School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago, IL, USA

Reviews

School of the Art Institute of Chicago
3.82 Average Rating

Kristine from Salida, CA

a past student here
4 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
Did learn a lot
SAIC, if anything should be said, provides its students with a toolkit. It shows you how to build your practice, giving you practical lessons on doing so as well as technical knowledge.
Did enjoy being here
I'm from a strong liberal arts background, so at times the art school attitude (yes, be ready for some artsy pretension, folks) was a bit jarring for me.. But in general, SAIC offered me an environment and art community like no other, and my practice grew in leaps and bounds.
Bang for the buck
One of my best friends here once said that she thought SAIC was halfway worth it, and I'm inclined to agree with her--it comes with a very high price tag, but the skills you learn are absolutely indispensable for the serious career artist.
Tips for prospective students
Do NOT come here if art is a hobby, or if you are unsure if art (of any kind; you can always change majors!) is what you want to do; if you're going to pay this much for an art education, you need to breathe art. You have to need it. Otherwise, you will almost certainly become one of the many people who drop out in the first year (and I do mean many; I lived in the dorms, and the turnover rate got crazy right around midterm critiques).
Great for these types of students
People who are completely dedicated to their art, who want to have their boundaries pushed and are looking to expand themselves into new realms, whether by incorporating new media or exploring a different side of conceptualism, will flourish here. You will see your work improve in amazing, unprecedented ways if you really want it.
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Brianna from Chicago, IL

a current student here
4 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
Am learning a lot
SAIC is an interdisciplinary school. This fancy phrase just means they encourage students to explore a wide assortment of media in their work. You can pick and choose what skills or areas of study you want to experiment with. The unique perspectives of my fellow students and professors have had a huge impact on how I understand and relate to conceptual art.
Am enjoying being here
I honestly love it here. At first the artistic community was a little intimidating, but if you're a creative intuitive person you will have no trouble fitting in. Every class is a new opportunity for artistic expression. SAIC's campus is downtown Chicago, but our city playground is the West Loop, the Northside, Logan Square, and all of Chicago is available at our fingertips. Around every corner there are new adventures to explore. The school is definitely an interesting and unique college experience.
Bang for the buck
It is true that SAIC is a huge expense. I will be honest, in a lot of ways coming here is a gamble. But there is financial aid available, there are scholarships, (shout out to Cappex.com!) and it isn't hard to get a job. Especially when you can put on your resume you went to such an influential conceptual school. There really is no other accredited school like SAIC out there, and having successful working contemporary artists as your instructors is an advantage that would be hard to pass up, especially when they are all so willing to give you advice!
Tips for prospective students
The first year drop out rate is almost 80 percent. Before you come here, I would encourage you to really be certain art is the career path you wish to take. And if it is, be prepared to work for it. Also, don't become isolated. This is a competitive school, and I have seen students cut themselves off from classmates and friends to focus solely on their work. I strongly recommend finding a student group, or establishing some form of community when you get here. You will need people you can go to when the stress levels are driving you insane.
Great for these types of students
This school is for the artiest of art nerds. You really have to be a conceptual thinker. If you aren't ready to spend up to six hours a week PER studio class this is not the school for you. Make no mistake, SAIC is not an easy art school. We may have a pass/fail grading system, but project Critiques can make or break you as a student, and more importantly, as an artist.
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Amanda from Westchester, IL

