Pursuing a fine or performing arts degree means being willing to expose your work--even during the application process.

In addition to general institute application and document requirements, most direct-entry Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Music (BMus) and Bachelor of Media Arts (BMA) programs request either a portfolio or audition. Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees, however, normally do not require a portfolio. The requirements for the portfolio/ audition vary greatly from institution to institution and students are strongly advised to consult the specific program website for all the details. In general, though, portfolios for visual arts-related degrees involve the submission of between 12-15 pieces of original artwork (or in slide or digital format). You might also be asked to produce new works in response to specified project guidelines. A portfolio should demonstrate a range of interests, visions and materials. Portfolios are evaluated by a committee, not judged by one person.

Performance-oriented programs such as dance, theatre and music often require a live audition, which usually also involves an interview to determine an applicant's knowledge, skills and motivation. This process can last between ten minutes and several hours depending on the program. Most universities allow out-of-town applicants to submit recorded auditions, but prior permission should be obtained from a program advisor. Letters of reference from recent music/ drama/ dance teachers are also often required.

Both portfolios and auditions have specific submission dates and deadlines that differ from those for general applications and supporting documents. As well, most fine and performing arts degree programs require applicants to write and submit a statement of interest and objectives; not all arts programs are for all people and institutes want to help students find the right fit. Traditional university intake is September and January, but some programs only accept new students in September.

While creative, personal elements are important, so are your academic qualifications. Most university fine and performing arts programs are limited-enrolment programs and are competitive: students entering direct from high school require a Grade 12 completion with a minimum average of between 60 and 70%. Specific courses like English or math (for digital media) may also be required. Applicants with high academic standing may qualify for early admission, and interested students should consult the institution for early application dates, which also often differ from general application dates.

Community colleges offering fine and performing arts programs usually have slightly different requirements. Community colleges generally have open admission in which students are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. However, admission usually requires a portfolio or audition showing a basic understanding of the principles and skills of the subject, as well as the applicant's genuine interest, is necessary. Applicants who "fail" an audition can typically make it up by taking an upgrading course.

Academically, even with an open admissions policy, arts programs can be competitive. Admission requirements include Grade 12 with a minimum average of 60%, succesful completion of English and, possibly, math, computer and keyboarding skills for the more computer-oriented digital, new media and multi-media programs. Application dates can be up to 12 months before the start date of any program, but the first-come, first-served basis means early application is encouraged. Because many community colleges offer various types of programs (such as academic, vocational, apprenticeship and continuing studies), intake dates may follow the traditional fall/ winter semester system, but may differ depending on the specific program.

Several types of career colleges offer fine and /or performing arts programs: those with diverse programs in different fields, and more specialized arts schools and film schools. Grade 12 completion is still necessary; however, specific courses, portfolios or auditions are rarely required, as these career-oriented schools teach students what they need to know. Career colleges differ in that some offer continuous enrolment with programs starting every month; others operate on a more traditional semester system with a fall and/ or winter intake. Many career colleges therefore have no cut-off dates for admission and instead process applications all year round. Others have specific deadlines after which applications are no longer considered. Both community colleges and career colleges with internal scholarships and bursaries may encourage early application in order to qualify for these awards and financial assistance. At this level as well, application consists of an official application form (usually downloaded), a fee, transcripts, and any of the additional requirements mentioned above.

If you're sweating over admission requirements, you should also know that a number of specific fine and performing arts scholarships are available at various institutions. These scholarships are offered at the university, community college and career college levels, and you should be sure to investigate before applying, as awards can also have specific application deadlines. While there's much to be done, there's also much to be gained from choosing a fine and performing arts education.