The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (2023)

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (1)

If you have a passion for art, you should go to a college that will nurture your creativity. An art school will help you to develop your skills and learn more about what it takes to succeed in the professional world of art and design. In this article, I'll give you the details on what defines a great art school and provide a list of the best art colleges in the country for undergraduate students.

How Is an Art School Defined for This List?

On this list of the best art schools in the United States, I only included schools that exclusively cater to art and design students.

Keep in mind that there are many other colleges that have excellent art programs but are less specialized. Colleges like Yale, UCLA, Tufts, and Columbia also have fantastic art programs. I didn't include those schools because this list is geared toward students who are absolutely certain that they want to study art at the college level (and would like to be in an environment with similarly-minded people).

There are huge advantages to going to a specialized art college if you fall into this category of students. You will make friends with other people who share your interests and who may inspire you to expand your creative horizons. You also will have the benefit of being in a place where art is never a secondary concern. Career services will be devoted to helping students in artistic fields break into the job world, and you can usually make even better connections with working artists at these schools. If you know that you plan on studying in an artistic field, the schools on this list are great college options.

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (2)At a school full of art students, everyone has paint on their hands at all times, and you can be as pretentious as you want without facing judgment!

What Makes These Art Schools the Best?

There are several factors to consider in determining what makes an art school great. First of all, it should have a diverse and modern curriculum. A great art school equips students with the skills they need to enter a rapidly changing, highly competitive job market. It should offer a wide variety of programs that are in step with current artistic trends and movements. The best art schools are invested in providing students with instruction in design practices that are shaping the world's creative landscape today.

A great art school should have excellent facilities for students, with access to the latest technology and artistic tools. Many of the schools on this list have extensive digital labs, on-campus art museums, and workshops that provide students with the ability to practice metalworking, laser cutting, woodworking, and other less accessible artistic disciplines.

The quality of the faculty is important as well. The best art schools employ professors who are also successful working artists and leaders in their fields. Reputation is another factor that ties into this. If the alumni of a school have been successful in their careers, the school will have better name recognition and provide you with more future opportunities.

The schools on this list have strong combinations of these qualities (and more!). They encourage students to think critically about art-making in the context of modern society and provide students with great opportunities to find their niche within the exciting world of art and design.

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (3)The art world is always in flux. Is this "graffiti" or "street art"? Or is it both? As methods and standards change, so do the curricula at art schools!

The Best Art Schools in the US

For each of the schools on this list, I will provide admissions statistics and information about application requirements. I've also listed a few facts that will give you a sense of what these institutions offer to undergraduate art students.

#1: Rhode Island School of Design: Providence, RI


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,736
Acceptance rate: 27%
Average GPA: 3.6
Average SAT score: 1360
Average ACT score: 29

Special Requirements

Prospective applicants are urged to follow a college preparatory program in secondary school, taking courses in studio art and art history where possible. A portfolio submission is required for admissions consideration.


Your portfolio should show a selection of 12–20 examples of your best recent artwork. This work may be presented in any medium (including film or video) in either finished or sketch form. It can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed artistic exploration. You'll also need to send in two drawing samples. For more details, see the admissions website.

Notable Facts

The campus museum displays over 80,000 works of art, so inspiration abounds! RISD offers advanced tools and resources to its students, including laser cutters and a kiln room. RISD also employs many famous faculty members like Chris Van Allsburg (who illustrated The Polar Express!).

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (4)Rhode Island School of Design

#2: School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Chicago, IL


Undergraduate enrollment: 2,982
Acceptance rate: 57%
Average GPA: 3.6
Average SAT score: 1230
Average ACT score: 25

Special Requirements

In order to be considered for admission, you will need to submit an artist's statement that represents you and your work. You are also required to submit a portfolio that showcases 10-15 examples of your best and most recent work. There are no limitations on the artistic medium! For more details, see the admissions website.

Notable Facts

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has a facility called the Computer Resources and Information Technologies Center, which ensures that students get access to and training on the latest digital equipment. There are also unique program offerings like art therapy and visual communication. SAIC has many distinguished alumni, including Walt Disney.

