Should I Submit an Arts Supplement?

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Perhaps you’ve dedicated time in high school to playing the cello with your youth orchestra, or you’ve played a handful of lead roles in your school’s drama productions. Showing colleges your artistic accomplishments can be hard to do on a written application, but did you know that you can submit supplemental materials to show off your command of the stage? Whether you’re a visual or performing artist, you might want to consider submitting an Arts Supplement — scroll down to read our FAQ.

What is an arts supplement?

An arts supplement is a portfolio that showcases a college applicant’s skills/accomplishments in the visual a/o performing arts. Arts supplements are not required; applicants use them to showcase artistic endeavors that are hard to summarize in a written application. These can include filmed monologues for applicants who are accomplished actors, slideshows of a visual artist’s work, or a video of a dancer’s skills. Arts supplements should showcase your best work, and the unique artistic qualities that you bring to the table.

Should I submit one?

You should submit an arts supplement if you are accomplished in a particular artistic field AND if the college allows arts supplements. It can often be difficult to convey artistic accomplishments in the written part of the application; therefore, you might want to film yourself acting a monologue or playing the cello to show colleges your skills as an artist. Giving colleges way too much supplemental information can hurt your application, but if you put together a succinct showcase of your skills that you believe will give colleges a deeper understanding of how you would contribute to that college’s community, go ahead. The arts supplement should show off your best work — they don’t need to see you sing three arias, just your best one. Arts supplements benefit students who have dedicated a lot of time and effort to their artistic development: if you took piano back in middle school but then quit, or have taken a beginning painting class, the arts supplement probably isn’t for you.

What if I don’t want to major in the arts?

Many students submit arts supplements without knowing what they want to major in. Colleges want students with diverse interests and talents — students who are physics majors and play in an extracurricular jazz combo, for example. If you are an award-winning classical pianist and might want to participate in the music department while majoring in English, it would be worth putting together an arts supplement.

Who reviews arts supplements?

Usually the admissions office will pass your arts supplement on to the department that teachers that form of art. So, visual arts professors will review your photography portfolio, acting professors will watch your monologue video, the music department will watch your saxophone performance, etc. They will be thinking about whether they would like to have you as a student in their department. They know their stuff, so make sure you submit your best work. (This doesn’t mean you have to be an absolutely perfect singer who has appeared on Broadway or a sculptor who has had a solo exhibition — they do want students to whom they can give new skills!)

A college I’m applying to offers in-person auditions. Should I go to the audition or submit a supplement?

If you are able to go to a college’s in-person audition, always opt for the in-person option. Traveling to a college can be expensive and take a lot of time, so don’t feel pressured to go if doing so would create undue burden on you and your family. But if the college is somewhat nearby, audition in person. Meeting the professors face-to-face will help them remember you better, and you will get a better idea of whether you enjoy working with the faculty members that the college has chosen to represent them to applicants.

If you are self-taping an acting audition, check out this list of tips from Backstage.com about how to film a successful audition. If you are taping a singing audition, you might find this list of tips from Broadway Stars that Playbill.com compiled helpful.

When should I start working on my arts supplement?

The sooner the better! The summer before senior year is the best time to get your portfolio done. Once fall starts, you’ll be busy writing essays for your applications, so do yourself a favor and film/photograph/scan your work over the summer. For visual arts supplements, you won’t be sending in your actual works of art; you will most likely send in photographs of your pieces. You might need time to find a high-quality camera, download your photos, and touch them up if necessary. If you’re submitting a singing or dancing supplement, you will need to coordinate a time to rehearse and then film with a pianist and videographer (a parent or friend with a high-quality camera on a tripod will suffice). If you’ll be acting in your arts supplement, give yourself enough time to get confident in your monologues so you have time to find all the beats and nuances instead of just trying to say the right words.

I’m a visual artist and noticed that there are file size restrictions. What file types work best?

To maintain quality of the image and to stay within the file size limit, try a 300dpi tif file first. Some size limits are more restrictive, in which case you should try 72dpi.

To recap, here is your arts supplement submission checklist:

  • Check each of your college’s websites for their policies on whether they accept arts supplements
  • Make sure you know whether the arts supplement due date is different from the application due date
  • Read each college’s instructions for what they want — two contrasting musical pieces, dances, or monologues? A privately listed YouTube link or DVD? An online slideshow of your visual art or hard copies?
  • Give yourself plenty of time to select the pieces that show off your unique talents best — and practice (if you’re submitting a performing arts supplement)
  • Troubleshoot your technology (e.g. video cameras, speakers, iMovie) ahead of time
  • For performing arts, on the day of your shoot, give yourself plenty of time to do multiple takes
  • Check your lighting and sound/video quality
  • Look at the college’s instructions one last time before you upload the file

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Questions? Let us know!