Making the choice to major in the visual arts for some students can be a tough decision. Not only do you have to go through the academic admissions requirements, but you also have the added pressure of submitting a portfolio of your creative work. For most university art programs and private art schools, your portfolio will play a determining factor in your admission.

But the portfolio needn’t be scary or an obstacle to getting into the college of your choice as long as it is approached in a thoughtful and serious manner.

The first step in developing a portfolio is to create a list of first choice and back-up colleges that you are planning to apply to and contact each of their admissions departments to obtain their particular portfolio and admissions requirements.

Some schools only accept original art whereas some only accept slides; some will accept a digital portfolio and others have size limitations; some have strict application deadlines and others are on rolling admissions. The required content of the portfolio may also differ from college to college and each school’s criteria should be followed as closely as possible.

Even if you are currently enrolled in AP Art or an arts program, consulting with a college admissions counselor can give you guidance with your portfolio in advance; generally, these meetings are preliminary and in most cases, not an official review or interview. Meeting as early as possible with a college counselor will give you the opportunity to strengthen the concept and look of the portfolio though constructive criticism and editing.

The most important detail of preparing your portfolio for college admissions is to remember to give yourself plenty of time and have fun with it. It is almost impossible to create quality work if you are nervous and under a time constraint. Don’t wait until the last minute, and make enough work so you can edit together the best portfolio for each school you plan to apply to.