Need college list ideas for Art and Science interests

Would love some ideas on building a list for D23 (junior)!

She is an exceptional visual artist who currently attends a magnet arts high school. She is typically the only junior in her class of 250+ whose art is selected to be displayed in on-and-off campus exhibitions. We are hopeful that she will be a contender for recognition in several national art awards, but we won’t know until after she submits her portfolio this upcoming spring. Her concentration is figure painting and sculpture.

Academically, she is a science and math kid. In particular, she loves physics. She is currently ranked first in her class, with a 4.0 uw GPA. First SAT score was 1460, but she has been practice testing in the 1500-1530 range. Waiting to hear about PSAT scores, but we expect her to qualify for National Hispanic Recognition.

Her HS counselors have been clear that she will likely be bored with an art major at a liberal arts college, because her current program teaches classes at a college level. She can’t imagine not continuing to improve her art skills, but she is also a very practical kid and doesn’t want to be a starving artist after college. RISD/Brown looks interesting, but of course merit doesn’t appear to be a thing there.

It would be very difficult to qualify for need-based aid (divorced parents who have remarried), so merit will be important … particularly since during her freshmen year in college we will have (gulp) 3 kids in college at the same time. We will apply, but need to be realistic that it likely won’t happen, and we can’t pay full private school freight without some kind of aid. We can probably pay up to $55K/year … not shabby, but not $80K+.

Her list of wants include diversity, a not-urban campus, a campus with at least 3000 students, and an equestrian team (club is fine). I feel like diversity will be easier to find in an urban campus, so this list feels a bit like a unicorn. She sings in a national audition-based choir as well as a local audition-based choir with a well-known name, participates in school clubs, and has had a year-round part-time job since she was 15. She has also logged over 400 volunteer hours, mostly helping an equestrian non-profit.

UMD is our state school, and they appear to have a pretty cool blended major in art and technology. Marist has a campus in Florence, but I don’t know the quality of their art instruction. UMich Stamps School of Art looks interesting, as does WashU, but those certainly aren’t safeties for admission or merit.

Would love to hear your ideas!

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My first thought is RIT. She’d get merit, and they have a highly-regarded Industrial Design program: Industrial Design BFA | RIT and a whole range of other BFA programs. It’s a suburban campus, with the resources of a very music-rich city at hand. RIT obviously isn’t as strong in performing arts as Eastman/URoch, but lots of students participate in music ensembles Music at RIT | Performing Arts | RIT and the school is investing in this area Remaking of RIT has focus on performing arts And there’s an equestrian team: RIT Equestrian Team Diversity is not up there with the most diverse schools, but better than most (65% white, fwiw)… and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which is part of RIT, adds an interesting dimension in terms of diversity.


That’s a great idea. I had no idea that RIT had a robust BFA program! Sounds like it belongs on her list. She’s in the ASL club at school, so that would definitely be an interesting twist on diversity for her. We will check it out - thank you for your reply!

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Need based FA would be based on custodial parent household only for colleges that do not consider non custodial parent finances. Of the “prestige privates”, Chicago and Vanderbilt would be ones to check. Also check Princeton if the custodial parent is remarried.


I would look at Case Western. They have a collaborative program with the Cleveland Institute of Art. You would have to dig into the details of how the program works. CWRU may get you to your price point with merit.


If you’re checking out RIT (and you should), consider nearby University of Rochester too. They like music loving high stat science kids, and they have an equestrian team. The two colleges are down the road from each other - about 10 minutes or so driving time.


Thanks - will take a look! I always assumed that these schools would require FAFSA and CSS from both parents (both of us have remarried).

Funny that you suggest Case, which is the #1 choice for my other daughter who is graduating Spring 22! She applied EA and we are on the edge of our seats waiting for the decision. I never thought about their connection with Cleveland Art for D23. Will take a look!

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We visited U of Rochester for D22, and she applied RD! Such a pretty campus, and a great fit for her pre-med focus. Will also look at it through a different lens for my D23 artist. Thanks!

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In all seriousness, it would seem that universities teach art on the college level as well. Also, the best LACs for art may offer facilities for less common media such as metal-casting and ceramics, which might not be available at even large universities. With respect to physics, some LACs offer superb programs, especially when considered by their research opportunities.


I second RIT. We toured twice this year (second tour was just last weekend). The co-op program sounds great, the students look happy, the vibe is relaxed and collaborative, and it has a great mix of STEM and art classes/programs. We spoke to a former student in July who said he loved his time at RIT and would go back in a heartbeat. He got hired before graduation by the company with which he completed his second co-op. I believe they are trying to increase the number of women on their campus, so your D might get merit aid for both her great academic record as well as being female. The buildings are not pretty, but my D didn’t care because they have the major she wants (also a combo of tech and art), the kinds of clubs she wants, the vibe she wants, and the cold weather she wants. Diversity of US students is low, but 10% of the student body is made up of international students from 86 different countries. RIT doesn’t get a lot of love on CC, which I think is a shame. It really seems to have a lot to offer.


Good point! I think the HS counselor’s comment was an attempt to sway my daughter toward focusing on an art-only program such as RISD/Pratt/MICA instead of trying to “have it all” by doing art/physics at a LAC. I get what the counselor was trying to say but I don’t buy it. D23 is a true “STEAM” kid, and whether it’s at a university or LAC, I refuse to believe that the only way she can get a super strong art program is by going to art school and forfeiting her science interests.

