In Part I, we shared the story of Jacob, a talented student in need of artistic direction who landed scholarship offers to five top art colleges within a year of us working together.
Like Jacob, it’s possible for you to find the best program fit using the same research strategies. Start with the three-point checklist described in Part I to build a list of schools worth pursuing.
Once you’ve verified the school is accredited and of high quality, you’re ready to dive deeper into which programs will offer the right fit for you. We’ll give you some questions to ask yourself, and help you assess which colleges will provide you the best opportunities and connections, below.
Among the many factors that will inform your decision, here are three important ones to consider when looking at art colleges:
1. Campus location is the heart of your community.
Based in California’s Bay Area, Jacob emphasized the importance of family, but was also drawn to the East Coast for art colleges. He wanted to make sure wherever he went, he’d be amongst a diverse, open-minded community of peers and also surrounded by potential contacts within the animation industry.
As you imagine your own college experience, do you picture yourself in a bustling, vibrant city like NYC with gallery openings and live events every night of the week, or in a smaller city or college town, free from distraction so you can remain focused in the studio?
Look at the communities both in and around the college campus. Do most students live and work on or off campus? Where do other students spend their time? Will you be in the heart of an urban center with a thriving art scene, or in a college town? What’s happening artistically outside the college campus? Are there nearby galleries, studios, or companies that are hiring?
The best way to get a feel for this is to visit in person, if you can. But you can also talk to current and former students. Reach out via social media, or see if the school can put you in touch.
2. Faculty are your bridge to the real world.
If you are a young artist especially, your professors will become your main link to the real world, your mentors, and eventually your peers. Are they artists themselves? Are they working in the field or practicing currently? What are their backgrounds and interest in your development as a young artist?
Think of them as your strongest connections to potential jobs and internships. Do they live and work in the area around campus, or are they commuting from another city? Do they hold office hours or studio visits? The college may also invite guest critics or lecturers to give studio visits or talks each semester.
Look for a list of the faculty members in your department, and a schedule for visiting artists, and then take a deeper dive into their online presentation and their work.
3. Career development is an ongoing process, but the foundation is built in college.
Does the college have a center for career development? They should, and they should also have career counselors available to work with you (even better, ones dedicated to your major). If you decide to dig in to one section of a school’s website, this is it. How will the school prepare you for life after college?
As an artist, your career will look unlike any other career path, and unlike many other artists’. While this can seem daunting, part of your experience at art college is developing the skills that will help you carve out a successful career in the arts.
So — does your program require any professional development training or courses before graduation? Look at the percentage of college graduates finding work within their field or pursuing graduate degrees. Does the school provide examples of possible career paths for your degree? Are you excited by the success stories of recent alumni?
The process of applying to art college can be a lot to navigate. But with research and self-assessment, the right school list and path to your dream school is in reach.
Ready to start exploring art colleges? Contact Blue Stars to learn about advising and mentoring services for art students!
Artist and art college counselor with Blue Stars Admissions Consulting, formerly with Maryland Institute College of Art. Co-host of “Beyond the Studio” podcast.