Pursuing an Arts Education

Associate Provost of Enrollment Management, The University of the Arts

Last Updated: Apr 24, 2017

There has never been a better time to pursue an arts education. U.S. colleges and universities offer many fine programs that encompass the full range of creative disciplines.

Because of this rich mix of cultures, the United States is a source of remarkable perspectives, ideas, and innovation. For these reasons and more, an arts education is respected and valued.

So, what steps should you take during your high school years to get ready for a university program in the arts?

Be prepared

Most admission decisions at arts colleges and universities are not based solely on a numerical formula or on the results of one comprehensive examination. Admission committees make great efforts to understand the person behind the application. Arts education programs are looking for students who are intelligent, talented, and highly motivated; they seek students who pursue their interests with energy and concern, students who can enrich the educational environment with a creative diversity of viewpoints and experiences.

“We are most interested in students who have challenged themselves, both academically and in the quality and sophistication of their chosen discipline,” says James Dean, Dean of Admissions at the Ringling School of Art and Design, in Sarasota, Florida. In this way, universities try to gauge the “fit” between your secondary school background and their programs.

Although admission requirements may vary from institution to institution, important factors for admission generally include:

  • Portfolio for visual arts students or an audition for performing artists. While representatives from some colleges travel and may be able to meet with you, others may expect you to visit their campus. Some will allow you to send samples of your artwork or an audition tape to them.
  • Letter of recommendation from an instructor with whom you have worked in an artistic capacity.
  • Performance on standardized tests, the originality and scope of your personal essays, and your academic record are all important factors.
  • Activities, special talents, and interests (such as time spent outside the classroom working in arts-related or community service activities and organizations) will be weighed as well. Ultimately, you must present yourself in a way that meets the admission requirements of the college or university you wish to attend. 

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