Office of Arts & Special Projects

How to Prepare a Portfolio

The portfolio is a critical part of the audition process for eighth-grade students applying to New York City high schools with special or screened art programs. A well-thought-out portfolio shows your strengths and potential for high school level work. It is an opportunity to display your best efforts. While individual schools may vary slightly in their requirements, the following guidelines will help you assemble a competitive portfolio.*


You can protect your work and make a good impression by using a sturdy, high quality portfolio case. A neat and attractive presentation is extremely important. It tells the reviewing committee that you have taken care of your work and that you are proud of it.

Include pieces that are:

  • Clean, undamaged, and in good shape
  • Unframed
  • Labeled on the reverse side with: your name, school, title and date of work
  • Submit photographs or slides of 3-dimensional work. Place labeled slides in presentation sleeves.


As you assemble your portfolio, consider these recommendations: Include 10-20 original pieces of artwork completed in seventh or eighth grade. One of the selections may be a sketchbook of your ideas and preliminary drawings. Do not include copies or "works in the style of" famous artists.

Artwork should be from observation: portrait, figure, interiors, still-life, landscapes, and cityscapes. You may also add some work from imagination and memory.

The work should demonstrate your understanding of composition and the Principles of Design:

  • Unity/Variety
  • Balance /Emphasis
  • Rhythm
  • Repetition
  • Proportion/Scale
  • Figure/Ground

You may select works that are thematic to show an in-depth investigation of an idea OR you may include a variety of subjects to show a breadth of interests.

Include a variety of media such as drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, and media-technology to demonstrate your skill with different tools, materials, and techniques.

*See the Directory of the New York City Public High Schools or contact specific schools directly for further information.

Office of Arts & Special Projects