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Creating an Art Portfolio: In Four Steps
Molly Stanfield

Turns out, you don't have to be applying to art school to submit a creative portfolio to colleges. Some schools just want to see that you spend your time doing something besides studying—and some even offer scholarships regardless of whether or not you plan on majoring in art. So if you decide you'd like to give your art space on your college application, here are four tips for creating an excellent portfolio:

1. Start creating early!
With anything college-related, it is always wisest to start preparing early. Once you reach senior year, time flies by in a blur. You find yourself struggling with copious amounts of schoolwork, much less multiple college applications. The more art you can create before the fall of your senior year, the better. Even if your works aren't 100 percent complete, as long as you're producing something, you're helping your future self.

2. Research different colleges' portfolio requirements.
Every school has different requirements. Some want a variety of multi-media works, while others have more specific requirements for each piece. For example, one of my schools wanted two still-life drawings and one portrait. Additionally, some schools may have art portfolio options you weren't even aware of, so you have nothing to lose by spending some time combing through college webpages.

3. Create a wide variety of pieces.
Colleges want to see you are multi-faceted. Show off your skills. If you have a ton of very frontal, centered pieces, try to create some exploring unusual angles and perspectives. If you typically stick with pencil sketches, try working with charcoal or watercolor. Explore different styles, different mediums, and various subject matters. Experimentation and development—that is what they want to see. Schools want to see passionate students, students who challenge and try to better themselves. You want to show colleges you are an interesting, creative individual who can contribute to their school's environment.

4. Organize your pieces into a cohesive, unique portfolio.
Sometimes the most challenging part of assembling a portfolio is choosing what to submit. Keeping the submission requirements in mind, construct a portfolio that shows off the many skills you have and that you love art. Your portfolio doesn't even have to consist of finished works. You could include sketches or process pieces. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from friends and teachers.

When it comes to the college application process, it's easy to get overwhelmed and caught up in the details. Often, I find myself second-guessing the decisions I've made, wondering if one mistake could sabotage my whole application.

In the end, there are no "wrong" moves. Every choice you make will lead you exactly where you need to be, not matter how unexpected. So if you get the chance to share your love of art, you should absolutely do it. Besides adding some nuance to your application, art portfolios allow you to show who you are outside of academics.

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