Undergraduate FAQ

How do I apply?

To apply to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, please submit your application online through the common application. You will also need to provide:

  • a portfolio of work
  • an artist's statement
  • transcripts
  • one letter of recommendation
  • an English Proficiency test, if English is not your first language.

ACT and/or SAT scores are optional, but if you believe your scores provide additional insight into your academic abilities, please feel free to submit them.
Learn more at saic.edu/admissions/freshmen/how-to-apply

Can I apply to more than one program?

SAIC offers the following undergraduate degrees:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio (BFA)
  • Bachelor of Arts in Art History (BAAH)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing (BFAW)
  • Bachelor of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies (BAVCS)
  • Bachelor of Arts in Art Education (BAAE)

Within the Common App, you will choose which program you'd like to apply to. Remember that SAIC has an interdisciplinary curriculum, which means that even if you are not officially admitted to a particular Bachelor's Degree program, you are still able to take courses in that area!

How many students apply and how many are admitted?

Generally, about 6500 students apply to our undergraduate program, and around 3600 are admitted annually. Our acceptance rate is approximately 57%. See saic.edu/about/history-and-quick-facts/enrollment for the most up-to-date stats on our student body.

How many students graduate each year?

An average of 650 undergraduate students graduate each year. 

What are the application requirements?

Students must submit the Common Application, a portfolio consisting of 10-15 of their best works, an artist's statement, transcripts, and a letter of recommendation. International students must show English proficiency by submitting either TOEFL, IELTS, PTE, or Duolingo English test scores. Portfolio requirements can vary by department, and we encourage students to meet with us to learn more, or see our portfolio requirements by degree page.

How do I check the status of my application?

Your SAIC applicant portal is a one-stop shop for you to check the status of your application and to submit any missing supplemental materials. You can check the status of your application by following the instructions at saic.edu/portalinstructions

Can you look at my portfolio before I apply?

Yes! Admissions counselors are happy to meet with students one-on-one to help you craft a merit-scholarship winning portfolio. Additionally, we host events throughout the year where students can meet with faculty and staff to get individualized feedback on their work. See all events and sign up at saic.edu/ugevents.

What kind of work should be in my portfolio?

Show us your most recent work—work that will give us a sense of you, your interests, and your willingness to explore, experiment, and think beyond technical art, design, and writing skills. Learn more about what we look for in a portfolio or view our portfolio preparation brochure.

Is it better to have a lot of work that has a similar voice or appearance or to show a more diverse grouping?

The answer is that there is no right or wrong answer! Your portfolio should be individual to you and should showcase the work about which you are passionate. While we don’t require a variety of media, we also don’t restrict you to just one. You are welcome to submit work in only one media or several. Go with whichever option best represents your ideas!

When and how will I find out if I have been accepted to the undergraduate program?

Early Action applicants and students who apply by our published deadlines will typically be notified by mail and email within 3-5 weeks of the deadline.

What is your selection process?

Students are selected for our incoming class based on a holistic view of their application, portfolio, artist's statement, and supplemental materials. You can learn more about crafting a competitive application and portfolio here. Admission and selection for merit scholarships is need-blind, meaning a student's financial situation is not considered when awarding or admitting students.

Can I sit in on classes or meet students before applying?

Yes! Please contact Robert Quintanilla, Associate Director of Admissions & Events at rquintanilla@saic.edu to arrange a classroom visit. Additionally, we host events throughout the year where prospective students can meet and talk with current students. Visit saic.edu/ugevents to see a list of our current events.

Can I hear from current students about their experiences?

Yes! We host a variety of events throughout the year where current students share their experiences at SAIC. You can see a list of our events and RSVP at saic.edu/ugevents.

I have already taken some general education courses, will they transfer?

For Freshmen, SAIC accepts up to a maximum of 12 credit hours - the equivalent of four courses - for any combination of the following: Advanced Placement (AP) Credits: 3 college credit hours for each Advanced Placement (AP) score of 3-5 in ALL academic areas (priority) or studio arts. International Baccalaureate (IB): 6 college credits for any International Baccalaureate (IB) score of 4-7 at the Higher Level (HL) only up to a maximum total of 12 credit hours. College Level Examination Program (CLEP): 6 credit hours if student scores a minimum of 421 on a general exam. For each subject area exam, students must earn a score that is at least equivalent to a grade of "C" for that subject. CLEP credits are considered transfer credits and must be submitted prior to the start of the semester. College Credits (earned in high school): Includes early/pre-college programs or dual enrollment courses with the equivalent of a grade "C" or better. For Transfer students, we will accept up to a maximum of 60 transfer credits for courses in which you have received a grade of "C" or better from an accredited university or college. Learn more.

Is there financial aid available?

Yes. All domestic students will be considered for financial aid as long as they submit a FAFSA. See saic.edu/sfs for more info on filing your FAFSA by the appropriate deadline.

What is the current tuition?

Current tuition rates can be found at saic.edu/tuition/yearly-tuition.

Are scholarships available?

Yes. All students are considered for SAIC's merit scholarships at the time of admission based on a holistic review of their portfolio, artist's statement, and other application materials. No separate application is necessary. You can learn more about crafting a merit scholarship-winning application and portfolio here. Additionally, students are considered for a variety of other scholarships and grants at the time of admission, and a list of outside scholarships researched by SAIC staff to which you can apply can be found at saic.edu/outsidescholarships.

Are International students eligible for financial aid?

International students are eligible for merit-based scholarships, which are awarded during the admission process. Unfortunately, the U.S. Government does not provide funding for foreign nationals to study in the U.S. Most grants, scholarships and loans from public and private sources within the United States are also restricted to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Students should make every effort to identify potential funding sources (national, provincial or private) in your home country.

