Portfolio Guide for Applying and Best Practices

Carefully review the information below. This page include important steps, best practices, and guidelines to help you build a portfolio and write an artist statement. If you have any questions, email our Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Kelley Yang (kelley7@umbc.edu).


Step 1: Get to know our Degree Tracks

Take a look at what we offer at UMBC.

All of our B.F.A. tracks are at least 72 credits. All tracks must take 27 credits of foundation courses and an addition 45+ credits of courses relevant to their B.F.A. concentration. We offer the following:

Visual Arts, Animation Concentration, B.F.A.
Visual Arts, Print Media, B.F.A
Design, B.F.A
Visual Arts, Photography, B.F.A
Visual Arts, Cinematic Arts, B.F.A

All of our B.A. tracks are at least 48 credits. We offer the following B.A.:
Visual Arts, Visual & Media Arts, B.A

Look over the laptop and software requirement for all of our programs. After taking the foundation courses, students will be required to abide by our laptop and software requirements. The Visual Arts requirements are in line with the University Technology Guidelines and current market standards for the art field.


Step 2: Start the Portfolio Application

The portfolio application consists of guided artist statement questions, a mixed-media self-portrait assignment, a portfolio including six to eight pieces of the applicant’s creative work** of choice, and use of the description section for each piece you submit (see step 5 for guidance on the descriptions).

All portfolio applications must be submitted on-line at http://umbc-art.slideroom.com

Please note: there is a $10 application fee payable during the on-line process.

Portfolio Review Dates

October and January review dates coincide with the Undergraduate Admissions Office important deadlines. Please note there will be a Blackout period from May to August, where no portfolios will be reviewed. This academic year’s deadlines are:

  • October 4th, 2024
  • January 3rd, 2025
  • February 7th, 2025
  • March 7th, 2025
  • April 4th, 2025

Current UMBC Students who plan to pursue the visual arts major should follow the procedures outlined in the Slideroom link, including an upload of transcripts showing all college course work.

New first-year and transfer students must submit a separate UMBC Undergraduate Admission Application at least two weeks before the selected portfolio review date. UMBC Applicants do not need to wait for an Admissions decision before submitting a portfolio application to the department.

Linehan Artist Scholar (first-year students only) applicants must submit their portfolios by the January review date and are encouraged to submit UMBC undergraduate applications by the early action deadline of November 1. In addition to the information supplied on the UMBC Common Application, applicants will also need to complete the Linehan Artist Scholars application to be considered as a candidate for the program. The application and all supplemental materials must be received by January 15.  For more information: http://www.umbc.edu/financialaid/scholars/linehan.html


Step 3: The Artist Statement

What is an Artist Statement?

Your Artist Statement introduces you as an artist and is a chance to explain how and why you make your art. The Artist Statement is a crucial portion of your portfolio application and is a chance to help the department understand just what is driving you to pursue a degree in our program. The Artist Statement section in the Slideroom application consists of four guided questions, each requiring two to four sentence responses. The questions are listed below:

  1. Share an interesting and fun fact about yourself, or is there a unique aspect of your creative work that you’d like us to know?
  2. What strengths and/or perspectives will you bring to the program at UMBC?
  3. What inspires your creativity? (examples: ideas, techniques, places, events, people, cultures, books/readings, art mediums, music, films, influencers, etc.)
  4. What personal artwork do you see yourself making after graduation? (what are your artistic goals and ambitions for the future)

Step 4: Self-Portrait Assignment

The self-portrait assignment is a important element of the application. We offer the following guidance on what your self-portrait should entail. Self-portraits are inherently personal. We encourage you to explore various forms and approaches to this assignment.

Your self-portrait can be representational, symbolic, abstract, or surreal, representing your likeness, culture or ethnicity, personality, mood, inner world, etc.

Create a self-portrait collage using various materials. A collage comprises many pieces that come together to create a finished artwork. You can use any one of the following or a combination of them:

  • 2D collage (Exists on a flat plane and can be made of, for example, photos, textiles, text, paint, prints, and paper.)
  • 3D collage (Made of objects including, but not limited to, natural elements, objects from your environment, and human-made materials.)
  • Time-based media collage (Durational work shown over a particular time period, including video, animation, performance, audio, and installation art.)

Step 5: Creating a Portfolio

What is a portfolio? 

If you are unfamiliar with the term “portfolio” or the contents of a “portfolio” think of it as a self-curated collection of your work that best displays your creative abilities. Many applicants will build a portfolio of work with projects completed in art, design, and photography courses at their High School or Community College. If your school didn’t afford you these opportunities, don’t let the lack of a formal portfolio dissuade you from applying to UMBC. Most likely, if you are applying to the Visual Arts Department at UMBC and are interested in one of our areas of concentration, you are making creative work on your own.

What should I put in my portfolio? 

What goes into a portfolio will vary from applicant to applicant, but you will need to submit between 6 to 8 images of your artwork.

  • You must submit original artwork, not copied from other artists’ work. Refrain from submitting fanart or work derived from existing intellectual property.
  • Artwork from all mediums is encouraged. Submit work you feel strongly about and show the breadth of your skills versus a singular topic or technique. Your work can include, but is not limited to, photographs, printmaking, videos, films, scripts, paintings, storyboards, sketches, 3D models, sculpture, etc.
  • If you include drawings, show some completed by hand, instead of digitally. Digital work is still fine, but incorporate both in your portfolio. Sketches are acceptable as well.
  • Provide high quality images of your work. Here is a guide on how to photograph your work professionally on a budget.
  • Use the Description field for each artwork you submit. Write a short explanation that includes:
    • the medium used (the materials used),
    • the concept (the idea behind it),
    • the size,
    • and identify if it is class work or your personal project (your motivation). If it was for class, what was the assignment?
    • If you submit a group work, clarify your role in its creation.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the creative ways you may be expressing yourself through your work. If you are uncertain if your creative work is suitable for application into the Visual Arts Department, take pictures of your work (photos will your cell phone will do) and send them to kelley7@umbc.edu.


Step 6: Optionally take a tour and consider our scholarship options

Scholarships & Financial Aid

Students may explore a number of resources to help pay for their education and to gain invaluable work experience to build up their vitas before graduation. Scholarships, employment, student loans, and fellowships provide these opportunities to Visual Arts undergraduates.

The Linehan Artist Scholar Program offers competitive awards to freshmen ranging from $5,000 – $15,000 per academic year for in-state students, and from $10,000 – $22,000 per academic year for out-of-state students, to assist in covering tuition, mandatory, fees, and another expenses. Out-of-state students are encouraged to apply.
Fine Arts Scholarships range from $500 to $1,000.

To be considered for either award, new applicants must submit on-line portfolios by the January review date.  Go to UMBC Undergraduate Admissions for other financial aid information.

Visit the Department
Come see for yourself! Tours of the Visual Arts Department are held bi-weekly on Friday mornings. To see a list of tour dates and to register, please follow this link or call the Visual & Performing Arts Admissions Counselor at 410-455-3745. An interactive map of the campus and surrounding area, with driving directions is available at the UMBC Campus Map.

Visual & Performing Arts at UMBC
Check out all of the Visual & Performing Arts programs at UMBC by visiting the Visual & Performing Arts webpage.