Freshman Applicants


Applications for freshman admission are accepted beginning on September 1.

Early Decision Deadline: November 1

Decisions are mailed in the second week of December. Please note that applying for Early Decision indicates a commitment to attend if admitted.

Regular Deadline: February 1

Decisions are mailed in the third week of March.


Graduation from secondary school is a prerequisite, although a high school equivalency diploma may be accepted. Prospective applicants are urged to follow a college preparatory program in secondary school, taking courses in studio art and art history where possible. Courses that develop visual and design skills (such as studio drawing) are strongly recommended. Students interested in our Architecture program must have completed a course sequence in mathematics including algebra, geometry and trigonometry and one year of science, preferably physics.


Application Form  You may apply using either the Common Application or the RISD Online Application. The application fee is $60.  You will need to choose one option to complete your RISD application process. Do not mix-and-match or use both applications.

If for some reason you’re not able to use either of these applications, please contact the Admissions Office at or 800 364 7473.

Academic Transcripts  Applicants must provide official transcripts of all secondary academic work through the most recent grading period. If you are attending school in another country, your academic credentials must be translated into English by an approved translator. Your counselor may submit your transcript through the Common App (if you have chosen to use that option), Parchment, email or mail.

SAT or ACT | All applicants are required to submit the results of the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT (American College Testing program), including the writing component. Subject tests are not required. RISD’s CEEB code number for the SATs is 003726; for ACT the code number is 003812.

TOEFL or IELTS | All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from either TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Since proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on either test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL or 6.5 on IELTS. Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take six weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD.

Portfolio  Your portfolio should show a selection of 12–20 examples of your best recent artwork. We suggest that the work reflect the full range of your ideas, interests, experience and abilities in the arts to date. Work presented can be in any medium (including film or video), in finished or sketch form, and the result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration. We strongly recommend that you include a few pages from your journal or sketchbook to indicate your process of research, thinking and investigation.

Portfolios must be submitted through SlideRoom, an online portfolio service (which requires an additional $10 fee).

Drawings  Provide two drawing samples, each done on a sheet of white paper measuring 16"x 20" (40 cm x 50 cm).

We consider drawing to be as much about process as presentation and encourage you to consider your drawing submissions as exercises in experimental thinking and risk-taking more than as final presentations or examples of technical proficiency. We do not value any particular style of drawing more than another, so feel free to explore the full range of possible expression in your drawings. We are looking for work that reveals your distinct point of view. Using existing images from others as the direct source for your drawings, however, is not recommended.

drawing #1 | Create a drawing through a process of directly observing the forms, light, shapes and relationships of something in front of you.  You can choose any subject you wish—for example, natural forms, landscapes or urban spaces, a group of objects (natural and/or manmade), someone you know, and on and on....

Remember that the subject matter is merely a vehicle for observing relationships that work together to build a compelling point of view and visual description.
This drawing must be done using either graphite pencil or charcoal.

drawing #2 | select one of the following options:

  • Create a drawing instrument or tool. Make a drawing with the instrument you have created. Send the original drawing to us and upload an image or a video of the instrument with your portfolio in SlideRoom.
  • Make a drawing of a bicycle

For Drawing #2, you may use graphite pencil or any dry (fixable) medium, a water-based medium (such as ink, watercolor or gouache) or a combination. Do not use any oil-based medium or collage. Remember that whatever medium(s) you choose, the surface must be stable and dry and you must be able to fold the paper (see below) in order to mail it to our office.

Fold your drawings in half and then in half again to a finished size of 8"x 10" (20cm x 25cm) and be sure to note your full name, date of birth and address on the back of each drawing. Drawings must be mailed to the Admissions Office in their original form, not submitted as reproductions.

Writing Sample  Submit one example of your writing, up to 650 words. Remember, this is the limit, not a goal. Use the full limit if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so.

The writing prompts are listed below, but you will also find these prompts in the Personal Essay section of the Common Application and in the Writing section of the RISD online application.

Select one of the following options:

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a distinctive personal position in the samples you submit.

Letter(s) of Recommendation  Although not required, these letters can be very helpful to your application. One letter is suggested, although as many as three may be submitted. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential as a student.

Please use the Common Application or the RISD Online Application to invite people who are writing letters in support of your application to upload them through that service. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below) or emailed to


» Submit your application form through either the Common Application or the RISD Online Application.

» Have your school send official transcripts to the Admissions Office - electronically through the Common Application or Parchment -  or by email or mail.

» Upload your portfolio through SlideRoom.

» Mail your two original drawings to the Admissions Office.

» Upload your writing sample and letters of recommendation through the Common Application or the RISD Online Application.

We prefer that your credentials be submitted electronically using the online tools but paper versions of official transcripts, recommendations, writing sample and test reports may also be mailed to:

Admissions Office
Rhode Island School of Design
Two College Street
Providence, RI 02903


Students applying for admission to the Dual Degree Program must complete the application process at both institutions by our respective deadlines: January 1 for Brown and February 1 for RISD.

You may not apply to both RISD and Brown using the Early Decision deadline, although you can choose to apply to one of the two schools early. If you do so, please indicate your interest in this program on your application. 

The only additional credential required to apply for this program is the Dual Degree Supplement, which is included within either of RISD’s application options. Note that the dual degree essay does not replace the other required writing sample.

Students must be admitted both to RISD and Brown before being considered for admission to the Dual Degree Program

Application process

You have two options to complete and submit your application. You may use The Common Application or RISD’s own online application . Both options allow you to save your form in progress and return to it later. Both also allow you to submit some of the other credentials required in the process and our application fee is the same using either option. Please note, however, the two drawing assignments that are required must be submitted directly to our office.

We’d love to welcome you here on campus and visiting RISD, while classes are in session is highly recommended to get a true feel for the atmosphere and the nature of our studio learning process.

If you’re not able to make it to campus, RISD representatives are available to speak with you at selected Portfolio Days across the country.

You can also request additional information and receive printed materials designed to give you a feel for what RISD is like.

Of course, please contact us with any questions.

401 454-6300


800 364-7473

Students often need to double up to transport large canvases, especially when it’s windy along the riverwalk in front
of the RISD Auditorium.