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Admissions FAQ


We've compiled a list of frequently asked questions below:

General CalArts Information
Applying to CalArts
International Students
Financial Aid
Academic Information
Campus Life

General CalArts Information

Where is CalArts located?

Thirty miles north of downtown Los Angeles, CalArts occupies 60 acres on hills overlooking the city of Santa Clarita, which encompasses the towns of Valencia, Newhall, Saugus and Canyon Country. The campus is adjacent to Interstate Highway 5 on McBean Parkway - 40 miles from Los Angeles International Airport and 21 miles from Burbank Airport.

What is the campus like?

The center of campus life is a sprawling five-level, 500,000-square-foot building, where, according to Walt Disney's original vision for CalArts, different artistic disciplines share space under one roof. This structure houses classrooms, art studios, animation studios, music rehearsal rooms and dance studios; galleries, theaters for drama, dance and film, and a music hall; costume, scenery and machine shops; photo labs, computer and media labs, editing suites for film and video, and a digital recording studio; a library and a cafeteria. For more information visit  on-campus experience.

When was CalArts founded?

CalArts is the first U.S. higher educational institution to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in both visual and performing arts. It was established in 1961 by Walt and Roy Disney through the merger of two professional schools, the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, founded in 1883, and the Chouinard Art Institute, founded in 1921.  

How can I learn more about your programs and see the campus?

We offer small group information sessions led by our Admissions Counselors for prospective students during the week. Reservations are required and should be made through our website. We also offer one-hour walking tours of the campus during the week. Please view the schedule of information sessions and tours.

What is the cost of tuition?

Tuition for 2017-18 is $46,830. Tuition is set each year by the Board of Trustees. You may also view the estimated yearly costs to review the mandatory fees and estimated program costs.

What is the Institute's student-faculty ratio?

The Institute wide student-faculty ratio is 8:1. Individual programs within the Institute may vary. Small classes (average size 14) and a low student-faculty ratio allow instructors to give ample personal attention to their students. Every student works closely with an assigned faculty mentor.

How many students attend CalArts? Where can I find more information about the student population?

CalArts had an enrollment of 1,449 students in Fall 2015. Please view more statistical information at CalArts at a glance  

Where can I find the School Calendar?

Academic Calendar

Does CalArts have ties to the Los Angeles art community?

CalArts students have access to the vast artistic and cultural offerings of Los Angeles, the second-largest metropolitan center in the United States. As CalArts' downtown center for innovative new work,  REDCAT, the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, continues the tradition of CalArts by supporting the commission, production and presentation of today's most challenging works in visual, performing, and media arts. REDCAT is a center for experimentation, discovery, and charged civic discourse. The space is an interdisciplinary contemporary arts center consisting of a 3,000 square foot gallery and a flexible state-of-the-art 200-seat theater located in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex in downtown Los Angeles. 

Can I study abroad?

International opportunities available through CalArts include academic and performance partnerships with organizations worldwide, including: Slade School of Art in London, Glasgow School of Music and Drama, Fringe Edinburgh Festival, Maison de la France and the Cultural Services of the French Consulate in Los Angeles, theater projects in Rwanda and Uganda, and Center for New Performance productions in England, France and Australia. 

What are some of your alumni doing?

CalArts is proud to celebrate the achievements of its distinguished alumni, many of whom are recognized leaders in art innovation, policy and practice. For information on the accomplishments of our alumni, please visit the individual school links below.

School of Art
School of Critical Studies
The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance

School Film/Video
The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts
School of Theater
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Applying to CalArts

When is the deadline to apply?

CalArts has two deadlines to apply for admission to the fall semester. For Fall 2017, the preferred deadline for BFA (undergraduate) applicants is December 1, 2016. The regular BFA deadline is January 5, 2017. Either deadline is acceptable; applicants who submit all of the required materials (including the portfolio and supplemental materials) by December 1 will have a lower application fee.

The graduate deadlines vary by school.  Please view the details on our deadlines page.  After the deadlines have passed, we will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis until the prorgams close.

Students who are interested in applying for the spring semester should contact the Office of Admissions in late September prior to submitting an application.

When is your application available for Fall 2017?

The Fall 2017 application is available now. 

