First-Year Scholars


SAIC’s First-Year Scholars have a unique opportunity to fulfill studio and off-campus study requirements through a year-long program, whose highlight is an immersive study trip to Siena, Italy. First-Year Scholars are selected based on a holistic review of their admission application. No specialized application is required. Scholars are selected based on:

  • A compelling portfolio of work that demonstrates both conceptual and technical proficiency
  • Academic excellence exhibited through strong high school records, and standardized test scores
  • A well-organized, thoughtful, and clearly-articulated statement of purpose

Program Highlights

Siena, Italy

*travel restrictions due to COVID-19 may impact when study trip will run.

Students are exclusive participants in a winter term study trip that will take place within the first two years of enrollment: Living the Past in the Present: The Art of Archive in Siena, Italy, led by SAIC faculty with research interests, knowledge, and experience in the destination.

Through a partnership with the Siena Art Institute (SART), students will experience the history, tradition, and culture of Siena, Italy's loveliest medieval city, home to numerous Renaissance works of art and architecture, and a wide array of archives, collections, and study centers. Students will develop insight into how historical study may spark their growth as contemporary artists, designers, and visual scholars.

Students are awarded a $2,500 grant to defray affiliated costs, and this trip will fulfill several requirements.

Additional Opportunities

  • First-Year Scholars take specially-designated First Year Seminar courses and an Advanced Art History survey in their first semester.
  • Scholars take a First-Year seminar course designed to provide a basis for the research component of the Siena trip.
  • Students may have the opportunity to take two studio electives during their second semester rather than the one elective typically allotted to them.
  • Each semester, there are a number of courses open to scholars. Students who successfully complete seven (7) of these courses will earn a Bachelor's degree "with Distinction," which will be reflected on their transcripts and diploma.​ More information on the Scholars program for continuing students can be found via our Scholars Courses website.

First-Year Scholars Program Q&A

Will I be taking more credit hours than my peers during Fall and Spring semester of my first year?

No. First-Year Scholars students take 15 credits in their Fall semester and 15 in the Spring semester. They may however, participate in a 3-credit hour study trip for studio credit during the Winter or Summer interim session. In total, they will likely take 33 credits during the academic year in which the trip occurs.

What is the studio/making component of the winter study trip?

Students will have a common workspace (mostly for digital and drawing work) at SART, but they will spend much of their time exploring Siena. Studio work will take place after the study trip, and involve two class meetings in Chicago (a working and a final critique) during the Spring semester.

Does the study trip fulfill any of my degree requirements?

Yes. The study trip awards 3 studio credits, and additionally, all SAIC students are required to take 6 credits of off-campus study. This trip fulfills half of that requirement.

How do I ensure my place in the First-Year Scholars Program?

Spots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Students who are invited are asked to confirm their acceptance by May 1. Information on how to confirm your participation will be included with your invitation to the program.