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (5)School of the Art Institute of Chicago

#3: California Institute of the Arts: Valencia, CA


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,027
Acceptance rate: 25%
Average GPA: Not reported
Average SAT score: Not required
Average ACT score: Not required

Special Requirements

You are required to submit 15-20 examples of your most recent and highest quality independent artwork for your portfolio. You'll also need to include an artist's statement. For more information, see the school's admission website.

Notable Facts

All faculty members at the California Institute of the Arts are working artists with lots of real world artistic experience. Every student is assigned a mentor who guides them through the program and assists them in independent study. CalArts has eight galleries dedicated to showing student work and helping students get accustomed to hanging and presenting art in various forms.

The school provides extensive facilities for student use including various media labs and a "Super Shop" for processes such as woodworking, metalworking, and moldmaking. I'm not sure why they chose to go with "CalArts" as the shortened version of the school's name when CIA was an option.

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (6)California Institute of the Arts

#4: Pratt Institute: New York, NY


Undergraduate enrollment: 2,927
Acceptance rate: 60%
Average GPA: 3.85
Average SAT score: 1265
Average ACT score: 28

Special Requirements

You are required to submit a portfolio that includes 12-20 examples of your best work. You must also submit three to five observational drawings to demonstrate your drafting skills. For more information, see the school's admissions website. For more information, see the school's admissions website.

Notable Facts

Pratt is located in New York City, so you'll have access to all kinds of great internship opportunities and connections to the art world. Faculty members are working artists with international reputations as well as dedicated teachers. Students get free access to the Frick Collection, the MOMA, the Whitney Museum, and more.

(Video) Top 7 Art & Design Schools in the World

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (7)Pratt Institute

#5: Maryland Institute College of Art: Baltimore, MD


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,309
Acceptance rate: 90%
Average GPA: 3.47
Average SAT score: 1160
Average ACT score: 22

Special Requirements

You must submit a portfolio of 12 to 20 pieces of artwork for consideration. For more information, please see the school's admission website.

Notable Facts

The Maryland Institute incorporates internships and other professional development activities into its curriculum to give students a strong foundation for careers in the arts. There are over 150 exhibitions per year by Maryland Institute students, faculty, and visitors. A strong advising system guides students through all four years at MICA.

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (8)Maryland Institute College of Art

#6: ArtCenter College of Design: Pasadena, CA


Undergraduate enrollment: 2,062
Acceptance rate: 71%
Average GPA: 3.42
Average SAT score: 1254
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

There are different portfolio requirements for different majors, but for fine arts applicants, you are required to submit 15 to 20 pieces of artwork. See the admissions site for more details.

Notable Facts

This school is for students who know exactly what they want to do: Art Center gives students a comprehensive education in their chosen discipline starting on day one and there is no first-year general education program. However, the Transdisciplinary Studios program also allows students to collaborate with each other across different majors. Art Center College of Design partners up with companies and organizations in their Designmatters program to sponsor student projects that will make a real impact on the world.

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (9)ArtCenter College of Design

#7: California College of the Arts: Oakland, CA


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,239
Acceptance rate: 85%
Average GPA: Not reported
Average SAT score: Not reported
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

First-year applicants are asked to submit 10 to 15 images of their best work as a portfolio sample. For more information, check out the school's admission website.

Notable Facts

The faculty is comprised of leaders in various artistic fields, and one-on-one attention is common (average student-teacher ratio is 8:1). It's also known as one of the most diverse colleges in the United States. Academically, CCA includes a First Year Program that introduces students to studio practice and incorporates a portfolio review at the end of the year to assess students' readiness for the majors. There is also a First Year Student Exhibition every year. CCA offers numerous resources for professional development and networking in the arts that will help students to start fulfilling careers.

#8: School of Visual Arts: New York, NY


Undergraduate enrollment: 3,872
Acceptance rate: 71%
Average GPA: 3.34
Average SAT score: N/A
Average ACT score: N/A

Special Requirements

You will need to submit a statement of intent describing why you're pursuing undergraduate study in the visual arts. You must also submit images of 15-20 pieces of your best work for your portfolio. You can decide to submit a film reel instead if you're interested in studying film. Be sure to check out the school's admissions website for more info.

