The In's & Out's of Applying to Art School

The process of applying to art and design school can be overwhelming because of the wide variety of education options that are available in the creative field. If your talents lie in this field, there is ample opportunity waiting for you. However, the first obstacle is learning how to apply to these institutions. Since you are building the foundation for your career, you want to make a good decision for your future.

What Type of School To Apply To

Understanding what type of design school will be the best fit for you is a combination of characteristics you are looking for in a design school and what you are interested in studying. Many design schools publish information with valuable and informative information such as campus size, student experience, various degrees available with course descriptions. Much of these information may be readily available from their website. There are also a few questions you can ask about your design classes to ensure you’re getting the most for your time:

  • Is the curriculum up-to-date?
  • Does it give you the necessary skills you need to be successful?
  • Are teachers well-versed in their courses?
  • Will you be in a position to get employment afterwards?

Area of Focus

Understanding what type of school you should apply for depends on what kind of career you have pictured for yourself. Many young designers, are unsure of what road they want to take, and this is perfectly normal. There are many general design courses that will suit your curiosity in all fields of design. Of course, if you know exactly what type of design you want to pursue, then taking a more specific design degree will be beneficial.

What Will Work Best For You?

What kind of learning environment do you see yourself in (inside and outside the classroom)? There are many factors – directly related to your course and other external factors (such as living arrangements, extra curricular activities, etc.) that will greatly affect your decision.

Create a checklist and determine which design schools you want to apply to. This will make it clear which school(s) will be a good choice for you as a designer. There is a vast availability of choices for design schools, but you want to solidify a spot at the school that will allow you to reach your full potential.

Questions to Ask Yourself


  • What majors are offered?
  • Do I want to take a general art program or focused design specialty?
  • How big are the classes? Will I get one-on-one feedback?
  • Are the classes up-to-date?
  • Are the professors well-versed with what’s going on in the industry?
  • Do they help me get a job after I graduate?
  • Is the school well-known for their art programs?
  • Do I get to take other general education classes?
  • Can I take the whole program/some classes online?

Other Considerations:

  • How far is the school from home? Are living arrangements/residence an option?
  • Are there services at the school that assist me if I need help?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What’s the school atmosphere like?
  • Will I be able to meet friends outside my classes
  • Are scholarships or financial aid available?

How to Apply

Applying to a design school is an important step towards an exciting career as a designer. When applying to schools, all schools require you to submit a formal application. This part is generally pretty straightforward, but you will need a few things like grades achieved with official transcripts, extracurricular activity involved, etc. You have to supply the design school with a complete resume so they can process your application.

All design schools will have counsellors available to speak with if you need help or clarification on the application requirements. Remember to start thinking about what institutions you want to apply to with plenty of time before the semester begins. This will give you ample time to ask questions, meet with other students/faculty that can answer your questions and prepare your application.


Be prepared to have an interview. Many design schools will conduct interviews before they select candidates to participate in their program. Of course you’re going to want to present yourself in the best possible light, so preparing beforehand is ideal. If you have a portfolio, be sure to bring it with you. Go over common interview questions for design positions.

Make sure you have a good idea what you want to get out of the design school’s program and why it’s important for them to invest in your skills and potential as a student. If you have a unique selling point, make it distinct and memorable.

The Benefits of Attending Art School

While having a design degree to back up your skills can get your foot in the door, it doesn’t necessarily land you a job. What you need is a solid portfolio – design schools give you real-world experience through a great learning environment that encourages learning from mistakes.  Make sure the design projects you complete in school are high quality and can later be used in your actual portfolio. Many design employers will understand that being fresh out of school you won’t have much experience, but if you show potential and passion for your field, they are more likely to give you a chance. Having an awesome portfolio will win over employers.

Builds Confidence in Your Design Skills

Design school allows you a buffer of time to help hone your skills and confidence in your ability to work with others, meet deadlines and improve your communication and presentation skills. There are very few student designers that have the perfect combination of design skills to be successful without some formal design education. If you aren’t confident in your design skills or your don’t have any actual design experience, you would be taking a risk to not attend design school. When you’re just starting out, it can be overwhelming with all the information you need to know.

Build a Network

By attending design school, you’ll often meet many like-minded people you’ll get along with. Cherish these connections because after you graduate, you never know who might give you your next job. Design schools allows you to:

  • Build your online presence through your design portfolio and sites like Twitter and Dribbble
  • Open more doors for you and present further opportunities for you as a junior designer
  • Connect with classmates, mentors and possible employers
  • Connect with design agencies who are looking for fresh talent

Gain Experience Before You Graduate

One of the great advantages of attending design school is the free time that accompanies your studies. Many design courses are not overly demanding, which presents the perfect chance to do some extra freelance design work on the side. This not only can help you make some extra cash while in design school, but it will help you gain experience with real clients. This will look great on a resume and also give you design pieces to include and showcase in your portfolio.