What is the cost of on-campus housing?

Current on-campus housing costs can be found at saic.edu/tuition/housing-costs

Is there a different tuition rate for in state vs. out of state applicants?

No, all students are charged the same tuition amount regardless of where they live in the world.

How long is the program and can I study part-time?

SAIC's undergraduate degree program requires completion of 126 credit hours, which is normally completed in 4 years with a full time course load. A full-time course load is 15 credits per semester, but students may take up to 18 credits per semester or choose to study in our winter or summer interim sessions, or take a study trip or internship for credit. Part-time study is also available, and students are welcome to take classes as a Student-At-Large (non-degree student), or work towards a degree part-time.

What are the exhibition opportunities for students?

In addition to the annual BFA show, SAIC offers numerous opportunities for students to show their work across campus in both traditional galleries and alternative exhibition spaces, and in venues throughout Chicago. A list of calls for work for SAIC's galleries can be found at saic.edu/exhibitions/show-your-work. In addition, departments frequently share external calls for work with students throughout the year.

What kinds of hands-on experiences do students gain?

With one of the oldest and most successful art-related internship programs in the country, you can fill your resume with meaningful job experience while earning credit before you graduate. Learn more at saic.edu/capx.

What are some of the strengths of your program?

Some of SAIC's many strengths include our interdisciplinary curriculum; award-winning faculty who are also also practicing artists, designers, and scholars; one of the oldest and most successful art-related internship programs in the country; numerous student exhibition opportunities; world-class facilities and resources; a strong liberal arts program, a diverse and worldwide network of successful peers and alumni, and our Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago.

Do you have a visiting artist program?

Yes. Founded in 1868, our Visiting Artists Program is one of the oldest public programs of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has featured over 1,000 international artists, designers, and scholars representing more than 70 countries through a diverse mix of lectures, screenings, conversations, and readings. In addition to public lectures, visitors directly engage with SAIC students through studio critiques and roundtable discussions, fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of contemporary art and culture.

How do our facilities compare to other liberal arts colleges and art schools?

Students at SAIC have access to an extraordinary array of facilities and resources not available at any other college, including our Libraries and Special Collections, Media Centers equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, Gallery Spaces that allow students to showcase their art across multiple exhibition venues, public lectures by world-renowned visiting artists through our Visiting Artists Program, Instructional Shops equipped with a wide range of hand, power, and stationary tools to help you realize your projects, facilities for laser cutting, moldmaking, and 3D printing, a foundry for metal work, 3 Jaquard looms, Blaauw computer controlled kilns, labs for bio-art, kinetics, neon, electronics, and audio art, professional printing, binding and finishing via our Service Bureau, access to the latest design software, individual graduate studios, and much more. In addition, the city of Chicago is home to world-class museums and galleries including our Art Institute of Chicago museum, unparalleled public art and architecture, and diverse and historic neighborhoods linked by an extensive public transit system.

What is the class capacity/ student-to-faculty ratio?

SAIC has an 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio to ensure you receive individual attention from any of our nearly 850 world renowned practicing painters, filmmakers, historians, sculptors, animators, web artists, graphic designers, theorists, sound artists, fashion designers, architects, philosophers, performance artists, photographers, and writers. Most classes have an average of 12 students.

Can I focus on a single discipline or train in multiple fields?

SAIC's undergraduate program is interdisciplinary, meaning you won’t declare a major, and are free to choose from a range of media to fulfill your artistic vision. You are able to combine sculpture, ceramics and film, or concentrate on painting only if you wish. We teach you a way of thinking that is not bound to one medium and gives you the freedom to explore across all our departments.

What can you do with an art degree?

There are a wealth of career opportunities in art and design, and it is one of the fastest growing industries. We invite you to learn more by viewing our Career and Professional Experience brochure or visiting saic.edu/capx.

What do your alumni do? (Who are some famous alums of SAIC?)

You can see a list of notable SAIC alumni at saic.edu/about/notable-alumni. And in addition to the world-famous alumni, there are countless others who are impacting the global landscape- check out SAIC News, which regularly highlights a diverse group of alumni. 

Is on-campus student housing available?

Yes. Most undegraduate students (85%) elect to live in one of our Residence Halls for at least their first year. Living on-campus introduces you to new friends, and provides programming to get you adjusted to the ins and outs of SAIC. Our residence halls are conveniently located just minutes from classes, and feature loft or apartment-style spaces containing:

  • Private bathrooms
  • A kitchenette with stove,
  • Full-size refrigerator, and microwave -
  • Wireless internet -Full-time,
  • Live-in professional staff and student resident advisors
  • 24-hour studio spaces
  • Lounge facilities
  • 24-hour security & ID card access

If you are interested in living on campus, learn more at saic.edu/life-at-saic/housing or contact Residence Life for more information at 312.629.6870.

How can I find out about current events at SAIC?

View school-wide online and in-person events at saic.edu/events!

What resources do you have for students with learning disabilities?

SAIC's Disability and Learning Resource Center (DLRC) was created to support a universally accessible educational community that fosters full participation and contribution of every member. The DLRC delivers innovative and high-quality services to SAIC students with disabilities and facilitates and advocates for reasonable accommodations so that students have equal access to all programs, activities, and services of the institution. Learn more at saic.edu/dlrc.

What are SAIC's diversity initiaitves, and how is the institution addressing issues of equity and inclusion?

SAIC is committed to an equitable, just environment where the voices of all our students, faculty, and staff are valued and respected. View our diversity mission statement.