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With over 300 accredited fine arts schools in the US, international students will want to find out ways to narrow down their search for the perfect school. Luckily for these prospective students, universities across the nation are hoping to gain their attention by providing them with the best education possible. There are many important factors to consider when selecting a fine arts college, such as the following: curriculum, facilities, faculty, location and alumni.

Important factors to consider when looking for a fine arts college:

make sure that the school you are considering has diverse programs, offers topics you are interested in, and keeps up with the ever changing artistic trends.
look into what the school offers, specifically for its students. Are there workshops and galleries displaying student work? Do they have the latest technology and tools you need?
for the next couple of years you will be working hands on with professors who may even become a mentor to you. Research them to see what careers they have had, if they have won any awards, and if they have been published.
your new university will become your home for the next couple of years. Check if the school is in a big city or a small town, and what it is near if you decide to seek inspiration from what’s around.
not necessarily the most important factor, but schools are recognized for who have attended them in the past, as they get more attention from potential faculty, applicants, and the media.

In 2010, U.S. College Rankings online ( came up with a list of the best fine arts colleges in the United States. Schools were judged on a five point scale based on the factors listed above. These schools all have graduate and undergraduate programs in fine arts (MFA & BFA) and some offer post baccalaureate certificates as well. The list has 100 schools, but the top five are as follows:

  1. Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island (4.6)
  2. Yale Universityin New Haven, Connecticut (4.5)
  3. School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois (4.4)
  4. Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (4.2)
  5. Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland (4.2)

The top three schools mentioned above have been placed as the highest ranking fine arts colleges more than once. They offer the best possible programs in the country and are recognized for the talented students they produce and the faculty members that are employed there.

Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was founded in 1877 and currently has 1,880 undergraduates and 370 graduates from the US and 50 other countries enrolled in programs. There are 16 undergraduate and 17 graduate majors to choose from including: ceramics, film, glass, illustration, textile, and sculpture. Students have the opportunity to pursue a cross-disciplinary track or work collaboratively with a faculty mentor.

There are 350 faculty members including Chris Van Allsburg (children’s book illustrator for Jumanji and The Polar Express) and other notable artists. RISD also has an on campus museum that displays more than 80,000 works of art. Depending on your concentration, the school offers a variety of facilities and tools for student’s use, from laser cutters to a kiln room. The school is near Johnson & Wales Culinary Arts Museum and Benefit Street, a historical cobblestone road. Notable alumni include Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) and Steven Kellogg (children’s book illustrator).

Yale University

Yale University is one of top ranking universities in the nation not only for the fine arts, but for its medical, business, and law schools among other things. It was formed in 1701 and has 5,300 undergraduate and 6,100 graduate and professional students. International students should keep in mind that this school is not made up of entirely fine arts students and that the university is highly selective and competitive to get into.

The BFA program offers a variety of artistic and media courses. The MFA program offers degrees in graphic design, painting & printmaking, photography, sculpture, theater management, acting, and much more. Most of the faculty have been published or awarded for their works and pose as critics or lecturers for the students. There is an art gallery for British works from the 1500s to the present day, a print shop for silk screening, a photography lab with a dark room, several theaters, and a digital media center. Yale is near Peabody Museum of Natural History, Long Wharf Theater, and Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Notable alumni include Electronic Arts co-founder Bing Gordon and video game producer Jordan Mechner.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is one of the largest accredited independent fine arts schools in the US. Formed in 1866, the school has around 3,200 students enrolled. International students should be aware of the unique program offerings such as art therapy, time arts, and visual communication. Post-baccalaureate certificates are also offered in fashion, body & design or studio art.

SAIC has 568 faculty members who are up to date on the latest technologies and techniques. The Computer Resources and Information Technologies center (CRIT) makes sure that students have access and training in all of the latest equipment. Classrooms are equipped with LCD projectors and the campus has a wood & metal shop amongst other things. The Chicago Cultural Center, Michigan Avenue and the John Hancock Observatory are all nearby. Audrey Niffenegger (author) and Walt Disney (animator) attended SAIC.

It is no wonder that these fine arts colleges placed in the top three for the best fine arts schools in the US. All of them offer unique programs of study, renowned faculty, state of the art facilities, and interesting locations. These may not be the perfect school for you, but use them as examples of what exactly you should be looking for as an international student applying to fine arts colleges across the nation.

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