So you want to go to RISD

Advice from students for the:





Applying to college can be strenuous enough without having to worry about creating a body of work, oddly specific home tests or portfolio reviews. However daunting it may be, it's not impossible. Here are a few pointers on getting your affairs in order.

Variety will save your ass

Arguably the most important part of your application is your portfolio. Your work will be scrutinized, mulled over and compared to thousands of others. One of the most important things to remember, and the easiest to forget, is that your portfolio has a much higher chance of getting you in if you focus on the work as a group, and don't think of your pieces individually. RISD doesn't care if you can photorealistically render twelve portraits. What they're looking for isn't technical perfection (that can be drilled in later) but rather a willingness to experiment and mess with expectations.

I'm confident the only reason I was admitted was variety: I submitted a collection of mediocre paintings, drawings, photography, animation, design, typography, digital illustration, building models, and shoes made of trash. If I had submitted 15 photos or illustrations of average quality, I doubt I'd be where I am today.

If you're not a photographer, learn

Don't shoot your college portfolio in your bedroom with an iPhone.

Give them something new

Admissions is tired of looking at drawings of hands and eyes.

Grades don't matter (but they do)

It's art school. That said, it's the most academically competitive U.S. art school.

Apply early if you can

It's more likely to get you in, and you'll probably get better housing.

Be honest on your essays

Making an essay personal can help you write it, and make it more fun to read.

Don't just render a bike

People have written the word "bike" on paper and been accepted.


You got in? Great! The fun is just starting, though- you should figure out what to pack, what to buy, where you're living, who you're living with, how to get home, and how to deal with the black hole of cash known as RISD before heading out in September.

You don't need everything

Packing is probably the most intimidating/satisfying/cathartic experience of the summer before college. You end up looking at everything you've amassed over the 18 (give or take) years of your existence so far. It's easy to just want to take as much as you can, and easy to justify bringing almost everything; "Who knows, I might use it one day" is a powerful argument for all manner of things. Despite the temptation to pack for all manner of hypotheticals, try to only pack things you absolutely know you'll use. And this can apply to art supplies too; there's a good chance you won't end up using those oil paints, origami paper, etc.

I ended up throwing out probably half of my posessions at the end of the year after it sat in my room useless for nine months. It's much easier to add stuff to your packing list than to pare it down, but having a room cluttered with random shit when you're trying to make a fully functional street cart/life size replica of yourself/12 foot long drawing isn't worth the trouble.

It gets pretty damn cold

Don't skimp on the heaviest jackets you can find.

Find your roommate beforehand

It's easier to move in with someone you already know.

Don't buy most supplies

Most first-year profs have very specific material requests.

Have a budget (or rich parents)

$2,000 a year is average for miscellaneous supplies + costs, but $6-8,000 isn't unheard of.

Themed housing isn't themed

Go for AC or nicer dorms, the themes actually don't make a difference.

Consider asking for a single

The college double is classic, but being able to sleep whenever you want cannot be underestimated.


When you're finally in Providence, it's easy to get swept away by the excitement and craziness that is orientation. Don’t be fooled, though; you're in for a brutal 9 months. Buckle in and try to survive until next summer.

Talk in crit
(a lot)

Critique is considered by many to be the most important part of attending RISD. After hours, days or weeks creating your work, in addition to a probable lack of sleep, it's tempting to just lapse into silence and let the words flow over your head. After all, there's not really any direct consequence of not speaking up. The problem is that almost everyone thinks this way, and if enough people are loath to engage in discussion, critiques will just consist of the professor's opinion with some uncomfortable silence mixed in. It's better to just chime in, even if you have no idea what you're talking about (which you probably won't the first couple of times.)

Another reason to talk in crit is that professors love it (maybe because that way they don't have to say as much). Throughout my foundation year, the students that spoke up the most were consistently on better terms with the professors, and being on better terms with the professors leads to getting better grades from those professors.

Don't wear nice clothes

Charcoal gets literally everywhere. As in, you will be sneezing black.

Get to the Met before 8 on Saturday

Unless you want to walk to Thayer at 11 and like paying for food.

Master explanation/ bullshitting

Even if your work is nice, if you can't back it up you can get torn to bits.

Sleep at lunch and at H101 lecture

The lectures aren't difficult to catch up on later, and you could use the sleep, trust me.

Art is play, but play isn't always fun

Ken Horii's mantra, don't forget to experiment- but remember that there has to be an end result.

It all depends on the professor

The way professors teach can vary wildly, though most are equally difficult.

by Barron Webster