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Whether you dream of 4 years of intensive painting study at Columbia University or you prefer to continue your extracurricular passion for the violin at Stanford, the artistic supplement, also called the “arts portfolio” or the “additional arts form,” can be a great way to impress admissions officers with meaningful insight into your track record of artistry. The decision to submit a supplement and the nature of the submission itself, however, both bear underestimated heft in your admissions outcome, so it’s important to keep the following guidelines in mind when you’re creating your artistic supplement this fall.

Step 1: Deciding Whether or Not to Submit

The first and often most undervalued step in the artistic supplement submission process is simply determining whether or not your submission could earn top scores with admissions committees. Once submitted, artistic supplements undergo thorough review by faculty who have  expertise in the field of your submission, ultimately emerging with an evaluation that admissions officers factor into the overall evaluation of your application. Even an above-average evaluation could only prove to be neutral to mildly positive in its influence upon your admissions decision, while a poor evaluation could actually injure your application, so this crucial analysis of the risk should not be overlooked. As a rule of thumb, only include a supplement that you are sure would demonstrate an extraordinary level of artistic prowess to avoid an adverse impact on your application.

Step 2: Compiling Your Highlight Reel 

The second step involves collecting your finest artistic materials into an collection that may include, but is not limited to: video or mp3 files, high-resolution images, digital clippings documenting times your art was in the media, and/or glowing recommendations from your instructors in the field. Brevity and impact are your prime objectives, so you should definitely talk to any teachers or mentors in your field to choose the pieces that most succinctly encapsulate your artistic proficiency. The select few should be (1) recent and (2) tethered to the areas of artistic passion that you mention elsewhere in your application, serving as the final garnish to the story you tell in your activities and awards sections. This focus on relating the artistic supplement to your demonstrated interests bears a special importance if you intend to major in the field of your supplement.

Step 3: Researching Your Schools’ Submission Protocol 

The third and final step of the process entails actually submitting the artistic supplement to your schools, an action with a protocol that may differ based upon school and application type. Some schools, such as Princeton, actually specify the mediums of art that may be considered for a supplement, so take special heed to those guidelines, and note that artistic supplements may only be submitted through the Common Application, Coalition Application, or Universal College Application platforms. However, the majority of colleges utilize an electronic platform called Slideroom that charges a small submission fee.

Ultimately, an artistic supplement should provide you with an unique opportunity to shine in front of the admissions committee, but you should only include it if you are 100% confident that your art will work in your favor. When in doubt, speak with any artistic instructors you may have about how your efforts would compare to other applicants on a national scale, and, even if you ultimately decide not to submit, you should still feel confident allowing your artistic passion to shine through your activities list, essays, awards section. Either way, approaching the artistic supplement with an open mind, a sense of self-awareness, and a pragmatic reflection upon your artistic accomplishments sooner rather than later will position you optimally for the upcoming application season. Best of luck!

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