Rhode Island School of Design
Advanced Program for High School Students

RISD’s Advanced Program for High School Students is a series of intensive, collegiate-level courses for students in grades 10–12* (or the equivalent) who are 15–18 years old. This immersive online experience is designed for those interested in pursuing art and design in college and want to learn best practices in producing portfolio work.

*For the summer term students who are rising sophomores (grade 10 or the equivalent) or have graduated from high school this year are eligible to attend.

Online Program Overview

The pandemic of COVID-19 dramatically changed the world that was familiar, causing us to see and notice things in new and surprising ways. The role of artists and designers is, and has always been, to comment and reflect on cultural changes, but also to anticipate and inspire changes to come. This plight has brought renewed emphasis on the critical role artists and designers play during times of world complexity and uncertainty.

In a time where stringent rules and rigidity take precedence for reasons of safety, we call for creative young people to access a more ‘pliable mindset’—applying art and design methodologies to chart new territories of creation, processing and problem solving. In forging fresh methods of creating, we open our brains to opportunities beyond art-making—we are planting the seeds for creating active solutions in the face of crises.

Under these circumstances, artists are given permission to shake up the ‘traditional’ ways of making, encourage full-blown experimentation and fresh, forward thinking that leads to real innovation.

How Does One Create in Times of Uncertainty?

During each course students develop work in response to our current conditions, their own experiences and their imagined futures. Working through a series of prompts, students are challenged through research, material and method exploration to develop work that reflects issues around creativity during times of world distress.

From addressing the practical challenges of working with limited space and materials outside of a traditional studio, to learning how to find inspiration in the mundane, to developing and sustaining an active art-making practice, students will work independently and through peer connections to understand how constraints might inform exceptional outcomes.

Fall 2021 Program Dates

Session I: Sept 18–Oct 23
Register by Sept 15, 11:59 ET

Session II: Nov 6–Dec 11
Register by Nov 3, 11:59 ET


Courses are not offered for college credit and students must obtain parent/guardian approval to register

Info Session Recording

Watch a recording of our April 21 info session.

You Should Attend if You:

  • Are serious about studying art and design
  • Are considering a college track in art or design
  • Are interested in developing meaningful work that addresses socially relevant issues and ideas
  • Would like to develop skills and work building towards your college application portfolio
  • Want to develop a strong studio practice to enhance your ability to work more independently
  • Would like to increase your visual arts language and ability to communicate verbally about your work, and the work of others
  • Want to gain an understanding of contemporary art and artists to inform your own work
  • Want to engage with experienced instructors who are professional artists and designers
  • Are looking to connect with like-minded peers from around the world

Learning Outcomes

The primary goal of this program is to provide an educational experience that allows students the opportunity to focus on a passion, reflect on contemporary circumstances, and experience the pursuit of art and design topics in depth. This vital online experience will help students as they learn to be self-motivated, nimble, creative and critical thinkers. Learning outcomes include:

  • A strong understanding of foundational principles in drawing and design
  • Knowledge of contemporary thinking in art and design, especially as it pertains to responses to crisis
  • An understanding of art and design processes, such as iteration, materials exploration, and relationships between concepts and form
  • Ability to use visual language to express ideas and give critical feedback to others
  • Ability to work in productive relationships with a diverse community of others, including collaboration with instructors and peers
  • Ability to manage personal time and be self motivated in planning and executing work
  • A body of work including concepts, sketches and finished pieces that may be included in and/or can inform your college application portfolio

Learning Platform

Online (Including Live Sessions)

Throughout the program, students will interact with their instructor and peers in two ways: through live Zoom sessions and through our online course management system. The instructor uses a mix of live and recorded video sessions to respond to student images and discussion posts, invites students to share in progress work, presents projects and ideas, and connects one-on-one and in small groups—providing direct and responsive support for advanced learning.

These courses are a mix of synchronous (live) and asynchronous (recorded) activities. This means:

  • Zoom sessions will be at a set date and time in Eastern Time. You will be required to attend and be an active participant.
  • In addition to the Zoom sessions you are expected to log into the online course management system daily to post images, participate in discussion boards, watch demos and tutorials and keep pace with assignments.
  • You’ll have access to the online course content any time of day or night.
  • The majority of class content, assignments, demonstrations and tutorials will be online. You will need to schedule your own study, research and creative time.

The essential elements for success are a passion to create, a willingness to try new ideas and being open to working differently. However, some students may struggle as they learn to work independently within tight deadlines, long-term projects and written assignments. These students may need additional support from family members, tutors and/or other resources not provided by the program. Each student will be assessed and graded on their engagement and performance.