Notable Facts

There are three galleries at SVA that present over 50 exhibitions every year, so students have frequent opportunities to show their work. SVA has an Internship for Credit program that allows students to work with top creative agencies in New York City. The Digital Imaging Center and Print Lab offers extensive technological resources to students studying graphic design and advertising or enrolled in classes at the Center.

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The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (10)School of Visual Arts

#9: Parsons the New School for Design: New York, NY


Undergraduate enrollment: 6,430
Acceptance rate: 68%
Average GPA: 3.42
Average SAT score: 1250
Average ACT score: 28

Special Requirements

Prospective applicants must complete the "Parsons Challenge," an artistic project exploring something that is usually overlooked in their environment. See the admissions site for more details on this. (I kind of want to do it just for kicks!) Applicants must also submit a portfolio of 8-12 pieces of recent artwork and an artist's statement.

Notable Facts

Parsons incorporates digital arts strongly into its undergraduate curriculum, particularly in first-year coursework. Parsons also has a special first-year study program that teaches students to think creatively across different disciplines. With its location at the center of the New York art scene, this is a great place for students to explore different methods of art-making and learn how to turn their creative passion into a career.

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (11)Parsons The New School for Design

#10: Massachusetts College of Art and Design: Boston, MA


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,770
Acceptance rate: 70%
Average GPA: 3.45
Average SAT score: N/A
Average ACT score: N/A

Special Requirements

You must submit a portfolio with 15-20 examples of your strongest and most recent artwork. You will also need to include a statement of purpose that describes you as an artist. See their admissions website for more info.

Notable Facts

MassArt is the nation's first independent public college of art and design. The college has seven on-campus gallery spaces, routinely featuring work from students, faculty, and visiting artists. Degrees are offered in a wide variety of disciplines, from Industrial Design to Animation to Art Education.

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (12)Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Which Art School Is the Best Choice for You?

All of the schools on this list will give you a great education in the arts, but some of them might be better fits than others for you and your interests. Location is a big factor to consider in deciding on the right art school for you. A few of these schools are located in the heart of New York City, which might be an awesome place for some students but an overwhelming place for others. Learn more about the differences between colleges in urban and rural environments.

You should also consider the program offerings of each school. The School of Visual Arts, for example, is a great place for film majors. Parsons is a great place for students who are interested in fashion and digital arts.

If you're still not sure exactly what you want to study in the arts, you should choose a school that has a first-year general education program and a strong advising system like California College of the Arts. If you are sure of what you want to study, you might choose a school like Art Center College of Design, which allows students to begin working in their chosen major from day one without any general education requirements.

Admissions statistics are important as well. If your grades aren't spectacular, you should look for a school where admission is granted mainly based on artistic talent and a lower GPA and test scores won't ruin your chances. Some of these schools can be very competitive, but if you present an impressive portfolio, you can expect to have a shot at admission.

What's Next?

If you're planning on going to art school, you'll need to create a portfolio of your best work. Learn more about how to make a great portfolio that will impress your dream school.

Interested in studying film? Read our article on how to get into film school.

(Video) The 10 Best Art Schools in the World

Are you worried about how your test scores might affect your chances of attending college? This article will tell you when SAT and ACT scores don't matter in the admissions process.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States (13)

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Samantha Lindsay

About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.

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(Video) Top 10 Schools to Study Fine Arts in the USA


What is the hardest art school to get into in the US? ›

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has the lowest acceptance rate of any art and design school in the world, making it the most competitive of its kind. Having been dubbed as the hardest art school to get into, the arts are an essential part of the core curriculum and the research community at MIT.

What are 2 of the best art and illustration schools in the United States? ›

Top Colleges for Illustration

The best ranked schools for Illustration majors include School of Visual Arts, Art Center College of Design and Ringling College of Art and Design with 166 students graduating with a degree in Illustration at School of Visual Arts.

