Interview with Ms. Lydia Thompson, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies

Interview with Ms. Lydia Thompson, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies

at Virginia Commonwealth University

When selecting prospective students, what factors are considered by your admissions staff? (e.g. grades, portfolio, class rank, etc.)

We consider the following:

  • Overall grade point average
  • SAT/ACT, TOFEL scores
  • Most importantly, the portfolio

We also look at the profile of the high school of where the applicant is attending.

What do you look for in a prospective student's portfolio?

  • Direct observational drawing
  • Good composition, use of color
  • Diverse subject matter
  • Level of investigation of subject matter
  • Self portrait, human figure studies
  • Variety of wet and dry materials
  • Three dimensional art work
  • Imagination

Most students include computer images, but computer images don't show us how well the student can draw. The portfolio doesn't have to be slick and perfect, but the work should be fresh and alive. It should show potential.

What kinds of things are you looking for in an interview with a prospective student?

  • Knowedge of our programs
  • What are their educational goals
  • Committment and passion to the field.
  • Leadership skills
  • Motivation

What three things can most likely DECREASE their chances of getting accepted?

In order of priority:

  • Weak portfolio
  • Low SATs and grade point average
  • Apply for admissions too late

In your opinion, what are the overall top five art schools in the United States? How about the top five in the World?

  • School of Visual Arts
  • Art Center College of Design
  • Rhode Island School of Art and Design
  • Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts
  • Alfred University

How selective are art schools in general?

Most art schools screen applicants merely by the application requirements. Therefore, only those students who are somewhat serious will apply.

Since 60 - 75% of the curriculum at a pre-professional program is a studio experience so we must see enough potential in the portfolio to for a student to succeed. We at VCU Arts are on a scale from 1 to 10, we are about a 7 in terms of be above average regarding selectivity. However, what's interesting is how a student with an average profile (SATS, GPA and skill level) can be highly successful if placed in a supportive and vibrant environment.

What advice can you provide to students who are trying to get accepted into art schools?

  • Research your high school art curriculum to build your skills
  • Participate in summer art programs
  • If your school does not teach figure drawing, enroll in art class at your local community college.
  • Attend National Portfolio Days to get feedback regarding the quality of your portfolio.

What percentage of applicants to you accept?

Our acceptance rate is approximately 74 percent.

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