University Tips Blog
Image of a student, bright colours and sketches
A headshot image of the author, Sarah Hewitson

by Sarah Hewitson

Student Recruitment Centre Manager, Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University of Portsmouth

posted on 18 Dec '23

Applying for a creative course – five tips for your students when preparing for portfolios and interviews

Applying for a creative course requires more than just grades. Developing a portfolio of work, attending an interview, or writing a personal statement will form a key part of a student’s application. It will allow them to showcase their style and creative ability, discuss their influences, and demonstrate their passion for their creative subject.

Five tips to help you support students during the creative course application process:

1. Research the course

It is really important that your students look into the course they’re applying for. Universities won’t expect them to be able to recite every module, but courses can differ vastly between universities. In their portfolio/interview, they’ll need to show an understanding of the course and subject area. So, encourage them to attend an open day, read the portfolio guidance carefully and explore current events, to stay ahead of the game.

2. Help us learn about your students

At the same time as showing they understand the course, universities will also want to see what inspires the student! Everyone is unique and we want to see them amongst the pages. Encourage students to include a range of things that describe them as a person and as a creative individual – what makes them tick. As creatives, we put a lot of ourselves into our work, so ensure that comes across.

3. Show us the creative process

Within the portfolio, your students can shine by demonstrating their creative journey through initial research, developmental work and then the final piece. They should also demonstrate that they can critically review and analyse their work – would they do the same again, what would they change? This balance of creativity and reflection will help them sail through their studies.

4. Keep it succinct

While we love to see a variety of work within a portfolio, we do want to see their ability to edit. It is all about establishing a balance. They shouldn’t bring everything they’ve ever done but not pare it back to nothing at all. Students should also try to tailor this to the course they’re applying for.

5. Choose a suitable format

Students should opt for what best suits the creative area they’re working in – just because a portfolio is digital, it doesn’t mean all the work has to be digital too. Consider practicality too – is a bulky folder going to hinder them in transit? Would a digital portfolio be easier to share? Tailor the format of the portfolio to suit the situation.

If they’re attending a zoom interview – firstly make sure the tech works. Does the microphone and camera work, has screen sharing been set-up? In addition to this, does their digital portfolio read in the same way as a physical portfolio would?

Remember, applying for a creative course can be daunting, but universities will always be there to support students through the application process. If you have links with universities, make the most of opportunities to attend workshops, taster days and more, so that students are fully engaged and prepared for their application journey.

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