Rhode Island School of Design

The Rhode Island School of Design, located in the capital city of Providence, is arguably the best art school in the United States. Priding itself on offering an education that is both challenging and holistic, the school emphasizes the need for ecological sensitivity and global consciousness. Therefore, students are not only put through rigorous study in their artistic concentration, but are also required as freshman to complete the Foundation Studies program, designed to promote creativity and foster greater understanding of visual language. Liberal Arts courses play an essential role in Foundation, and rigorous two- and three-dimensional design studios are applicable to whatever major is selected in spring of the freshman year. Through this, the school seeks to engender a creative environment, allowing for development of the complete artist.

Evidence of this creative environment is apparent in the many programs that are at work both in and out of the classroom. Examples of such student projects include Industrial Design students collaborating with the US Coast Guard in Naval Architecture, Project Ujima- a solution to refugee housing- pitched to such relief organizations as the United Nations and the World Health Organization, participation in the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathalon, and ongoing collaboration with nearby Brown University to initiate proposals for various projects, lectures, and courses. For many students, choosing to study at RISD becomes not just an educational experience, but also a journey in self-discovery.

Student development is also supported by exceptional facilities and resources. Most notably, the RISD museum houses 80,000 works of art in 45 galleries, tracing the history of art from antiquity to the 21st century, while also providing space for various student and faculty exhibitions. Other exhibition spaces include the risd/works, Case Gallery, Market House Gallery, Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery, and the Woods-Gerry Gallery. Another valuable resource is the Fleet Library at RISD, which has recently undergone a major renovation, allowing students to take advantage of one of the oldest independent art college libraries in the country in a new and expansive setting. Other resources include 14 computer labs, a design center, and a writing center.

Finally, one of the greatest testaments to the school’s reputation is its catalog of notable alumni who credit RISD as a contributing factor to their success. Among the esteemed alumni are New Yorkercartoonist Roz Chast, directors Martha Coolidge and Gus Van Sant, cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards, actor Martin Mull, installation artist Jenny Holzer, writer David Macaulay, animator Seth McFarlane, fashion designer Nicole Miller, and countless other artists, including Dale Chihuly, Kara Walker, Shazia Sikander. A recent survey conducted in 2004 found that 64% of alumni were currently working in a field directly related to their major, and 25% are employed in a position indirectly related to their major. The Alumni + Career Services Office supports graduating students and interested alums by providing an annual series of more than 30 seminars, lectures and guest speakers from the various art and design professions. RISD’s commitment to its students, past and present, is arguably its greatest contribution to the arts.

The Numbers:

Admissions and Cost:
As only 34% of students who apply are accepted, admission to RISD is considered highly selective. All prospective applicants are urged to follow a college preparatory program in secondary school, taking courses in studio art and art history where possible. Graduation from secondary school is a prerequisite, although in certain cases a high school equivalency diploma may be accepted. Candidates for the Bachelor of Architecture degree must have completed two semesters of algebra, one semester of trigonometry, and one year of science (preferably physics). Studio drawing is recommended, as are courses that develop visual and design skills. When considering acceptance, the school considers your secondary school record and artistic talent above all other factors.

Academic Transcripts:
Applicants must provide official secondary school transcripts of all academic work accomplished through their most recent grading period.

Three drawing samples are required of all candidates. Each drawing must be done using graphite pencil on a sheet of white paper measuring 16 x 20"; other drawing materials should not be used. The first drawing must represent a bicycle; the second, an interior or exterior environment; the subject matter for the third drawing is up to the applicant (you may draw any object, subject or situation). You may approach these three drawings in any way you wish. For example, your drawings may be realistic or abstract; you may choose to draw the object alone or place it in a situation; you may draw the whole object or only a portion of it, etc. Each drawing must be signed and dated, and if necessary, should be treated to prevent smudging in handling. Each drawing should be folded in half and half again so that it will fit in the return envelope sent by the Admissions Office. On the outside of each folded drawing print your full name.

Your portfolio should consist of 12 to 20 examples of any type of two- or three-dimensional work you have completed recently. The school suggests that your work reflect your interests, experience and abilities in the arts to date. It may be in any media, may be finished or in sketch form, and may be from an assigned class project or be self-directed.

Your portfolio must be reproduced and submitted as either 35mm slides or as unmounted photographic prints no larger that 8 x 10". Note your name and a number on the back of each slide or photograph. On a separate piece of paper, list the corresponding number, medium, size, date of completion, and title for each work. Slides should be arranged in a plastic slide-holder page. Time-based work or performance pieces may be submitted in film or video formats.

Your portfolio may also be submitted electronically, but only if the original work was created using an electronic media. You must first contact the Admissions Office to discuss whether the format and software you wish to use to submit your work is compatible with the systems available to the Admissions Committee.


For specific financial aid questions, contact the RISD financial aid office at (401) 454-6661.

Need-Based Financial Aid:
Federal Pell Grants of up to $4,050 are awarded to approximately 300 undergraduates each year. Based on an eligibility formula determined by the US Department of Education, the grants do not have to be repaid.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants range from $200 to $4,000 a year for undergraduates who demonstrate need. This program assists approximately 210 RISD students with funds that do not have to be repaid.

RISD offers several scholarships each year to freshmen who exhibit outstanding academic and artistic achievements but do not necessarily demonstrate need. One award of at least $5,000 is made to a participant in the Arts Recognition and Talent Search (ARTS), and another of at least $5,000 is made to a participant in Scholastics. In addition, up to five Trustee Scholarships of at least $4,000 are awarded each year. Trustee Scholarships may be renewed annually, provided you remain in good standing. Although you must enter the ARTS or Scholastics competitions to be eligible for either, no special application is required for Trustee Scholarships.

More than one-third of the student body who demonstrate artistic and academic excellence and financial need receives RISD scholarships ranging from $500 to $27,500 a year.

Work Study Opportunities:
Students who choose to work on campus can find jobs in almost any area or department of the school. Some students work in facilities such as the Library, Admissions Office, The RISD Museum, or the Nature Lab. Others work within their discipline as studio monitors, teaching assistants or monitors of the various departmental galleries around campus. The Work-Study office maintains a job board listing on-campus jobs, as well as a listing of off-campus opportunities for all RISD students.


International Programs:

For six weeks between the fall and spring semesters, RISD offers students a complete change of pace. Wintersession, as this condensed semester is known, allows for an intense exploration of a particular discipline or an off-campus interest. It also offers faculty an opportunity to experiment with more innovative course offerings suitable to a shorter time frame — from performance art workshops to travel-study options.

Rhode Island School of Design
Two College Street
Providence, RI 02903-2784 USA
(401) 454-6100