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Opening. College Admissions for the Performing and Visual Arts. Rebecca Rutsky College and Career Advisor Alabama School of Fine Arts. Begin as Early as Possible. Art students have more decisions to make than in traditional college admissions

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College Admissions

for the

Performing and Visual Arts

Rebecca Rutsky

College and Career Advisor

Alabama School

of Fine Arts

Begin as early as possible
Begin as Early as Possible

  • Art students have more decisions to make than in traditional college admissions

  • Auditions & portfolio deadlines often earlier than regular college or scholarship admissions deadlines

Art design schools
Art & Design Schools

  • Art Center College of Design

  • California College of the Arts

  • California Institute of the Arts

  • Cleveland Institute of Art

  • College for Creative Studies

  • Corcoran College of Arts & Design

  • Cornish College of the Arts

  • Fashion Institute of Technology

  • Kansas City Art Institute

  • Laguna College of Art & Design

  • Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts

  • Maryland Institute College of Art

  • Memphis College of Art

  • Minneapolis College of Art & Design

  • Nova Scotia College of Art & Design

  • Oregon College of Art & Craft

  • Otis College of Art & Design

  • Pacific Northwest College of Art

  • Parsons – New School for Design

  • Pennsylvania College of Art & Design

  • Pratt

  • Rhode Island School of Design

  • Ringling College of Art

  • San Francisco Art Institute

  • Savannah College of Art & Design

  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago

  • School of the Museum of Fine Arts

  • University of the Arts

  • Smaller college atmosphere

  • All degree majors are in the arts

  • Be surrounded by others that have a passion for the arts

  • Liberal arts are still required for graduation

    • Usually courses are geared towards or designed for artists.


  • Professionally-oriented, intense arts instruction

  • Minimal or no academics

  • The majority of students self-select or are recommended by private instructors

  • May or may not grant degrees

  • American Academy of Dramatic Arts

  • American Conservatory Theater

  • Berkelee College of Music

  • Boston Conservatory

  • Cleveland Institute of Music

  • Curtis Institute of Music

  • Eastman School of Music

  • Julliard

  • Manhattan School of Music

  • Mannes College of Music

  • New England Conservatory of Music

  • San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Art schools within universities
Art Schools Within Universities

  • Belmont University

  • Butler University

  • Carnegie Mellon University

  • DePaul University

  • Florida State University

  • Ithaca College

  • Tisch School - New York University

  • Oberlin College

  • Rice University

  • Rochester Institute of Technology

  • SamfordUniversity

  • Sarah Lawrence

  • Southern Methodist University

  • Purchase College - State University of New York

  • Syracuse University

  • Temple University

  • UCLA

  • University of Alabama

  • Frost School - University of Miami

  • University of Montevallo

  • University of Southern California

  • Virginia Commonwealth University

  • Broad based liberal arts curriculum

    • Liberal arts studies can & should inspire your artistic practice

  • Opportunity to double major or minor

  • Ability to switch majors

  • University experience

    • Clubs, sororities, fraternities, sports, etc.


      Some select universities have professional schools within their campuses that offer students conservatory-level rigor. These professional schools are situated within a larger university for students who wish to have both a demanding arts education and the opportunities of a full college or university.

Vocational technical colleges
Vocational/Technical Colleges

  • Quality varies widely. Buyer beware.

  • Minimal academics

  • For the student who is not looking for the rigors of college

  • Hands-on, employment-targeted education

  • May or may not offer associate’s or bachelor’s degrees.

  • Should make accreditation clear, but always ask.

  • Most credits are NON-transferable to other colleges or universities.

  • Majority are for-profit(businesses).

  • Community Colleges

  • Full Sail University

  • University/College Extension Programs

  • American Inter-Continental University

  • Brooks Institute of Photography

  • International Academy of Design & Technology

  • The Art Institutes

  • University of Phoenix

  • Virginia College

Differences among arts degrees
Differences Among Arts Degrees

B.A. (Bachelor of Arts)

  • 2/3 coursework in liberal arts & sciences

  • 1/3 coursework in the arts

  • Focus more on theory, history, and connections between art and other subjects

  • Audition or portfolio suggested but not always required

  • More general degree

  • Professors often teachers first; artists second

B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Arts) B.M. (Bachelor of Music)

  • 2/3 coursework in liberal arts & sciences

  • 1/3 coursework in the arts

  • Focus more on studio or performance (making or doing art)

  • Audition or portfolio required

  • Narrowly focused, specialized

  • Sometimes called “professional degree”

  • Professors artists first, teachers second

Other arts degree options
Other Arts Degree Options

  • Bachelor of Music/Arts Education

  • Double Major

    • May increase marketability, offer more career and/or income opportunities

    • May need extra time to complete

  • Major vs. Minor

    • Many colleges require students to major in arts in order to be considered for arts merit scholarships.


  • Investigate school’s accreditation status

    • Schools should be accredited by one of the six regional sectors of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation

  • Specific Accrediting Bodies for Art Schools

    • National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)

    • National Association of Schools of Music (NASM)

Finding The Right Fit: Criteria for making a selection


- Overall size of the institution?

- Student teacher ratio in arts based courses vs. liberal arts courses?


- Access to professional venues (museums, galleries, theaters, concerts, etc.)?

- Attraction of regional, national, or international talent?

- Opportunity to perform or exhibit ?

  • Availability for internships?


    - Is there adequate studio space and/or practice rooms?