Do most artists go to art school? ›

The answer is no, but it can increase your advantages of earning your dream job as an artist. Going to art school is not necessary. Statistics show that out of the 1.4 million working artists, only 40% of them do not have a bachelor's degree but of the remaining 60%, only 16% have an arts-related bachelor's degree.

What is the number 1 art school in the world? ›

1. Royal College of Art, the best art school in the world. The Royal College of Art is the leading art school in the world. This is evidenced by its number 1 ranking, which it has held for five consecutive years in the QS ranking system.

What city in the US is known for art? ›

San Francisco has the most art museums, theaters, music venues, cultural centers, art supply stores, and music shops per square mile out of all the cities in our ranking.

What is a good GPA for art school? ›

Common Art School Requirements

The typical high school GPA requirement of a top art college ranges from 3.3 to 3.9. Standardized Testing. Most art schools require that prospective students write the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or the American College Test (ACT).

Is art school worth the money? ›

Art school is useful for networking and making connections within the established art world. It's great socially. A college degree does not guarantee a job or a career path beyond teaching art. For most students, art education is a poor investment.

Where is the best art college in the world? ›

Top 10 Universities for Art & Design in the World Based on the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020
RankName of InstitutionLocation
1Royal College of ArtUnited Kingdom
2University of the Arts LondonUnited Kingdom
3Parsons School of Design at The New SchoolUnited States
8 more rows

Where is the art capital of the US? ›

New York. New York remains the leading art capital in the U.S., having held that title since the postwar era. According to the report, New York has the largest share of art institutions in the country, accounting for 26 percent.

What states are known for art? ›

  • California. The entire state of California is brimming with incredible and inspiring art. ...
  • Illinois. Illinois is home to one of the greatest museums in world, the Art Institute of Chicago. ...
  • Michigan. Another must-visit state that should be on any art lover's list is Michigan. ...
  • New Mexico. ...
  • New York. ...
  • Ohio. ...
  • Pennsylvania. ...
  • Texas.

What is the highest paying art major? ›

Here are six careers you can get with an art degree that will keep you fulfilled financially and creatively.
  • Art director. Average pay: $89,760 per year. ...
  • User Experience (UX) designer. Average pay: $87,883 per year (Glassdoor) ...
  • Multimedia artists/animators. ...
  • Architect. ...
  • Creative director. ...
  • Fashion designer.

What is the highest job in arts? ›

Creative Director

Is a career in the arts worth it? ›

Career paths in the arts can be daunting for both students and their parents to contemplate, but according to research by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), employment and job satisfaction for art major alumni are on par with those of other college graduates.

What famous artists have no degree? ›

Some of the world's most famous artists never had a formal training including Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring, to name a few. Some people believe that an art degree can prevent artists from demonstrating the true extent of their talent.

Where is the best place to become an artist? ›

1. Los Angeles, CA
RankCityArtistic and Cultural Establishments
1Los Angeles40,490
2New York23,995
49 more rows

Which city is the art capital of the world? ›

New York. New York is the art capital of the world, boasting 654 art events to visit this year, nearly double London which is ranked second. The Big Apple hosts over 500 art galleries with an impressive average gallery Google Rating of 4.6.

What art school has the highest acceptance rate? ›

Academy of Art University San

Where is the most beautiful school in the world? ›

Oxford University in Oxford, England.

Where is the best place to live as an artist? ›

If you're wondering “Where is the best place to live for artists?”, wonder no more!
Best Large Cities for Artists
  1. New York City, New York. ...
  2. Los Angeles, California. ...
  3. Chicago, Illinois. ...
  4. Houston, Texas. ...
  5. London, England. ...
  6. Paris, France. ...
  7. Barcelona, Spain. ...
  8. Atlanta, Georgia.
Dec 30, 2022

What state buys the most art? ›

This week we published a report on art buying habits across the US, with Tallahassee, Florida, revealed as the number one art buying city, with 1,303 artworks bought per million inhabitants in 2016.

Do you need a good SAT score for art school? ›

School of Visual Arts SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)

In other words, a 1060 places you below average, while a 1323 will move you up to above average. There's no absolute SAT requirement at School of Visual Arts, but they really want to see at least a 1060 to have a chance at being considered.

