Portfolio Review

Interested in submitting a portfolio with your application to Bowdoin? Here are some key guidelines to remember:

How Portfolios are Reviewed in the Admissions Process

Arts Supplement portfolios in the Visual Arts are evaluated by members of the Visual Arts faculty, who rate them and submit their report to the admissions office. It should be noted that a higher rating on a Visual Arts Supplement is just one of many factors being weighed by the admissions committee. While a better rating certainly strengthens an application, its primary benefit is to provide the committee with a fuller picture of an applicant's overall abilities and potential for their studies at Bowdoin.

It should also be noted that a lower rating is a neutral factor in the admissions process and simply indicates that the portfolio does not merit special consideration in that regard. In other words, portfolio submissions can help, but in no way hurt your chances for admission.

What to Include

Your portfolio should include five images which best demonstrate your artistic interests, experience, and abilities. Since our review is an evaluation of visual and technical aptitudes for the purposes of admissions, work that demonstrates a responsive and creative approach, independent initiative, curiosity, fundamental skills, and technical proficiency—rather than assigned projects guided by rote—is of greatest value in our review. 

Portfolios are evaluated by the visual arts faculty in two groups: General Portfolios and Photography Portfolios.

General Portfolios

A general portfolio can contain work of all kinds, though we encourage you to include at least three examples of work in any given medium. A potpourri of one-of-a-kind efforts is more difficult to evaluate than evidence of repeated and broader experience with a particular way of working. In all cases, we encourage you to emphasize quality over quantity.

  • Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Most useful for our review are free-hand drawings and paintings from life. While abstract, non-objective, and representational work based on photographs are welcome, work done directly from observation is the most reliable gauge for determining fundamental visual abilities, particularly within the limits of a slide review.
  • Three-Dimensional Work: Whether functional, representational, abstract, or non-objective, work in architectural design, ceramics, installation art, metals, sculpture, or wood-working should demonstrate a grasp of basic principles of three-dimensional thinking, composition, technique, and materials.
  • New Media: New media, digital media, and time-based media—such as videos, digital animation, and so forth—will be reviewed, as above, in light of basic visual aptitudes and overall expression. Please submit videos on DVD rather than VHS, which cannot be reviewed.

Photography Portfolios

Photography portfolios should demonstrate both thematic coherence and technical proficiency. Applicants are encouraged to submit work that explores a particular topic, idea or subject through one or more series of photographs. Photography portfolios should also be accompanied by a statement describing the central themes and rationale for both the images themselves and the processes used in making them. In labeling, please specify the photographic process used in each piece (e.g., silver gelatin print, digital image, inkjet print, etc.), as well as its size.

How to Submit Your Work
Please refer to the admissions website. 
Please do not submit original artwork.

If you have any questions about preparing your portfolio, please contact the director of the Department of Visual Arts.