Two students organizing their project presentation board

Portfolio Guidelines

Watkins College of Art

Degree Requirements

The Watkins College of Art requires all students applying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (Studio Art, Design Communications, Illustration, Experiential Design, Photography or Art Education) to submit a portfolio as a part of the admissions process. You must first be admitted to Belmont before hearing a decision from Watkins. 

Portfolios submitted before December 1 will be considered for the Watkins Merit Scholarships. Any applications submitted after December 1 will be considered for admission, but not for departmental scholarships. 

Deadlines for the Portfolio and Belmont application: 

  • December 1 for scholarship consideration 
  • April 1 for incoming freshmen students 
  • June 1 for incoming transfer students 
What if I am accepted to Belmont but not the BFA program? 
Any applicants not accepted into a BFA program will have the option to be enrolled in a second major of their choice. We encourage applicants to select one of our Bachelor of Arts (BA) majors (See below). At the end of the student’s freshman year and completion of foundational courses, the student will be eligible to reapply to the BFA program through another portfolio review. 

Students applying for a Bachelor of Arts degree (Art Studies, Photographic Studies, or Art History) are not required to submit a portfolio for admission. BA applicants can submit a portfolio before December 1 to be considered for the Watkins Merit Scholarships. Art History applicants can submit an essay instead of a portfolio — please see specific Art History guidelines below.

Undergraduate Portfolio Guidelines

The portfolio should include 10 to 20 pieces showcasing the artist/designer’s voice, ideas, interests, curiosity, and experience in creating and making. The digital images or videos of your work should contain two or more different mediums to reflect diversity and breadth of experience. Strong work in sketchbook form will be accepted as well. There is no universal formula for creating a successful body of work; we hope that your work will highlight your unique artistic voice.  

During the submission process, students will be asked to include the following data with the corresponding image or video: 

  • Title of the piece 
  • Size 
  • Date 
  • Medium 
  • Description- Please briefly describe if the work is a result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration. Optionally, share the context behind the work, any influences or inspiration, or any additional research that went into the piece's making. 

*3D work should provide at least one additional viewpoint and indicate the correct viewing position 

Note: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a wonderful tool for creative exploration, however, for the purpose of the portfolio submission, we are looking for original work executed without AI. 

See our Frequently Asked Questions section below for more details.


Art History Guidelines

Art History scholarship applicants should submit a 750-word visual analysis of one artwork seen in person, preferably, at a gallery, museum, or cultural center. Choose an artwork that you are able to examine closely, responding to the aspects you consider most significant, whether that is medium, design or style, technique, subject matter, and/or the way it engages the viewer. This is an exercise in close looking and reflection; no special preparation or research is required. If you choose to do research, please include your bibliography. Successful essays will demonstrate curiosity, insight, and the ability to frame a visually-based argument. 

Submit as a digital file (PDF up to 10 MB) that includes a title, your name, and the essay. Applicants will also submit one quality color digital image of the object identifying the artist, title, date of the artwork, approximate size, and the location in which it was viewed. Essays will be submitted via SlideRoom.


Submission Process

Once you complete your Belmont application, you will submit your portfolio in SlideRoom. Students will create a new, free account to begin the process. In SlideRoom, applicants can upload still images, documents, and multimedia files. 

Check the Application Checklist to confirm you have submitted all required materials to Belmont. Remember to have all materials in before December 1st to be eligible for departmental scholarships. 

Any work mailed to the university will not be considered or returned. 


National Portfolio Review Days

Looking to receive some feedback on your portfolio before submitting it? Join the Watkins College of Art at one of the National Portfolio Day events. Be inspired, gain advice on how to improve or present your portfolio, and experience a small taste of what it’s like to attend a professional art/design program. These events are free for students to attend.


In-Person Events Virtual Events
Atlanta, GA | Sept. 24 at 12:00 PM ET Sept. 10 at 11:00 AM CT
Chicago, IL | Oct. 15 at 12:00 PM CT Oct. 27 at 6:00 PM CT
Columbus, OH | Oct. 21 at 12:00 PM ET Jan. 7 at 11:00 AM CT

Frequently Asked Questions

A portfolio is a professionally presented collection of an artist's best work intended to showcase their style and method of work. All work should be original in fabrication and concept. Any work that is influenced by another artist or references pop-culture must be accompanied by proper citation.

Please use best practices when presenting your portfolio to the college. When photographing your work, try to use consistent lighting (natural light is best) and avoid shadows casting onto your work. Crop out anything unnecessary in the background or photograph on a solid, neutral background. Feel free to include multiple photos showcasing different angles of 3D, installation, or interactive work. Do not add any additional text,borders, or descriptions on the work that is not a part of the piece.  

SlideRoom is a file management system the Watkins College uses to review portfolios and essays. In SlideRoom, applicants can upload still images, documents, and multimedia files. 

  • Images may be uploaded as JPEG, PNG, or TIFF files up to 5 MB 
  • For sketchbooks, zines, artist books, or other multi-page works, upload as a multi-page PDF (up to 10MB) 
  • Videos may not exceed 250 MB each and may be uploaded as MOV, MP4, WMW, FLV, or a Vimeo link. Please consider the length of video content. Videos should not be longer than a few minutes, so it may be best to present an excerpt of the piece. Any music used in the video should be credited 
  • Interactive media, such as game design or animation, should not exceed 250 MB 
  • Please do not link to personal websites 

The Watkins College of Art recommends including a variety of technical skills and creative work in your portfolio. This can include work in any medium, in finished or sketch form, and can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration. Consider your portfolio as a story and think about what you want the reviewers to learn about you. Remember, your portfolio is only as strong as your weakest piece.  

Design applicants- The priority should be to submit any design work you have, but the College of Art recognizes that not all schools offer design courses. Traditional fine art work is completely acceptable to submit and is encouraged.

Reviewers enjoy seeing work that explores complex ideas the applicant is interested in, such as: 

  • Social, political, or economic issues 
  • Humans’ relationship to the natural world 
  • Personal identity, for example: racial, ethnic, cultural, and gender identities 
  • Feminist perspectives 
  • Philosophical, spiritual, or religious exploration 
  • Questions of ethics or morality 
  • Reflections on culture and popular culture 
  • Scientific or mathematical concepts 

Work in a wide variety of mediums, demonstrating a curiosity to experiment with many different art materials. Works may include: 

  • 2D images like drawings, paintings, photographs, artist prints, collaged works, zines, and mixed media 
  • 3D work like sculpture, ceramics, textile experimentation, and environmental or site-specific installation 
  • Time-based art such as kinetic sculpture, animation, performance, live-action video, and audio works 

Quality over quantity is preferred. It is acceptable to submit less than 10 pieces. However, serious applicants should consider preparing their portfolio in advance, providing time to create additional work needed. Sketchbook work will be accepted as well.

Once your Belmont application is complete, you will receive a university enrollment decision. After your portfolio is submitted, the Watkins College of Art will provide a department decision within two weeks.

No, SlideRoom does not allow the applicant to make multiple edits and the submission is final.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the official form that families use to apply for college financial assistance from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Education uses a family's FAFSA information to determine a student's eligibility for any institutional need-based scholarships or grants, as well as other federal and state (for Tennessee residents) financial aid opportunities.

Learn more about Financial Aid for First-Year Students

Learn more about Financial Aid for Transfer Students


If a student is selected to receive a departmental merit scholarship, they will receive a letter in the mail by February. Need-based scholarships will also be awarded in the spring, but the timeline may vary depending on FAFSA.

Contact Us

Watkins College of Art

1900 Belmont Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37212

Phone:  (615) 460-6770

Email Us