Students shaping a glass blown work in the hot shop.

Six things to know before starting your art college search

This is a post for absolute beginners. Not beginning artists, of course. You already have a passion for art and the talent to build your life around it. And you know that an art college degree will help make your dream a reality.

But what else do you need to know?

If you’re just beginning to search for art colleges, here are the most important things you need to know to evolve from art college newbie to an expert school researcher: . .

1. Before you can learn about art colleges, you must learn about yourself

The first step on any aspiring art college student’s journey is one that should continue throughout your creative career. Before you can even think about comparing different schools, you need to gain some insight into who you are as an artist.

Artist can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but what does it mean to you specifically? How do you envision your life as an artist 10, 15, or even 20 years from now? How can an art college help you get there?

Start asking yourself the hard (but rewarding) questions with the help of our story “Three Simple Questions to Ask Yourself to Choose the Perfect Art College.”

2. Whatever your background, know that you will find a school where you fit

Many art college applicants are worried they won’t be able to compete with students from a more rigorous artistic background. But competition really isn’t the point of art college. What matters is finding a supportive and challenging community where you can practice your skills, push your boundaries, and work towards your vision of your artistic future.

Whether you went to an all-arts magnet school or a regular public high school, whether you took as many art courses as you could or just one or two electives, whether you’ve been studying art since you were a small child or you’re just getting into it, there’s a place at an art college for you.

3. There are hundreds of art colleges in the country

There’s no reason to limit your choices to the handful you’ve already heard of. Start narrowing down your list with our article, “4 Foolproof Tips for Finding Art Colleges to Apply To.”

4. The most important part of your application is your portfolio

Every art college’s admission requirements are different, but admissions experts agree, your portfolio will get more attention than any other part of your application. Schools aren’t necessarily looking for technical mastery, but they do want you to demonstrate a passion for art, an eagerness to try new things, and a commitment to exploring your own creative vision and voice.

Here are a few tips on putting together a portfolio that will wow admissions officers.

What else will separate your application from the rest? Read our article and find out.

5. Art college can be a good financial decision (Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise)

Be prepared; if you even mention the possibility of art college to some people, they’ll ask you if you’re worried about becoming a “starving artist.”

Not only is the “starving artist” an overused and outdated cliche, but there is some very good evidence that those with an art college degree go on to earn more than those with degrees in fields like education or biology.

If earning a good living is important to you, you’ll want to start your art college search with Payscale's list of best art schools by salary potential.

6. You can experience top art colleges this summer

Many of the best art colleges in the country host summer art programs for high school students like you.

These programs will give you a feel for the art college life, with the same top-notch instructors, cutting-edge resources, and immersive artistic community you’ll experience in college. They’re also a great chance to try out new techniques and disciplines and beef up your portfolio for art school applications.

Find your creative community at CCA

Apply now