The Best Pre-BFA Summer Programs 2019

If you are an aspiring artist of any medium, spending your summer as a volunteer assistant arts teacher one day/week is not going to cut it. College admissions are, frankly, ruthless, and the BFA-track provides no exception. So, we’ve curated a list of impressive and rigorous summer programs for aspiring, cut-throat artists wishing to immerse themselves in their craft once school is out. 

Yale Summer Session  

Yale is widely regarded as the top BFA program in the country. Rising seniors should consider their summer session for college credit. Students can choose from courses about visual thinking, painting, typography, photography, film, and design.

UCLA Art Summer Institute

U.S. News & World ranks UCLA #2 in the country for arts programs. The rigorous summer program in the renowned department allows high schoolers to choose from a few three-week sessions. Classes combine studio work, outings, lectures, and critiques and focuses include drawing, painting, photography, and sculpture.  

RISD Pre-College

We love this six-week program because students will leave with a sizable portfolio of work. It’s also one of the most specialized programs in the country. Students can choose between 23 majors within the visual medium, from photography and illustration, to jewelry and furniture design, as well as video, and fashion. Students will spend time between college classes and the studio, preparing for final critiques and an exhibition at the end. Simply put, RISD is one of the best in the nation and this program is a valuable one for those willing to put in the effort.

Virginia Commonwealth Pre-College Summer Intensive

The Virginia Commonwealth School of the Arts is impressive. This three-week program allows students to choose between focuses in digital filmmaking, graphic design, 2D and 3D portfolio development, comics, creative coding, digital photography, fashion design & merchandising, graphic design, interior design, and theater. The course also incorporates weekend field trips and day-long labs on subjects such as printmaking

Parsons Summer Intensive Studies  

The New School’s Parsons School of Design is one of the best in the league. Located in NYC’s West Village, the Summer Intensive offers credit-based studio courses in art and design. Students can choose from classes in drawing, design, painting, photography, illustration, animation, and print-making.


NYU’s Saturday Art Workshop is a great option for NYC-based students or kids who have relatives in the city. Through a series of Saturday classes, students will focus on social justice through art via multiple artistic disciplines.  

Columbia College Immersion  

Yet another New York City summer experience, Columbia College Immersion is a great way to gain college credit during your break. This Ivy offers myriad, three-week options for artistic-minded high schoolers, from art history, to painting, to photography, drawing, and theater.

Barnard High School Pre-College Programs, Dance in The City  

Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from its Ivy League counterpart, Barnard offers a two-week intensive for young dancers. The program, which we should mention is offered only to women, combines both studio and classroom instruction. Students will focus on critical analysis and writing, while enjoying field trips around one of the country’s most performance-rich cities, as well as a range of technique courses including modern, contemporary, and classic ballet.

Syracuse Summer College for High School Students 

Syracuse has one of the largest selections of summer courses  for high schoolers out there, including an array of offerings for kids intent upon pursuing a BFA in college. Courses range from one to six-weeks in length, and include acting, animation, environmental and industrial design, sound engineering, and a few offerings in the 3D art space.

Cornell Art As Experience: Drawing, Photography & Printmaking

This program incorporates both studio work and class-time, allowing students to use the university’s digital technology. The three-week, three credit course also focuses on theory and art history, and includes a class exhibition at the end of the term.


Need help identifying a summer activity that’s right for me? Reach out to us here. We are experts at helping students develop impressive resumes.