Artists, assemble!

by Alexia Lang

Gather up your art supplies and spend your summer imagining, creating and transforming your portfolio at state-of-the-art facilities under the guidance of leaders in their fields.

Art schools around the country and abroad put together pre-college art and portfolio programs with students just like you in mind. And they are multipurpose.

What might be most exciting for high school students is that they give you a chance to experience college before you are finished with high school. You can get a feel for the atmosphere at the school you are interested in attending, explore campus, meet teachers and just have fun learning before the pressure is on to graduate.

Applying for pre-college programs will give you a taste of what admissions processes will be like. And, just being on campus could help you keep the freshman jitters at bay when you actually start college later.

In terms of practicality, pre-college programs offer a chance to build your portfolio and resume under the guidance of faculty.

Art and portfolio camps will more than likely allow a chance to work with mediums that you have not experienced in your high school classes.

And as an added bonus, many schools offer pre-college programs for credit. Any adviser will tell you that getting ahead in college credits is a great thing.

Age and grade eligibility for pre-college programs vary by college. So, be sure to check the specifics for the classes offered at your school of interest. Many programs are geared toward high school juniors and seniors. However, some schools offer classes for students as young as middle school.

We’ve researched a few of the top schools that offer summer programs. But there are many more options out there. Do your research and find a college, university or institute that best fits you as an artist.

Pre-College Programs at a Glance

Academy of Art University

The Pre-College Art Experience (PCAE) at Academy of Art University is a tuition-free art and design education program for high school students. It’s a great opportunity to jump-start your art and design education while earning money toward your college degree. You can take the pre-college program on campus in San Francisco or online year-round. Explore your future, gain confidence in your creative abilities and have the time of your life as an art and design student at Academy of Art University.

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Alfred University

Alfred University offers virtual and in-person summer camps – with day-long, week-long and overnight options available. These programs provide students with opportunities to learn more about specific career fields, to sample life on a college campus and to meet other students with similar interests.

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Massachusetts College of Art & Design

MassArt believes in the importance of a quality arts education beginning in elementary school. They offer affordable, diverse programs for students in grades 3-12 that give students the ability to access the power of the arts for their future success.

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What students are saying about the program:

  • “Amazing experience that really improves my ability and opened my world to new things.”
  • “Loved interacting with the professors, both extracurricular and fundamental, they truly made the experience great for me.”

Minneapolis College of Art & Design

The Pre-College Summer Session (PCSS) is a two-week, 3-credit, highly structured and challenging classroom and studio-based experience developed to guide serious art students in the process of maturing as artists and individuals. Students spend full days under the guidance of professional instructors, immersed in both foundational and intensive major classes. Evenings and weekends provide a chance to build new friendships, explore Minneapolis and spend dedicated time working in the studios and labs. Trained staff and professional faculty are with them every step of the journey.

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What students are saying about the program:

  • “I learned a lot about what college will be like and was able to narrow down what I wanted to learn. I had an overall great experience, especially in animation. I met a lot of cool people and made new friends.”
  • “This program was the start to me finding my identity as an artist. After making my first comic, I acquired an understanding that I truly enjoyed the dynamics of character interaction, eventually leading to my choice to go into character-focused animation for college.”
  • “I learned a great deal of technical and compositional skills as an artist and graphic designer. Outside of art, I learned new communication and leadership skills that are very applicable to situations that I encounter in the present and that I see in my future.”
  • “I greatly enjoyed the visits with artists — they were one of the most valuable things I took away from the program. The artists gave me a lot of insight into what it’s like to actually go to an art college and be a professional artist.”
  • “I loved every minute of my time at MCAD. I made great friends and gained so much insight on art. I use the things I learned every single day. PCSS was amazing and I’m very glad I did it.”

Parsons The New School of Design

Make the most of summer in New York with Summer Intensive Studies at Parsons. Rising junior and senior high schoolers dive deep into creative practices such as fine arts, illustration, photography, animation, graphic design, fashion design, product design, architecture, interior design and design management in this intensive three-week, three-credit program. With New York City as the backdrop for inspiration, students attend art and design field trips and meet industry professionals. Special events include a Parsons admission information session and portfolio review events.

Parsons’ Online Summer Intensive Studies allow students to study art and design with Parsons’ renowned faculty in real time from anywhere in the world. Students benefit from small class sizes and participate in unique virtual field trips, special guest lectures and individual portfolio reviews.

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What students are saying about the program:

  • “When the Summer Intensive studies actually started, I was so blown away. This program really forced me to want to wake up and want to be working. I even pulled like all-nighters for this program which I really didn’t expect.” – Tomoe Lin, Pre-College Fashion Design SIS alumna
  • “Just seeing people talking to each other through Zoom online just gave me a lot of inspiration and ideas that I wouldn’t have gotten.” – Christopher Sardo, Pre-College Portfolio Development alumnus

Pennsylvania College of Art & Design

PCAD offers classes designed to inspire and prepare high school students through exciting coursework where they can amplify their portfolios, learn from a faculty of professional artists and designers and find opportunities to earn college credit.

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School of Visual Arts NYC

SVA’s Pre-College Program offers courses taught by the same faculty of leading art professionals who teach in the college’s undergraduate degree programs. Students explore the fundamentals of art and design at a level not readily available in high school. Students will receive three credits for the successful completion of the summer program. The summer program is open to students entering grades 9-12.

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Syracuse University

For more than 60 years, Syracuse University has been providing exceptional pre-college experiences to high school students from around the world. Summer College – Online students have the unique opportunity to explore potential majors and pursue academic interests from the comfort of home – or from anywhere life takes them. Students participate in high-level instruction, have access to virtual campus offerings, and are welcomed into an engaging and supportive online community. At Summer College – On Campus, students navigate daily life much like a college student – they take college-level courses, live in a residence hall, have meals with friends in a dining hall and participate in social activities and events on the SU campus.

After successfully completing the course, you will earn a Certificate of Completion from Syracuse University and will have the option to purchase a credit or noncredit transcript.

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