Freshman Applicants


Applications for freshman admission are accepted beginning in early August.

Early Decision deadline » November 1   

Decisions are mailed 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 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 two semesters of algebra, one semester of trigonometry and one year of science (preferably physics).


Application Form  Since RISD participates in the Common Application, please use that online process to complete the form and submit most credentials. The application fee is $60.

If you’re not able to use the Common App, 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.

Tests  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.

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 first-hand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential as a student.

Please use the Common Application to invite people who are writing letters in support of your application to upload them through that service. If you aren’t using the Common App, please have your letters sent to our mailing address (see below) or emailed to

Portfolio  Your portfolio should show a selection of 12–20 examples of your best, recent artwork. We suggest that the work reflect your ideas, interests, experience and abilities in the arts to date. Work presented can be in any media (including film or video), in finished or sketch form and the result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration. We strongly recommend you to include 2–3 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. Use the arts supplement question in your RISD Common App to connect to the Slideroom submission process (which requires an additional $10 fee).

Drawings  Two drawing samples are required of all candidates. Each drawing must be done on a sheet of white paper measuring 16"x 20" (40 cm x 50 cm).

Drawing #1 | reference a bicycle   

Your bicycle drawing must be done using graphite pencil.

Drawing #2 | select one of the following options:

  • In the course of a single calendar day, draw 11 related images in a single visualization
  • Make a drawing that uses both sides of the sheet of paper
  • Create a drawing instrument. Make a drawing with the instrument you have created. Send the original drawing to us and upload an image of the instrument with your portfolio in SlideRoom.

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, you must be able to fold the paper (see below) in order to mail it to our office.

You may approach these two drawings in any way you wish. Other than the stated requirements related to paper size (16"x 20"), subject (in the case of Drawing #1) and medium (graphite pencil), everything and anything else are up to you. Using photographs as a source for your drawings, however, is not recommended.

An important thought: we consider drawing to be as much about process as presentation. We encourage you to consider your drawing submissions as exercises in experimental thinking and risk-taking more than 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.

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 Samples  Submit two examples of writing, each up to 400 words. (Note: the Common App general essay does not fulfill this requirement.) 

Writing Sample # 1 | Tell us about what you create and why you make it.  

Writing Sample #2 | select one of the following options:  

  • Every day we're confronted by circumstances that range from the worrisome to the inspiring. What do you find most compelling in the world right now? How might this impact our future? What influence can you have on this situation?
  • Is there something you love, have to do, can't stop thinking about? Write about a personal passion or obsession other than visual art or design.

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 dynamic position in the samples you submit.

Writing samples may be uploaded through The Common Application or mailed to the Admissions Office. Please include your full name, date of birth and address on each writing sample. 



» Submit your application form through The Common Application.

» Have your school mail official transcripts to the Admissions Office if it is not among the participating schools that upload transcripts through The Common Application.

» Upload your portfolio through SlideRoom using the link on The Common Application.

» Mail your two original drawings to the Admissions Office.

» Upload writing samples and letters of recommendation through The Common Application.

If you’re not submitting digitally, please mail official transcripts, recommendations, writing samples and paper test reports 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. Indicate your interest in this program on your RISD application.  

The only additional credential required to apply for this program is the Dual Degree Supplement, available as part of the Common App. Note that the dual degree essay does not replace either of the other writing samples required.

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


Application process


Apply online using The Common Application, which allows you to save an application in process and return to it later. You can also submit your portfolio and letters of recommendation through the Common App, though you’ll need to mail RISD two drawings on paper as part of the application process.

Since making a decision about which college is best for you, visiting RISD while classes are in session is highly recommended to get a true feel for the atmosphere and the nature of the studio learning process here. 

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

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

And, of course, please contact us with any questions! 
401 454-6300
800 364-7473



Given all the artwork in motion, just walking around campus can be fun.