[This post is for the artists out there. Whether you plan to earn your BFA at SMFA at Tufts, pursue the Combined Degree BFA+BA/BS program, minor in Studio Art, or just take some art classes here and there to keep your creativity flowing, an art portfolio included with your application is a great opportunity to tell the admissions team more about yourself. This post will focus on preparing to apply to the BFA and Combined Degree programs, but this advice applies to anyone serious about continuing their creative practice beyond high school!]
You’re a year and some change away from breathing a deep sigh of relief when you get in to your dream school. In the meantime, you’ll have to compile a list of colleges you’re interested in, decipher what programs and schools are right for you, work on a portfolio that demonstrates your passion(s), and craft an application that tells admissions teams what you’re all about…No biggie! But really, this process sets in motion one of the best parts of the college experience; it’s time dedicated to YOU – identifying your dreams and goals and basking in the time dedicated to pursuing them. Juniors, get EXCITED!
To make the most of your time as a Junior, you’ll want to set some big picture goals to tackle throughout the net year. This list should get you started:
And make a lot of it. You might have access to some awesome art classes that are going to help you build technical skills. Keep making artwork outside of those classes, too. The work that has you rushing home after school, so excited to keep painting/sculpting/editing/who-knows-what-ing, will likely be the star of your portfolio. Keep a sketchbook on you at all times for the ideas that just can’t wait until you’re at the easel. Making a lot of work now means you’ll have more to choose from when you’re finalizing your portfolio selections.
There are no grades on personal artwork, and there are no limits on what goes into an SMFA portfolio. Take those risks, risk-free! Make the piece that’s too big to fit through the door at school, explore the bizarre idea that woke you up at 3am last night, chip away at the project that you could never finish in one class period, and collaborate with your friends. Experiment with new materials and new concepts. Particularly in SMFA’s interdisciplinary, idea-driven program, those experiments – whether they be a self-portrait made of collaged Lisa Frank band-aids or an animated interpretation of your favorite Mary Oliver poem – are what we love to see in a portfolio.
Don’t forget to document all this new work. You’ll be glad to have a digital copy come application time, especially with any pop-up, time-based, or collaborative works. I’d recommend that you set aside some time every semester to document everything you’ve been working on – even the stuff you’re not so sure will land in your final portfolio. Set up a photo booth with plenty of light or use a scanner and crop your photos right in on your artwork. You can do this with a friend or ask your art teacher to make it an after-school activity if you don’t have the space at home. For you performance artists, ask a friend to snap some shots or set up a tri-pod for the duration of your piece. Take a few pictures of works that require multiple viewpoints, like a sculpture or zine. We’ll ask BFA and Combined Degree applicants to submit 15-20 images and/or 10 minutes of time-based work, so take some nice pictures or videos. No blurry pictures of the work with your cat in the background. Send any and all cat pictures to me separately, though.
You’ve done the work, you’ve tried out lots of new media, and you’ve got a flashdrive overflowing with exciting projects. Come show us! We are here to assist you with the admissions process, often far before you’re even submitting your application, and there are a few ways to get in touch with us. Join us on campus for an information session, campus tour, and portfolio review. We can take a look through your work-in-progress portfolio and provide feedback on what’s working well or needs refining, what new techniques or ideas you might like exploring, new artists to check out, and hopefully lots of inspiration!
You can also meet us at a National Portfolio Day (NPD), which is perfect for those students who aren’t able to make it to campus. When we chat at an NPD, you’ll leave with portfolio feedback and an idea of how you and your art practice will fit into our unique program. My NPD advice to you: talk to as many schools as you can and take notes (recruit a friend or family member to assist if possible) on your conversations. NPDs are a great snapshot of how art programs vary by school, and you’ll want to remember your conversations as you compile a list of programs and colleges that fit what you’re looking for. Grab some free merch, too.
Juniors, I hope this advice proves useful to you as your college search ramps up. We’re here for you through it all; please don’t hesitate to reach out to us about the admissions process. Join our mailing list, find us on all of the social medias, and stay in touch.