accepted here and planning to attend soon
3 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
In three sentences
I've visited the campus multiple times and have had absolutely no criticisms against it! The school's little supportive ideas for the artist's mind (having school in the museum, studios in all dorm buildings open 24/7, and having no majors or grades whatsoever) is extremely helpful! If you're an artist looking to pursue an education within the city and want to be pushed to be the greatest you can be, I suggest you apply here.
Academic Rigor
Being a student not attending the school yet, I can say that I wouldn't be the most appropriate person to look to answers for this question.
Dorm Life
The dorms are extremely roomy and bright! Big enough for you to spread your creativity and decorate as you wish- supplied with a bathroom, and kitchen (without a stove for obvious reasons *cough* sculpting *cough*. Be prepared to join the infamous search called who's going to take the bed above the bathroom with a steep ladder or the regular bed by the window no where near a heater.
Food and Dining
The school is right on Michigan Avenue so there are multiple places to dine close by! Chicago is most known for its deep dish pizza and its definitely worth a try if you aren't from around here. Other than that, I'm not sure if SAIC has its own dining facilities (sorry, the question wasn't asked when I attended the tour).
Share any unusual traditions or locations on campus
The city is the campus and there are multiple locations strange enough to be put on the list to see. As for traditions, if you plan on dorming on campus, don't plan on being by yourself all the time! Once a month, the entire floor must get together and socialize (whether you find it helpful or not, its mandatory).
Campus Safety
The city is the campus and its Chicago. Although its in one of the safest parts of the city, its still the city! There's only so much safety you can expect in Chicago and as a Chicagoan, myself, it isn't much.
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Katherine from Clinton, MO

a current student here
3 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
In three sentences
This is an interdisciplinary school and they will make sure you know it. The first year program focuses almost exclusively on the interdisciplinary aspect of the bachelor of fine arts track. However, once you get out of that first year they definitely take care of you.
Tips for prospective students
Do not take an interior architecture class as a throwaway elective just to see what it's like. Architecture classes are not cheap and they are not easy.
Academic Rigor
To do well at this school requires an agonizing amount of work. However, it is possible to get by doing almost no work. You will get out of this what you put in.
Dorm Life
Reslife is helpful and friendly, even if they don't always answer your phone calls. The dorms are beautiful and unique, and living in the heart of Chicago is the experience of a lifetime.
Food and Dining
The school just painstakingly selected a caterer for the new meal plan and the food is amazing. You are never hard pressed to find events featuring free food. Outside the school is a whole city of an amazing range of restaurants.
What to do for fun
There are a lot of clubs at SAIC, they're just a little tricky to find. It's also tricky to find time to attend meetings since class times are kind of all over the place. You're better off visiting one of the neighborhoods to find your own things you're interested in.
Bang for the buck
You get out what you put in. This school is too expensive to go to just to party and take easy classes.
Great for these types of students
Great for self-motivated hard working students who are determined to succeed in something they're passionate about. Also great for those with a wide range of talents.
Greek Life
Nonexistent. However, during my second year my friends and I formed an unofficial sorority. We don't get the special treatment of an official organization, but we had a lot of fun.
Campus Safety
Security guards, especially at the dorms, are very friendly. I never feel unsafe, even living in the heart of a big city.
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Glen from Chicago, IL

a current student here
3 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
Am learning a lot
I have attended SAIC for two years in my 30's after working for about 10 years. Originally I went to Berkeley for an 80% verbal- 20% quantitative/scientific education. My Berkeley education was heavily dependent upon my own ambition and initiative and my SAIC education was doubly so. The cliche it is what you make of it is something that all successful SAIC students learn to their marrow. You can easily coast through this school on a flood of bullshit if you so desire, and take only the least demanding classes. You can also work so hard and get so much from the teachers that you won't have to do anything but art all your waking hours.

The teachers can't make you a good artist, but by and large they say very helpful things and are very good at tailoring their feedback to your skill and motivation level. They are generally just what they should be- very good at talking about art. By and large they are not great artists themselves, but rarely are they complete frauds. As someone who was trained in verbal analysis, I have often marveled at how adept many of my teachers are at talking intelligently. Yes, they will find something nice to say about crappy work just to socially lubricate a critique, but this is exactly what is called for, in my opinion. Perhaps they should remind everyone at the beginning of every class that it is very unlikely that any one of the students will ever be a professional artist. This is so blindingly obvious that it rarely gets acknowledged.

