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Portfolio Tips

Student looking through artwork on the floor
A visual art portfolio is an important part of the MassArt application. First-time college students applying to MassArt’s undergraduate BFA program will need to submit a selection of 15-20 examples of their strongest work made during the past 2 years. A portfolio should convey an applicant’s interests, skills and willingness to explore and experiment. A portfolio is also an opportunity to express yourself and communicate your unique, personal ideas. 

Transfer applicants have slightly different portfolio requirements: In addition to the guidelines on this page, a transfer applicant’s portfolio should contain 3-5 examples of work from each studio course taken at other post-secondary institutions. Most transfer students submit 20-30 pieces total. Transfer credit will be awarded based on the strength of the examples provided. Transfer applicants are encouraged to schedule a virtual portfolio review and/or transcript evaluation before applying. 

Learn more about building, preparing and submitting your portfolio to apply to MassArt:

A portfolio is a collection of original visual artwork that represents your skills, interests and ideas. Every portfolio is as unique as the person applying. There is not one, universal approach when constructing a portfolio, but there are general things to consider while preparing and developing work for your portfolio. Keep in mind that every art school will have different portfolio requirements. 

  • Stay productive and make artwork regularly. 
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of the principle elements of art and design (color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value etc.).
  • Express yourself - allow your ideas and personality to come through in your work.
  • Portfolios may concentrate on a single medium or may show a variety of media.
  • Work with materials you enjoy or try experimenting with new ones.
  • Explore subject matter that interests you.
  • Portfolio work can come from class assignments or can be self-directed work made outside of class.
  • Portfolio work does not have to be connected by a unifying theme or concept. 
  • Develop your work to the best of your ability (try to complete as much work as possible).
  • Be selective when choosing which pieces will be included in your portfolio - not every piece you make is necessary for your portfolio; show us your strongest and most recent work when applying.
  • Start early and make work as often as you can. This will give you plenty of work to choose from when it comes time to put your portfolio together.
  • Do not include artwork that is a direct copy of another artist’s work, design, ideas or characters.
  • Do not submit theater performances, musical recordings, screenplays, or creative writing samples in your portfolio. If submitted, they will not be reviewed. 
  • Scheduling a portfolio review with one of MassArt’s Admissions Counselors is a great way to get feedback on your work and will help you identify your strongest pieces.

When you apply to MassArt, you will submit your portfolio electronically. Work that is not in a digital format already will need to be photographed. Take care at this step so that your work is represented in the best way possible. 

  • Make sure images are cropped whenever necessary.
  • Consider lighting. Your work typically looks best in even, white light.
  • Preview pieces first on a computer to make sure files open and do not appear too small or blurry.
  • Document your work/process periodically. That way, if a piece gets lost or damaged, you can still use it for the portfolio.
  • Avoid giving the viewer any reason to be distracted from looking at your work.
  • Portfolios must be submitted digitally through your MassArt Applicant Portal. Students gain access to this portal after applying through Common App. Login info to the Applicant Portal is emailed within 1-2 days after completing Common App. 
  • Most file types are compatible. Each digital image file can be saved as a jpg/png/TIFF, or gif/mp4/wav for films, videos and animations.
  • Images of your work must be uploaded individually. Do not submit your final portfolio as a PowerPoint presentation, PDF or link to a website.

A virtual portfolio review with MassArt is an opportunity to get feedback on work that you are considering including in your portfolio. This review is optional and not a requirement for applying. The work shared during your review may or may not be included in your final portfolio. Before having a virtual review, consider the following.

  • Document your work so that you have images that you can share on your screen (see next section for more info).
  • Some students arrange their work in a slideshow format such as Powerpoint or Google Slides. This works well for a virtual review.
  • Stay organized and keep your potential portfolio pieces together in a folder or in a place where you can easily locate them.
  • You also have the option to share a link to your portfolio when you register for your portfolio review. 

Virtual Meeting: First-Time College Students

Virtual Meeting: Transfer Students

  • Do I need observational drawings? 
    • While drawing from observation is not a requirement for MassArt, we advise students to practice it prior to enrolling. Students in the Studio Foundation Year are required to take and pass two drawing classes before declaring their major. 
  • Can I submit fan art?
    • The work in your portfolio should be original. We discourage students from submitting artworks created directly from pre-existing media. We understand how work is influenced by other artists, but you should strive to create things that feel unique to you. 
  • What if I have fewer than 15 pieces? 
    • We would like to see a minimum of 15 pieces since this gives us an accurate understanding of your art making practice, passion for creativity and overall interest in engaging with creative processes. 
    • If you are struggling to meet the minimum requirement, please contact your Admissions Counselor with any concerns or questions. 
  • Can I submit musical recordings, theater performances or creative writing pieces? 
    • Since MassArt is a visual art school, we require visual artworks in portfolio submissions. Musical recordings, theater performances and creative writing pieces will not be reviewed. • T: 617.879.7222 • F: 617.879.7250