    - Are the facilities up to date?

  • Does the library meet my needs?

  • Do I have access to labs, classrooms and practice facilities after hours?

Finding The Right Fit: Criteria for making a selection


- Are the instructors known in their field?

- Is the school respected in the industry?

- What created the school’s reputation, and is this image still valid?

  • Even though the school is well known, is it right for me?

  • Is the school accredited?

  • If I change my mind, will my credits transfer elsewhere?


    - Greater value on academics such as GPA, test scores and writing OR student's portfolio or audition?

  • Balance between the student’s creative talent with his or her academic achievements?

  • Sufficient financial aid available?

Auditions portfolios scholarships
Auditions, Portfolios& Scholarships

Arts Scholarships

Arts scholarships policies vary widely. You must carefully research and ask each school:

  • Do you offer merit-based arts scholarships?

  • If so, what is your application and selection process?

  • You may need to contact the department in which you are interested to find out the details, rather than simply going through the main admission office.

    Some colleges may only award arts scholarships to students planning to major in the arts.

    Not all colleges offer arts scholarships. Some offer NO merit-based scholarships at all, only need-based financial aid.

  • This is often the case at highly selective colleges.

Audition Preparation A Brief Guide

Before Fall of Senior Year

  • Find out the dates/deadlines and plan well ahead

  • Out-of-state schools sometimes offer regional auditions or participate in Portfolio Day, Performing Arts College Fairs

    Before the Audition or Interview

  • Research the college/conservatory/school’s website and publications for specific instructions

  • Double check dates and start times

  • If traveling to audition, bring map, directions, and a phone number of a college office or individual that will be open the day of audition in case you are delayed.

Audition Preparation Tips

PUNCTUALITY - Arrive early and allow plenty of time before the audition to warm up and organize your thoughts.

REMEMBER! Appearance and attitude do matter. The audition begins the minute you walk on campus.


  • If a physical and vocal warm-up is not part of the audition, do so on your own.


  • Usually, the school will provide practice rooms to use for warm-ups. Otherwise, be sure to warm up thoroughly at home. Proper warm-up is especially important for vocalists.


  • Physical and vocal warm-ups are recommended.

Audition Preparation Tips

Typical requirements may include:


  • A class in ballet, modern or jazz

  • A solo presentation


  • Two contrasting monologues for acting

  • Resume and portfolio of design work


  • Performance ability

  • Understanding of major and minor scales and ear training

  • Ability to sight read.

Audition Preparation Tips

Music Auditions

  • Ideally for vocal majors, one should prepare at least two pieces in contrasting styles (operatic, show music or art song repertoires).

  • Memorize each piece.

  • Instrumentalist should be prepared to play scales and arpeggios, at least one etude or technical study, and a solo work.

  • Not necessary to memorize as sight-reading is required

Audition Preparation Tips

Dance Auditions

  • Like other auditions, dance auditions will vary from institution to institution.

  • Some schools may hold a full class (i.e.. ballet, modern, jazz) followed by students performing a personal solo piece. Other schools may require a performance piece and evaluate the student’s execution.

    • Faculty look for rhythm, coordination, body structure, and potential to learn and complete the curriculum.

Audition Preparation Tips

Music Auditions

  • If you are performing music that is sight-read, look the piece over entirely to acquaint yourself with keys and time signatures. Singers should bring appropriate accompanist unless noted otherwise.

  • Practice in front of as many people as possible.

  • Apply to at least 3 schools, as music programs vary in degree of competitiveness.

Audition Preparation Tips

Theatre Auditions

  • Only schools offering a BFA degree in Theatre will require students to audition for entry into their program.

  • Two contrasting monologues taken from plays of your choice is the general norm for Acting majors (Musical Theatre will require in addition to the above two musical selections, one up-tempo and one ballad, as well as a dance movement sequence).

Audition Preparation Tips

Theatre Auditions

  • Choose material suitable for your age

  • Memorize and be familiar with the entire play and context of your selection if choosing a monologue from a book of monologues.

  • Select monologues that allow you to speak directly to another person; you should play only one character

  • Avoid using characterization or style, as they tend to trap you rather than tapping deeper into inner resources.

  • Memorize your selection

Visual Arts Portfolios A Brief Guide

  • A way for admission counselors and faculty members to view a visual arts student’s thought process and technique when interpreting ideas and visually presenting them on a 2-D or 3-D level.

  • Most schools have specific requirements for portfolios. Follow them carefully.

  • National Portfolio Day ( offers excellent tips.

  • Electronic portfolios are becoming common. Some services:

    • Slideroom

    • Highschoolportfolios

    • Carbonmade

Art college resources
Art College Resources

NartionalPerforming and Visual Arts College FairCobb County Performing Arts Center, Atlanta, GA - Monday, Sept. 29 7-9pmwww.gotomypvafair.comNational Portfolio Day Association

Unified Application for Conservatory Admission

National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts

Peterson's Guide to the Visual & Performing Arts

Backstage Magazine – special issues on college theatre departments & training programs:

Dance Magazine – publishes annual guides on college, summer study

The College Finderby Steven Antonoff

Creative Colleges by Elaina Loveland

Special thanks to
Special Thanks To


Rebecca Rutsky, Alabama School of Fine Arts

[email protected]

(205) 252-9241

Kavin Buck, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture

Amy Mitchell, Columbia College Chicago

Tommy Newton, Southern Methodist University Director of Student Recruitment