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School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Prestigious Academics in the Heart of Chicago

School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Prestigious Academics in the Heart of Chicago

By Kenny Larson

As the month of November drew to a close, college admissions staff hurriedly met with Northsiders to make a last-minute pitch urging students to apply to their respective institution. As part of this frenzy, Ms. Alice Costas, art department, invited Kaycee Filson, assistant director of undergraduate admissions at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), to speak to around thirty students and inform them about the numerous opportunities offered at the college.

SAIC is located in downtown Chicago near Millenium Park and currently has 2895 undergraduate students. The school has a male-female ratio of around 1:4 and has a globally diverse student body; international students hail from nearly 70 countries across the planet and comprise approximately 33% of the total student population. Ms. Filson also added that Chicago itself is one of the largest and most diverse cities in the United States, which allows SAIC’s students to immerse themselves in a culturally heterogeneous population.

While attending SAIC, students have access to a wealth of resources unmatched by any other arts-focused university in the country. All students receive free access for themselves and family members to the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the most prestigious art museums in the region. “Having free admission means that [students] can see a piece as they go to class so they don’t miss anything,” said Ms. Filson, highlighting the benefits of open museum access. SAIC students can also utilize the Fashion Reserve Center, a collection of over 80 garments and accessories from the twentieth century that students can hold, feel, and wear to assist them while designing their own clothing. Ms. Filson noted that the center allows designers to be able to study the process of an artist, rather than just the work itself, which can provide a more in-depth educational experience.

Students pursuing an arts degree at the school will also have a unique educational experience defined by SAIC’s focus on an interdisciplinary education. Students cannot select a major, and instead work across departments and up to 38 different areas of study, which provides ample artistic flexibility and the ability to combine multiple mediums. Furthermore, students will not receive a letter or number grade for any of their classes, as the college relies upon critiques and participation in class. While explaining the grading method, Ms. Filson said that the process is grounded in the notion that “art is subjective. We can all look at the same piece and have different experiences. And we’re all right.” Ms. Filson also noted that students are required to take some liberal arts classes as well, as the school believes that excelling in art requires pieces to mean something, rather than just appear aesthetically pleasing.

SAIC also has ample opportunities for international travel and study abroad for any students interested. During either winter and summer break, students join a few professors and have the ability to immerse themselves in a new area and culturally unique of the planet. According to Ms. Filson, recent trips have gone to places including India, Japon, New York City, Los Angeles, and Paris, depending on where students want to go. Ms. Costas, a graduate of SAIC herself, also added that although she was unable to travel abroad during her undergraduate years (at a different college), SAIC’s generous scholarships allowed her to embark on a trip while pursuing a graduate degree.

Ms. Filson also made an effort to dispel the myth that art students are oftentimes unable to find work or a career after completing art school. In fact, nearly 93% of all SAIC students are employed or enter graduate school within six months of completing their undergraduate degree. The school also offers ample opportunities for internships and networking which allow students to start their career while in college. Nearly 50% of SAIC students say that these opportunities directly benefited their job search after completing school, which may appeal to many prospective students.

The school has also recently been working to expand its endowment size to allow for more expansive scholarship programs. “Beautiful/Work: The Campaign for SAIC” is a recently established scholarship program that offers more than 30 endowment scholarship funds for undergraduate and graduate students, and also includes eight merit scholarships for students to access. Absent a scholarship, the cost of tuition at the university is $43,960 per year.

Students interested in applying to SAIC can apply through the common application and must have at least one letter of recommendation (ideally from an art teacher). Although SAIC accepts both the SAT and ACT, it only requires scores from the reading and writing sections of the SAT or the reading portion of the ACT. Prospective students must also submit a portfolio with 10-15 piece of art for the admissions staff to view. The final application deadline is April 15, 2019. For more information, visit, or contact Ms. Filson at

  • Private art school

  • 2895 undergraduate students

  • 1:4 male-female ratio

  • 10:1 student-teacher ratio

  • Cost of tuition: $43,960

  • 97% of incoming students receive financial aid

  • Endowment: $40 million

  • Location: Chicago, Illinois

  • Acceptance Rate: 66.5%

  • Graduation Rate: 57.1%

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