Applying to art colleges

Whether you’re determined to do an art foundation or you’re ready for a full-on degree, check out this article on the art college application process. It’ll give you advice for interviews at art colleges and what to think about when you’re preparing a portfolio. And, remember, we’re rooting for you every step of the way.

A group of young people are applying to arts colleges. This is a full-body image.

Do I need to do a foundation year before applying to art colleges?

Yes and no. The majority of people who’ve got into an art or design degree course will have done an art foundation. But there are also a number of people who get in without it. It totally depends on your individual preferences and circumstances.

Anyways, different art colleges have different views on the subject. Art Schools like the Camberwell College of Arts, for example, are happy to meet people without A-levels or a foundation diploma, as long as they have talent and enthusiasm. If you’re unsure, you can always email or call admissions to find out what your chosen college or university is looking for. 

How do I apply for an art foundation course?

You have to apply directly to the college for a foundation year; UCAS is not necessary. To help out, you can find a list of Art Foundation courses on the What Uni? website. And, in case you were wondering, most application deadlines for art foundation courses are in January.

How much does the foundation course cost?

A lot of UK foundation courses are free if you’re under 19. But there are some independent colleges that charge tuition fees. So it’s always best to check first.

If it’s free then you won’t be able to get a loan from SFE. Luckily, a number of colleges offer a wide range of bursaries you can apply for if you need financial aid. Again, check college websites to see which ones they offer and which ones apply to you.

How do I apply for an art degree?

It’s pretty straightforward actually. Just submit your application, with a personal statement, to the UCAS website. The art college application process is a lot like applying to any other university course. The only difference is that they’ll probably want you to do an interview, submit a portfolio, or both. 

If you wanna figure out what the situation’ll be for your specific choices, you can check what the admissions process is on the college website. Or you can use course search on the UCAS website to find their details.

When should I hand in my art college application?

There are two deadlines for Art and Design applications, usually in January and March. We’d recommend checking which one applies to your course since there are no hard rules with this one. You can find a list of course deadlines on the UCAS website.

How can I make sure I get a place?

To get a place at a university of the arts, you wanna make sure your portfolio stands out and your interview goes well. To get the inside scoop, we spoke to admissions tutors at Camberwell College of Arts and the Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts and they gave us some tips:

Your portfolio

Preparing a portfolio is a key part of applying to art schools like University College London’s Slade School of Fine Art. Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Put together a good range of well-organised pieces. You’ll get Brownie points if it’s presented nicely, but looks aren’t everything. Colleges are more concerned about what’s on the paper than whether or not it’s neatly placed in a folder.
  • Make sure you go through your portfolio with your art teacher or foundation tutor; they’ll be able to give you some helpful feedback since they know what they’re talking about.
  • Colleges don’t want to see your work ruined. So if you’d rather bring photos or photocopies to avoid any accidental puddle-trips, they’ll understand.

Your interview

Interviews can be scary but as long as you focus on your art, the rest should come naturally: 

  • You’ll be asked to explain your portfolio. So get ready to go into depth about your pieces and be enthusiastic about them.
  • Research the course and go to an open day beforehand if you can. Basically, just make sure you’re ready to say why you want to go there.
  • Find ways of showing interest in the subject. Ask teachers or tutors to recommend any exhibitions they think you’d like. That way you’ll have something to talk about in the interview.

What happens when you leave art school?

Whether you’re doing a degree in fine art or photography, it’s always a good idea to think about life beyond uni. There’s a wide range of creative industries you might go into with this kind of education

These include publishing or advertising as a web designer, graphic designer or photographer. Alternatively, you might be interested in TV, film and theatre. In which case you could pursue a career as a set designer, costume designer, make-up artist, lighting technician and lighting designer/director. Loads of people with art degrees also find employment with design companies/agencies, or pursue postgraduate study and teaching. So there’s a tonne of options available to you once you get to the other side.

Looking for more information about applying to universities? We’ve got loads more articles here.

Next Steps

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 13-Jun-2022