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@JAF09 thanks for those insights! Curious to know what program your daughter is interested in studying at RIT? The more I learn about the school, the more excited I am about the match for my D23’s interests and preferred vibe. Good to know that 10% of the school is international, which will be appealing to her as well!

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My D23 is looking at schools that have combo CS/Game Design programs. RIT has a pretty highly rated program (although there are soooooo many problems with the available ‘ratings’ lists that we are literally looking in-depth on our own at every single program). She is looking for a CS/GD program that is a little heavier on the CS, but also includes a satisfying amount of GD, plus some art and a bit of music (she does drawing as a hobby and has played violin for 12 years). So far RIT’s program, along with the co-op program, looks very good. RIT is also building a huge new student space (the SHED - Student Hall for Exploration and Development) that will house a really large maker space, plus more room for the performing arts (rehearsal spaces, a dance studio, a music studio, and a black-box theater). It looks pretty cool and should be open fall of 2023. This is in addition to their existing arts/performance spaces. They also have MAGIC Spell Studios, which is a media design/production lab that they use for employment and/or research collaborations with companies - a good opportunity for students to get more experience practicing their skills while staying on campus.

While we didn’t end up to talking to their son (because my D chickened out on texting the guy to see if he’d meet us for coffee during our recent visit), friends of of mine have a freshman at RIT and they confirmed what we heard about the happy students/collaborative attitude/chill vibe on campus. Their son chose to go the engineering exploration route, where students try all different types of engineering during their first year before picking an engineering major. He loves it and has already found a passion within the egineering department (micro engineering, I think).

We’re not done looking at schools, but my D really likes RIT because it’s a STEM school with a whole bunch of art. Another bonus: Southwest Airlines flies direct from BWI to Rochester. It’s a short flight and the Rochester airport is very close to the school (we live in MD, too). Good luck! I am sure there are other great STEAM schools out there; I hope she finds one that fits both her desires and your budget.


@JulieKM, Your daughter sounds like an amazing kid, sure to be a candidate of interest to many schools. Unless I’m misreading your comments, it seems that she would benefit from being able to pursue both love of art and love of science. Eventually, her path will become clearer, but at this point she shouldn’t have to forfeit one or the other.

Small liberal arts colleges aren’t for everyone, but I can attest to the quality of their art departments and quality of their instructors (many of whom are successful, practicing artists). And at most, it would be possible to double major in studio art AND physics (or any other of the sciences).

Some LACs with excellent art departments plus very good to excellent sciences (including physics) are Williams, Hamilton, Wesleyan, Haverford, Kenyon, Skidmore, Smith, Conn College.

Williams is the one I’m the most familiar with so I can say that they favor students with who are accomplished both in academics and the arts. Double majors in art or music + math/science are common. Multiple vocal performance opportunities are available to non-majors. The three world-class museums on or near campus enhance the hands-on process orientation of the art department.

All of these schools are smaller than 3000 students. All have some type of equestrian team or club (Skidmore notably). Percentages vary, but all strive to attract a student body that is diverse on many levels.

The first 4 do not, as far as I know, offer merit aid; however they can be very generous with need-based aid. Run the net price calculators and, if you’re inclined, talk to the financial aid people. They’re used to dealing with family complexities and can be quite helpful.

The last 3 do offer merit aid. I’m not sure about Conn College.

I would note that Brown has a strong fine art department separate from its association with RISD. I would also look at Tufts’ program with the Boston School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Carnegie Mellon’s interdisciplinary programs, especially their Bachelor of Science and the Arts.


Wesleyan’s enrollment is around 3,000:

Wesleyan Equestrian Team | Facebook

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I see the recommendations for RIT and feel I have to jump in. I’ll admit I know nothing about their programs but one of my sons best friends just transferred out because he was miserable. He said that most people just stayed in their rooms and played video games all the time. According to this kid there was virtually no social life. He is now at UConn where he is much happier because he says there are normal people who want to do something other than play video games. I realize this is just a data point of one, but you may find it valuable.

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The school that first popped in mind for your DD was Stanford. I know it has a “no aid” reputation, but you might run their Net Price Calculator to see if you meet their definition of need. Of course, it is a reach school for everyone, but maybe less so for someone with your DD’s combination of characteristics.

Others to consider:

Baylor (not enough diversity?)
Washington University in St. Louis
Sarah Lawrence (maybe lacking in the kind of academic programs she wants?)

For bigger aid, thinking outside the box (and of places where science, art, horses, and diversity come together), I know University of New Mexico is very generous with National Merit aid and has strengths in physics (particularly nuclear — due to proximity to Los Alamos, I suspect) and is located not far from New Mexico’s art hub in Santa Fe. It doesn’t look like the school has an equestrian team, but I am sure the community has something to offer.

University of Colorado - Boulder is another (less diverse?) option

Colorado College is a great LAC that would tick a lot of your boxes, too.

Good luck! Your kiddo sounds amazing!

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Yes, it’s definitely not a party school. The kids may be too chill for the OP’s daughter.

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@JAF09 my daughter is more of an introvert, so the crowded room, loud music, can’t-hear-what-other-people-are-saying party scene is definitely not her thing. That said, people staying in rooms playing video games wouldn’t appeal either, but getting outdoors to hike with a group in the Adirondacks would. Based on the mixed feedback here, we will definitely check out which direction RIT leans.

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