Am enjoying being here
The main flaw with the School is that it is located downtown in a high rent district, so it has no extra space. It has no student center or hang-out space other than a small cafeteria. Its studio space is taken up by classes from 9am to 9pm, so there is little opportunity to just work alongside fellow students during these hours without being enrolled in a class, unless you are accepted into the Advanced _ class in a particular discipline, in which case you get a small personal space among others like you.

It is easy to be lonely at SAIC. I would recommend living in the dorms for at least a year to help you make friends, although this did me little good as a somewhat reclusive and older student. There are few social glue personalities at SAIC, and they are often obnoxious. If you are a social misfit when you enter SAIC, you will most likely be a social misfit when you come out. That said, most people seem to find enough friends to make the experience tolerable, at least after the (usually painful) freshman year.
Bang for the buck
Expensive, but adequate financial aid is available.
Tips for prospective students
Most people would probably be better served in their personal and intellectual development by going to a real school and working hard at a discipline more closely related to what is generally considered practical. You should face the fact that it is extremely unlikely that you will ever be a professional artist, and that you will be lucky to find a job that truly utilizes the visual skills you learn at SAIC. Many graduates have this hammered home to them only after they graduate and find out that the world won't cater to their narcissistic tendencies. You will likely have a considerable amount of debt and be challenged in finding a way to pay it off comfortably.

With that in mind, you could still get a lot out of going here. Just don't expect to be pampered forever:)
Great for these types of students
Dedicated artists and spoiled children who don't want to go to real school.
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Cassie from Papillion, NE

a current student here
21 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
Am learning a lot
If there is anything I am learning about the art world at SAIC, its everything! Experimenting in different mediums and art types is daily routine. Film, sculpture, plaster, and sound are just a few things that I have dipped my hands into since being here. The best thing is that I can take all different types of classes and never have to define a major. For example, I can take shoe design and figure drawing. I create my own plan and degree based on what I am interested in and want to create. The main thing I am learning though, is exactly what kind of artist I am going to turn into and what my favorite materials/subject matters are. I am learning more about myself as an artist then anything else!
Am enjoying being here
Being around people with your same interests is key and you get that at SAIC. But you also get involved with people who have completely different interests than you as well. I am meeting so many different types of people everyday. There is never a dull moment on my floor because someone is always doing something! We cook together all the time and have feasts in our lounge. Not only are the classes exactly what I want, but the people are exactly who I need to be around.
Bang for the buck
This school costs a fortune and a half, but you can not get anything better for you money. I can not tell you how many times I have heard a transfer student say that they wished they hadn't wasted all their money on the art school they went before because they hated it or weren't learning anything. I have not heard one person complain about SAIC. Students and faculty enjoy SAIC and Chicago. It is offering everything you need to succeed in the art school once you are done with your education!
Tips for prospective students
Search for as much scholarships as possible to help out with art supplies, tuition, food, etc. You can not get enough free money to go to school and do exactly what you love! Also, find your inspiration, run with it, never be to crazy, and NEVER stop creating!
Great for these types of students
artists, film students, fashion designers, architects
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Sarah from MA

accepted here and planning to attend soon
6 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
In three sentences
Interdisciplinary, major-less environment. Tons of opportunities. Very conceptual and design-y.
Tips for prospective students
Attend an SAIC day and have a portfolio review! Simply by doing this, your application fee will be waived and you may be considered as a prime candidate for a merit scholarship. All applicants are automatically considered for these scholarships, but this will give you a leg up on the competition. In your portfolio, focus on concepts and experimentation rather than technical skill. SAIC is very concept-heavy and loves when students take risks. Don't bring a car! Parking in a city is always brutal, there is a train directly next to the school, and taking it is far cheaper than the cost of a car.
Academic Rigor
SAIC doesn't have majors. Can't decide on what to study? Do it all! This school encourages students to combine disciplines in all their classes and make connections between different areas of creation. SAIC also doesn't have grades. All courses are pass / fail (credit / no credit). SAIC is not a competitive environment like RISD. If you want to work with others, but don't want to compete with them, this place is for you. SAIC is great for people who want to study design areas and art technology, but it's not very fine-arts heavy. Very conceptual subjects, particularly the fashion department.

