At Rhode Island School of Design, your only limitations are your own ideas.
The Rhode Island School of Design, located in a charming and breathtakingly hilly area of downtown Providence, is
an artist’s dream for college studies. RISD (pronounced RIZ-dee) was founded by a group of women in 1877: the 34-members Rhode Island Women’s Centennial Commission invested $1,675 in what has become a refreshingly unique educational experience for young artists. As admissions officer Sarah Pollard, a graduate of RISD, explained, when you are a RISD student you are “living, learning and breathing art and design” within a community of people who are passionate about looking at the world closely yet seeing it differently.
But RISD is not all dreaming. It is hard work to learn all you can about the world of your passion, with a plethora of careers available after graduation. The Foundation year for freshmen includes eight-hour studio classes (with an hour break), but it “flies by” because you are doing what you love. It covers drawing, design principles, spatial dynamics, the history of art and visual culture, and literary arts and studies. Every year is a different set of experiences, and “your only limitations are your own ideas.”
Majors include apparel design, architecture, ceramics, film/animation and video, furniture design, glass, graphic design, illustration, industrial design, interior architecture, jewelry/metalsmithing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and textiles. With a student/faculty ratio of 9.5:1, approximately 87 percent of the faculty is composed of working artists, designers and scholars who offer critiques and support. Even the winter session at RISD is fascinating: You have the opportunity to do a focused study, internships often combined with travel abroad. For example, you might do paper making in Japan, jewelry and crafts in Mexico, or design in New York or Paris.
The facilities at RISD are as remarkable as the course of study. RISD facilities house kinds of technology from electron microscopes and 3-D scanners and are currently adding more opportunities with skills in computers and coding. Travel and Leisure ranked its library as one of the most beautiful in the country. The world-famous RISD Museum of Art is a great place to learn and enhance your work and learning, and students can make appointments with curators to see more that is not on exhibit.
Regarding housing, freshmen and sophomores live on campus; upperclassmen can stay on in or move into very affordable local housing; upperclassmen’s options range from classic and historic Hill Houses to alcove suites in a converted bank building at 15 West that has the advantage of elevators and air conditioning. The Met dining room has varied options including vegan choices, clubs are student generated equally diverse, and events range from the Artist Ball around Halloween and the Thunderdome, when students make armor out of cardboard! From fencing, sailing, ballet and yoga to clubs with monikers like Rhode Kill, BAAD, Kehilah and the Cheese Society, student life is rich in community and spirit.
If you are hoping to study all areas of academics at RISD, though, you should know that the school does not offer math or foreign language. For that, you have the option of cross registration with Brown University, which is literally minutes away. The two schools share clubs, music and social life. There is also a very selective dual degree program which accepts 15 to 20 students each year. This 5-year program culminates with a BA from Brown and a BFA from RISD.
RISD takes the Common App and offers an ED option without the possibility of deferral. There is a supplementary essay and the dual degree program requires a separate essay as well. SAT and ACT scores are welcome but the school is test-optional. One unique element of the admissions process that they consider grades from sophomore and junior year and that they expect a very creative and thorough portfolio of 12 to 20 images of your best and most recent work that shows your point of view. “Slideroom” accepts every file format.
“We want to know about what you bring to the table,” Sarah explained. “What you care about…what excites you.”
RISD is located at 2 College St, Providence, RI 02903
Phone: 401 454-6100
Toll-free: 800 364-RISD
Follow along with College Essay Whiz next week in our post about Brown University!