you can distinguish your submission by including information about your process for creating the work. Perhaps you traveled somewhere that inspired you to paint an abstract landscape, or you started a drawing in your sketchbook that eventually became a digital illustration. These insights help viewers understand how your creative process allows you to take ideas from the conceptual stage through to completion.
  •  Pay attention to your physical presentation. Even if you are submitting your best work, if it's disorganized or hard to evaluate, it will hurt your prospects. Be sure your portfolio is organized in a way that’s easy for someone to instantly pick up and move through.

It will take time to update your portfolio, and there's a good chance you'll never feel completely finished. But the work you do to maintain a great portfolio will be well worth it when you receive the financial means to attend your dream art school.

About Noel Dahl

Noel Dahl is director of graduate admissions at California College of the Arts, where he oversees the recruitment, admissions, and enrollment functions of the school's graduate programs. He received his MFA in Fine Arts and has worked in higher education for the past 15 years.


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