Art School Options

Students who want to study art in college have many options. They can attend a liberal arts college or university, where they can pursue other academic interests as well as art, or head for an art school, where they would concentrate on developing their talent.

If you choose to attend an art school, like Rhode Island School of Design, you’ll find a community of people who share your passion for art. You’ll be exposed to intensive, high-level training, and an exchange of ideas among creative people. These schools have valuable alumni networks that can help you find employment.

In addition to the basic question of talent, students considering art school need to ask themselves if they are passionate enough about art to spend at least 15-20 hours a week on it in addition to studio or class time. Art students are more likely to be successful if they have a clear creative vision, an ability to discuss their technique, and a healthy ego, as they will be expected to give and receive feedback.

After four years, you would graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. While about 30-35% of the curriculum would be non-art courses, even courses in history or politics are likely to approach their subjects from an artist’s perspective.

The BFA trains students to be professional artists, and would probably not be acceptable for professional graduate schools such as law school, so this option is best for students who are sure about their commitment to art.

If you enjoy studying academic subjects as much as creating art, your best bet might be a college with an excellent art department. You could major in art and would graduate with a Bachelor of Art (BA) degree, with at least half of your coursework in other subjects. One advantage to attending a liberal arts college is that if you change your mind about studying art, there are dozens of other majors available.

Another option would be to attend a university, like Washington University, which has a School of Art offering majors in painting, sculpture, and ceramics, among others. You could combine different interests, earning a BFA from the School of Art and a BA from the College of Arts & Sciences or a BS in Business Administration from the School of Business.

Whether they decide to apply to an art school or a university with a competitive art program, students may need to submit a portfolio. Even schools that don’t require portfolios for freshmen admission may use them in awarding art scholarships.

While students should ask admissions officers at each school about portfolio requirements, a typical portfolio might consist of 10 to 15 slides of work completed in the last two years. A great way to get feedback is to attend a National Portfolio Day, where representatives from art programs across the country review student work and offer critiques. For more information on locations and dates, go to

Art school graduates may find jobs in advertising, illustration, publishing and other fields that utilize artistic skills. Even in non-art related jobs, these graduates have much to offer, including self-discipline, confidence, critical judgment, creative problem-solving, and the ability to give and receive feedback.

Success Stories

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