One mistake many students make is to try to represent their full range of technical abilities in the portfolio. While admissions officers admit that seeing how a student uses different mediums can be somewhat helpful, generally, they’re not looking for individuals with a wide variety of skills. “Rather, we are looking to see what a student is doing with the tools they currently possess,” explains Dave Murray, the associate director of undergraduate admissions at SAIC.
“There is certainly value in refining your craft, continuing to improve technical skills, and learning new techniques, but ultimately, skill is a tool,” Murray continues. “What an artist builds with their tools is what matters. Overall, we are looking for students who understand, at some level, that meaning and making are inseparable.” The challenge, then, is to have a strong idea of who you are as an artist and how you envision your creative practice developing.
This also means that your work should be original. “Something younger artists do that is really negative in our minds, is they just reproduce an existing image that they see,” explains Edward Newhall, associate vice president of enrollment at the Rhode Island School of Design. They don’t want to see drawings of album covers or painted renditions of famous photographs of Barack Obama or Marilyn Monroe. Instead, students should work off of their own original imagery, to reflect their own ideas and interpretations of the world.