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Transfer Students

Welcome to the California Institute of the Arts! 

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Life at CalArts Orientation In-Person Registration School Info
Transfer Credits Required Courses Breadth Requirements Residency Requirements FAQs

We are excited to have you join the CalArts community! While you have already attended classes at another institution, there is much for you to learn to make a smooth transition into CalArts.

One of the first features you will notice is that CalArts is not a traditional college or university. The CalArts educational philosophy is based on close collegial interaction between teachers and students—in class, in production, and in one-to-one mentoring. This approach combines rigorous instruction with individualized attention, a process that empowers students to define and refine their own distinctive artistic voices. Given more creative freedom than at traditional art schools and conservatories, our students, in turn, are self-motivated, passionate, and deeply committed to their work.

As a transfer student, you will immediately spot the CalArts' difference. Many schools provide a four-year roadmap to follow in order to earn a bachelor's degree. While there are required courses at CalArts, an enormous emphasis is placed on your individual ability, growth, and future plans in your art. You will fashion your own unique roadmap in consultation with your assigned mentor once you arrive on campus in September. Your mentor will be a faculty member from your School who will be your guide and contact person regarding your artistic progress and course requirements.

To learn more about what life will be like at CalArts, check out what other students have to say. The CalArts Experience

Life at CalArts

  • Residential Life/Housing
    Where you live is an important aspect of a student's life. Check out residential life for information about on- and off campus housing and learn about the communities around the CalArts' campus.
  • Financial Aid
  • Course Catalogs and Schedules
  • Student Resources
    View the school calendar, course catalog and schedule, health services, student handbook, student organizations, and where to log in to get access to financial aid offers, grades, and managing class schedules.

New Student Orientation

We strongly encourage you to attend the CalArts New Transfer Student Orientation before beginning your first semester of courses. This is the best way to become familiar with life at CalArts. Orientation is designed to assist with the transition from your previous school to CalArts. During this session, you will learn about the CalArts' residency and breadth requirements, transfer credit information, Critical Studies requirements and what classes you will need to complete, and who to contact for academic advising.

In-Person Registration

Students can sign-up for Critical Studies classes taught by Critical Studies faculty online. All other courses, such as métier courses, must be signed up in person, during in-person registration times. 

School-Specific Information

School of Music

The Herb Alpert School of Music contacts incoming transfer students directly in order to schedule individual transcript review sessions with a School of Music administrator. These sessions take place near the beginning of Orientation week. If you are a transfer student and have not been contacted by August 20 in order to schedule such a session, please contact the School of Music to inquire.

These meetings are roughly 20 minutes in duration. Their purpose is to determine whether your past college coursework in music fulfills any of the music course requirements in your CalArts program.

Students should come prepared to these meetings. You MUST bring up-to-date copies of all your past college transcripts to the review session. Unofficial transcript copies (e.g., copies printed from the web) will suffice if you don't have official copies at hand, but the CalArts' Office of the Registrar will eventually require official copies for verification purposes.

You may wish to compare in advance your past completed college coursework in music to the course requirements of your program at CalArts. These requirements are indicated in your CalArts Course Catalog.

Please be aware that the Herb Alpert School of Music does NOT accept transfer credit for music theory or musicianship skills courses. All incoming students (including transfer students) must take CalArts Music Theory and Musicianship Skills Placement Examinations, which take place during Orientation Week. Students will be placed in courses in CalArts' music theory and skills curriculum according to their performance on these examinations. Click here for examination descriptions.

School of Film/Video

At the School of Film/Video's new student orientation, you will be introduced to all faculty and staff of the school. There will then be a presentation of the Film/Video Technical Resource website. You will break into groups to meet with your mentor. One-hour facilities tours for individual programs will also be conducted.

Transfer Credits

Questions about your transfer credits? Contact the Registrar's Office at (661) 291-3017 and visit Academic Advising.

Transfer Credit Falls Into Three Categories:

  1. Critical Studies (Academic) – Example: English 101
  2. Studio (Art Related) – Example: Painting 101
  3. Undistributed (Neither Art Nor Academic) – Example: Business 101

Transfer Credit Policy

Articulation Agreements

Critical Studies Credits

Of the 120 semester units required for the BFA degree, 46 semester units are required in Critical Studies in order to graduate from CalArts. A maximum of 34 Critical Studies semester units can be transferred into CalArts. Any remaining academic transfer credit will go towards the overall 120 semester unit total for graduation. At least 12 semester units must be taken at CalArts in accordance with the residency and breadth requirements. Although students may transfer up to 34 Critical Studies semester units, year-level placement in a program is determined by portfolio and audition.

Writing Arts, a Critical Studies BFA year 1 required course, introduces students to key concepts underpinning the relation between Art and society. Only students who transfer to CalArts with a score of 3 or higher in AP English or Freshman Composition with a "C" grade or better are exempted from the Writing Arts requirement.

All first-year students (including transfer students) must also take a one-semester Foundation Course, chosen from a variety of subjects ranging from literature to contemporary politics to the biological sciences. Foundation courses are intended to provide you with basic knowledge of, and critical perspectives pertaining to, areas of study in the liberal arts.

Students with previous bachelors degrees who are entering the BFA program will be required to complete at least 12 semester units of CalArts Critical Studies credit in order to obtain a BFA degree from CalArts.

Students working toward a Certificate of Fine Arts are not subject to Critical Studies Undergraduate Requirements.

Transferring Graduate Credit

Up to one year of graduate credit may be granted for work completed at a regionally accredited postsecondary institution prior to admissions to CalArts' Master of Fine Arts (MFA) study. Such transfer of credit is at the discretion of the dean of the student's school. Full documentation, including official transcripts, will be required.

CalArts Program Requirements

For program specific requirements, see the Course Catalog as well as the individual School's websites.

Breadth Requirements

The CalArts breadth requirements are a 15-semester unit pattern where students must take at least two semester units in each of the following areas:

A. Critical/Intellectual Skills (Writing Arts) – 3 units
B. Humanities – 2 units
C. Social Sciences – 2 units
D. Cultural Studies – 2 units
E. Math and Science – 2 units
F. Métier Studies – Courses dealing with the history, theory, and criticism of the student's chosen art form– 2 units
G. Other Métier Studies – Courses dealing with the history, theory, and criticism of an art form other than the student's chosen speciality – 2 units

Residency Requirements

The CalArts Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees have specific residency requirements. To view the requirements, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

I know what transfer credits will count towards the Critical Studies requirements, but what about the studio credits I earned at another school?
Transfer of another school's studio classes is based on a portfolio assessment by faculty at the time of acceptance. The Schools are not obligated to recognize transfer credit in the major area when determining year level of acceptance. For more information, contact your School's Dean or speak with your mentor when you arrive on campus in September.

What is a mentor and what does that person do?
A mentor is a faculty member of your School who will be your artistic guide. He or she will fashion an individualized course of study, evaluate your artistic progress, advise you on métier and Critical Studies requirements, and discuss future goals.

When am I supposed to meet with my mentor for the first time?
Your School will send you the name of your assigned mentor. You will meet with your mentor for the first time when you arrive on campus in September. Most students meet with their mentor during orientation week before signing up for classes.

Last edited by bhoward on Jul 22, 2013
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