6 Back To School Tips For High School Artists

Elaine Pelz Getting Into College, High School, Practical Advice, Student Resources, Visual Arts, Visual Arts

August means back to school and getting caught up with friends you’ve missed over the summer.

If you are an artist it’s also about early morning studio classes and building your portfolio, in addition to the tests and homework. Instead of looking ahead with dread, consider making a plan to ensure you have the future you want and get the MOST out of high school.

Whether you’re a rising freshman or senior, it’s not too early to begin thinking about what your artistic future may look like. And it’s never too early to take steps towards making your dreams a reality. Are you an artist who wants to tell stories with your illustrations? Do you dream of designing residences or the next cool electronic device?

Making a plan, and acting on it while you’re still in high school is a great way to start down your dream path.

1. Focus On Your Classes

Your GPA is the thing colleges consider first when reviewing your application. You may think your talent or portfolio will trump your GPA, but it won’t. Make sure you’re paying attention and doing your very best in every class.


2. Challenge Yourself

Are you hanging out in your comfort zone or are you taking the most challenging courses towards your artistic goals? They should include AP Studio Art classes (see our story on AP Studio Art) as well as those in other subject areas. Pushing yourself now will provide you with a multitude of benefits: you’ll learn what you’re capable of accomplishing, colleges will learn what you’re capable of accomplishing, and you just may find your new comfort zone.

3. Build Relationships

High school teachers are excellent resources. Letting your favorite ones in on your interests could open doors you haven’t even considered. Teachers can direct you towards extracurricular activities that can greatly impact your future including after-school art classes, summer pre-college programs to explore, and college majors to consider. The bonus: teachers who know you can write better college references letters.


4. Know The Application

Make sure you’re aware of the required components for each college’s application. Most accept them via the Common App, so that’s a good place to start. Learn what each college requires. Do they need an additional essay? Supplemental artwork? Learn each college’s deadlines.


5. Prep For The SAT and ACT

Even artists and designers need to take standardized tests. My suggestion: Take them as early as possible during your junior year. It’ll be closer to the time you’re studying those subjects. Then you won’t need to worry about it; it’ll just be that thing in your rear view mirror.


6. Keep Making Art . . .

I’m beginning to think that this is my mantra. But, the reality is this should always be in your game plan, because the more you create, the better you’ll be. Period.


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Elaine Pelz
Author Elaine Pelz founded art.college.life. in 2012 as a resource for families with teens wanting to study art and design in college. art.college.life. is a culmination of Elaine’s lifelong passions for the arts and education, and her 25+ years of business, marketing, and recruitment experience. A textile designer herself, she lives in Central Ohio, but is a California girl at heart. When not soaking up new information about visual arts colleges, Elaine can be found traveling with her husband, and enjoying time with her two 20-something kids. Contact Elaine at [email protected].
Elaine Pelz