College Scholarships for Creative Students
If you’re a creative student, a fine arts scholarship is an excellent opportunity for you to receive financial aid for college. Whether you specialize in illustration, painting, dance, sculpture, music, or something else entirely, a fine arts scholarship can open up your world when it comes to pursuing your education in a field you love.
Scholarships range between a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, both for online colleges as well as traditional colleges study; and here’s everything you need to know if you want to win a scholarship—or a few—to fund your education.
Know Where to Apply
Before you do anything else, you need to research what scholarships you can apply for. Some colleges and universities may offer financial aid for fine arts students, and there are thousands of other institutions that support fine arts education. And, don't forget online degree programs too.
Searching for Scholarships
While some scholarships are available to any student who falls under the fine arts umbrella, other scholarships focus on specific fields like poetry, graphic design, or architecture, for example.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider checking out this list of over 70 scholarship search sites that are entirely free to use.
When you search for scholarships, consider applying for niche awards that target your field of study, age group, culture, location, experiences, or financial situation. The competition for these scholarships may be less than those with a broader range of applicants.
As you find more scholarships, pay attention to the requirements and deadlines to make sure that you qualify. Some college scholarships require that you already be enrolled, while others are for students who plan to go to college. You may also need to have a certain GPA or provide letters of recommendation.
Many Small Scholarships versus A Few Large Ones
Also, consider if you’d rather focus your attention on applying to in-depth scholarships with larger awards or a collection of scholarships with smaller awards. Both options can help you achieve your financial aid goals, and applying to various types of scholarships is a good idea.
Follow Application Instructions Exactly
Once you’ve narrowed down which scholarships you want to apply for, be sure to read and follow all the instructions to a tee. Some scholarships have vague or optional requirements, while others have strict rules about how to write essays, organize portfolios, prepare presentations, and submit materials.
For every scholarship you apply to, read and re-read the requirements and any preferences they may have. If you don’t, your application may demonstrate a lack of ability to follow instructions and allow the competition to soar past you. If you ever feel confused about scholarship requirements, it is okay to contact the organization that awards the scholarship and ask questions.
How to Craft an Excellent Portfolio
It might be tempting to submit all your favorite pieces of work in your portfolio—or all the ones you think are the best—but the secret to crafting a great portfolio is about more than hard skills.
Include Theme and Passion in Your Portfolio
A portfolio is a way to showcase not only your skills but your passion, direction, and values. Usually, you’ll want to have a theme—and some scholarships may require it. When you consider a theme, that doesn’t necessarily mean all painting or all sculpture. Some artists have a wide range of work that they do, and the question of whether it’s better to have a diverse or concentrated portfolio doesn’t always have a clear answer.
Is Variety or Specificity Better in a Fine Arts Portfolio?
If you want to include some sculpture, some illustration, and some painting, there’s no hard rule that says it’s a better or worse option than including only one type of fine art. The best choice for you depends on the scholarship you’re applying for, as well as your collection of work and personal goals.
Showcase Your Development as an Artist
When it comes to a fine arts portfolio, you want to display the best of the best. Sometimes, this idea can be overwhelming and make you feel like some of your work isn’t good enough. Since your work likely spans a course of time, you can examine how your art has evolved over time. Showcasing movement and development in an essay can speak louder than only including pristine and unchallenging art.
When Less is More
Some college scholarships will tell you exactly how many portfolio pieces they want, while others may provide a range. Some might not mention how many pieces to include at all. When students craft their first portfolios, a common mistake is to include as much work as possible.
For a portfolio, less is more in most scenarios. Not only is it easier to look and judge a few pieces of work—smaller, well-curated portfolios often show a thoughtfulness. If you’re just throwing all your work into the arena, the chances are you haven’t considered your portfolio as a whole. In general, ten pieces (give or take) is an average amount to include if the scholarship does not specify.
How to Write a Fine Arts Scholarship Essay
It’s common for scholarship applications, like college applications, to ask you for an essay. Some might provide a specific prompt like how your art helps your community, while others may feel much more open-ended. The most important thing when it comes to writing an essay that will win you a fine arts scholarship is that you plan ahead—and don’t wait until the last minute.
Choose a Topic You’re Passionate About
No matter what the prompt is, choose to write about something that sparks energy in you. If you’re too focused on what the committee wants to see, you’ll miss out on identifying your passion. When you genuinely care about something, it’s much easier for that passion and your voice to shine through.
Scholarships aren’t for people who want to go to college just for the sake of going to college. They’re intended for people with passions, aspirations, and ability—and you need to show that that’s a part of who you are.
How to Prepare a Portfolio Presentation
Some scholarships may ask you to present your portfolio—and your delivery of the presentation can weigh just as heavily as the rest of your portfolio. When you present, you want to communicate an understanding of your work and a vision for the future. Scholarships are awarded to students who not only do well but those who show their potential to do great things.
The key to nailing a presentation is practice. Write yourself a full script or bullet-pointed notes—whichever works best for you—and practice your performance in front of your mirror or your friends until you can’t remember how many times you’ve practiced it. Practice gives you the confidence you need, and it will help you work out any kinks in the presentation, like confusing moments or tongue twisters.
Win a Fine Arts Scholarship
When you follow this advice and put time, energy, and thought into your scholarship applications, you’ll see that winning financial aid to help on your fine arts journey is an extremely achievable goal.
Now, go win the fine arts scholarships that you deserve!