How to build an art portfolio for college admissions and beyond


Kayleigh Regan // The Chief

Submitting portfolios to schools will give applicants a leg up in admissions.

Kaitlyn Lucey, Editor-In-Chief

Stacks upon stacks of college applications from seniors from all over the world fill the admissions offices of thousands of colleges and universities each year. How does one stand out from the crowd? One way that artistic minded students can bolster their chances at their dream college or university is to submit a portfolio as an added facet to their application.

What should one include in their portfolio? How does one get started assembling their strongest pieces? Lori Horowitz, a visual artist and the director of Massapequa’s Studio 5404 Arts Space, a nonprofit art gallery that aims to bolster the cultural arts of the South Shore of Long Island, shared how to put together a strong portfolio. Here are some of her tips:

Portfolios Have an Ideal Size

An applicant should aim to assemble a portfolio that is composed of roughly ten to fifteen pieces. This size allows for the showcasing of an applicant’s wide range of artistic abilities without overwhelming an admissions officer.

Diversify Your Portfolio

Admissions officers want to see that a prospective student has experimented and succeeded in several different mediums. “Besides the basic drawing, [students] can include pieces that incorporate different skills— for example, graphic design, painting, or photography,” Mrs. Horowitz said.  

Don’t Procrastinate

Although not procrastinating is clearly easier said than done, completing one’s portfolio as early as possible will doubtlessly benefit a student who is already busy with college applications. Additionally, knowing the submission date for portfolios is crucial, as portfolios usually take more time to review than a standard college application.

Originality is Important

Admissions officers are trained to assess a student’s work, especially when it comes to assessing if a student created original work. It is extremely important that work is done from observation and is not from a picture found on the internet; according to the College Board, “It is unethical, constitutes plagiarism, and often violates copyright law simply to copy an image (even in another medium) that was made by someone else and represent it as one’s own.”

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself

At the end of the day, it is nearly impossible for a portfolio to hurt a student’s application. If an applicant find themselves with not enough pieces or too little time, they may consider incorporating pieces that do not require as much sitting time. “I always recommend photography to include in a portfolio, because it is relatively simple to pick up and can help to round out the portfolio,” Mrs. Horowitz said.

Ultimately, art portfolios are a great way to supplement a prospective student’s application. In addition to visual art, students can submit small segments of their acting, musical, or film talent.

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