College Search Tips for Students in the Arts

If you're a high school student considering a major the arts, here are a few things to consider before choosing a college.

Students interested in attending a visual or performing arts college face unique challenges and options when narrowing down their choices. Not only are students selecting a college, but they are deciding to pursue a field of study that comes with unique challenges.

If you’re a high school student considering a major the arts, here are a few things to consider before choosing a college.

Be objective about your abilities and portfolio

Ask for honest advice and evaluation from high school teachers, advisors, or even your local art community on your abilities. For prospective visual arts students working on a portfolio, give careful thought to making it compelling and remember that it should be a showcase of your best work. Also consider registering for National Portfolio Day to receive free advice about your portfolio. For more information, talk with your guidance counselor or art teacher.

Think about possible career opportunities now

Before committing to a major, make sure to research the job options typically associated with that field of study. Are you interested in these jobs? Consider asking people you know in the industry about their work, or, if you can, ask a local company if you can shadow an employee for the day to learn about the job. If you shadow someone, ask questions such as, “Where did you go to college?” “What’s your college degree?” and “Did you do an internship?”

Don’t be shy; network with alumni

Once you’ve narrowed down your college selection, ask the admission office to share with you where alumni are working and how they are using their degrees. See if you can speak with alumni or attend a local mixer for prospective students. While there, ask lots of questions about their college and career experience. Often, alumni are happy to talk with high school students who are considering their alma mater.

Take the college for a test drive

Some colleges offer programs for high school students to experience the school before making the decision to apply. They might allow you to live in residence halls, take classes taught by college faculty, meet professional artists, exhibit your work, and explore the college campus.

Experience the city/town where you will likely live and intern

Before finalizing your decision, visit the college and experience the city/town to get a feel for not only the college campus but the community, along with internship and job opportunities. Ask the admission office about the local arts scene and opportunities to get involved. Think about future prospective employers located in the area should you continue to live there after graduation.

Don’t stress over your major (yet)

If you’re interested in a few different programs, consider a college that does not require you to declare a major until after your freshman year. This gives you the opportunity to attend different classes and perhaps reaffirm your decision when selecting a major. If you do need to declare a major when you apply to a college, don’t worry. Colleges understand that you may change your mind as your courses evolve. However, it’s important to plan your courses carefully; otherwise, switching majors may prevent you from graduating on time.

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About Robin Hepler

Robin Hepler is Director of Marketing and Communications at Columbus College of Art & Design, one of the oldest and largest private art and design colleges in the United States. CCAD offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts, as well as a weeklong residential art camp for students entering grades 7-10 or a three-week college immersion experience for students in entering grades 10-12 (



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