How to Write a Successful Personal Statement for Art School
Table of Contents
If an art school offers the option of submitting a personal statement, it may be tempting for forgo the opportunity. However, it could actually work to your advantage! In addition to showcasing your personality and thought process, submitting an application essay allows the admissions team to see that you are so much more than just your transcripts. Whether you were a top student or perhaps received lower than average test scores, an art school application essay allows you to showcase your direction as an artist, as well as highlight any additional accomplishments, making you further stand out as an applicant.
When it comes to an art college essay, you may be asked about your art philosophy, your artistic influences, maybe even how you have evolved as an artist. Although the content of the essay itself is subjective, it is a potentially powerful piece that may make the difference between admission and rejection. Needless to say, you need to showcase the very best of you, especially if it may not have come out in the other parts of the application package.
What Should Be in My Personal Essay for Art School?
Some applications may require a lengthier autobiographical essay while others, such as Hussian College, simply request a succinct couple of paragraphs. Either way, there are a few crucial elements to consider to help your artist statement stand out for the right reason.
Although there are no “rules” (unless they are outlined in the requirements), you should remember that it is an essay to be written with care. Ideas should flow together in a way that makes sense and attention should be paid to grammar and verbiage. By showing that you are able to craft a professional piece of content that is mindful of proper grammar and verbiage while speaking to who you are as an individual, your personal statement will truly stand out.
Structuring Your Art School Application Essay
Just like the essays you were taught to write in school, your personal statement should have a discernible introduction, body, and conclusion.
- The Introduction: Ideally, your introduction should frame the question being asked of you in the context of how you envision yourself as an artist. It is a good place to set out the parameters of your essay so the reader knows what is to come. You could also use the introduction to provide the reader a basic roadmap so that they can understand how your statement is intended to flow.
- The Body: The body will contain your arguments and explanations. Where applicable, make sure you provide concrete examples that can paint a vivid picture for the reader. For example, if you say that abstract modern art has influenced your aesthetic style, you may identify a particular painting, artist, or group of works, that embody what you love. If you pick something like Picasso’s Guernica, speak to the individual visual elements that make the work stand out to you. Is it the use of color? The way the artist has interpreted the historical bombing? What is it that you see in this work or art that may not have been evident to others?
- The Conclusion: Though you may be relieved to finally be writing the conclusion, don’t let your personal statement end abruptly! The conclusion, after all, is your last chance to leave a final great first impression. It should reiterate the theme of your statement without introducing any new ideas. Essentially, the reader should be left feeling as though they have a better understanding of who you are as an artist. Think of it this way: if the rest of the essay was the journey, the conclusion is the destination.
Some institutions, like Hussian College, ask for a short statement of 200-500 words. Despite its short length, you should still approach it in a methodical way, with an engaging introduction, clear conclusion, and body that supports the conclusion. Treat it no differently than you would a lengthier essay!
Personal Statement Essay Do’s and Don’ts
While many schools encourage creativity when it comes to crafting your personal statement, it is important to incorporate best writing practices to ensure a piece that is easy to read, thorough, and engaging. Here are a few art school essay writing tips you may wish to adopt to ensure that you put your best foot forward.
Personal Essay Do’s
- Answer all the parts of the question. A common mistake that students make when writing a personal statement is to simply list all the positive things about themselves. Make sure that you understand what the question is asking. Sometimes the college wants to see your creativity; other times, they are looking for more fact-based responses. It can be helpful to make an outline or map out the question on a sheet of paper prior to actually writing. This helps to ensure you are touching upon every part of the question(s).
- Focus on your strengths. You are, after all, trying to persuade the reader that you are the candidate they want to admit. You want them to understand that you have much to offer their program. Unless you are being specifically asked about a weakness, concentrate your writing on your best facets.
- Use specific, personal examples. Not only do these allow the reader to really get to know you, but it will give you a bit more credibility. Instead of vague claims, you will be better able to explain why you think you deserve to be part of their program. You can demonstrate the impact something has had on you, and how you were shaped by it. You may even be showing some out-of-the-box, innovative thinking, which is usually a sought-after trait in an artist.