What is required for my portfolio/audition?

All of our programs have different requirements. Please view our Specific Program Requirements.

I think I applied to the wrong program – what should I do?

Please contact the Office of Admissions as soon as possible at 800-545-2787.

How can I get an application fee waiver?

Fee waiver requests must be submitted in writing, and should be sent after applying online. CalArts will accept the standard College Board fee waiver or a letter from a high school/transfer counselor who can verify family financial hardship. Fee waivers are not granted for MFA or International students.

Who should write my letters of recommendation?

We strongly recommend that your letters come from someone
who can speak about your artistic development and your readiness for college-level work. This may include art teachers, academic teachers, college counselors, artistic mentors, employers or collaborators. 

Can I get my letters of recommendations and transcripts returned after I receive my decision letter?

Your letters and transcripts are part of your admissions file and cannot be returned to you after we have received them.

What is an artist statement?

An artist statement is very important in the admissions
process. Please use this statement to discuss the issues and concerns that inform your art-making practice, your reasons for applying to CalArts, and your artistic goals. We do not have a length requirement, but we recommend that your statement run about 1-2 pages. Some programs have additional requirements for the artist statement (please see Specific Program Requirements). When applying online, this statement should be submitted with both your online application and your online portfolio. 

What happens to letters of recommendation or transcripts that are mailed to CalArts before I have submitted my application?

Once we have received your application, we match up any
supporting documents that have arrived and enter them in your admissions file.

How is an admissions decision made and who makes it?

It is the faculty of each program, working together, who decide
artistic acceptance. The decision is made after considering the live audition or submitted portfolio, the artist statement, and the letters of recommendation. The Office of Admissions then reviews the academic coursework and any official language test scores that have been submitted to ensure that students are prepared for the rigors of the academic component of their coursework at CalArts.

Is an interview necessary for admission?

An interview is not a standard requirement for all
applicants. The following programs conduct interviews:

  • The School of Art MFA programs invite a select number of students to final interviews.
  • The Sharon Lund School of Dance MFA program invites a select number of students to final interviews.
  • The School of Film/Video Film Directing program invites a select number of students to final interviews.
  • The Herb Alpert School of Music DMA Performer-Composer program invites a select number of applicants to final interviews.
  • The School of Theater Programs in Design and Production (MFA and BFA) requests interviews for all candidates.

Please review the Specific Program Requirements for more details.

Can I add more materials to my portfolio after I already sent it?

No. The portfolio should be sent as complete from the time they are submitted.  Late additions cannot be matched with previously sent materials.

I am applying as a transfer applicant. Will you need my high school transcripts?

As a transfer applicant you must submit official transcripts of all of your previous college work. If you have not obtained an AA or BA
degree, you must also submit official High School Transcripts and evidence of graduation or the equivalent. These records are needed to complete the admission process and to assist our
faculty committee in reviewing your application and in determining a
program-level placement.

When will I be informed of my admissions decision?

The notification period for the admission decision will be approximately March 1 through early April for students that applied by the regular deadline. There may be cases, however, where the decision will take

My friend already receved a decision from CalArts, but I have not - what does this mean?

We send decision letters out at different times, depending
on when reviews occur and when required materials for the student’s file are received. There is no significance attached to receiving your notification earlier or later than other students that have applied. The notification period for the admission decision is approximately March 1 through early April for students that apply by the regular deadline. There may be cases, however, where the decision will take longer.

What is the CalArts CEEB code for submitting my test scores?

The CalArts CEEB code is 4049. Please note that CalArts does
not require SAT/ACT scores as part of the application process. 

Can I apply to more than one program?

Yes. You will need to submit a separate application using a different email address in addition to required materials and an application fee for each program you would like to apply to. You will also have to send a separate portfolio, or schedule an audition if required, for each of those applications. If you are accepted to more than one program at CalArts, you will then have to choose one program as your major.

Does CalArts offer double majors?

Incoming BFA students are required to choose one program in
which to major. Upper-division (BFA-3 and 4) students who have completed a minimum of one year at CalArts and incoming MFA candidates are eligible to apply for the Interschool program. Applicants will need to complete an Interschool degree application and receive the approval of the mentor, program heads, deans, and the Provost. It is advised that students contact the admissions counselors for both programs at the beginning of the application process to notify them of their interest in the Interschool program.

