Four-year schools for graphic design have much of the same requirements as any other academic major. Students are expected to complete classes with a healthy grade point average and show their accomplishments as a student. In an art-related field such as graphic design, a portfolio review and interview may also be required. These are specific to art majors, and acceptance hinges on the quality of both interview and review.
Grades & Classes
The types of classes taken by a high school student and her performance will be evaluated, just as with any standard college application. In this way, applying to a graphic design school is no different than any other academic institution. Such schools may or may not require scores from the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and placement testing for math and English proficiency; this will vary from institution to institution, so contacting Admissions during the junior year of high school is strongly recommended.
Tailoring a class schedule toward graphic design should focus on having a good foundation in the arts. Painting, drawing, sculpture and photography courses are all recommended for students looking to apply to a four-year graphic design institution. In most cases, an admissions panel will evaluate the high school transcript along with other information such as the application form, entrance essay and portfolio.
Portfolio Revew & Interview
A portfolio review may be required for acceptance into an art-based program such as graphic design. Some institutions require a body of work submitted online or digitally; other schools may require attendance at an in-person review.
Portfolio reviews judge the quality of the work based on the experience of the individual. A professional presentation is expected, just as with a job interview.
Some schools, such as Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, perform a second portfolio review at the end of the sophomore year to assess college level work. Until that point, a student accepted into this program is an undeclared major.
Accomplishments & Activities
Accomplishments are a vital part of any college application; for graphic design colleges, this should include any recognition of the student's artistic merit. This can include any awards or recognitions given by a professional or local body. Accomplishments might include prizes, art shows, merits, local and national appearances of a student's work or any other recognition of the student's artistic talents by another person or body. Participation in workshops, camps extracurricular clubs and festivals also shows dedication to the arts.
Graphic design schools typically require letters of recommendation. This can include art teachers, personal acquaintances, program directors or any individual who has credentials in the art community and knows the student.
The application package with all requested documentation is reviewed by an admissions board. In many schools, a portfolio review will be requested before the application is approved; in others, the student will be accepted and placed based on a portfolio assessment. When a place is offered, the student will usually be invited to confirm his attendance. The student may be evaluated on general education requirements by taking placement tests before being allowed to select her first course schedule. From there, the student may meet with an academic or course adviser to help plan the best selection of courses that will lead to a successful graphic design career.