- Make your essay easy to read and follow. Use line breaks to break up paragraphs. Where appropriate, use headings and subheadings. Members of an art school admissions staff often have to read dozens, even hundreds, of personal statements and art essays. Ideally, you want reading your essay to be a pleasant experience, one that is easy to follow and to the point.
Personal Essay Don’ts
- Don’t recycle personal statements. If you are applying to multiple art schools, it may be tempting to use the same application or personal essay. However, it’s a good idea to refrain from doing this. What you think of for your graphic design personal statement ideas could be quite different from what you would include in a fine art essay sample, for example. It’s best to treat each personal statement as a separate essay with different focuses.
- Don’t lie or embellish. Personal statements are just that… personal! Embellishments or lies can often be sensed by the reader, especially if you are not entirely familiar with a particular topic. Keeping your writing personal and true only adds to the passion, something that admissions teams often look for in an art student. In addition, some colleges conduct interviews. They are free to ask you about the statements you have made in your essay, and if it is full of embellishments, you may find yourself stuck when responding.
- Don’t speak in generalities. Very general phrases about what you like or dislike do nothing to actually convey what inspires or influences you. Instead, explain the why. Rather than simply state, “I like bold colors,” you might say: “I prefer the attention that is drawn to bold and saturated colors, often utilized to emphasize a contrast between objects and subject matter.” Ideally, a personal statement is your opportunity to really differentiate yourself as an applicant, not blend into a sea of overly general, unengaging essays.
- Don’t get too “avant-garde”, political, or humorous. Even though the essay is an excellent opportunity to give the admissions team a glimpse of your personality, do it strategically. Overdoing the bubbliness may make you appear to not be taking the statement seriously while going overboard with political themes may come off as uninviting to opposing viewpoints. Incorporate your personality, but do so mindfully.
- Don’t rely on lists. Unless you are specifically asked to list technical qualifications, lists can be awkward within an application essay and don’t really add to the narrative of your personal statement. As important as the content is, the admissions team is trying to get a sense of how you communicate and what your thought process is. A bullet-style list of art class experience or your favorite artists doesn’t necessarily give them any such insight.
- Don’t make excuses. Just as you should be focusing on your strengths, try not to bring up the negative. Why your grade in a certain class was low, for example, may not have been a question in the mind of the reader. If anything, this will only draw attention to this anomaly. The admissions team are only interested in your life events to the extent that they are relevant to what they have asked you to write.
Personal Statement Prompts
Often, a school will provide very broad guidelines for their requested personal statement or application essay. If your forte isn’t writing, very general requirements may be challenging to handle. Where do you start? In these instances, it may be helpful to practice with personal statement writing prompts, which can offer some guidance. There are a few directions that writing prompts may put you in…
Information About Yourself as a Person and Artist
If you’d like to focus on highlighting who you are as a person and as an artist, consider the following writing prompts. Not only do they provide a way to prepare for writing your personal statement, but they allow you to include all the important information about yourself in one place, which could make plotting out your essay much smoother.
- Why is this school or program right for you and what you hope to gain from it?
- Why are you right for this school or program and what will you offer?
- How have you pursued your artistic interest outside of school – hobbies, extra-curricular activities, volunteering, etc.?
- How are your personal and life experiences relevant to this program and to your desired career?
- What transferable skills do you have?
- What leadership opportunities have you had – leading a project, for example – and what lessons were learned from these experiences?
- What are your short, medium, and long-term goals?
- Which artists have influenced your work – for better or for worse?
- How would you describe your artistic style?
- What sorts of media do you use and why – or what your favorite medium is and why?
- What motivates or inspires you to create art? What are you trying to achieve through art?
- What makes you and/or your art unique?
Rhetorical, Creative Thinking Type Questions
Some may prefer to take a more philosophical approach to their art college essay. These types of essays may be quirky or humorous, but don’t be fooled – they are sometimes harder to answer than the more personal, factual questions! Here are some prompts for those who may be looking to get creative:
- Can art be simultaneously appealing AND morally corrupt?
- Does the amount of freedom in society have an effect on the artwork produced in that society? Explain.
- Does art play a greater role in influencing a society or reflecting a society?
- Describe the importance of painting in a world with digital photography.
- Which is more important in a work of art: technical quality or emotion? Why?
- Define “art” based on your personal experience.
- How is the creative process in art similar to or different from the creative process in science?
