Pre-College Summer Session FAQs

graphic asset

Program and Class Questions

What kinds of students is this program best suited for?

Students of all levels apply to, and are accepted into, the Pre-College Summer Session. Some are self-taught or come from schools where there are few to no art classes, while others are from arts high schools where there are a great deal of resources and classes devoted to the arts. To be successful and gain the most from this program, it is important to be interested in and curious about art and design, as well as willing to commit fully to the program’s culture, requirements, and workload. Having prior knowledge or experience is not as essential, but it is helpful.

Please note: While the program is open to sophomores, most students will be in their junior or senior year of high school. For sophomores considering joining the program, we recommend that you have already taken part in advanced or honors classes in your high school and if not, consider waiting a year and joining the program when you are a junior or senior.


Can international students apply?

Yes, international students may apply and are required to submit the same application materials as the other applicants. Equal consideration is given to international applicants in what regards entrance to the program. Some restrictions on scholarship opportunities for international applicants may apply, however.

Keep in mind that any airfare, travel, or visa expense is not covered in either the program fee or the scholarship and no additional funds are offered for this purpose. Please make certain that there are no restrictions upon traveling to the U.S. from your country of residence prior to applying to the program. Applying for and securing a visa, if required, will be the sole responsibility of the student and MCAD does not issue I-20s for the Pre-College Summer Session.

Given that international applicants will not learn whether or not they have been accepted into the program until late April, planning for the cost of airfare and/or anticipating the application for a visa is an important part in considering whether or not to apply to the program.


How difficult is the program? Is it like summer camp?

The Pre-College Summer Session provides students with three college credits for successful completion of the program. Therefore, it is a rigorous academic program in scope, depth of work, homework outside of class, and expectations of maturity and diligence. Students should come prepared to be engaged participants in their classes, complete homework assignments on time, and spend a dedicated number of extra hours in their studios working on projects. Have no fear! The eye-opening work done in class is balanced with exciting, and occasionally silly, downtime coupled with fun off-campus excursions.

Students who commit fully to this program can reap great rewards, artistically, academically, and personally. Students are often amazed and surprised by their accomplishments and leave the program feeling as though they have made deep and lasting connections with fellow students and instructors.


Do students have free time?

Yes! Pre-College Summer Session students have class until roughly five thirty each evening, followed by dinner. Evenings and weekends are a mixture of free time and scheduled off-campus outings and activities. Most students in the program very quickly find themselves with a workload that requires dedicated time spent in the studios during the evening hours. By week two and into the third week, most free time is spent in the studios, apart from scheduled excursions.

Family or friends who hope to visit or take their student off campus during the program should understand that while students do have "free time" it is quickly absorbed by homework and projects. Students are very busy during the three weeks and we recommend that visitors inquire about students' progress in class before scheduling too many visits!


Do students need their own laptops to participate?

No, but students are welcome to bring them to campus. Students have access throughout the program to the MCAD computer labs. If a student does wish to bring a personal laptop, they should also be prepared to be responsible for them in the case of potential mishandling or theft. Theft has not been an issue in the past, but MCAD will not be held responsible for a student’s personal property.


Can students change their majors?

Students are able to change their choice of major up until the priority application deadline of April 17. After that, students will be placed into the major they selected at the time of application.


What are the backgrounds of your instructors?

The Pre-College Summer Session staff and faculty are drawn from a pool of talented, enthusiastic, and dedicated professional artists and designers immersed in the Twin Cities arts community. Some are faculty at MCAD or other local colleges and universities, while others are professional working artists. The staff and instructors are skilled at nurturing and supporting the talents of students. They are prepared and eager to share their skills, experience, and professional wisdom with young artists.


What types of assignments can students expect?

An amazing array of incredible ones! Specific assignments change with every new program, so students should come with open minds and a willingness to embrace creative processes and ways of thinking that will be entirely new to them.

Students may find themselves spending their mornings discussing how to develop ideas through a process called ideation, writing short papers on aspects of art history that may be influential to them, fine-tuning their observational drawing skills, and more. During the afternoons, they will work intensely on individual projects involving graphic design, comic art, painting, or digital photography. They will be asked to delve into their own processes as artists, to ask questions about their work and that of others, and to develop the art of making and taking critique . . . A valuable and necessary art skill.


Will students walk away with pieces suitable for a portfolio?

Absolutely. The work students create in this program will no doubt be some of their best. Students will receive a portfolio review during the program (students are encouraged to bring examples of previously made work if they would like to have it reviewed), and they will learn about admissions standards for application to MCAD and how their work compares. The creation of specific portfolio pieces is not the primary goal of the program, but students will leave with the knowledge and tools to return to their individual practice, at home or at school, and create with renewed purpose and goals.


How do students get their work home at the end of the program?

Painting students, especially, should take into consideration that they are responsible for transporting their work home upon the end of the program. Please keep in mind that we do not package, nor do we cover the cost of shipping, student work. At the end of the program, students will be taken to a local FedEx for shipping, if necessary, but any work that is left after the program for any reason will be discarded.

What should students bring with them to the program?

Students will receive more information upon acceptance into the program, including what to bring lists, airport arrival and departure flight windows, and more.


Can students see friends and family throughout the program?

Yes! Students may either leave campus (with parent/guardian authorization), or have friends or family members visit them on campus. Campus visits or outside activities should take place after 6:00 p.m. on weekdays or over the weekend. We recommend waiting until the start of the program before solidifying plans with family and friends. The second week is often the best time to visit.