Does CalArts offer minor programs?

All CalArts BFA students may choose to obtain a Digital
Arts Minor 
, a Critical Studies Minor in one of the following four categories: Humanities, Social Science, Cultural Studies or Natural Science or a Music Theory Minor offered through The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts.

What if the program I want to apply to is already closed? Can I change majors after I have been accepted?

If the program that you wish to apply to is closed for admission, please contact the Office of Admissions about the next semester of eligibility. You may not change majors or programs after you have been accepted. If you decide to switch programs, you will need to submit all of the required application materials, including a portfolio or audition and an application fee at the next available opportunity.

Do you guarantee housing for new students?

CalArts does not require or guarantee housing for all new students. However, we do have several on-campus housing options. Please visit Residential Life to learn more.

When will I get my portfolio back?

Only portfolios submitted with a self-addressed, pre-paid package will be mailed back to students. Portfolios are returned after May 1 through late August. If you would like to pick up your portfolio from the Admissions Office, we require three days prior notification. 

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International Students

How many international students are at CalArts?

About 20% of the CalArts population comes from outside the U.S.

Do you require English proficiency tests for admissions?

Applicants with a native language other than English must
take the internet based version of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL ibt) or the academic version of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum scores for admissions are 80 TOEFL ibt or 6.5 IELTS for undergraduates and 100 TOEFL ibt or 7 IELTS for graduates. 

The TOEFL/IELTS by the
Regular Application Deadline. Applications from international students may not be reviewed if they do not include a TOEFL/IELTS. Please view more information on our English Language Proficiency page.

What if my TOEFL/IELTS scores do not meet your requirements?

Send your current score by the application deadline and then
sign-up to retake the test as soon as possible.  We may review an
application with a low TOEFL/IELTS score. However, we will not review applications with no TOEFL score. Please view more information on our English Language Proficiency page.

What is CalArts’ TOEFL code? How do I register for the test?

Our code is 4049. The department code may be left blank. Please visit the TOEFL page for more information.

Are International students eligible for financial aid?

All state and federal funds for education are available to
U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents only. International students are eligible for institutional funds (scholarships and grants), but these funds are
limited and awarding is very competitive. CalArts scholarships do not cover a student’s entire tuition. All awards are based on merit. To be considered for CalArts funds, you must complete the College Scholarship Service International Student Profile.

What are your payment requirements for the application fee and tuition?

All fees and deposits must be paid in U.S. dollars. International
students applying by the Preferred Deadline of December 1, 2016 pay an application fee of $65.  International students applying by the Regular Deadline of January 5, 2017 pay an application fee of $85. Accepted
students are also required to pay a tuition deposit of $700 to accept their spot at CalArts.

Whom do I contact for questions about obtaining my visa (I-20)?

For information on the requirements, please visit our Student
Visas and I-20 page
. Anessa Escobar, International
Students and Programs Advisor, may be reached at aescobar@calarts.edu if
you have additional questions.

I have more questions about applying to CalArts as an International student.

Please visit the Coming to CalArts as an International Student page.  You may also contact The Office of Admissions at admissions@calarts.edu if you have additional questions.

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Financial Aid

How can I apply for CalArts scholarships?

Our priority deadline for both financial aid and scholarships is February 15. Please review the financial aid application information on the Financial Aid page

Do I apply for financial aid after I receive my decision letter from CalArts?

No. If you are a prospective student, we urge you to apply for financial aid before you receive your decision letter from the Office of Admissions. Financial aid
deadlines are important and can easily be missed if you wait to apply. You must complete and submit the FAFSA by the February 15th priority deadline to be considered for both federal funds and CalArts scholarships and grants.

How much do supplies cost per year?

Supply costs vary depending on program and year level. Please view the estimated yearly costs for details.

What are some of the work-study jobs on campus?

Work-study is a jobs program for students with financial
need. CalArts offers both federal work-study and institutional work-study. Work-study is a campus-based program for domestic students and is administered by the Financial Aid Office. International students may be eligible for institutional work-study. Employment is limited to jobs located on campus. Many of the offices at CalArts hire work-study for the academic year. For more information,
please visit the CalArts Work-Study page.

