If you can, make a visit to the campuses that interest you. While some schools hold regular open houses, tours, and information sessions, others have much more limited opportunities to experience the facilities. Look out for open houses in the fall (some, like Yale, require you to register) and public open studio days in the spring, when you can meet and see the work of current students. Both are great opportunities to better understand a program, its ethos, and its teaching methods.
Pay attention to the specific departments a school has. In many cases, schools have medium-specific departments that you will have to apply to, like painting or sculpture or ceramics. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t have the opportunity to pursue more interdisciplinary work—in many cases you can. But, if you’re torn between painting and sculpture, for example, look at the faculty and former students to help you choose one over the other (though some schools, like Yale, let you apply to two programs at once).
Research the faculty who are working with materials, processes, and conceptual frameworks that resonate with your own artistic goals. Harring advises that prospective MICA students dig into not only a faculty member’s career, but also “what their teaching style is, how they’re involved with their students, what their style of critique is.” More than anything, he added, “the top thing you’re investing in is the access to faculty.”
Faculty are also indicators of a program’s approach, aesthetic, and strengths. Jesse Damazo, assistant director of admissions at CalArts, noted that many of the school’s faculty are focused on institutional critique, video art, or performance, and “researching the kinds of work that the faculty here do—which is very broad, but does have a certain flavor—definitely behooves the student.” For instance, if your practice revolves around realist figurative painting, you might feel adrift at CalArts—whereas a school like RISD could be a better fit.