Fiber and Material Studies students have access to floor looms, TC-1 and TC-2 Digital Jacquard Looms, sewing and knitting machines, dye and screen printing facilities, feltmaking equipment, and a computer lab. Visual Communication Design department facilities include large screen monitors, resource room, fully equipped letterpress and type shop, SAIC Service Bureau -providing binding, papers, and large format printing- and graduate studios. Contemporary Practices department for first year students has an instructional shop with hand and floor-mounted power tools staffed by technicians to provide advice and training, and a Media Center to check out tools and equipment reserved exclusively for Contemporary Practices students. For Film, Art&Tech, and Sound, highlights of specialized equipment specific to media departments include advanced HD editing suites, shooting studios, green screen cyclorama studio, space for the creation of experimental virtual reality environments, high-end graphics labs for 3D modeling and animation, high-quality analog and digital mixers, and rare signal processors. SAIC's sculpture department features digital fabrication areas, a woodshop, metal shop, foundry, mold-making shop, 3D visualization, and outdoor organic garden, facilitating site-based projects, metal casting, mold-making, figure studies, sustainable and science-related projects. Cerami...
Dorm Life
SAIC dorms are amazing, but expensive! Housing is around $10K a year, I think. Regardless, the price is right. The dorms are very, very spacious and each include a private bathroom with shower, a kitchenette, and cool loft bed options. There's lots of open-24/7 studio space in each building. The buildings have computer/printer labs and lots of washer-dryers which text you when finished! Common areas include a spray room, painting studios, media room, computer lounge, solarium, and spaces to study. SAIC makes it easy to find good off-campus housing, which is cheaper and more available in Chicago than in New York, for example. Students have a roommate-swap every few months, during which students dissatisfied with their roommates can meet with other members of the residence hall and meet new potential roommates. Dorms are very close to campus (about a 5 minute walk) and therefore close to the public transport.
Food and Dining
If you live on campus, meal plans ARE mandatory. If you like the cafeteria food, great! If you don't like the cafeteria food, this can be an annoying waste of money. The food is pretty mediocre and way overpriced. If you live off campus, there are plenty of places to eat around the city. It's easy to find a quick bite. Near the school is a falafel and shawarma place called the Naf Naf Grill. It's great! SAIC provides options for vegetarian and vegan students (although the options can get tiring day after day) and also makes sure to accommodate students with allergies and religious dietary restrictions.
What to do for fun
Lots of stuff to do around the city. At Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park, which are directly adjacent, there is ice skating in the winter, public art, concerts, playgrounds and beautiful gardens. SAIC has several student galleries, and you can always go to the actual Art Institute, which is free for students.
Bang for the buck
SAIC is one of the most expensive art schools on the market, but they are very generous with financial aid. I attended an SAIC event and they waived my application fee. I also received a merit scholarship for my portfolio worth about $71.5 thousand. Say what?! SAIC students get the advantage of a "U-Pass" that allows students to use Chicago transportation for much less (saving about $200 a year on transport). This school has a ton of extremely expensive and high-quality technology that most students are allowed to use regardless of whether they are enrolled in the course, including animation and recording suites, darkrooms, cameras, puppet studios, etc. Museum admission is free and students get exclusive hands-on access to collections not on display. Additionally, SAIC is really on top of internships, which are required and not very competitive (more internships than students). Job connections after graduation are also very good, I hear.
Share any unusual traditions or locations on campus
Foundry in the basement of the museum. Really cool!
Great for these types of students
People who are interested in lots of different areas of art study and can't decide on a major; want a free, interdisciplinary environment; are interested in design areas such as communications design and fashion design; function well in the city; don't mind bad weather.
Clubs and Activities
Lots of clubs, communities, organizations, zines, and broadcasting networks for students to join. You probably won't have time, though, so I doubt many people are really invested in their extracurricular activities.
Greek Life
None.
Campus Safety
Very safe. I know, it's a city, and Chicago can be seen as dangerous, but SAIC is in a very safe part of Chicago. You need a student or faculty ID to enter campus buildings and have to sign in with security every time you enter a dorm. Security take their jobs very seriously and are friendly / willing to help out. Theft is usually the only crime students should worry about, but that can be easily avoided with common sense measures like simply using locks and keeping track of your things.
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Maria from Irmo, SC

