Carnegie Mellon University

Pre-College Art motivates, stimulates and prepares emerging artists and creative problem solvers.

Exploring traditional tools and new technologies in a variety of media leads to the development of conceptual and technical skills–excellent preparation for applying to and succeeding in a competitive college-level art program. Students will be introduced to the spirit and substance of the CMU School of Art culture through challenging courses, critique, stimulating workshops, portfolio development, and energetic interaction with dedicated faculty and talented peers. During the summer Pre-College Art Program students attend morning and afternoon classes, Monday through Thursday. They work in our beautiful, spacious studios in the historic College of Fine Arts building and the School of Art’s Doherty Hall fabrication facilities. In addition to structured class time, they’ll participate in elective workshops on Fridays, open studios and portfolio reviews.

The Pre-College Art faculty is comprised of accomplished artists with experience teaching teenagers as well as in undergraduate and graduate level environments. Small class sizes allow students to benefit from individual attention, intense instruction and substantial constructive feedback. Undergraduate teaching assistants provide support for both instructors and students and add valuable insight into the School of Art’s BFA program.




The Pre-College Art curriculum focuses on the fundamentals of technical skill as well as the growth of conceptual thinking and how those elements are applied to personal artistic practice.

Individual instruction, in-class work sessions, critiques, demonstrations and lectures are all part of the classroom experience. Students should expect to attend nightly open studios in order to complete work outside of class. 

Weeks 1–3

During the first three weeks, all students take the following courses:

  • Drawing
  • Sculpture
  • Animation
  • Concept Studio 

Weeks 4–6

All 6-week students take the following courses during session two:

  • Painting
  • Digital Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Concept Studio (a continuation of the first three weeks)

An exhibition of student work occurs during the Pre-college family weekend celebration. Students, faculty and teaching assistants plan and hang the show together.

Each Friday, students participate in elective Workshops. These morning and afternoon sessions present introductions to a wide range of topics and skills. While attendance is required, students are not evaluated on on their performance in workshops—fostering an atmosphere of experimentation, exploration, trial and error, and freedom. Students will be prompted to sign up for workshops once they have enrolled in the program.


To be eligible for the Pre-College Art program students must: 

  • Be at least 16 years old by the program start date (to participate in the residential program).
  • Be a current sophomore or junior in high school.
  • Have a strong interest in art.

Application Requirements

The complete application for the Pre-College Art program consists of the following:

  • Completed Online Application
  • Unofficial Transcript
  • Standardized Test Scores (optional)
  • One Letter of Recommendation
  • Responses to the following essay prompts (300-500 words):
    • What do you hope to gain from participating in the Carnegie Mellon Pre-College program?
    • How did you hear about the Pre-College Art program? Why is it of interest to you?
  • Samples of your artwork, submitted in one of the following formats (optional, but recommended):
    • A video submission, up to 3 minutes. Youtube or Vimeo links only.
    • 5 to 10 images of work in a single PDF file.

Frequently Asked Questions

Each art student is enrolled in four classes per session. Classes meet Monday-Thursday. Morning classes run from 9am-12pm and afternoon classes meet from 1pm-4pm. Core coursework is the same for all students. Student schedules are generated upon enrollment into the program.  

We highly recommend signing up for the 6-week program!

That said, we understand that time and financial commitments are different for everyone and will ultimately dictate whether you choose the 3-week or 6-week program. We divide the program into two halves so that students leaving after session one feel that their coursework has been brought to a natural close. A celebratory exhibition and reception marks the end of our first three weeks. The 3-week option is only available during session one. No exceptions are ever made to this rule. 

The primary difference between the two options is the amount of time spent in the studios and on campus. As a 6-week student, you will become better acquainted with campus, with the city of Pittsburgh, and with one another. By taking a broader array of courses, you’ll develop a deeper skill set and be pushed further conceptually. Students enrolling in the three-week program will take four classes while 6-week students will take eight.

Every course and teacher will manage homework assignments differently. But on average you can expect to spend 8-10 hours per week working on projects outside of class.

All students are invited and encouraged to participate in one-on-one portfolio reviews with CMU School of Art Faculty during the three or six week program. These individual sessions are informal and last between 15-30 minutes.  This is a wonderful way for you to build confidence and to practice for future in-person reviews when applying to college. 

Depending on individual levels of completion and effort, you should expect to create portfolio-quality work in each of your art courses.

Most students have taken high school art classes or extracurricular art programs held within the community. However, some students are successful with little experience given they are highly interested and motivated. 

Students will receive material kits from the CMU Art Store once they arrive to campus included in the program cost. These kits are made to the specifications of the Pre-college faculty and will include items needed for individual classes such as Drawing and Painting.

Other items not included in the material kit includes the items below. It is imperative that you purchase these before classes begin. Students are responsible for purchasing and bringing the following items not included in the material kit:  

  • All three and six week students are required to bring a 500 gigabyte external hard drive for the storage of digital works such as animations and photo files. 
  • All six week students are required to bring a quality digital camera with manual settings. 
  • A tackle box or other container for transporting art materials and tools. 
  • Personal sketchbooks (works in progress or new).
  • A large portfolio (20x30 or similar size).
  • Documentation of previous artwork in the form of digital photo files, CD-R, thumb drive, or a personal website (for use during the portfolio review). 
  • A laptop computer (with adobe creative suite) is not required but recommended. 

Art students participate in morning and afternoon workshops every Friday.

Workshops are unique opportunities for students to develop skills and knowledge in areas of personal choosing. Workshop sign-ups occur during orientation weekend.

Students are not evaluated on participation or any artwork produced during workshops. Pre-college faculty, teaching assistants, CMU affiliated artists, and Pittsburgh-based experts teach a wide-range of selections. Examples of past offerings include puppetry, performance art, soft sculpture, green screening, kinetic sculpture, matte painting, creating an artist website, bonsai tree tending, kite-building, using a laser cutter, anatomy for artists, GIF-animation, and introduction to installation art.

Concept Studios are an integral part of the art curriculum at CMU and all undergraduate students in the School of Art are required to take a series of these courses throughout their four years of study.

During the Pre-College experience we condense these college-level courses into a rigorous two-part (session one and two) introduction designed to assist students in the development of personal, non-medium-specific approaches to generating art. Areas of exploration may include the self & the human being, space & time, systems & processes, and contextual practice. Instruction in Concept Studio is centered around the goal of helping students to develop work that focuses less on technique and moreso on the creative process itself and what artmaking can convey to others. Assignments in Concept Studio will include readings, short writing projects, collaborative projects, and the completion of individual artworks.