Students are very busy during the program and benefit from spending as much time on campus as possible. Friends and family members should keep this in mind when they are considering a visit.


Residence Life Questions

What are the dorms like?

The MCAD “dorms” are essentially one- and two-bedroom apartments with common amenities such as private kitchens, baths, dressers, closets, air conditioning units, shared hallways, and keyed entrances. Male and female students live in separate buildings. The dorms are located directly across the lawn from the MCAD Main and Morrison Buildings, where classes take place. More information on housing can be found on the MCAD undergraduate housing page.


How many students live in a dorm?

Generally, there are three to four students per dorm. Due to space limitations, single rooms cannot be accommodated.


Is it safe?

Safety is the number one priority of this program. Students live in the MCAD dorms, located immediately across the lawn from MCAD’s public safety office, which is accessible twenty-four hours a day. Main apartment buildings are also secured, both at the main entrance and individual apartment doors, by keyed entry. These dorms are staffed with trained resident advisors who live in the dorms with the students throughout the program. Students are not allowed to leave campus without supervision at any point and there is a program staff person with them at all times.  All PCSS Staff and Faculty undergo thorough background checks. 


What food options are available?

The Pre-College Summer Session program tuition includes the cost of three meals per day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—at the MCAD cafeteria. The MCAD cafeteria offers basic vegetarian and non-vegetarian dining options and can accommodate special dining considerations based on student requests. Students are welcome and encouraged to bring their own snacks for their dorms. Also, shopping runs are organized every week.


How much money should students bring?

This varies widely for each student. Most often, students spend money on snacks and everyday items during shopping runs, miscellaneous personal purchases, and art supplies at the on-campus MCAD Art Cellar. The cost of required art supplies for the program and outside excursions are included in the cost of tuition, but graphic design majors may need to anticipate additional spending if they end up pursuing a vast printing project above and beyond the individual printing budget allotment for their final exhibition project. Printing "credits" can be purchased while on campus and through the Service Bureau.


Do students have to live on campus throughout the program?

Yes. Living the complete Pre-College Summer Session experience is an important component of each student’s overall success in the program. In many cases, it is a student’s first time away from home, but our team of dedicated and compassionate staff and instructors become like family to them, not to mention the amazing friendships that grow between students fostered by spending three weeks of dedicated time together.


Can students bring their own cars?

No. Monitored, overnight parking is not available in the MCAD parking lot. Additionally, students—even those who are 18 and older at the time of participation—must follow the same rules as all other students and are, accordingly, not allowed to leave campus without permission from a parent or guardian.


Application, Tuition, and Scholarships Questions

What is the most important part of the application? Tips?

There is no specific component that will either take a student out of the running or push them to the top. The application review committee looks through every piece of the application. Some things can help your application be successful however:

  • Document (photograph or scan) your portfolio images well. Make sure the photo is not blurry, is cropped appropriately, and is well-lit.
  • Put time and effort into your personal statement. Be real. Be honest.
  • Request official high school transcripts early as they can often be delayed.
  • Request letters of recommendation from teachers or counselors who have known you the longest and who are invested in your success (whenever possible!).
  • If your grades are poor and not a good indicator of your commitment to your art, explain why in your personal statement.


Pre-College Summer Session students receive three college credits for successful completion of the program.
What do these credits mean?

After successful completion of the Pre-College Summer Session, each student will receive three credits in the form of an A–F letter grade on an MCAD transcript, and reported as “Pre-College Summer Session.” For most, it is the overall program and the experience of it that is of utmost importance in their choice to participate. For others, having three college credits to begin a transcript is equally as important.

How each student “uses” these three credits will vary greatly based on the individual, their academic plan, their high school, and their future intention for college, university, or trade school. Students are encouraged to speak with their high school counselor as to whether or not this program will satisfy any high school requirements and how pre-college credits may help them in the future. MCAD will supply the credits, but it is up to each student to determine how they will be used, if at all.

In some cases, the three credits received at the end of this program will transfer into a future undergraduate program. Transferring credits from one institution is a highly individualized process based on the accepting institution, so there is no guarantee that these credits will transfer. If students attend MCAD, these credits may function as “elective credits” as part of their undergraduate program.

What does “elective credits” mean?

At most colleges and universities, all students will be required to complete a certain number of credits in order to receive their degree or certificate. This comprises program-specific credits—classes taken within each student's major that are a required component of the program—and elective credits—credits that can be taken in any area in order to fulfill the overall credit requirement for graduation. Pre-College Summer Session credits may count towards the latter.

All students should make an effort to save syllabi and assignments and document the projects that they have completed in class. These may be necessary to demonstrate proof to outside institutions of the quality and quantity of work completed.


How many scholarships are awarded? Do they cover part or all of tuition?

Generally, there are anywhere from four to seven scholarships awarded per summer, both full- and partial-tuition. Review our scholarship page for details.


What is the application fee waiver deadline?

The first step in applying to the Pre-College Summer Session is to complete an online application, which provides us with your basic details such as name, contact information, high school, etc. If you complete this online application before February 2, the standard $25 program application fee will be waived. After February 2, students will be required to pay the $25 application fee in order to apply to the program.


What is your refund policy?

More information on refunds can be found on our refund policy page.


When do I know if I have been accepted? Received a scholarship?

Scholarships will be reviewed shortly after the scholarship application deadline of April 17, 2015, and acceptance/denial letters will be mailed to students within two weeks thereafter. Letters should reach students at the end of April via postal mail.


Questions? Find more program information below or contact MCAD Continuing Education at or 612.874.3765.