Think you can get into a top-10 school? Take our chance-me calculator... if you dare. 🔥


Last updated December 29, 2023

Every piece we write is researched and vetted by a former admissions officer. Read about our mission to pull back the admissions curtain.

Art Portfolios in College Admissions

Key Takeaway

Art portfolios in college admissions vary by school. Some colleges require them for art programs or scholarships, while others accept but don't require them. When submitting an art portfolio, follow the guidelines exactly. If not required, focus on strengthening other parts of your application.

Artists have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to applying for college. Should you go to art school or a traditional college or university? Do you want to do studio art or a related field, like art history? Should you get a BA or a BFA?

Regardless of where you end up, if you’re applying to art programs, chances are you’ll have to submit an art portfolio.

But what if you’re a student interested in art but don’t necessarily want to major in it? Will you still need to submit an art portfolio?

This post covers these questions and more. Let’s get into it.

Do Colleges Accept Art Portfolios?

Whether or not you’ll need to submit an art portfolio when you apply to college really depends. Some colleges don't take them at all. Others require them, especially if you’re applying to be an art major. Other schools yet welcome art portfolios but don't require them.

Since the requirements vary by school, you’ll need to research each school you’re applying to. Start your research on the admissions page, and pay particular attention to any “application requirements” section. If you’re applying for a major like studio art, you may also look at the department website for information.

Do I Need to Submit an Art Portfolio?

If you're applying to a program that requires a portfolio, then yes, you must submit one.

If a portfolio is required, the program will have clear instructions about the format, size, and types of pieces they want to see. You must pay attention to and follow these rules! Colleges and art departments have rules for a reason. If you don’t follow the rules, your application may not have a chance. Required portfolios will be evaluated by art faculty, so you’ll want to put your best foot forward.

But what if you're not applying to an art-related program but still want to show off your art?

Sometimes students will link to a portfolio in their Common Application. Admissions officers won’t always click on the link, but it is an option. Just remember that your average admissions officer isn’t an artist, and they generally aren’t qualified to evaluate your art. In that case, your portfolio will simply be adding another element of your personality to your application. So if you're considering submitting a portfolio when you aren’t majoring in art, make it brief. Pick a few of your best pieces that show your style and skills.

The most important thing in this scenario, too, is that your art portfolio should complement and amplify your application, not distract from it. While your art can highlight your dedication, passion, and potential, the other parts of your application—like your academic record, letters of recommendation, and essays—are still more important. If you’re applying for a major other than art, make sure you prioritize those other areas of your application first.

Finally, if a college doesn't accept portfolios, then it's best to respect their rules and not submit one. These rules exist for a reason. Reading applications takes a lot of time, and most admissions officers would rather spend that time reading your essays, recommendations, and activities section.


When applying to college, some students may want to submit an art portfolio. Whether colleges accept these portfolios varies—some colleges require them, some accept but don't require them, and others don't accept them at all. If a portfolio is required or accepted, particularly if you're applying to an art program, make sure you follow the school's guidelines. But if the school doesn't require a portfolio, it's best to focus on strengthening the other parts of your application.

Liked that? Try this next.