Art college applicants face unique challenges


Kelly Salinas

Khan holds one of her pieces in front of her. Applying to an art college requires not only creating art, but also writing about it.

Kelly Salinas, Staff Writer

The autumn of senior year is full of many things: football games, homecoming court, and the looming stress of college application deadlines. And while most people apply to colleges like Texas A&M and The University of Texas, some students apply to an entirely different world of college education: art college. At these types of schools, one draws, sketches, and paints instead of writing essays. These schools provide budding artists with industry level skills and work ethic- but how does one get in?

“ You complete projects,” senior and art student  Arfa Khan said. “They change the prompt every year, and this year, you pick one of your pieces that is already in your portfolio and paint another piece based off that piece.”

Another assignment is the challenge from the Rhode Island School of Design, or RISD, in which the applicant is given three words and have to pick one and create a piece based off that word. This year, the words are: plastic, threshold, and collect. Khan is currently working on her artwork for the word “plastic.”

“The project for RISD is less technical and more about the process,” Khan said.

Art colleges also want to examine the mind of the applicant and his or her creative process. For many artists, the actual drawing or painting is the last step in an intensive planning process, as they have to gather all of their references, plan their colors, and figure out how an abstract idea will come to life. Like a math problem, the answer is important, but what matters is how the answer is derived. The application process also includes writing essays about the art.

“An essay is like, ‘Describe your best piece and talk about the principles of art that you utilized’,” Khan said.

While this may seem like an essay topic out of an art history textbook, it happens to be the norm for art colleges. Complex art analysis is a hard earned skill, because one has to explain not only the meaning behind the work, but the principles and elements of art and design that accompany it.

“For the essay, I’m gonna talk about line, rhythm, composition, and other things like that,” Khan said.

Though the application process may be lengthy, there are plenty of advantages of art schools that would not exist at a typical college, especially regarding support and funding.

“With art schools, you know all their resources are dedicated to their art programs,” Khan said. “If you go to schools like the University of Houston, all their money and resources goes towards other programs than the arts.”

Unlike other universities, art schools do not have as many competing interests for school funding, because the money goes directly towards acquiring better supplies, better teachers, and better opportunities.

Whether an artist is a painter, sculptor, or video game designer, art schools have tons to offer. When asked what she would tell prospective art school applicants in order to achieve success, Khan took a lighthearted approach, emphasizing two things.

“Start in the summer, and don’t die” Khan said.

Jokes aside, the benefits of attending an art college definitely outweigh the challenge it takes to get there. An art college can truly provide the foundation for an artist’s future, and for Khan, it’s an obvious choice.

“I’d like to spend my money on tuition that can get you far. You know they [art colleges] are doing as much as they can to teach you what you need to know.”