a current student here
6 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
In three sentences
saic provides a challenging and creative environment to sharpen your artistic skills. the staff is well equipped with experience and knowledge to give practical and helpful direction. the school is also located in one of the most exciting cities in the world, with a vibrant history and many opportunities to make your voice heard.
Tips for prospective students
saic doesn't make it's students choose a discipline to focus on, which has it's pros and cons. it's very easy to get unfocused. i would recommend sitting down with an adviser, who will help you pick classes that with sharpen the skills you have and spark new ones.
Academic Rigor
the academic environment is challenging, but also driven by self-motivation. you're only going to get what you put into it. expect to spend a lot of time in the studio and doing a lot of personal research.
Dorm Life
the dorms are clean and beautiful. i lived at 162 north state street, and met wonderful people on all floors. security is always present.
Food and Dining
aside from being in the loop, which has lots of delicious options, the columbus building has a full cafeteria.
What to do for fun
fun is subjective, but chicago has an exciting nightlife. if you're under 21, there are gallery openings all over town every friday night. if you're over 21, there is even more to do. kingston mines has blues every single night, with many exciting legends making an appearance.
Bang for the buck
there are cheap places to eat and drink, as well as expensive ones. if you're over 21, there's a bar called big joe's that has live turtle racing, and pitchers of beer for $8.
Share any unusual traditions or locations on campus
the art school is associated with the art institute of chicago, which every student has free admission to. and there are plenty of unusual locations in the museum.
Great for these types of students
saic makes the uncool kids popular.
Clubs and Activities
saic provides lots of opportunities to mingle with other students. nearly every country is represented and every social group. from the humanitarian group to salsa dancing, there's something for everyone.
Greek Life
none that i know of.
Campus Safety
there is security present at all times, and card entry required for every single building.
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Dana from Evansville, IN

a current student here
5 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
Am learning a lot
This school has pushed me to work my butt off. I attended 2 years in a regular big campus university before transferring to SAIC, and I have never been so challenged or exhausted by my classes. It's beautiful, and exactly what I need as a growing artist.
Am enjoying being here
I've never loved school more than here. Yeah I've had a bad teacher or two, which made me loathe going to that class. But it doesn't mean the school sucks or I regret taking that class. I love my school.
Bang for the buck
It's very expensive. If you don't have a scholarship of at least 10K you are probably paying way too much to come to this school. It's a fabulous school and you are getting an education you pay for if you want it. But a lot of kids are trust fund babies and will spend four years just messing around because they don't understand what a great resource this school is.
Tips for prospective students
Get scholarships. Don't live in student housing if you can avoid it, it's nice but overly expensive. Finical aid is a pain in the a*s, they will try to withhold your money for months. Have fun, ask questions, and learn.
Great for these types of students
Creators, artists, lovers of art, critical thinkers
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Sydnee from Chicago, IL

a current student here
5 people found this review useful
Categories Comments
Am learning a lot
SAIC gives you access to facilities and artists that give you the skills to be a great artist and to succeed in the art world.
Am enjoying being here
I love the classes and the facilities. Being in Chicago is also a plus. The city is amazing and so is the school. The only drawback is that if you are looking for a college community, than you'll have to work a little harder to find it, but its not impossible.
Bang for the buck
It is incredibly expensive. But it is one of the best art schools in the country and having that name on your degree will help open doors in the art world.
Tips for prospective students
Get into the clubs early if you want to feel apart of the community. Also, the housing is expensive and keeps you too secluded on one area of the city, look into apartments in the city it'll save you money and get you out of the downtown area.
Great for these types of students
Hard working, self motivated artists.
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