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Best US Art Schools for International Students

Best US Art Schools for International Students

Written and edited by Nadya Soetomo.

Think like Picasso, work like Einstein.

To Cecilia Liu, a School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) graduate, studying art can be a gamble just like any other subject. But unlike math and science, art is abstract and expressive. Even though many art schools encourage students to be interdisciplinary by offering courses outside the arts, it’s still important to be sure of your passion in arts and desire to develop a relevant career pathway. That way, choosing to invest your time and effort studying in an art school will be worth it.

Going to an art school would be better suited if you want to specialize in art, design, or both — yes, art schools also offer design departments! Even if you didn’t apply for any art-related class in high school, you can still apply for art schools. The environment and courses in art schools are definitely more concentrated than traditional universities. The primary difference is that art schools are primed for an education in the arts, featuring programs and experts (lecturers) in fine arts and design, while traditional universities provide broader education with required courses that fall into various areas of study (ie. computer science, law, engineering) that you don’t usually find in art schools.

“Art schools also offer design departments!”

Now you know why students go to art schools, are you excited to look into one? Amazing! Here are the top four US art schools you can start diving in.

#1 Parsons School of Design, New York City, NY.

Located in New York City's Greenwich Village, Parsons School of Design is one of the five colleges of The New School. It ranks first in the US and third worldwide in the subject of Arts & Design (QS World University Ranking 2021). What makes the school admirable is how it constantly applies the transformative potential of design from classes to outside of the campus gate. Plus, one third (35%) of its undergraduate student population is made up of international students, making the study body exceptionally diverse.

“35% of Parsons’ undergraduate population is made up of international students.”

Despite its name, Parsons also provides a strong arts program. Parsons offers an array of interdisciplinary BFA majors where students are encouraged to do research and practice based on all their electives.

Did you know …

  • Parsons was the first university in the US to provide studies in fashion design, interior design and graphic design?
  • Alexander Wang is an alumnus of Parsons?
  • There’s a Parsons branch in Paris?

#2 Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Providence, RI.

Ranked based on the subject of Arts & Design, this school places second in the US and third worldwide (QS World University Ranking 2021). RISD is known for prioritizing its students’ creativities by boosting them to take social challenges and create communities while bettering the world through designing arts. 37% of its student body is made up of international students, making it a diverse learning environment.

Just like Parsons, RISD also provides many fine arts programs where undergraduate students have the choice to minor in one of six additional areas of study outside their majors.

Did you know …

  • RISD was founded in 1877 by a small group of women? That’s more than 40 years before women in the US gained the right to vote!
  • The school offers a dual degree program with Brown University? Students can cross-register at Brown and vice versa!
  • RISD has its own art museum with collections of European paintings and American decorative arts?

#3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA.

While you may know it as the school for brilliant science and technology innovations, MIT is also ranked third in the US and fifth worldwide in its Arts & Design department (QS World University Ranking 2021).

Its School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and School of Architecture and Planning are perfect for art students with a passion for scientific innovation due to MIT’s STEM-related vision. Accredited courses in MIT’s art program includes: Art, Culture and Technology, History of Architecture, Art, and Design, Comparative Media Studies, Literature, Music, Theater Arts, and more!

“Over 50% of undergraduates decide to minor in MIT’s arts courses each year.”

Did you know …

  • Over 50% of undergraduates decide to minor in MIT’s art courses each year?
  • MIT hosts the Eugene McDermott Award, one of the most generous cultural honors in the US which celebrates innovative talents in all arts disciplines?
  • MIT designed and created a pollinator-attracting sustainability garden with plants to support local ecosystems in 2019?

#4 School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Chicago, IL.

Situated in downtown Chicago with its fine arts programs ranking fourth in the nation and seventh worldwide (QS World University Ranking 2021), SAIC is famous for its student amenities. Providing superb resources, from dormitories and on-campus galleries to avant-garde facilities, Cecilia shared her personal experience as a proud alumna of the institute in Millie’s Guide webinar.

SAIC greatly and explicitly values diversity in their community growth, with its student body only consisting of 31% international students. Its areas of study are balancedly focused between fine arts and design, with its most eligible majors being Fiber Arts, Visual Communication Design, Painting and Drawing, Photography, and Sculpture.

Did you know …

  • SAIC was named the “most influential art school in the United States” by Columbia University's National Arts Journalism Survey?
  • SAIC supports its diverse community through its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to establish anti-racism efforts?
  • The school awarded more than $49 million to their students in assistance from its own funds in the 2019–2020 academic year?

Now you know about the four best art schools in the US! It’s possible that your preference might not be aligned with the school’s vision, and that’s okay. There are still many great art schools out there — it’s your job to find one that resonates with you!

“It’s your job to find an art school that resonates with you!”

You’ve looked into some of the art schools in the US, but you’re not sure where to start? No worries! For details on how to get into a US art school, check out our blog on Getting Into US Art Schools as an International Student!