Tip Jar: Last-Minute Portfolio Advice

Applying for art schools is a nightmare. Throwing a portfolio together is equivalent to cutting onions for a fried rice dish. I crammed for two months to get my portfolio together, so I admit that my advice will be coming from a place of negativity and stress. That said, this last-minute portfolio helped me get into Rhode Island School of Design, which was my first choice! Perhaps that will convince you that my words have some weight to them, and that you can trust me (kinda).

I don’t have the perfect formula for getting into an art school, but I have some ideas on why I was admitted. And now for the standard list format, which I always use in my posts. Isn’t it convenient and useful?

  • Take art classes. When I realized I wanted to pursue art as a career, I was extremely stressed. Not because of the limited financial opportunities that I’ll have in the future, but because I had no work in my portfolio. I decided to sign up for an art class at my school, and experimented with different mediums. There, I was able to create pieces I could later use while being in a creative environment.. Take classes at your school, or sign up for a summer program. Find a way to get started and take advantage of whatever is around you.
  • Include different mediums of art. As I daydreamed about going to art school last summer, I imagined myself strictly as an illustration major. However, after taking an AP Studio Art 3-D class, I have come to appreciate sculpture and want to dabble in it. I think messing around in different mediums helped my portfolio a lot, because it shows that I challenge myself.

  • Show progress shots. Art schools don’t only care about technical skill; they also care about how you execute concepts. Progress shots can reveal compelling aspects to your creative process. So throw those sketches you may have viewed as unworthy into your portfolio if they show a relationship between the concept and final product!

  • You’ll never be satisfied with your own work. Ignore that self-critic of yours and create art. A lot of the pieces in my portfolio felt like they were beyond crappy, and I knew that I would be able to make better work someday. I watched tons of art school Youtube videos and compared myself to them. I belittled myself to the point where I was afraid to even submit my application. But I did it, and boy, it sure paid off.

  • It’s all luck. Applying for colleges is of the worst emotional rollercoaster you will ever ride. Just know, rejections and acceptances can be based on skill, or based on random factors that you have no control over. Plenty of amazing artists are rejected from their top schools, so don’t be too harsh on yourself. Pick yourself up and keep trying.

Good luck to all you kids applying to art school! Please be more organized than me!