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Academic Information

Will I get a well-rounded liberal arts education at CalArts?

All undergraduates pursuing the BFA degree must complete a
range of liberal arts courses designed to ensure that each student has a broad knowledge and cultural sophistication needed for a successful arts career in today’s world. Critical studies classes seek not only to broaden your
general knowledge and sharpen your critical thinking and writing skills, but also address aesthetic, political, social, and ethical issues. In order to earn a BFA from CalArts, you must complete at least 46 Critical Studies units. Students generally take a minimum of 2-3 Critical Studies courses per semester. We also offer Critical Studies Minors in the following four categories: Humanities, Social Science, Cultural Studies or Natural Science

What types of degrees does CalArts offer?

CalArts offers BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) and MFA (Master
of Fine Arts) degrees as well as undergraduate and advanced Fine Arts Certificates for most of our programs. We also offer an MA (Master of
Arts) in Aesthetics and Politics through the School of Critical Studies and a DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) for the Performer/Composer Program in the School of Music.

How long will it take me to finish my degree?

BFA degrees typically take four years to complete, while MFA
programs vary from two to three years. The MA in Aesthetics and Politics is designed as a one year program and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree takes approximately 3 years to complete. Program Lengths are detailed here.

I have already taken some general education courses, will they transfer?

CalArts, in principle, accepts all postsecondary transfer
credits from regionally accredited colleges and universities; we accept equivalent courses for our core curriculum requirements in Critical Studies. 

I am registering for classes at a community college. Can I get a list of classes that will transfer?

CalArts, in principle, accepts all
postsecondary transfer credits from regionally accredited colleges and
universities; we accept equivalent courses for our core curriculum requirements
in Critical Studies. Classes must be passed with a grade of “C”
higher. Please view our Transfer Credit
 for more  information.

What about classes in my major, do they transfer?

Classes in your major will typically transfer as electives
within your BFA program. All previous education and training will be evaluated by the faculty within your program in order to grant the appropriate credit and placement. Please keep in mind that the year level placement in your major is determined by your audition or portfolio, and is not solely dependent on the number of credits that are transferred in. Please review our Transfer Credit Policy for more information.

When can I find out which classes will transfer in and satisfy CalArts degree requirements?

Students will be notified of their year level placement
(BFA1, BFA2 etc.) at the time they are accepted.  Students must submit final transcripts after they have completed course work in progress in order to receive an official transfer evaluation.  During the summer, deposited
students who have submitted final transcripts are evaluated for transfer credit and the results are made available to students during the registration period.

Does CalArts accept AP credit?

CalArts grants Critical Studies credit toward the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree for successful completion of examinations in the Advanced Placement Program of the College Entrance Examination Board. Students presenting scores of 3 or better are granted 4 semester units toward the Critical Studies requirement for each examination in the Humanities or Sciences as they relate to Critical Studies core curriculum requirements.

Does CalArts accept IB classes?

CalArts grants Critical Studies credit toward the Bachelor
of Fine Arts degree for successful completion of the International
Baccalaureate Diploma. Students presenting scores of 4 or better are granted 4 semester units toward the Critical Studies requirement for each examination in the Humanities or Sciences as they relate to Critical Studies core curriculum

What classes are offered at CalArts?

A complete list of courses can be found in our online Course Catalog.

Will I have an advisor?

Every student is assigned a faculty mentor who is
responsible for guiding the student through their artistic programs. CalArts emphasizes the creation of strong student-to-faculty relationships that enable students to draw from their instructors' knowledge and creative spirit. Although students are initially assigned to a mentor, they have the freedom to change mentors at any point, and the student-mentor relationship continues throughout the student's time at CalArts.

Additionally, academic advisors complement the guidance
students’ receive from their mentors. Academic advisement is a collaborative relationship between the student and an advisor. Advisors work with students to identify their academic goals, develop the skills needed to obtain those goals, and guide students through the requirements of their degree. Advising is a process that helps students to approach their degree in a holistic and organized way. Students can expect an atmosphere of guidance, support, and encouragement from their advisor. Advisement services are provided by the Institute Academic Advisor housed in the Office of the Registrar, and in the Teaching and Learning Center in the Library.

