The Why and How Portfolios are Used in College Admissions
Several art and design programs taught at colleges and universities require applicants to submit a portfolio. Why? There are several reasons.
A portfolio indicates the level of preparedness an applicant has to enter an intensely focused visual program. Applicants who demonstrate visual experience and visual skills in their artwork are more likely to be successful completing the rigors of a college level art program. The corollary of this is that experienced artists/designers may be less challenged at programs not requiring a portfolio, as classmates may have never taken an art class.
A portfolio helps ensure all students are equally prepared to succeed at the college, particularly for the fist year visual art and design classes often called “freshman foundations”. These fist year classes can be particularly challenging for students new to studying art in college as they often require significantly more work outside of class than high school art classes do. No college program wants to admit students who may not succeed in their classes. And no applicant wants to be so challenged in college that they fail classes and end up leaving college.
Most colleges and universities offering a BFA program require portfolios. BFA stands for Bachelors of Fine Arts. It is a program specific to visual arts and design – from traditional fine arts fields like painting and sculpture, to design including architecture, fashion design & graphic design and contemporary computer-focused fields like animation, game design and interactive media. BFA programs require up to 65% of all college classes in your major field. This is a much larger percentage of courses focused on your major than a BA, Bachelors of Arts. Because of this, BFA programs need to ensure applicants are prepared to succeed an intense art and design focused program.
While several college programs require a portfolio during the admission process, some universities do not require a portfolio, instead entering freshmen into a BA program. A portfolio is only required to enter the BFA program, usually during the second year.
A portfolio shows two primary things: your technical skills and your conceptual interests. What are these? Technical skills are how well you use materials in making art (paint, pencil, ceramics, ink, etc). How well is the observational drawing rendered? Is there correct use of tones and color in the drawing? Does the design demonstrate a good sense of composition?
Conceptual skills show how well your artwork demonstrates the subjects that interest you. You may be conscious of these in your work, or you may not be. Have you noticed that most artists/designers regularly create works with common subjects or themes? Why do you create art? What things are you attracted to in creating art? What are you discovering in making art? These questions may help you identify your conceptual interests in art/design.
More competitive colleges and universities help sort out the most prepared students through a portfolio requirement. If a student is not accepted, remember that a rejection letter is not indicating the lack of talent of an applicant. It simply means that the admissions staff does not think an applicant is ready at this time to fully succeed in the college program at this time.
What to do if you are rejected? Try again! Learn from your mistakes and create a stronger portfolio. Seek feedback from more experienced artists, particularly art instructors. Get assistance on improving your portfolio from a portfolio coach or through attending a National Portfolio Day and try applying again the next year!
Barry Beach is an artist, art educator, college advisor and portfolio coach helping students decide where to apply and prepare portfolios for applying to visual arts and design programs. He knows the challenges of preparing a portfolio from his a MFA from San Francisco Art Institute and BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and years of exhibiting his own artwork. He formerly worked in college admissions at University of California Berkeley, San Francisco Art Institute and Oregon College of Art and Craft. www.BeachCollegeCounseling.com
|Tags: Admissons, Art portfolio, BFA|