Should I Submit an Art Portfolio?

By Moksha Agarwal 2021-07-02

Many universities, from Stanford to Princeton, allow students to complement their application with an optional art portfolio. Much like their supplements, each school prescribes its own categories and guidelines. While some colleges may require an artist’s statement or a letter of recommendation, others may only warrant a caption for each piece in your portfolio. The number of artworks that can be submitted also vary from one school to another. 

What troubles most applicants, however, is a much deeper and fundamental question, which can only be answered through conscious reflection on their engagement with their craft.

Should I submit an art portfolio?

If you are someone struggling with this dilemma, ask yourself:

Do I possess enough skill and diversity?

It doesn’t matter if you are a piano player or a visual artist, demonstrating sufficient competence and variety is necessary. Each art portfolio is evaluated by the art department and their critical eyes look for artworks that are technically sound and stylistically diverse. Before you consider submitting an art portfolio, start by reviewing your work and selecting 20-30 pieces that speak to your ability and showcase your exploration of the form.


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Have I produced something original?

Once you’ve shortlisted your work, weed the reproductions. Mere skill and diversity is not enough to make an impact. You also need originality. This does not mean that your work cannot be inspired by that of another artist. What matters is that you took the inspiration and made it your own. If your portfolio is riddled with pieces that copy another artwork, it may harm your application.  

Why is my art important to me?

If you are producing something original with enough skill and diversity, you should answer this last question. You answer will fall in either of the two categories:

  1. It doesn’t really mean much to me beyond being a fun and relaxing hobby.

  2. It is something that I do with a purpose. It helps me understand and relate to the world around me.

Although it is unlikely for someone creating original pieces to consider their art a hobby, if you do, submitting an art portfolio may not be your best bet. If you belong to the second category, congratulations, your dilemma is settled—you must submit your portfolio with utmost zest and confidence.


*Note: This article is intended for students applying for a non-art major. If you are applying for an art major, you will be required to submit an art portfolio. The criteria for evaluation will also be stringent.