How to Choose Your Art School

Get advice for choosing an art school that caters to your talents and career goals.

An artist holds her paintbrushes to her chin on a lime backgroundIt’s no secret that most art careers are highly competitive. So it’s not surprising that college art degrees are becoming increasingly necessary for artists hoping to make it in today’s tough job markets.

Going to art school can help you refine your talents and market your art or performance skills. It can also challenge you, expand your mind and inspire you to take your art to a higher level.

It’s the education and experience that art college affords you, not just the diploma, that can help you build the right foundation for your career as an artist. That means that the art school you choose to attend is just as important as the degree you earn.

The following are some good things to consider when choosing an art school:

Know Your Art School Priorities

Choosing the art school that’s right for you is a very important and a very personal decision. There are a number of factors to consider when selecting an art school:

  • Career Goals: Does the school you are considering offer the art program you are looking for? If so, will the program qualify you for the art career you want? Does the school have the right college accreditation? Are there licensing or certification requirements you’ll need to meet for professional practice?
  • Resources & Opportunities: How much time and money do you have to dedicate to your education? Does the school you are considering offer financial aid to help you in your education? What internships and student teaching opportunities can the art school offer you, and what kind of connections can you make there that will further your art career?
  • Art School Location & Environment: Are the students at the school the kind of people who inspire and challenge you? What sort of environment suits you best—big city, small town, competitive environment or close circle of support? Will you stay in your home state, or do you wish to move?
  • Previous Experience & Timeline: Will the art school accept a portfolio with your application? Will they consider allowing you to use previous educational or work experience to fulfill graduation requirements? Are you hoping to begin your career as quickly as possible or are you looking for a longer college experience.

Know Your Art School Faculty

Once you have narrowed down your list of schools and have a short list of prospective art colleges, find out who’s on the faculty. Having a teacher who is well-known may mean good connections in the industry, but even more important will be their ability to teach and pass their knowledge on to you.

  • Check out the faculty, and find out about their industry experience by reading their biographies or through personal contacts.
  • If possible, visit the school to meet key teachers and understand their teaching styles.
  • Sit in on classes and observe. Make sure the teachers engage the class and offer insight and demonstrate a high level of industry knowledge.
  • Talk with current students. Find out if they enjoy positive relationships or mentorships with the faculty
  • Know Your Art School Campus Facilities

When you pick an art school, you are choosing the place you will spend the majority of your day for a significant amount of time. Take a moment to consider the look and feel of the campus. See if it is a place you will enjoy spending your days.

  • Check out the facilities. If you are a dancer, you will want to see the size and condition of the facilities where you will be dancing. Does the program have one or more large studios with sprung floors, stages equipped for dance productions, and live musicians available for classes?
  • If you are looking at graphic design, web design, game design or animation schools, make sure the school is equipped with the latest technology. So many art and design fields require specialized equipment now. For photography school programs, do 50 students have to share one camera? Or is there one camera for every two students?