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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

6 Tips for Applying to Art School

Lettering artwork available for purchase as a print here.

Some of you may know, my path to becoming an illustrator and designer was not direct. After high school, I went the route of a large public university because I wanted that awesome, idllyc college experience that was just like the movies (it was pretty close). I loved it. After college, not so much. After a few years of mucking around in office jobs, (thankfully!) a number of factors pushed me to pursue a second degree in illustration & design, which had always been my secret dream. I knew I had to get the technical training to push as far as I could with my career.

If you are considering applying to art school, even as your first time in college, here are six tips for applying:

1. Do your research. Find out which schools are best for what you're looking for, what your needs are. Get to know the names of your industry, especially the ones who are working now. Most of them have blogs. Couldn't hurt to contact them. Find out where they went. Figure out your priorities. I chose Art Center because it's in LA, it's one of the top design schools in the country, I could design my own illustration/design hybrid program, and the average age of students was 24. I got in contact with people I knew who were in the program - and looked at their entrance portfolios so I knew where I had to be to get in.

2. Take an extension class at the school you want to attend. Many art schools offer summer programs for high school students and extension classes for people already out of school. This is the best way to get to know the school and the people there.

3. Get in touch with an admissions counselor. What surprised me the most was how much admissions counselors will help you with your portfolio. They will be kindly honest and help shape your book. I met with mine three times, and he even looked through my sketchbooks and pointed out work that could be developed into interesting finished pieces. He made suggestions for types of pieces that would be different than the usual portfolio fare, which would then help me get more scholarship money.

4. Find a current student's blog. Then another, and another. Most art students will link to their peers on their blogs. There, you can find the types of assignments and classes that the school offers. You can find out which teachers to take for which classes. I found many blogs that had work that made my jaw drop - that made me firmly decide that Art Center was exactly where I needed to be.

5. Get academic classes out of the way at a cheaper school. These are the required classes that make your degree a degree. These classes are similar everywhere, so it'd be smart to take them at a community college while developing your portfolio, so that your very expensive time at art school is not cluttered with required academic classes. I squeezed in about 5 extra studio classes because I already had a bachelor's that covered most of my academic req's (or could have graduated early).

6. You should go when you're ready. To really succeed in the art/design world, you have to be focused like a laser on your work. Being in school is your time to explore, experiment, and really discover your voice as an artist - YES. This is true. But you do NOT get there by partying. You owe it to yourself/whoever is bankrolling your education to take it seriously. Because I promise you, there will be 25 other students in your class who can draw (or design/photograph/etc.) just as well as you, if not better, and have been doing it since they could hold a pencil.

Hope this information is helpful to all those who are finding their way. I should add, I believe it is totally achievable to become a creative professional without going to school. However, for me I knew it would take ten years to get where I'd be after three years at the right school.


  1. This is Fantastic advice... I took a round-a-bout way to Art School too {first Art Institute of CA-LA...AWFUL experience... and ended up back home at Kendall College of Art & Design in MI).

    I wish I would've had more guidance in high school, but I wouldn't change my experience at all ... And I totally agree about college admissions/guidance counselors! They were fantastic in helping me get started with everything and transition smoothly.

    ps - your blog and artwork is great!

    1. Thanks, Kelli! I agree, high school really didn't present many options other than the traditional 4 year liberal arts route...but I'm glad I have that background!

  2. Ann these are excellent tips. I switched majors three times before find my home in art studio. Hope you get to do many wonderful things with your degree! Love this quote and artwork!

  3. It is very informative post so i like this post very much.
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  4. What a great idea!! i'ld like to know more how many people you met on 1st step, I'm quite late to see this blog.Very good! Nice information this is really interesting.



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