What resources do you have for learning disabled students?

Please view the resources available through our Student Affairs Office.

How is grading done at CalArts?

Student progress is evaluated through the mentoring process
and by a system of faculty reviews that includes a mid-residence review and a graduation review. Faculty judgments are documented by grades, review reports, a Critical Studies report on student progress in meeting the Critical Studies requirements, and by annual mentee progress reports and annual mentor's reports. All of these reports are available to students as part of their
official record.  

Does CalArts offer part-time study?

No. CalArts is an intensive arts training program, and as such, we offer only full-time study.

Is CalArts accredited?

California Institute of the Arts is accredited by the
Accrediting Commissions for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, 985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, CA 94501, (510) 748-9001. CalArts is also a full member of the National Association of Schools of Music, Dance, and Theater. The Institute's School of Art is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Information concerning these organizations and their decisions is available in the Office of the Provost.

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Campus Life

What kinds of campus organizations do you have on campus?

We have many different student groups on campus. To view the list of organizations and to find out how to form a student group, please visit the Student Affairs Office page.

What kind of food does CalArts have to offer for students in the dorms?

CalArts provides a dining service program for all students,
faculty, staff and guests in the Café. Food is prepared fresh daily and features a selection of hot entrees, vegetarian and vegan meals, a full salad bar, drinks, and snacks. All first year BFA students residing on
campus are required to purchase a minimum of a 10 meal/week
plan and all second year BFA students residing on campus are required to
purchase a minimum of $200 in flex dollars each semester. Other resident students, commuter students and all members of the CalArts community are welcome to purchase a meal plan or flex dollars. More information can be found in the Resident Meal Plan.

Does CalArts offer emergency services in case of illness or injury?

Our Student Health Services employs a registered nurse to
provide general care, such as first aid for injuries and treatment for minor illnesses. Students are referred to physicians and/or nearby hospitals when necessary. Office hours are 8.30am - 4.30pm during the school
year. Please visit the Health Services page for more information.

Do you have campus security?

Campus safety officers patrol CalArts 24 hours a day and can
be contacted via emergency phones located throughout campus.

Is public transportation available around CalArts?

Please view detailed transportation information here.

Can I bring my car to campus? How much does it cost to park?

Yes, you may bring your own car and park on campus throughout the school year. We do not charge a fee to park at CalArts; however, you are required to register your vehicle with Campus Safety and you
must affix a CalArts parking decal to your car.

Do I need to bring a computer, or will one be provided?

CalArts has several computer labs, located throughout
campus, available for student use. We do not provide personal computers for our students. If you would like to bring your own computer, please contact your Admissions Counselor for hardware and software recommendations specific to your program.

What are the dorms like?

Chouinard Hall houses the majority of on-campus residents. The
rooms are mostly double occupancy rooms with a limited number of triple occupancy rooms (triples are available to new BFA 1 students
only). Standard in each room are the following for each resident: Twin size bed frame & mattress, desk & chair, dresser, walk-in closet or
wardrobe closet. In addition, each room is equipped with individual a/c & heat temperature control and cable, telephone & internet
access. Chouinard is set up in a traditional suite style in which two
rooms are connected by a shared bathroom.

Ahmanson Hall houses MFA students and returning BFA 3’s & BFA
4’s. Ahmanson is apartment style living with 5-6 residents living in each apartment, which we refer to as suites. Personal bedrooms are single occupancy. Each suite has a common living area with couches and end tables, a kitchen with a refrigerator, oven/stove, storage cabinets, and a dining table with chairs. The shared bathroom has two sinks, a
separate/private toilet stall and a separate shower room.

Do you offer jobs on campus that are not work-study?

Several CalArts offices hire students outside of the work-study program.  You will need to contact individual offices and
departments about employment when you are on campus.

Do you have a gym or sports facilities on campus?

CalArts has two tennis courts, a basketball court, a sauna,
an outdoor swimming pool, and a fully equipped weight room (available to Chouinard and Ahmanson Hall residents). Individual and team sports, van trips, and other recreational activities are all sponsored by the Student Affairs Office.

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Last edited by mryan on Feb 08, 2017
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