Countdown to Portfolio Day

It’s almost here– that day when art is sprawled on the floors to be dissected by college representatives from all over the country. Here is a grade-by-grade breakdown of how to prepare and what to expect.

Freshmen. Right now, your job is to get the fundamentals down. By next year you will start developing concept, and you will start producing work in your design program class. During this year’s portfolio day, however, seize the opportunity to get a good look at other students’ work, see what inspires you, and use that drive to produce some great summer sketchbook work. You will thank yourself later when you have a fat sketchbook and a new set of skills you gained in the process.

Sophomores. This will be your first year attending National Portfolio Day. Yes, it’s on a Saturday, and yes, you will have to carry your work around, but this is an opportunity not to be missed. Many college reps will priase your work because you are so young and have had so many opportunities at DASH. Though nice to hear, what you’re really looking for are the people who give you substantial critiques. Be prepared to hear about the importance of 1) sketchbooks 2) work from observation 3) work that is not a classroom assignment. Don’t shy away from lesser known schools, especially if the lines are shorter. At this point in your high school career, you’re looking for the most and the best feedback, so don’t worry about college shopping quite yet.

Juniors. By now you have a solid amount of strand work to back up your fine arts portfolio. Different schools will want different types of that work out of you, which is why research is key. Some schools, like Art Center, are narrowly focused in the sense that if you want to apply for Illustration, you should show purely illustrative work. Also make sure not to come with your entire film portfolio to a school that doesn’t offer film. Juniors don’t get nearly as much time to talk to the reps, so make sure you have a game plan about what colleges will be relevant for you to meet.

Seniors. Think of yourself on portfolio day like a salesperson– your product is you. This is your opportunity to show yourself, your concepts and your process all in one package. Make business cards to hand out to the reps, and remember that presentation counts. That means reprint any display boards that got ruined since you made them, mount work that needs to be mounted, and present yourself in a professional way. Don’t get lazy when it comes to emailing the reps to thank them the next day– your scholarship may depend on it.