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The Drama of College Arts Programs

Sure, they have to go through the same application rigmarole as everyone else, but students pursuing visual and performing arts degrees must deal with some additional choices and demands, as well.

Degree Dilemma

Often arts students have to choose between earning a BA and a BFA degree. A BA is a typical liberal arts degree requiring courses outside of one’s major, while a BFA is more narrowly focused. For the most serious musicians, there is a BM, a music-intensive performance degree. Ultimately, the decision should be based on a student’s career aspirations.

School Style

Large universities offer students exposure to a greater variety of liberal arts courses. Conservatories and art schools let students dive deeper into their chosen discipline. Conservatories have more homogeneous and, often, competitive student bodies, while large universities offer greater diversity.

Show ‘Em Your Stuff

In addition to completing the basic college application, performing arts students are required to audition, and visual arts students must provide a portfolio for review. Large universities often place the same level of importance on course rigor, GPA, and SAT/ACT scores as they do on the audition or portfolio. Free-standing programs are more likely to zero in on the student’s audition/portfolio, experience, and credentials.

Get Real

The arts are extremely competitive. It’s important to solicit objective assessments of a student’s talent before committing to this choice. Ask a working professional for an honest opinion--and listen to it. Of note, visual arts students can take advantage of National Portfolio Day (, an event that allows them to have their portfolios reviewed by art and design school representatives and receive feedback.

Panicked Parents

Maybe you want your child to pursue his artistic dreams, but are worried about his ability to make a living. Remember, the skills developed by students in all forms of the arts are exactly the skills employers are looking for – creativity, cooperation, organization, critical thinking, and many more. More for concerned parents at: be-an-ART-major

Let us know about your experience applying to a college performing or visual arts program. And if we can help, please get in touch.

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