Cardinal Stritch UniversityCardinal Stritch University

Art Portfolio Advice for Transfer Students

Applying to transfer into art schools usually requires submitting a portfolio for both admissions AND scholarship consideration. And no doubt the big question most students ask is, "What kind of work is Merit Scholarship worthy?" The answer, though, is as simple or as complicated as the type of work you make. Here are some tips for assembling a competitive portfolio.

Typically, a portfolio features a broad range of assigned projects to demonstrate an understanding of techniques, concepts and processes of art. Of course, the criteria varies institutionally, so be sure to check out individual school websites, but our advice is to select your best work, always. It is certainly valid to include pieces made outside of the studio classroom or even show sketchbook pages or pieces still in-progress, as long as these samples fit the larger body of who you are and what you make as an artist.

For merit scholarship consideration, ALWAYS curate your work as if presenting a solo exhibition. Assemble all of your work together and literally take a step back to create space to identify related themes or preferred methodologies of how you make art. Most art schools will evaluate your portfolio based on your personal vision, whether represented conceptually, thematically or experimentally through material, process or discipline. Try to address the question: "What am I saying, how am I saying it, and WHY?" Remember to focus on who you are. Each portfolio is different, so concentrate on showing off your individuality. Artists who can show a review panel who they are as an artist — and why their work is important — stand a better chance of impressing these panels (the people who determine the amount of your scholarship!) 

And just as important as your portfolio is your Artist’s Statement. Consider your Artist’s Statement as an integral part of your portfolio. An Artist’s Statement enables you to put into words what you think about visually, and allows you to clarify your interests and inspirations to people who may have never encountered your work before. It also serves the dual purpose of getting you to rethink your previous work in terms of connecting the dots through your different approaches and even media as a cohesive whole. 

If you are interested in transferring to an art school, look for online or on-campus information sessions to get a better idea about submitting a portfolio at that school. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is hosting an online information session on March 7, 2018 specifically for students wishing to transfer to SAIC. Topics covered will include how to prepare your portfolio for admission and merit scholarship, submitting your application, and specifics about our transfer credit policy, and there will be ample time during and after the presentation for you to ask your specific questions. More more information or to RSVP, go to