Top 5 Tips for Portfolio Reviews

Rebecca Tuynman Drawing, Student Resources, Visual Arts

If you’re a student thinking about applying to art school, it’s that time of year: portfolio reviews.

Whether you are going to a college fair or having an admissions appointment at a school, you will need to bring a portfolio of artwork to show to the admissions representative. As Education Manager at Ryman Arts I’ve overseen ten years of college fairs, so I’ve learned a thing or two over the years.


What should you bring? First of all, it depends on if you are visiting a single school, or speaking to many schools at a college fair. If you are visiting a single school, read their portfolio requirements on their website, and tailor your portfolio to their requirements. Some schools want to see how you work; they will want to see artworks that demonstrate your thinking process. Other schools are more interested in your most finished, polished work. Remember, if you are coming to a school for an admissions appointment, you can always ask what it is that they are most interested in seeing, and prepare accordingly. If you are going to a college fair, though, you’ll have to put together a general portfolio that will be relevant to all different kinds of schools.


1. Bring between 10-20 artworks, made in the last two years

At a college fair portfolio review, representatives won’t have time to look at your life story in art. They’re more interested in where you are going artistically than where you’ve been. Bring your strongest artworks, showing all your different strengths, and leave everything else at home.

2. If you use a sketchbook, bring it.

Some schools love to see how you think in drawing, and will be more interested in your sketchbook than in your finished work. Some other schools won’t care, but hey, it’s small and no trouble to bring. Also, you can sketch while you’re waiting in line to talk to the school representative!


3. Present your artwork neatly, but don’t worry about having a fancy portfolio case.

As long as your artwork is easy to pull out and put back, any sort of envelope or case is fine. If you have pastels or charcoals that are messy, either spray fix them or use a clear cover to put them in (or better yet, do both) so that the artwork doesn’t get ruined and the representatives’ tables don’t get all smudged up.


4. Be ready to talk to the representatives.

They will ask you about your artwork, and what you are interested in studying in college, so have answers for those questions ready. Have questions for the schools, not just about the art program but about things like housing, student programs, financial aid, etc.

5. Visit local schools in person.

At college fairs, often local schools will have the longest lines. Don’t spend the whole time in line – talk to the out of state schools at the fair, and grab a card from the admissions people at the local schools, then call or email them later to set an appointment on campus to arrange for a portfolio review. Those appointments will be more in-depth, you’ll have a chance to see the campus, and you won’t have to wait in line at a college fair.

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You can see a complete list of college resources that Ryman Arts put together for art students at:





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Rebecca Tuynman
Rebecca is the Ryman Arts Education Manager and oversees all Ryman Arts classes and student activities. She has 20 years of experience in art education, having worked prior to Ryman Arts in a variety of community organizations, schools, universities, and museums. Rebecca is a graduate of the Community Arts Education Leadership Institute (CAELI), produced by the National Guild for Community Arts Education. She earned her MFA in Studio Art from UC Santa Barbara and a BA in History of Art from Bryn Mawr College. She has been with Ryman Arts since 2005.
Rebecca Tuynman

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