An arts supplement or arts portfolio is an organized sample of your art that you can send to colleges to potentially strengthen your application. Types of art that colleges accept range from music, theater, architecture, and creative writing. This may vary from college to college, so be sure to check the website of schools you're interested in.
At first glance, it may seem like a no-brainer to submit an arts supplement. However, if you are aiming for colleges with a competitive acceptance rate, then here are some factors you should consider before submitting an arts supplement:
Preparing and submitting an arts supplement may be expensive. It costs a fee to submit; this is in addition to the fee for the Common Application. Thankfully, financial aid is available. The greater consideration is how much it you'll have to spend to prepare your sample work. For instance, let's say you're a classical pianist. You'll need the right equipment (mics, video camera, etc.) if you're recording at home. If you're recording at a studio, the fee will likely include charges for the time, sound engineer, and more.
The deadline to submit an arts supplement is about a month earlier than the deadline to submit the Common Application. This is often the case for both early action/decision and regular decision. You can reference Stanford's timeline as an example. This point along with the previous one emphases the need to plan ahead.
The arts supplement *may* hurt your chances of admission. Notice that schools like Stanford, Yale, Harvard, emphasize that the arts supplement is for students with "exceptional" talent. Yale even encourages applicants to reconsider. If your skill in art is something that you have not spent a considerable amount of time developing, you run the risk of getting a low score on the arts supplement, which may have a negative impact on your chances of admission.
It is not easy to get a high rating on the arts supplement. I submitted one for my college application but had spent a significant portion of my life training as an artist. I was a classical flutist, had competed both nationally and internationally, and had toured Europe several times with nationally-recognized youth orchestras. In fact, I even considered going to music school and applied to conservatories like Juilliard (dual program with Columbia), The New England Conservatory (dual program with Harvard), The Shepherd School of Music, and Carnegie Mellon School of Music (double degree program). I share this information not to show off but to demonstrate how great a part of my life music was and how incomplete my application would be if I did not submit an arts supplement. You certainly don't need to be considering majoring in art in order to submit an arts supplement. I was likely on the extreme end of the spectrum.
All that said, the arts supplement is still a great way to strengthen your application if art is a significant part of your study or extracurricular activity. If you are unsure of whether you should submit one or are interested in dual degree programs with music, you can schedule a 30-min one-on-one Zoom call with me. Just fill out the Contact Form at mycollegelead.com or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also posted a YouTube video with more details on the arts supplement. Be sure to check it out!