- Do artists have an obligation to tell the “truth”? Why or why not?
Making a Great First Impression with Your Personal Artist Statement
Your artist statement really is your chance to make a great first impression, especially if your high school transcripts or standardized test scores are less than impressive. Let the readers—the admissions team—know that you truly do want to attend their school by ensuring a high-quality essay that speaks to who you are as an artist.
With that said, after drafting your personal statement, you may be inclined to submit it right away, especially if you are working on multiple applications at the same time. Given its importance and its function in the application package though, go the extra mile by:
- Spell checking your statement. Twice.
- Reviewing your grammar and making sure your verb tenses match and your sentences are structured cleanly.
- Tinkering with wording to improve the flow. Read your draft out loud to yourself – you’d be surprised how many little errors you can catch when actually hearing the words.
- Alternatively, have a friend, family member, or even a previous teacher or art instructor proofread your essay and provide feedback. Let them know if there’s something in particular you’re concerned about, such as the flow of the ideas, or whether your explanations are compelling.
Most Importantly, Don’t Sweat It
It’s easy for students to become overwhelmed at the thought of writing a personal statement for their art school application, especially if they are applying to multiple schools. Don’t stress yourself out! If you’re in a bind, free write on a sheet of paper and get the ideas flowing. Remember to stay true to who you are—that’s what the admissions teams are looking for, after all!
Put these tips to the test when crafting a personal artist statement for your application to Hussian College! We can’t wait to see all that you have to offer as a student. You may also review our course curriculum to find just the right program for you.
Sample College Admission Essays
This section contains two examples of good college essays.
- College Essay One
- College Essay Two
- College Essay Three
College Essay One
Prompt: Please submit a one-page, single-spaced essay that explains why you have chosen State University and your particular major(s), department(s) or program(s).
State University and I possess a common vision. I, like State University, constantly work to explore the limits of nature by exceeding expectations. Long an amateur scientist, it was this drive that brought me to the University of Texas for its Student Science Training Program in 2013. Up to that point science had been my private past time, one I had yet to explore on anyone else’s terms. My time at UT, however, changed that. Participating for the first time in a full-length research experiment at that level, I felt more alive, more engaged, than I ever had before. Learning the complex dynamics between electromagnetic induction and optics in an attempt to solve one of the holy grails of physics, gravitational-waves, I could not have been more pleased. Thus vindicated, my desire to further formalize my love of science brings me to State University. Thanks to this experience, I know now better than ever that State University is my future, because through it I seek another, permanent, opportunity to follow my passion for science and engineering.
In addition to just science, I am drawn to State University for other reasons. I strive to work with the diverse group of people that State University wholeheartedly accommodates – and who also share my mindset. They, like me, are there because State University respects the value of diversity. I know from personal experience that in order to achieve the trust, honesty, and success that State University values, new people are needed to create a respectful environment for these values. I feel that my background as an American Sikh will provide an innovative perspective in the university’s search for knowledge while helping it to develop a basis for future success. And that, truly, is the greatest success I can imagine.
This emphasis on diversity can also be found in the variety of specialized departments found at State University. On top of its growing cultural and ethnic diversity, State University is becoming a master at creating a niche for every student. However, this does not isolate students by forcing them to work with only those individuals who follow their specific discipline. Instead, it is the seamless interaction between facilities that allows each department, from engineering to programming, to create a real learning environment that profoundly mimics the real world. Thus, State University is not just the perfect place for me, it is the only place for me. Indeed, having the intellectual keenness to absorb every ounce of knowledge presented through my time in the IB program, I know that I can contribute to State University as it continues to cultivate a scholarly climate that encourages intellectual curiosity.
At the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at State University, I will be able to do just that. In a department where education and research are intermixed, I can continue to follow the path that towards scientific excellence. Long-mesmerized by hobbies like my work with the FIRST Robotics team, I believe State University would be the best choice to continue to nurture my love for electrical and computer engineering. I have only scratched the surface in this ever evolving field but know that the technological potential is limitless. Likewise, I feel that my time at State University would make my potential similarly limitless.
This is a picture-perfect response to a university-specific essay prompt. What makes it particularly effective is not just its cohesive structure and elegant style but also the level of details the author uses in the response. By directly identifying the specific aspects of the university that are attractive to the writer, the writer is able to clearly and effectively show not only his commitment to his studies but – perhaps more importantly – the level of thought he put into his decision to apply. Review committees know what generic responses look like so specificity sells.
