Entry into the nation's most prestigious colleges and postgraduate photography programs require candidates to show a high-level of past accomplishment as well as potential for greater achievement. The most prestigious schools also are the most selective, with several admitting one-quarter or less of applicants. Those admitted can expect to have their work viewed and critiqued by some of the best photographers in the nation.

Yale University School of Art

Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, accepts only nine students each year into its highly selective and extremely competitive School of Art photography program, which counts luminaries such as Walker Evans and Tod Papageorge as past professors. The graduate program, which offers a Master of Fine Arts in photography, is now headed by award-winning photographer and author Gregory Crewdson. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree or four-year diploma from an accredited school and must have a significant body of work to meet the portfolio requirements.

Rhode Island School of Design

In 1951, before the world considered black and white photography an art form, Rhode Island School of Design was teaching the medium in its art department. The degree program in photography was established ten years later. The Bachelor of Fine Arts program enrolls about 60 students while the master's program has an enrollment of about 14 students. The school, located in Providence, is very selective, accepting only twenty-five percent of applicants.

Columbia University

The School of the Arts at Columbia University in New York annually receives between 1,000 and 1,200 applications for the 26 open spaces in its visual arts program. The photography department is headed by two-time Guggenheim Fellowship recipient Thomas Roma, whose work has been featured in one-man shows at the Museum of Modern Art. The program emphasizes mastery of traditional darkroom techniques and film camera photography. Photography students earn a Master of Arts in visual arts, reflecting the school's promotion of a broad-based background in art.

California Institute of The Arts

California Institute of The Arts in Valencia makes it clear that admission to the school is talent-based. Artistic ability and the application essay are the two most important criteria for admissions. Decisions are made by the faculty within a group review of the applicant and only thirty-percent of applicants are accepted. The photography program emphasizes a fine arts rather than a commercial-oriented photography practice. According to the school, photography portfolios should highlight the applicant's photo series work.

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