Suggested Art Colleges

Trying to pick an art college from the thousands available can be a daunting task for anyone. For that reason, I put together a list of colleges that I believe are worth your consideration. However, my suggestions are only meant to help the budding transfer student focus their attention on a few select colleges and are not to be taken as the "end all and be all" of art programs (for an exhaustive list try www.artschools.com). Moreover, every student is going to have particular needs from their education so all my recommendations come with the caveat that I do not know your particular needs and might have suggested something different if I did. Therefore, I strongly advise all students to do their own research by getting a second and even a third opinion. In addition to asking around, I suggest visiting the college in question. I firmly believe that speaking with instructors and students of a potential college is the best way to determine if it's going to be a good fit. That said here are some guidelines to help you in your decision.

1. State schools can be every bit as strong as private schools and a lot more affordable. See Private Colleges vs. Public Colleges below.

2. Look for colleges in larger cities rather than smaller towns, you will usually find the strongest faculty.

3. Look for colleges with graduate programs not just undergraduate, again, stronger faculty.

4. Don't just talk with the recruiting officer; their job is to convince you there are no other programs worth considering. Make sure you talk with faculty and students as well. This will give you the best over all sense of the program.

5. If you are going to an out of town college, make sure you take a good look at the college's surrounding town. Is there affordable housing? Are there adequate support services? Is this somewhere you want to spend the next 2 to 4 years?

6. Facilities aren't everything. Yes, factor it in to your decision but don't let it be an overriding force; it's just one of many aspects to consider.

Local Art Colleges
Cal Arts
Cal Arts has outstanding MFA programs in fine art film, fine art photography, painting, sculpture, new media, animation, dance, music and critical theory.

Art Center College of Design
I highly recommend it for any undergraduate work in industrial design, graphic design, commercial photography or commercial film. Very rigorous program but if you can make it through you'll be a very marketable artist.

CSU Fullerton
Good fine art graduate and undergraduate programs in graphic design and creative photography.

Otis College of Art & Design
Good programs in both the commercial and fine arts. Strong faculty and good ties to the industry.

USC-Fine Art
Good undergraduate and graduate programs in fine art photography, supported by an over-all strong fine art school.

USC-Cinema
World-renowned cinema program with a celebrity faculty and very strong ties to the Los Angeles entertainment community.

UCLA-New Media
Interesting new new media program, one to keep an eye on.

UCLA-Film
World-renowned commercial film program with many direct ties to the Los Angeles entertainment industry.

Woodbury
Well respected graphic design program with a strong faculty and good ties to the industry

Claremont Graduate University
Top-notch fine art graduate school.

UC Riverside
On the verge of being an "out of town college," however, worth the commute. Very well respected faculty in fine art photography and critical theory.

UC Irvine
Great University for both undergraduate and graduate work in all areas of fine art.

Out of Town Art Colleges
California College of the Arts
The premiere Northern California fine art and commercial art college. Lots of good stuff going on at CCAC.

CSU San Francisco
The best Northern California CSU in regards to fine art. Very well respected film school as well.

Academy of Art College
Well respected college within the San Francisco design community.

Art Institute of Chicago
An amazing fine art college with a large faculty and a world class reputation.

Rhode Island School of Design
An amazing commercial art program, highly regarded by other colleges and industry. It's the east coast equivalent of Art Center.

School of Visual Arts
The fine art college started by Andy Warhol. Small, always changing celebrity faculty, well respected, you could do worse.

New York University
Strong fine art programs in design, photography and film, right in the heart of New York City.


Private Colleges vs. Public Colleges
Ok, here's the deal. Yes private colleges offer great facilities, personnel attention, fast track toward graduation and more prestige but all this comes at a hefty price. Consider the average four-year degree will cost you $40,000 in tuition where the same degree at a CSU will cost $8,000. Even if you had to go an extra year you are still getting a great education at a quarter of the cost. CSU's and UC's also offer exposure to large diverse student bodies and faculty from hundreds of various disciplines. You don't get this at small art colleges with an average student body of 1,200. "So why would anyone go to a private college?" you ask. Well for many of the reasons I stated, prestige, attention, small class size and a guarantied graduation date. So how do I decide? Well here is my recommendation. If you are going to study commercial art, private colleges are a great investment. They work hard at getting their graduates connected to the industry and because they are so expensive, students toil relentlessly and accomplished a great deal in the four years they are there. If you are going to study fine art I recommend going to a CSU or a UC for your undergraduate degree. You are going to need to get a Master's degree anyway so save your money. The last thing any budding fine artist needs is a BFA and a $40,000 debt. If you want to consider a private college for your graduate work then by all means do so. But remember, California may be the only state in the country that has so many well-respected affordable universities, why not take advantage?