Three ways to make your college application stand out

What can you do to make sure your application won’t be overlooked? Here are a few tips from admissions officers at some of the best art colleges in the U.S.

This winter and spring, tens of thousands of high school seniors like you will flood America’s top art colleges with applications. Also like you, each is hoping their application will grab the attention of admissions officers, land them a spot at their first-choice school, and kickstart a long and successful professional art career.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the country’s best art colleges turn away a significant number of applicants every year. Many of these are talented artists whose applications just didn’t stand out.

1. Priority #1: your portfolio

If you focus on perfecting one part of your art college application, make it your portfolio. Every art college will ask for visual samples of your creative work and for some colleges, it may be the #1 thing they look at.

Even if an art college does look at those other factors, you can be sure our portfolio will get the most attention. Art colleges want to see that you have the creative vision, drive, and potential to succeed as a member of their creative community.

So how do you put together a mind-blowing portfolio? It’s such an important topic that we can’t cover it all in the space of this article. Click on the following links for useful pointers to ensure your artistic voice comes through the crucial portfolio review process:

2. Nail your personal statement

Besides your portfolio, your personal statement (or essay, as some call it) is your best opportunity to tell admissions personnel about who you are as an artist. What are they looking for? Among other things, passion, says an admissions rep from Otis College of Art and Design.

"Are you passionate about making art? Do you have the dedication necessary to spend long hours in the studio creating your artwork?" he asks. "Are you passionate enough about art to be willing to challenge yourself every day?"

  • But be careful not to brag in your statement. Your portfolio is for showing off your stuff. Your statement is for explaining why you’re driven to make it:
  • What drives you to be an artist? What will keep you going through art school?
  • Who or what are your influences as an artist? Why?
  • What are you excited about exploring with your art?
  • What skills do you enjoy practicing the most and what are you looking forward to perfecting?
  • How does your art interact with the world? Or how do you want it to interact with the world?
  • In your essay, aim for clarity. Getting your point across is more important than impressing with big words and flowery language. If you need help, have a teacher read it or take it to your high school writing lab.

Here are some more tips on writing your first artist’s statement.

3. Keep those grades up

You might think that GPA and test scores don’t matter too much to art schools, but, yes, they do. Art college is still college, after all, and admissions officers take into consideration the whole academic picture when evaluating applicants.

You don’t need to be your school’s valedictorian to get into the top art schools, but admissions officers do want to see that you are responsible and committed. In fact, academic achievement is a predictor of your ability to succeed in college, not just in your freshmen year, but for each subsequent year.

"Art schools want to know that their students are serious about education. By looking at your grades, colleges can tell what kind of student you’ll be if you attend their school," writes Campus Explorer.

Your GPA and test scores also may help determine your eligibility for scholarships and other forms of financial aid — a crucial factor as the cost of higher education is one of the most important considerations you need to face.