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Important Info

The portfolio is the largest indicator of success.

The portfolio bears a lot of weight when it comes to college decision making.

It's hard to tell students to take AP courses or college portfolio.

Strategically, the decision comes down to where the student is at in their artmaking.

1. Read the criteria closely.

Each school is different

Don't be lazy.

Every school has its own set of requirements for a portfolio.


Take a close look at what each school you apply for is requesting from applicants.

  • How many pieces

  • What format

  • When it’s due

  • How to submit

Make sure your portfolio submission meets every requirement.

2. Organize simply.

Arrangement is critical.

The way you arrange the different pieces in your portfolio reflects on your presentation skills and thought process. If you are conscientious about the order in which your work is presented, admissions counselors will be able to better understand your work’s narrative and focus on your skill set.

Not sure how?

Seek your current art teacher or ask for advice from a professional artist.

3. Write clearly and concisely.

Section Information

Most colleges want some basic information about selections in your portfolio.


A title, date, and description of the medium are standard.

Don't go overboard

If more information is requested, elaborate without being excessive.

4. Discussing each piece.

Explain parts of your work

Remember your process

Whether it's during an interview, a portfolio presentation, or even in an email, you may have to answer questions or explain parts of your work.


You don't need to memorize the details of each selection, but it is beneficial to remember the creation process.


This is especially important if you're including works from years ago.

5. Tell stories.

Technical excellence isn't everything

Your intention

Showcasing your technical ability is important, but you should also include works in your portfolio that show your storytelling skills.

Think about the intention, symbolism, and deeper meaning of each piece.


If you can tie your intention to a specific experience or unique attribute that sets you apart from other applicants.

6. Quality not quantity.

No need to freak out

Quantity isn't always good

As long as you meet the minimum requirements mentioned in the school’s application, you shouldn't be overly concerned about how many works are in your portfolio.

More pieces could help, but if it isn't your best work, never include it.

Sit with your art teacher or a professional artist to help you decide what to include.

7. Don't do this alone.

Boxing yourself in

National Portfolio Days and College Admissions

Creating an art portfolio makes you think a lot about your own work and it's incredibly easy to get boxed in by your perception of your artwork and what you like vs. what is technically excellent.

Seeking advice and opinions on your work from a trusted advisor will broaden your perspective and help you see your portfolio in a new light.


Attending a National Portfolio Day and asking college admissions advisors are a great way to get input on your portfolio.

8. Texcellence.

You worked hard show it off

Colleges want to mold you

Technical skills are what allow an artist to communicate the message or meaning of a piece and give admissions counselors a sense of your potential.

Colleges understand you still have a lot of growing and learning to do, but they also want to see a foundational level of technique that can be developed in school.

9. Cool doesn't always mean it's up to snuff.

Choose work that is authentic

Google and Pinterest are not your friend

Your portfolio should include pieces that art schools won't see from every other applicant.


One type of work always seen in portfolios are portraits and still life.


While pictures of fruit or flowers can show technical ability, they’re unlikely to tell a story or have a “concept.” You should include them, just include some other examples along with them.

When you are looking for ideas, Google and Pinterest can do more harm than good. 

This is where you will see ideas that everyone else will use. Don't be afraid to take a risk and develop your artistic voice. It will always pay off in the end.

10. Be proud and establish yourself as worthy.

Sense of direction

Not sure how?

Colleges know that even the best-qualified applicants still have a lot of learning to do, and they appreciate prospective students who have a sense of direction.


It's not required, but if there are areas you'd like to direct your future career towards include those kinds of pieces in your portfolio.


If acceptable, explain these focus areas and why you chose them.

Your portfolio shows colleges that you are creative, well-rounded, and technically capable.


If you take your time, edit carefully, and seek outside help, you can compile a wonderful portfolio that shows off your abilities and helps you get into the college of your dreams.