Admit it: Test scores, essays, interviews and transcripts are the norms when submitting applications to selective undergraduate programs, yet students wishing to pursue degrees in drama, music and the visual arts must undergo a different process that has unique timelines and requirements. Admission to art schools and conservatories is the most competitive. The Curtis Institute of Music has an acceptance rate of 5% and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is one of the most competitive schools within the UNC system. Crisp Consulting + Coaching would like to offer a few strategies for juniors interested in applying to art school or conservatory.
Art of choice. Studying the visual and performing arts can happen within three types of institutions:
* Universities with strong performing or visual arts schools such as New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Visual Arts or Yale University’s School of Music
When selecting a school, students should consider the reputation of the faculty and school, the course of study and the opportunities for artistic development. These schools should support your academic, social and financial parameters and the goal is to yield a final list of 8 – 10 schools that would be the best fit.
Art of the fair. Attending the college fair is essential as it exposes the student to the myriad choices for study. In larger cities, the National Association of College Admission Counselors sponsors a college fair that focuses on schools of performing and visual arts, but whether the college fair is arts-specific or not, schools will have representatives knowledgeable about the arts. Other fairs to consider would be the National Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs and National Portfolio Days. As with any college fair, always have a purpose and plan to maximize the outcome, familiarize yourself with each school and prepare your aspiring student to ask informed questions, take notes, thank the representative for the information and ask for their contact information.
Art of relationships. Sophomores and juniors should coordinate college visits that include taking lessons or attending classes with desired studio teachers. Four years in any arts-focused program will have you working closely with the faculty. These relationships should be explored before committing to any school. Schools such as Furman University or Bennigton College will be glad to schedule time with studio teachers. With art students and performing artists in particular, relationships with the studio teachers is an essential part of college fit.
Art of representation. In addition to test scores, essays and applications, every music and drama applicant will be required to submit a performance resume and have an audition. The audition should showcase your technical and artistic abilities, while the performance resume should highlight well-respected teachers, extra-curricular ensembles or theater productions, master classes and summer programs. Just as music majors tread a double path in college admissions, visual arts applicants are faced with a similar challenge. In addition to the standard application, visual artists must submit a standard portfolio of work. The portfolio should include 15 -25 of your strongest pieces and no work more than 3 years old. Art schools aren’t interested in work you did in middle school. With all visual and performing arts applications, read the requirements carefully as each school has different audition or portfolio expectations. If you present your portfolio in person, during your review, be prepared to explain the details and talk about your processes, ideas and things that inspire you. Some schools won’t require you to present your portfolio in person, and in that case, you will need to submit 35mm slides, digital images or prints of your work.
The path to acceptance to an art school, conservatory or college with a strong visual or performing arts department requires discipline and dedication. Focusing on specific strategies for best fit and admissions will help a student start a path to a great educational experience.
Brian D. Crisp is an independent educational consultant with Crisp Consulting + Coaching who works with families in Asheville, Charleston, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah to optimize and realize their unique educational fit and admission success. As a former professor, administrator, and teacher, Brian has the knowledge and skills to counsel families in all aspects of educational planning.