Find your school with our USA School Search
College Essay Two
Prompt: What motivates you?
For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of science. Where others see the engineering, experimentation, and presentation of science as a chore, I only see excitement. Even as a child I constantly sought it out, first on television with Bill Nye and The Mythbusters, then later in person in every museum exhibit I could find. Science in all its forms fascinated me, but science projects in particular were a category all to themselves. To me, science projects were a special joy that only grew with time. In fact, it was this continued fascination for hands-on science that brought me years later to the sauna that is the University of Alabama in mid-June. Participating in the Student Science Training Program and working in their lab made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Just the thought of participating in a project at this level of scientific rigor made me forget that this was supposed to be my summer break and I spent the first day eagerly examining every piece of equipment.
Even at first, when the whole research group sat there doing rote calculations and others felt like they were staring down the barrel of defeated purpose, I remained enthusiastic. Time and time again I reminded myself of that famous phrase "great effort leads to great rewards," and sure enough, soon my aspirations began to be met. This shift in attitude also coincided with a shift in location: from the computer desk to the laser lab. It was finally time to get my hands dirty.
Now things began to get really interesting. During the experimentation phase of the project, I spent the majority of my waking hours in the lab – and I enjoyed every minute of it. From debriefing with my coordinator in the morning to checking and rechecking results well into the afternoon, I was on cloud nine all day, every day. I even loved the electric feeling of anxiety as I waited for the results. Most of all, though, I loved the pursuit of science itself. Before I knew it, I was well into the seventh week and had completed my first long-term research experiment.
In the end, although the days were long and hard, my work that summer filled me with pride. That pride has confirmed and reinvigorated my love for science. I felt more alive, more engaged, in that lab than I have anywhere else, and I am committed to returning. I have always dreamed of science but since that summer, since my experiment, I have dreamed only of the future. To me, medical science is the future and through it I seek another, permanent, opportunity to follow my passion. After all, to follow your passion is, literally, a dream come true.
In addition to its use of clear, demonstrative language, there is one thing that makes this an effective essay: focus. Indeed, notice that, although the question is broad, the answer is narrow. This is crucial. It can be easy to wax poetic on a topic and, in the process, take on too much. Instead, by highlighting one specific aspect of his personality, the author is able to give the reader a taste of his who he is without overwhelming him or simply reproducing his résumé. This emphasis gives the reader the opportunity to learn who the writer is on his terms and makes it a truly compelling application essay.
Find your school with our USA School Search
College Essay Three
The winter of my seventh grade year, my alcoholic mother entered a psychiatric unit for an attempted suicide. Mom survived, but I would never forget visiting her at the ward or the complete confusion I felt about her attempt to end her life. Today I realize that this experience greatly influenced my professional ambition as well as my personal identity. While early on my professional ambitions were aimed towards the mental health field, later experiences have redirected me towards a career in academia.
I come from a small, economically depressed town in Northern Wisconson. Many people in this former mining town do not graduate high school and for them college is an idealistic concept, not a reality. Neither of my parents attended college. Feelings of being trapped in a stagnant environment permeated my mind, and yet I knew I had to graduate high school; I had to get out. Although most of my friends and family did not understand my ambitions, I knew I wanted to make a difference and used their doubt as motivation to press through. Four days after I graduated high school, I joined the U.S. Army.
The 4 years I spent in the Army cultivated a deep-seated passion for serving society. While in the Army, I had the great honor to serve with several men and women who, like me, fought to make a difference in the world. During my tour of duty, I witnessed several shipmates suffer from various mental aliments. Driven by a commitment to serve and a desire to understand the foundations of psychological illness, I decided to return to school to study psychology.
In order to pay for school and continue being active in the community, I enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard as a Medic. Due to the increased deployment schedule and demands placed on all branches of the military after September 11, my attendance in school has necessarily come second to my commitment to the military. There are various semesters where, due to this demand, I attended school less than full time. Despite taking a long time and the difficulty in carving separate time for school with such occupational requirements, I remained persistent aiming towards attending school as my schedule would allow. My military commitment ends this July and will no longer complicate my academic pursuits.
