Applying To Film School
Requirements for applying to film schools will differ greatly depending on the kind of institution you are applying to. For instance, whether you are applying to a private or public institution, a 4-year, 2-year or career college, a stand-alone film school, and whether you are applying to a school using the Common Application or not.
Due to the hands-on, learn-by-doing nature of film, most film schools offer programs with limited enrollment in order to make sure students get the mentoring and attention they need for their creative projects. But limited enrollment means strong competition for the available spaces. Admission is therefore based on a careful evaluation of the following: portfolio (if required), transcripts showing academic grades and GPA, class rank, SAT or ACT score, personal/artist statement or essay, background and experiences, letters of recommendation, and information provided by the high school counselor. The admissions committee will try to build a total picture of you, taking into account your character and potential for success. Institutions give different weight to the various criteria: for example, some universities and colleges do not require or even accept the SAT for admission. In some cases, preference may be given to students from the institution's state, and some states even require proof of immunization against certain vaccine-preventable diseases. Some students, rather than being rejected outright, are "wait-listed" for a particular school and may be admitted if another student who was admitted decides not to attend.
Pursuing a program in film means exposing your talents--even during the application process. In addition to general institute application and document requirements, most film schools and programs request a portfolio so that they can evaluate your artistic abilities and therefore your chances for success in the program. Portfolio requirements can vary greatly from institution to institution and have specific dates and deadlines that differ from those for general applications and supporting documents. Portfolio requirements will also differ according to the specific program you are applying to (for instance, cinema studies versus film and media arts). Generally, though, you can expect to be asked to include any of the following: a short film or video (live action or animation) on DVD or VHS; storyboards and/or a portfolio of drawings or paintings; photographs; dramatic or creative writing; academic essay on a film, director or other film-related topic. Note that submitted work will usually not be returned, so do not send originals. Different schools have different rules, so students are strongly advised to consult the specific program website for all the details. Also, double check the address for where to send your portfolios: in some cases, it must be sent directly to the film School or College, rather than to the university's or college's undergraduate admissions office.
University and college semesters generally start in August or September for fall term and January for the winter term, and the application process itself usually begins in your senior year of high school. Students with a record of scholastic excellence in their first 3 years of high school may qualify for early enrollment, which involves a recommendation from your principal, approval from your parents as well as scores on academic tests.
Generally the application process involves submitting an online or print application form directly to the institution by a specific deadline. Most universities and colleges in the US have their own application forms, with the exception of institutions that use the Common Application. The Common Application can only be used to apply to member institutions (about 345 in the United States) which have agreed to use it. In the Common Application process, copies of online or print Application for Undergraduate Admission can be sent to any number of participating colleges. The same is true of the other required forms, which allows you to spend less time on applying for admission. Each member institution has a specific deadline for when they will accept the Common Application, and once a deadline has passed, you will no longer be able to submit your forms.
In both types of application you need to have your official high school transcripts sent directly to the institution from your high school, and you should be prepared to pay a non-refundable application fee of about $20-$100. Some schools will waive this fee if you use the online Common Application or offer a reduced fee if you apply early. Application deadlines are generally between November and January, and there may be specific deadlines for your portfolio and submitting your SAT for scholarship consideration.
In addition, many universities and colleges have implemented a system through which students can apply at a time other than the most common deadline. This is called the Early Decision program, and it permits you to apply a few months early if you agree to attend the school if offered admission in mid-December. Early Decision does mean less choice, but it also means you only have to submit one application--if you get into your top choice. You can only back out Early Decision's binding agreement if the financial aid offered is not enough. Similarly, the Early Action program means you apply early and find out the results early, but you are not bound to the school if accepted. Within Early Action there are the single- and multi-choice subprograms: single-choice early action schools only allow you to apply early to one school while multi-choice early action schools let you to apply to many schools. Further, rolling admission is used by some schools with a large number of applicants. It means you can apply any time between the fall and spring and get your result a few weeks later. You therefore don't have to apply to all of your schools at the same time, but be aware: it means earlier applicants get first acceptance. So apply as soon as possible to your rolling admissions schools.
Stand-alone film institutes and smaller community and career colleges may have quite different requirements and application processes. These institutions often have specific course requirements needed for admission to the program, such as a 'C' grade or better in English and math courses. Application requires you to complete an online application form and, often, an assessment test in addition to any of the requirements listed above. Career colleges generally have much more open admission, admitting students on a first-come, first-served basis. Requirements may consist simply of completing the online application and submitting proof of high school completion or GED. Both community colleges and career colleges with internal scholarships and aid may encourage early application in order to qualify for these awards and financial assistance. At some of these film schools a portfolio is optional, and applicants will automatically be admitted simply if they are 16 years or older.
Your future is important, so no matter which way you apply, you want to get it right. Two things that are usually not required, but always highly recommended, are a campus visit and interview with an admissions counselor. Knowledge is power, so be sure to seek out the people and resources that can help you get as much information as possible before you apply to a film school or program.
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