Student Handbook and Resource Guide

We encourage students and families to review this document together and become familiar with the resources and policies outlined to ensure successful studies. This handbook provides Advanced Program students and their families with useful information about the course work, learning in the online space, and student support and resources.

Student Handbook and Resource Guide

Portfolio Review for Summer Term

Summer 2021 dates:

  • Tuesday, Aug 17, between 2–4 pm ET
  • Wednesday, Aug 18, between 2–4 pm ET

As a participant in the Advanced Program for High School Students summer term, you are eligible for an exclusive opportunity to get your portfolio reviewed by a RISD representative. This is a great chance to hear directly from the people who review our applications, reflect on what’s successful in your work, and think about what you want to improve on as you prepare for your college applications.

These live, online portfolio reviews are 15 minutes long and conducted by an admissions officer or other RISD-affiliated reviewer. During the program, enrolled students will receive an invitation to register for a session as well as information about what to expect.

Certificate Program

Non-Certificate Enrollment

Students who meet the age and grade requirements may enroll in individual courses as long as they have completed any prerequisite courses. Students are welcome to take more than one Featured Topics course if they wish to expand their knowledge and skills. Students seeking a comprehensive visual arts experience, in preparation for an art and design college education, should consider completing the Advanced Program for High School Students Certificate Program. Courses may be taken more than once if students wish to expand their knowledge and skills.

Certificate Program

RISD’s Advanced Program for High School Students offers a certificate track for students who want to expand their skill sets and portfolio. The Certificate Program is designed for rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors who are interested in preparing for study in art and design at college. Students who complete the program will have engaged in a curriculum that emphasizes learning the fundamentals of drawing and design through a variety of materials that can then be applied in new and experimental ways. By understanding the fundamentals of methods and materials, students are able to more successfully visualize their ideas.

In addition to learning how to use creative tools, students develop the ability to research, iterate and evolve concepts that can set their work apart from the ordinary and cliché. Critical inquiry into contemporary artists and issues is fostered along with the vital ability to write, speak about and present your work.

The Certificate Program consists of four courses: The first two introduce students to RISD’s foundational approach to “Critical Making” through drawing and design and the second two include a discipline-based featured topic of choice coupled with learning to effectively use visual language. Students who complete the certificate will develop portfolio-ready artworks and have the opportunity to meet with RISD admissions counselors to discuss their next steps.

Certificate Program Cost

$5,200 total. Current tuition rates; subject to change over the course of your program. Supplies, software subscription fees and other materials are not included.

Certificate Program Information

Essential Fundamentals

These courses focus on how best to express your ideas and concepts through impactful visual communication. Additionally, you’ll strengthen connections to your own interests and passions by exploring the work of contemporary artists and designers. There will be demonstrations, lectures, presentations, critique, and feedback, all working to strengthen your core skills.

During the Fall or Spring terms, students should expect to spend a minimum of four hours per week of engaging in coursework. Students should plan their schedules accordingly to keep up with the class.

The Summer term is a shorter, more immersive experience. Students should expect to engage in Essential Fundamentals courses for a minimum of 10 hours per week and plan their schedules accordingly.

Experimental Drawing course, Advanced Program for High School Students

Experiential Drawing

Offered in Fall 2021 (as a 2-part course)
Offered in Summer 2021

Fall 2021 Part 2
Exploration for Design course, RISD Advanced Program for High School Students

Exploration in Design

Offered in Fall 2021 (as a 2-part course)
Offered in Summer 2021

Fall 2021 Part 2


  • Featured Topics course of choice
  • Visual + Critical Language

Students who have completed either Experiential Drawing or Exploration in Design may want to further their immersive art and design education by choosing to explore a specific area of study. Featured Topics courses are an opportunity to focus on a singular area of study to harness your skill sets in a particular medium. Students engage in investigatory and iterative practice while also exploring different approaches and materials. These courses conclude with student final presentations. Linked to this experience is the Visual + Critical Language course, where students work through reading assignments on the lives and works of key contemporary artists and designers relevant to the Featured Topic. In addition, they will learn to speak, write and present their own work in clear and well-reasoned ways.

The Summer term is a shorter, more immersive experience; students should expect to engage in Concentration courses for a minimum of 20 hours per week and plan their schedule accordingly.

Featured Topics

Featured Topics courses for Summer Immersion 2021:

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RISD Advanced Program for High School Students- Art and Science Ecologies: Local Environments
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Advanced Program for High School Students-Fashion and Feminism: Architect of Form
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Advanced Program for High School Students- Interpreting the Figure: Culture and Context
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RISD Advanced Program for High School Students- Sculpture: Assemblage of Ideas
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Visual + Critical Language

Students enrolled in a Featured Topics course also take a corresponding Visual + Critical Language course.

Visual and Critical Language course: Advanced Program for High School Students
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