In college, as I became more politically engaged, my interest began to gravitate more towards political science. The interest in serving and understanding people has never changed, yet I realized I could make a greater difference doing something for which I have a deeper passion, political science. Pursuing dual degrees in both Psychology and Political Science, I was provided an opportunity to complete a thesis in Psychology with Dr. Sheryl Carol a Professor in Social Psychology at the University of Texas (UT) This fall I will complete an additional thesis as a McNair Scholar with Dr. Ken Chambers, Associate Professor in Latin American studies in the UT Political Science Department.
As an undergraduate, I was privileged to gain extensive research experience working in a research lab with Dr. Carol. During the three years I worked in her lab, I aided in designing a study, writing an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application, running participants through both pilot and regular studies, coding data, and analyzing said data, with these experiences culminating in my honors thesis. This thesis, entitled Self-Esteem and Need-to-Belong as predictors of implicit stereotypic explanatory bias, focuses on the relationship between levels (high and low) of self-esteem and an individual’s need to belong in a group, and how they predict whether an individual will tend to explain stereotype-inconsistent behavior. Participating in such a large study from start to finish has validated my interest in academic research as a profession.
This fall I will embark on writing an additional honors thesis in political science. While the precise topic of my thesis is undecided, I am particularly interested in Mexico and its development towards a more democratic government. Minoring in Spanish, I have read various pieces of literature from Mexico and have come to respect Mexico and Latin American culture and society. I look forward to conducting this research as it will have a more qualitative tilt than my thesis in psychology, therefore granting an additional understanding of research methodology.
My present decision to switch from social psychology to political science is further related to a study abroad course sponsored by the European Union with Dr. Samuel Mitchell, an Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at UT. Professor Mitchell obtained a grant to take a class of students to Belgium in order to study the EU. This course revealed a direct correlation between what I had studied in the classroom with the real world. After spending several weeks studying the EU, its history and present movement towards integration, the class flew to Brussels where we met with officials and proceeded to learn firsthand how the EU functioned.
My interest in attending the University of Rochester in particular, relates to my first semester at OU and the opportunity to take an introductory course in statistics with the now retired Dr. Larry Miller. Through the combination of a genuine appreciation and knack for statistics and with his encouragement, I proceeded to take his advanced statistics class as well as the first graduate level statistics course at OU. I continued my statistical training by completing the second graduate statistics course on model comparisons with Dr. Roger Johnson, a Professor in the Psychology Department. The model comparison course was not only the most challenging course I have taken as an undergraduate, but the most important. As the sole undergraduate in the course and only college algebra under my belt, I felt quite intimidated. Yet, the rigors of the class compelled me to expand my thinking and learn to overcome any insecurities and deficits in my education. The effort paid off as I earned not only an ‘A’ in the course, but also won the T.O.P.S. (Top Outstanding Psychology Student) award in statistics. This award is given to the top undergraduate student with a demonstrated history of success in statistics.
My statistical training in psychology orientates me toward a more quantitative graduate experience. Due to the University of Rochester’s reputation for an extensive use of statistics in political science research, I would make a good addition to your fall class. While attending the University of Rochester, I would like to study international relations or comparative politics while in graduate school. I find the research of Dr.’s Hein Goemans and Gretchen Helmke intriguing and would like the opportunity to learn more about it through the Graduate Visitation program.
Participation in the University of Rochester’s Graduate School Visitation Program would allow me to learn more about the Department of Political Science to further see if my interests align with those in the department. Additionally, my attendance would allow the Political Science department to make a more accurate determination on how well I would fit in to the program than from solely my graduate school application. Attending the University of Rochester with its focus on quantitative training, would not only allow me to utilize the skills and knowledge I gained as an undergraduate, but also would expand this foundation to better prepare me to conduct research in a manner I find fascinating.
From attending S.E.R.E. (Survival/POW training) in the military and making it through a model comparisons course as an undergraduate, I have rarely shied away from a challenge. I thrive on difficult tasks as I enjoy systematically developing solutions to problems. Attending the University of Rochester would more than likely prove a challenge, but there is no doubt in my mind that I would not only succeed but enable me to offer a unique set of experiences to fellow members of the incoming graduate class.
Find your school with our USA School Search