Visual and Performing Arts

Comparing the BA, BFA, and BM Degrees

If you are a prospective arts major you will need to consider the type of degree you wish to pursue. There are two options:

The BA degree is a typical liberal arts degree. For example, students who major in English or other humanities also earn a BA degree. A BA degree in arts will allow you to take more courses outside your major.

The BFA or BM is more focused or intense, in essence it is more of a “professional” degree, so there are more course requirements and performances in your major. The degree you choose will depend on your college and career goals.

College vs Conservatory

The other thing to consider is what type of college is right for you. Conservatories and stand-alone arts schools offer an immersion-type experience for students earning BFA or BM degrees. All students at these schools will be artists, and the atmosphere is highly competitive. Other colleges and universities, large or small, will have a variety of majors to choose from and yet have strong visual, performing arts, music or film programs can offer all the benefits and lifestyle choices of a traditional university, e.g. football games, Greek life, dorms and a wide variety of academic courses. And finally, there is the conservatory within a university model which gives students both the intensity of the conservatory experience and that sense of “college life.” Some students have trouble balancing their general education requirements with the considerable conservatory commitment, but it depends on the school and the individual. 

Audition and Portfolio Review

Your application process will also include an audition or portfolio review. Often, this will be the most important part of the application process.

For entry into music, theater, or dance programs, colleges may initially ask you to submit a “pre-screen” recording. Often it can be submitted online. Note, not all colleges require a pre-screen. If after reviewing your initial application materials, including said possible pre-screen, the college wants to evaluate you further, the next step is a live audition. This audition can be held on the college campus, or sometimes colleges will hold joint auditions in a series of major US cities as a convenience and cost-saving measure to you. National Unified Auditions coordinates auditions for undergraduate B.F.A. programs in theater.

For art students, a portfolio review will be part of the application process. Again, options may include online submission and/or an in-person review. Each school will have its own distinct requirements on what types of media they wish to see and how many pieces to include. Fairview classes Portfolio Art and IB Art provide the opportunity to build that portfolio.

National Portfolio Day is an opportunity for artists to meet with representatives from an association of colleges accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design all on the same day. Representatives will be available to review the student’s artwork, discuss their programs and answer questions about professional careers in art.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling also hosts joint college fairs for visual and performing artists across the country.

For film students, a creative submission is required. The options will vary by school, but can include a film or video/live action; a portfolio of drawings, paintings, sculpture or set design; a sequence of still images which shows a story; or a creative writing sample consisting of a short story, film script or stage play.

Design majors such as industrial design, architecture, interior design, and fashion design are not always classified under visual and performing arts, but they can also require a review of your creative work as part of the application process. It may depend on whether the program leads to a BA/BS or BFA degree. Keep in mind, the primary source of information for the audition or portfolio process at your targeted school should be the school’s website. The website will include all the pertinent information, including audition/portfolio requirements, the process, timeline, dates, and a list of any other required supplemental materials—a visual or performing arts personal statement, and a creative portfolio list (written record of an applicant’s creative works) or performance resume is often requested. If anything is unclear, contact the school directly for clarification.

Involve your Fairview Art and Music Teachers

Your art and music teachers can be an invaluable help to you so it is very important to keep them apprised of your goals and explain procedures you need to complete that involve their assistance. They may write letters of recommendation for you, help you identify programs best suited to you, give you honest critiques, help you select works to submit, and in general act as mentors during the process. 

Opportunities to be involved in Visual & Performing Arts in College, but not as a major

If an important piece of your college experience is to continue to sing in a choir or play your instrument in a musical ensemble, perform in plays or musicals, dance, make art or film, but not as a major, investigate the following…Does the music department offer performance ensembles; do they require auditions; are they open to all majors? Is there art and film studio space available for non-majors? Can non-majors register for visual and performing art classes? Does the school offer visual and performing arts minors? Can non-majors audition for college theater and dance productions, or are auditions restricted to performing arts majors? Do student clubs exist in your areas of interest? With careful research, you can find a place that will still allow you to express yourself creatively.