Art Institute Application Essay

Become a Part of SAIC

Welcome to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), one of the most historically significant accredited independent schools of art and design in the nation located in one of the greatest American cities. Our accolades are many, including recognition by Columbia University’s National Arts Journalism survey as “the most influential art college in the United States,” and our consistent ranking among the top graduate fine arts programs in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

SAIC is distinct in the way that it provides graduate, post-baccalaureate, and undergraduate students an interdisciplinary curriculum and the necessary freedom to develop as artists, designers, and scholars. At the same time, we strive for a level of rigor, investigation, and cultural relevance that makes SAIC truly special. Our students translate the most complex ideas into tangible forms—paintings, sculptures, films, performances, books, installations, inventions, buildings, community projects, and, more often than not, a combination of the above. Few schools in the U.S. provide such a broad range of possibilities.

Our engaged student body and award-winning faculty of artists, scholars, and leading practitioners work in close proximity, sharing exceptional resources and establishing a forum for the vigorous exchange of ideas. The heralded Modern Wing of the Art Institute provides an incredible resource for inspiration and study. Other unique SAIC resources include our cutting-edge facilities, the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Visiting Artists Program, the Video Data Bank, and expansive galleries that exhibit work to a wide audience. Our Continuing Studies programs offer an array of exceptional courses to children (K-12), adults, and teachers throughout the year.

To learn more about how you can apply to attend, work, or study visit the links to the left.

If you have no previous college experience (excluding advanced credits earned during high school), you are a first-time freshman. We admit freshmen into degree-seeking status for the fall semester only. 

As a freshman candidate, you will be considered automatically for portfolio grants and scholarships as long as you submit all of your application materials by March 1.

Freshman Application Checklist

Freshman candidates are accepted at CIA based upon artistic and academic qualifications as well as available space. To be considered for admission, you must follow the application procedures and criteria below.

  1. Complete and submit the application and $40 application fee.Fee is waived if you apply online here.
  2. Arrange to have your high school transcript sent to the Office of Admissions. All incoming students must provide proof of high school graduation or GED equivalent. Students who have not yet graduated at the time of application must provide the most up-to-date high school transcripts available.
  3. Have one letter of recommendation forwarded to CIA. We suggest this letter be from an art teacher. We also will accept this letter from a counselor or someone who understands your desire to pursue an arts education. You may request a recommendation from a teacher or counselor from within the online application.
  4. OPTIONAL: Request that SAT or ACT test results be sent to CIA. Our identification numbers are SAT-1152 and ACT-3243.
  5. Submit your portfolio of artwork. We highly recommend that you submit your work through our online application. You may, however, create an account at cia.slideroom.com and submit your work using that site. Your portfolio should consist of no fewer than 12 and no more than 20 pieces of work. Please carefully follow all of our portfolio guidelines.

Any printed application materials should be sent to:

The Office of Admissions
Cleveland Institute of Art
11610 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

Application Timeline

We strongly encourage you to meet the following deadlines to ensure admission to CIA and eligibility for the highest amounts of portfolio scholarships and institutional financial aid. However, you may submit an application for admission any time before the first day of classes on a “rolling basis” and will be considered as long as space is available. Please note that only transfer student who qualify for advanced standing with at least 9 college studio credits are eligible for spring admission.

Fall Application Deadlines
(Freshman and Transfer)

December 1: 
Early action 1 deadline 

January 15: 
Early action 2 deadline

March 1 : 
Regular decision

March 15: 
Priority deadline for need-based financial aid applications

May 1: 
Intention to register deadline and tuition deposit
Housing application deadline

June 1: 
Regular decision deadline for transfer students  

Spring Application Deadlines
(Transfer Only)

November 15: 
Regular decision deadline

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