In some cases, extracurricular activities matter as much as a students’ academic record. This is often the case for students who intend to study art in college. While admissions committees want to see that you’re a committed student who takes their courses seriously, your talent, portfolio, and dedication to art activities will also be crucial to the admission committee’s decision. That’s because your experience as an artist is often a better indication of how you’ll fare in art school than your performance on an AP exam in a different subject. Here are some ideas for arts extracurriculars for students interested in visual arts.
1. Clubs and activities. These are generally school-based or local activities and can occupy different tiers based on a student’s involvement and commitment. Note that not all these arts extracurriculars are directly related to visual arts, but many art students may find them interesting and related to areas they may pursue further in college. They may also find niches within the club; for example, in comic book club, they may serve as an illustrator. Some examples of art clubs may include:
- Anime Club
- Broadcast Club
- Bullet Journal Club
- Calligraphy Club
- Ceramics Club
- Comic Book Club
- Figure Drawing Club
- Filmmaking Club
- Origami Club
- Painting Club
- Photography Club
- Scrapbooking Club
- Video Production Club
- Woodworking Club
2. Self-directed activities. If there aren’t any clubs you want to join at your school, and you aren’t interested in starting one, consider tackling a self-directed activity! These extracurriculars are personal projects where you have a great deal of autonomy. Based on your impact, these extracurriculars can be developed into high-tier activities.
- Start a photography or film business. Those who love to film or take photos could offer their own services. There are plenty of opportunities and lots of demand for quality images and video. You could shoot senior photos for your classmates, offer family and engagement shoots, create wedding videos, or do photography for local businesses. Additionally, you’ll learn to create an online portfolio and market your business.
- Teach art lessons. Giving art lessons is another way to share your passion and talent with others. You could offer private or group lessons for students of all ages.
- Publish videos on YouTube. If you’re a strong videographer with a bubbly personality, consider starting your own YouTube channel. A channel with an intellectual theme (like history, environment, activism, or art) will have more weight in college admissions than a vlogging platform. You can always find ways to combine your passions and a topic that’s more “serious.” If you love anime, for instance, you could consider applying film theory to anime in your videos.
- Design graphics and logos for businesses and events. Those with an eye for design can apply their skills in many settings. Maybe the school dance needs an eye-catching poster, the school newspaper wants to redesign its website, an online magazine needs a digital illustrator, or a local business needs a new logo. Put together a portfolio, get your name out there, and get real-world experience in design!
3. National Art Honor Society. With chapters in high schools across the country, NAHS recognizes more than 58,000 students who demonstrate “an outstanding ability and interest in art.” Members can access leadership opportunities, scholarships, and more. Depending on a student’s level of participation in NAHS, it will largely be a tier 1-3 activity. For example, if a student wins a national award or scholarship through the society, it’s likely a tier 1 activity, while a chapter secretary should think of it as a tier 3 activity.
4. Competitions. A number of prestigious arts competitions exist, and these are arts extracurriculars that will really stand out, especially with a first place win.
- Congressional Art Competition. Artists are invited to use a variety of mediums for this national high school art competition, including painting, drawing, print, collage, mixed media, digital art, and photographs. Submit your work to your congressional representative’s office to be judged within your district. Winners will go on to have their art displayed for one year at the US Capitol.
- National YoungArts Foundation. Students aged 15-18 apply for a spot at the National YoungArts Week, where they are mentored by top artists and compete for scholarships and a nomination as a US Presidential Scholar in the Arts. This award is granted to high schoolers who demonstrate excellence in both art and academics. This competition isn’t limited to visual arts, but also includes categories for writing, music, and dance.
- Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. High school artists submit work to be judged at the regional level, with winners going on to the national competition. Winners can receive scholarships of up to $10,000, and will be recognized at a ceremony in NYC’s Carnegie Hall. Judging categories include everything from Video Games to Jewelry to Architecture & Industrial Design (as well as more traditional categories like Painting, Drawing & Illustration, and Photography).
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