Portfolio for Art/Design School Application


I understand the frustration of not being familiar with the word ‘Portfolio’ from my personal experience. Most Indonesian high schools focus more on educating students about natural or social sciences. Unless your schools have Cambridge University IGCSE or IB curriculum, chances are your schools don’t have any art classes. For those of you who would like to major in art/design in the US, I hope this would help you guys a bit.

I: What is a portfolio?

A portfolio can be anything. It can range from a photograph of your grandmother to a video of you doing yoga. A portfolio may showcase how you think of the world, your technics in manipulating software, etc. They can be sculptures, paintings, drawings, and even poems. Only put your best and most recent work. A good portfolio usually has a range of work, usually at least one of each 2-D and 3-D work.

A good website for examples is www.issuu.com (type ‘art portfolio’ on the search bar)

When I was applying for undergraduate, I spent a good chunk of my time with Google, scavenging what I could find about other people’s portfolio because I didn’t have a single clue of what that was. Reading for tips is good, but seeing with your own eyes is even better.

II: How to make a portfolio?

Most schools have certain rules for portfolio. Some schools accept CDs, while some only wants a letter-size (A4) binder. Some accepts videos, while some only wants a 2-D presentation of your work. I would suggest that you guys pay very close attention to the rules of each of the schools that you are applying to. You won’t get any penalty for following the rules, but you might get a penalty for doing the opposite. Some can even have very detailed rules in how they want you to label your work.

III: More Tips?

  1. Ask a lot of people to review your portfolio. From your grandparents, parents, friends, neighbors, etc. Get them to look at your portfolio. Every little comments matter. Pay attention to their eye movement. Do they look at the center first before looking right? Do they look from left to right or the opposite? I asked you to pay attention to this because by observing people (even amateurs) visually experience your portfolio, you would be able to have a sense of how the admission committees visually experience your work.
  2. Rhythm is important. Do you want people to look at a visually strong work first and gradually provide a less stimulating view? Or do you want to start of weak and gradually show stronger work before ending it with your strongest work?
  3. 3 Minutes/portfolio and 30 Seconds/page. That’s how long the admission committees would be looking at your portfolio. You need to consider that they would be looking at thousands of portfolios and will not have time to really look at your portfolio. That’s also how long you’ll be given the opportunity to catch their attention. So, do not put anything irrelevant.
  4. Show the process. Showing your sketches and your process of creating an art piece can be helpful. This shows the admission committee how you get from point A to B physically. Anything can be beautiful if you look at it from certain angles, but not every process to that perfect sculpture/drawing is the same. US schools are more interested in how you think and who you are than another pretty picture.
  5. Ask if unsure. The best possible thing you could do to yourself when applying for college is not afraid to ask the school if you are unsure about submission requirements. E-mail is a good way of doing it if you are applying from Indonesia. Sometimes they may forget to upload forms and other paper works on the website. I know that the mistake originates from their end, but it wouldn’t do your application any good if you submit something completely different from their expectations.

IV: Other Resources

Here’s a list of website that might be useful for you guys:



Photo by gezelle rivera via flickr


  1. omg thanks a lot to Silvia Tjhin! this is very helpful. i was trying to make a portfolio but im still confused about what i should make. your post is really good! thanks for the advices/tips 🙂


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