FAQ 15: Students, Parents, Public
How should I best prepare to enter an art/design school, college, or university as an art/design major?Acceptance to an undergraduate program in art or design is based on many considerations. These vary widely among institutions. For example, some have stringent requirements prior to admission, while others have open admission policies followed by thorough examinations at some point in the program to determine whether the student may continue as an art/design major. For specific application requirements, contact NASAD accredited institutions directly. The suggestions below indicate how you can best prepare during the high school years, not what you must achieve to apply or be accepted. The advice provided describes two things: first, an ideal set of knowledge and skills goals for college-level applicants; second, competencies needed by artists, designers, scholars, and teachers as they practice the various aspects of the profession in college and beyond. In brief, you should learn as much as you can as early as you can.
Take responsibility for your own development.
Each art/design student has a unique set of talents, aspirations, and abilities. Although you are in school and probably studying in your community or with a private teacher, it is important to take increasing responsibility for developing your particular abilities toward your specific goals. Begin by obtaining the admission requirements of schools you may wish to attend-the earlier, the better. Ultimately, you are responsible for choices about how you use your time to prepare for your future. For most art/design professionals, that future involves art/design at the center supported by many other capabilities.
Draw 'til you drop.
Take every opportunity to train your eye by taking courses or studies in drawing. Developing the eye is a lifetime job. The earlier work is started, the better.
Practice, practice, practice.
Whatever you do or intend to do in art/design, try to practice it as much as possible. This applies not only to your studio area, but also to other types of work. For example, prospective teachers should try to observe and gain teaching experiences under appropriate supervision, those interested in art/design scholarship or criticism should practice writing and speaking on art/design topics. No level of knowledge or skill that you can attain will be too high.
See as much art and design as you can.
Try to see as much art/design from as many historical periods and cultural sources as possible. Ask your teachers or local art/design professionals for recommendations. Try to make sure that you have seen the major works of all types in the particular area of art/design that interests you. Seek more to learn the breadth and depth of the visual world than to enjoy what is already familiar. Whenever possible, see original works. Observe the visual design of the world around you-architecture, product design, fashion design, for example-and spend lots of time with visual media such as books, magazines, films, videos, the Internet, etc.
Get a sense of art/design history.
Take opportunities to learn the basics of art/design history. Work with your art teachers, enroll in an AP art history course if it is available in your high school, take classes at your community museum or art school, and otherwise explore opportunities to gain initial acquaintance with this material.
Become a fluent, effective English speaker and writer.
As an artist/designer, you will communicate in art/design, but you will also rely heavily on your ability to communicate in words. Everything from teaching, to writing grant proposals, to negotiating, to promoting your interests, to working on teams relies on fluent English skills. Focus attention on learning to speak and write effectively.
Get a comprehensive high school education.
Art and design both influence and are influenced by other fields of study: the humanities, mathematics, the sciences, the social sciences, and the other arts--architecture, dance, film, literature, music, and theatre. For entrance into college-level study, you are encouraged to gain a basic overview of ancient and modern history, the basic thought processes and procedures of math and science, and familiarity with works in as many of the other arts disciplines as possible. Many professionals who work with art comprehensively develop a particular sensibility about connections with history and the other arts. Understanding the basics of math and the sciences supports future work in many design areas. Social studies are related to understanding the context for various art and design endeavors.
Think of everything you study as helping you become a better art/design student.
As we have said, the best art/design professionals continue to learn throughout their lives. They are always studying and thinking, always connecting what they know about art/design with their knowledge of other fields. Since you never know the direction your career will take, it is wise to spend your high school years gaining the basic ability to understand and work in a variety of fields. Keep art/design at the center of your efforts, but accept and enjoy the challenge of gaining the kind of knowledge and skills in other areas that will support both formal studies at the college level and your art/design career beyond.