What Is An Arts Supplement and Should I Do One?

While most schools require that you complete a supplement specific to their school, often in the format of an essay or series of essays, some schools offer a slightly different kind of supplement—an arts supplement detailing your interest and contribution to a certain creative field. Here’s what you need to know:

 An arts portfolio is often required if you’re applying to an arts or creative degree program. Namely, BFA and BA programs with a focus on art, creative writing, photography, and the like.

Alternatively, there are optional arts supplements that you can submit if you think appropriate. For example, MIT, Princeton, and Yale are three schools that offer students the option to submit a portfolio of their work that they have done outside of the classroom. A large number of schools offer this option. Sometimes they’re called “Portfolios,” “Additional Material,” “Arts Portfolio,” “Optional Arts Form,” and the list goes on. They all mean generally the same thing—a submission containing an organized display of creative work within a medium of your choosing. If you think that this might apply to you, we suggest submitting content that pertains to one particular medium, i.e. don’t submit 12 photos and a random piece of art that you created freshman year. It should illustrate continuity within and dedication to a certain form of artistic expression. If you “dabble” then this probably isn’t for you—just because they give you the option doesn’t mean you should take it. Reach out to us if you need a second opinion.

An arts (or other) supplement is a chance to display and share a hobby or talent that the college may not know that you had. In this case, it can be a great addition to your application package as a whole and add some depth in an unpredictable area. It can surely make you stand out from the crowd. If you submit an arts portfolio, you are not required to major in that art at a particular school, similar to how you aren’t tied to the major that you detail as your major of interest in a school’s particular supplement. That said, we don’t always advise that students submit an arts supplement.

If you’re wondering if you should submit an arts supplement, consider the following questions:

  • Did you go to an arts-focused high school?
  • Do you consider yourself a creative person?
  • Do you play an instrument regularly (practice, lessons, etc.)
  • Do you spend a significant amount of your free time practicing an art?

If you’ve answered yes to at least 2, then you should absolutely submit an arts supplement. If you’re wondering if the arts supplement is for you, send us a note or give us a call. We can help you determine if you should complete an arts supplement as well as help you put it together.

We’ve listed out the most common types of arts supplements and what they typically include below, along with the average amount of time that we believe it takes to complete based on our experience. Please note that every school has different requirements—these are just examples that we’ve compiled after reviewing dozens of arts supplement requirements. A large part of the application process is about following instructions and reading, so make sure that you’ve read through and are very familiar with your school’s particular requirements.:


  • 1-3 visual recordings, 8-15 minutes total, that evidence your dance abilities
  • A dance resume including a short statement about your interest in dance
  • A recommendation from a dance mentor/teacher
  • Estimated compilation time: 3-6 hours.


Visual Arts/Photography/Video or Digital Media Arts

  • 10-20 slides or images displaying your work (one medium recommended)
  • A recommendation from an arts mentor/teacher
  • Estimated compilation time: 4-8 hours.


  • 1-3 visual recordings that evidence your acting, directing, or writing work on stage or film
  • If a writer, you can submit 1-2 scripts up to 10 pages each
  • A theater or performance resume including a short statement about your interest within the theater or performance sphere
  • A recommendation from a performing arts mentor/teacher
  • Estimated compilation time: 3-6 hours.


  • 1-2 pieces of music, no longer than 10 mins total, featuring a solo performance and that illustrate your ability to play or sing a variety of musical styles
  • One recent composition (if you’re a composer)
  • A musical resume including a short statement about your interest in music
  • A recommendation from a musical mentor/teacher
  • Estimated compilation time: 6-8 hours.

Research/Academic Work

This is less common, but we thought we’d delve into it a bit. Some colleges have this option as a supplement, which typically includes:

  • creative writing
  • scientific research
  • an in-depth research project

If you think you might have a piece of academic work that is truly extraordinary, then this is for you. The formats vary, so review your specific college’s requirements, but know that this might be an option. We recommend that you include a statement on why this piece of academic work is particularly notable or important to you.

Estimated compilation time: 1-2 hours.

As a note, the deadlines for arts supplements are the same as the deadlines for the application. So, if you’re applying early somewhere you can’t send in your arts supplement on November 15th if the deadline is November 1st. Some schools offer students the chance to audition live, but again look into your specific school to see if that is something they offer. Additionally, many schools have a list online of the instruments that they are prepared to review. Make sure that your instrument is on there. Nothing is worse than spending hours on something that they can’t even properly evaluate.

In order to submit your arts supplements, you’ll need to do so most often through the program Slideroom. Each school has their own Slideroom page, similar to how every school has a different page within the Common Application. Click around and get familiar.

Let us know if you need help with this. The arts supplement is not an easy part of your application, but it has the potential to truly make you stand out. We have a lot of experience compiling these kinds of supplements, so we’re happy to help you put together your best possible arts supplement.