International UK Art School Candidates

This blog post is part of a series of tips helping international students apply to UK art schools.

At Blue Noun, we are a small team of specialist English language coaches who are artists and makers.

We help your language and portfolio simultaneously: preparing you for your time in the UK art school of your choice.

Read on for 7 Tips for International Applicants for Art College. 



The Next Few Months are Critical

If you want to be accepted into a UK art School in 2025, the next few months are a critical period in your life.

Portfolio Coaching

Every art school candidate needs someone overseeing the progression of their portfolio: someone who can push you, encourage you and keep you accountable.

For most, that’s an art teacher at high school.

However, if you find yourself preparing your portfolio on your own – let us help you!


Portfolio stars - portfolio coaching for international art school candidates

Portfolio Stars

The single best way to improve your odds of getting into art school is to GET HELP preparing your portfolio.

The right coach can help you develop your ideas, showcase the right skills and keep you on track.

Whenever you need a boost, take our 1 hr portfolio consultation.

price 99

Tip #01:

Don’t Wait to Ask for Advice

You should already have a portfolio of existing work to show. Get as much advice as you can* in the next few months, but start now.

Don’t put it off.

Ask for help from a post-graduate – an art teacher or arts professional.

If skills are missing from your portfolio, you cannot grow them overnight.

Ask now!


coloured felt pens close up

Tip #02
Don’t Listen to Your Mum

Mums know best in many areas, but unless your mum has art school experience, she cannot know what you need to do to develop your portfolio.

Bad advice can derail you.

Your mum telling you you are ‘good enough’ can fail you.

Ask an expert for unbiased advice! 

Don’t Listen to Your Mum!”

Tip #03
Prioritize Your English

Don’t wait to work on your English until you get accepted.

You will need to demonstrate an academic standard of English which TAKES TIME to build.

You need to grow your English skills as you grow your portfolio.

Invest in your English skills now.

Tip #04
The English You Hear in the UK Will Sound Strange

I work with many people who arrive in the UK and discover that English does not sound the same as it did in the YouTube videos they learned from.

Spoken English is fast, accented, and full of colloquial expressions and phrasal verbs.

It can be alienating for international students arriving in the UK not to understand as much as they expected  (not to mention destroying your application interview).

Get English listening practice in now.

Download the BBC Sounds App and search for radio shows local to the area you will be studying in (eg, London, Wales, Scotland, and Northern England).

Tune in whilst you are working now – you won’t regret it.


Tip #05:
Go Out of Your Way to Give Credit

You might not want to believe it, but if you are experimenting with styles copied from other designers and artists, or even drawing from photographs taken by others, it will be obvious to people examining your portfolio.

It’s a positive thing that you are open to influences – but you must go out of your way to show your references.

This will never count against you when applying to a UK art school, whereas trying to pass someone else’s ideas off as your own certainly will.

Even if you copy a composition or particular font – keep track of it clearly.


art installation mobile on window of glasgow

Tip #o6:
Mix it up

You might be convinced you want to be a graphic designer or sculptor, but it is important to demonstrate an open mind at this stage.

The Art College experts selecting the applicant portfolios will have a range of expertise.

You must show multiple skill sets and expertise in core skills across the foundation’s curriculum.

Ask whoever is giving you portfolio advice if your portfolio demonstrates enough range.

Have a Backup Plan

Not everyone applying to art school gets accepted the first time.

Depending on your chosen school, you can have a 20-70% chance of success.

So it is important to know that failure the first time does not mean you are ‘not a good artist.’

It means your portfolio didn’t impress for some reason – OR that it didn’t show the particular range of skills or personality required by the art school.

It can be incredibly close (and you won’t even know it).

Remember: most applications fail the first time.

Tip #07
Consider the Unthinkable

We wouldn’t be helping if we avoided the subject of making a contingency plan. 

You may need to invest a whole second year of your life for further portfolio building for application to art school.

Where will you go?

Will you take a foundation /prep course in the UK, or stay in your home country?

Don’t forget to plan what you will do if you fail.

How can you ensure that your second application is successful? How can you best develop the English and creative skills you need?


Further Information