Choosing where to get your degree in design is one of the most important decisions in your life. This has to be a good investment, both in terms of the cost of attendance and time and effort spent on studying.
As the number of colleges and universities offering degrees in design booms across the country, how do you choose which of them is the one? It’s always a good idea to start with looking through lists like the one below.
First Things First: How to Prepare for College Admission
Applying to college or university is indeed a big deal. Because of that, there are a lot of things to think through and take care of before finally sending the application. Here are just 7 of them:
- Determine your selection criteria.
Any list of ‘X best colleges’ should be taken with a grain of salt. Only you know what will make the best college experience for you personally. So, reflect on what you expect to learn there, and think through such practicalities as location and finances.
- Connect with current students or alumni.
Colleges and universities themselves won’t tell you everything about the student life there – they are biased, after all. Make sure to ask current or former students about their experiences. Finding them is a piece of cake if you know how to use social media.
- Ace the GPA score.
It should go without saying, but still. When preparing to apply to a design school, the GPA will matter more than SAT/ACT. Most creative programs don’t require the latter ones, and some don’t even consider them.
- Prepare a portfolio.
Admission requirements for creative programs often include sending a portfolio. Select your best works (or create them if you have time) to prove you are worth the spot on the enrollment list.
- Write an outstanding admission essay.
If writing isn’t your strong suit, there are like the best best essay writing service to make your admission essay one-of-a-kind. An admission paper often plays a more important role than the GPA and SAT/ACT scores, especially in creative programs.
- Have a plan for financing the studies.
It’s no secret that studying at a college or university in the U.S. is extremely expensive. So, find student loan providers (and read the fine print!), scholarships, grants, and financial aid programs.
- Consider how COVID-19 has impacted the college experience.
A lot of colleges and universities came under scrutiny due to the low quality of online courses. So, check whether your top picks have decided to open their campuses this academic year. Otherwise, the investment may not be worth it.
5 Design Programs to Consider
Now, let’s do a quick overview of the top 5 colleges and universities that offer degrees in design.
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
- Location: Providence, Rhode Island
- Acceptance rate: 20%
- Annual tuition fees: up to $53,820
RISD has been operating since 1877, making it one of the oldest design schools in the United States. It offers 22 majors for undergraduate and graduate studies. They include Graphic Design, Architecture, and even Jewelry & Metalsmithing.
This establishment isn’t a big one: it has enrolled only 2,227 in the 2020/21 academic year. Thanks to this, RISD keeps its classes small – 14 people on average.
The school’s former students point out that its main strengths are the ‘learning by doing’ approach and the focus on experimental studies in the first year. On the other hand, some of them advise future students to prepare for a huge workload and, therefore, less time for leisure.
Parsons School of Design at The New School
- Location: New York City, New York
- Acceptance rate: 63%
- Annual tuition fees: up to $51,750
Parsons School of Design ranked the first among the U.S. design schools in the QS World Rankings in 2020. The establishment has been around for more than 100 years, making it another school with a rich history on this list.
Parsons offers 13 undergraduate programs and 22 graduate ones. A few honorable mentions include Fine Arts, Communication Design, and Design & Technology. And, as there is a branch of the New School in Paris, France, a handful of lucky students can spend one or two semesters abroad.
This school offers a wide range of scholarships, grants, and financial aid programs. More than 80% of students at Parsons benefit from at least one kind of financial aid.
As for students’ feedback on Parsons, they praise its teachers that challenge and encourage learners to do their best. Many point out the opportunities that come with the location and the creative student community.
Carnegie Mellon University
- Location: Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Annual tuition fees: from $68,044 to $76,390
Founded as Carnegie Technical Schools in the late 19th century, Carnegie Mellon University’s campus is larger than the previous two establishments’. It can boast having more than 14,500 students enrolled in their programs.
The university consists of seven schools, with the College of Fine Arts housing the School of Design. The latter offers not only undergraduate and graduate programs but also doctorates in the field of design. Undergraduates can choose one of three tracks: Design of Products, Communications, and Environments.
As for student reviews, they endorse the university’s stress-relief infrastructure, advisors’ mentorship and guidance, and on-campus diversity. Some reviews point out that a degree earned there has a good return on investment.
- Location: St. Louis, Missouri
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Annual tuition fees: up to $45,018
Another university on the list, WashU offers undergraduate and graduate programs for future designers via the Sam Fox School and its subdivision, College of Art.
There are two undergraduate degrees – Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Arts. As for majors, there are three of those to choose from: Studio Art, Communication Design, and Fashion Design.
WashU current and former students point out that studying comes first at this university. Many endorse the support and encouragement coming from teachers. They also praise the diversity of extracurriculars available, the campus, and its infrastructure.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
- Location: Chicago, Illinois
- Acceptance rate: 57%
- Annual tuition fees: up to $66,850
Last but not least, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) first opened its doors to students in 1866 under the name of the Chicago Academy of Design. Now, it ranks #9 in the world among art and design programs (as per QS World University Rankings).
SAIC has five undergraduate degrees: three of them are in Fine Arts and two are in Arts with different focuses. The school also offers 14 Master’s degrees and one dual graduate degree.
SAIC students praise the interdisciplinary program available at the school. It would be a great fit for those who want to experiment with different mediums and don’t know what they want to major in yet.