I’m not an expert, but I have been helping my son these past 18 months to get trained enough for a strong portfolio for Graphic Design. He’s a senior and applied to 12 schools, and so far, he has been accepted to 8 of them (waiting to hear back from the remaining four, which includes his top choices). He applied to the more globally known ones as well as more regionally known ones. We are in NJ and tried to stay within driving distance to be more cost-effective in the long run…if not for location, he would have applied to CalArts and Ringling as well. The 12 are Pratt, PrattMWP, RISD, VCUarts, MICA, Cooper Union, MassArt, Rutgers (Mason Gross), Parsons, SVA, MassArt, and SAIC. He’s a 3.5 weighted GPA, only AP classes were AP Art and AP Japanese and only honors classes were the three math classes and one English class. 1330 SAT.
Pretty good portfolio, given that he’d only start taking real drawing classes (versus cartooning and anime classes) the summer before junior year. Not as incredibly detailed or fancy as someone who might have been thinking and drawing like that for years and years.
So far, of the 8 schools that accepted him, PrattMWP gave enough merit to decrease the cost of attendance to about $35K for us (with room/board), but the area is kind of a dead area…not much to do around there until the students relocate to Pratt in Brooklyn for junior/senior year. RIT included a generous grant with their merit $$, which also ended up lowering the cost to about $35K…but it’s also a very gray depressing area. SAIC and MassArt gave enough merit to lower cost to about $40sK. Accepted to VCUarts, but have not heard about merit yet, though, without merit, it’s within 40sK range. Declined SVA’s offer because it was just not enough. Rutgers for us, in-state, would be the most cost-effective because even without merit, it’s under $30K. Waiting to hear from Pratt (without having to go through PrattMWP), RISD, Parsons, and Cooper Union. Cooper Union pretty much guarantees at least half-tuition scholarships to all students, if they are lucky enough to be amongst the 7% to be accepted, and that would bring the cost of attendance, with housing, to $38K.
He did not apply to FIT because he did not want to have to reapply at the end of sophomore to get into the BFA program for GD (FIT students go in for Associates degree for the first two years, similar to PrattMWP, but PrattMWP guarantees relocation/transfer to Pratt in Brooklyn for BFA for the remaining two years, whereas FIT requires the students to reapply).
I suggest doing a lot of experimenting in the artwork. The stronger portfolios are where a lot of merit $$ for art schools go to (not as much the GPA/SAT). Cooper Union’s home test prompts were really great at getting my son to do exceptional original work…too bad it was the last school he applied to, and therefore, the only school that will see the great work. In hindsight, he should have applied EA for that one so that he could come up with great pieces for the rest of the schools. They are truly mindful prompts, and if your D has trouble thinking of pieces to make, I would look up Cooper Union hometest prompts. RISD prompts and Parsons prompts are also inspiring.
National Portfolio Day portfolio reviews are a great place to see exactly what each school wants. I highly recommend going (and it’s free). You can also tell from NPD which schools are the ones that everyone wants to go to. There will be multiple tables for those schools and taped borders to control lines. Yeah, that was fun. LOL. I also recommend applying EA when possible because more acceptances and merit seem to go out to EA students.
I hope this information was useful. Good luck to your D. I can update you when we hear back from the other schools, but I have a feeling RISD doesn’t give a lot of merit $$, Parsons is just incredibly expensive (and so is their housing), and CU is most likely a rejection.