Do art schools require SAT? ›

Most art college admissions offices now require applicants to provide high school transcripts and grade-point averages, submit SAT or ACT test scores, as well as a portfolio and a recommendation from a high school art teacher.

Do grades matter in art college? ›

Grades and SAT scores still matter.

Art schools want to know that their students are serious about education. By looking at your grades, colleges can tell what kind of student you'll be if you attend their school. Even the best portfolio can't win over an admissions committee if the student's grades are sub-par.

Is art school the same as college? ›

Art schools usually have a liberal arts department, but generally speaking, the courses are not academically rigorous compared to a college or university. At a liberal arts college, you get to meet people from all different types of majors.

How many art schools are in the US? ›

With over 300 accredited fine arts schools in the US, international students will want to find out ways to narrow down their search for the perfect school.

Is art school a college or university? ›

The final and most common type of art school, a state supported or private program, would be at a university or college. It typically is a BA program, but also might be a BFA, MA, or MFA.

Is it smart to get an art degree? ›

Despite the stigma surrounding art majors, an art degree can be an excellent opportunity to develop and hone the studio skills necessary to forge a career as a professional artist. Both the environment and length of the program allow students to learn relevant tools and surround themselves with like-minded individuals.

Can you be an artist without art school? ›

But again, to be an artist, display in galleries, or sell your own work, you do not need to go to art school or have a degree in art. Most of the time, you just need to prove you know what you're doing.

Where is art most famous? ›

  1. Rome, Italy. The Vatican Museum alone earns Rome its place on any artistic list. ...
  2. Paris, France. What artistic tour would be complete without a stop at the world's largest and arguably most famous museum? ...
  3. Berlin, Germany. ...
  4. Valencia, Spain. ...
  5. Hong Kong. ...
  6. New York City, USA. ...
  7. San Francisco, USA. ...
  8. Florence, Italy.

What is the most popular art style in America? ›

Pop Art. Pop Art is perhaps one of the most well-known and well-loved art styles throughout history and for good reason. It is, after all, a reimagination of sorts that “popped up” and took inspiration from mass or popular culture, particularly American consumerist culture, hence the name.

Where is the largest art district in the US? ›

Located in the northeast corner of downtown Dallas, the Dallas Arts District is the largest contiguous urban arts district in the nation, spanning 118 acres. This iconic neighborhood has more buildings designed by Pritzker award-winning architects than any location in the world.

Which state has the most art museums? ›

When it comes to state breakdowns, California has the most museums, with nearly 3,000.

How do I know if art school is right for me? ›

Before going to art school…
  • How specific are your interests? If you enjoy art and don't know how you want to pursue it, what mediums you want to work in, or what you want to do with your art talent, then a formal study of art may be just the ticket.
  • How advanced are your skills? ...
  • What is your learning style?
Nov 18, 2015

Are art school Hard? ›

An art major in a good program will be brutally difficult. The raw number of hours required will be right up there with the pre-med students, and the work is consistently taxing both emotionally and intellectually.

What is the number 1 art school in America? ›

Best Art Schools
University of California--Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA #1 in Best Fine Arts Programs Save4.5
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL #2 in Best Fine Arts Programs (tie) Save4.3
Yale University New Haven, CT #2 in Best Fine Arts Programs (tie) Save4.3
9 more rows

What is the most famous performing arts school? ›

Julliard School

Are art schools worth it? ›

Despite the stigma surrounding art majors, an art degree can be an excellent opportunity to develop and hone the studio skills necessary to forge a career as a professional artist. Both the environment and length of the program allow students to learn relevant tools and surround themselves with like-minded individuals.

Where is it best to study art? ›

Some of the best countries to study art include France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Each of these countries has world-renowned art schools and a rich culture and history to explore. If you're looking for a more affordable option, consider studying art in Germany or Australia.

What are the six major performing arts? ›

Types of performing arts
  • Performing arts include the dance, music, opera, drama, magic, oratory and circus arts.
  • Artists who participate in performing arts in front of an audience are called performers, including actors, comedians, dancers, magicians, musicians, and singers.


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