Admissions & Aid
The Art Therapy Program is highly selective, student-focused and dedicated to helping each individual discover their own art therapist identity. Find the information you need to prepare your application, build your portfolio and come visit us for interviews. We look forward to welcoming you to campus.
Rolling applications: November 15 to February 1 (recommended deadline of January 15 for scholarship and funding applicants)
Note: All students begin the program in the fall semester. Online programming is not available.
- 1. Begin preparing materials
Begin the application process in the fall, one year before anticipated entry into program. Applicants should have investigated the field and should be familiar with some of the art therapy literature before applying.
- 2. Complete prerequisites
In addition to GW's general application requirements, all Art Therapy Program applicants must complete certain prerequisite requirements. Coursework grades must be B or above to be accepted.
18 credits in art, including painting, drawing, and ceramics/sculpture/3D/
figurative clay, and 12 credits in the behavioral and/or social sciences, including abnormal psychology and human development.
Complete and fill out the Supplemental Course Summary Sheet (PDF) detailing completed prerequisites. See the summary sheet for details on each prerequisite requirement.
- 3. Submit on time, if not early
Submit application as soon as possible, and no later than February 1. Application materials are screened by the Graduate Studies Office of the Columbian College of Arts & Sciences and reviewed by Art Therapy Program faculty.
- 4. Submit a portfolio that meets all requirements
All applicants must submit a portfolio. The portfolio should demonstrate personal expression as well as technical skills in a range of media and subject matter (i.e. include personal artwork, not just class assignments). While we do not favor one artistic style over another, we need to see evidence of representational work to be able to assess your ability to assist clients.
When you present your portfolio at the interview, you should be prepared to discuss some of your work from a personal perspective. In particular, we are interested in your personal understanding of art and what you have learned about yourself through the art-making process.
- 15–20 pieces
- Examples of drawing, painting and figurative clay work
- Examples of figurative work in two- and three-dimensional media
Your portfolio needs to be submitted as a Powerpoint, showing high quality digital photos. It must be titled with your last name, first initial and Portfolio. For example: Smith, J Portfolio. This should be submitted through GoogleDrive or Dropbox.
- 5. Statement of Purpose
In an essay of approximately 500 words, state your purpose in undertaking graduate study in Art Therapy and specifically why you are interested in the GW Program. Include why you have chosen this field over any other you considered and what led you to this decision. We are not looking for a reiteration of your CV, but rather your exploration of the field, your sense of self awareness, and your level of maturity.
- 6. Attend an interview
In-person interviews are required for admission into the Art Therapy Program. To ensure your preferred interview date is available, please complete your application as early as possible. Interviews are conducted in person unless the applicant resides outside the United States, with some exceptions on a case-by-case basis. In such cases, applicants complete a video presentation and attend a Skype interview.
Once your application has been reviewed, invitations will be sent out for interviews to occur in late February and March. The interview lasts a full day.
- Group interview in which you will interact with all of the full-time faculty and meet current students
- Information session and Q&A
- Lunch with current students
- Individual interview with a faculty member and a student
- 7. Receive notice of decision
All applicants will receive a secure email confirming acceptance, denial, deferral or waitlisting through our online application system.
Interviews for 2022 have been completed.
Tips for Applying
- Ensure that all prerequisite courses are completed and earned a “B” or above.
- Create a portfolio that shows your expertise in drawing, painting and figurative clay, as well as any other modalities you use (i.e., photography, design, textiles, printmaking, etc.). Your portfolio should portray that you use art for your own means of expression, not just coursework assignments.
- Become knowledgeable about art therapy through reading books and articles and/or speaking with art therapists in the field. Show us you have done your homework.
- Volunteer with a local organization, not necessarily related to art therapy, to show us that you have experience and the desire to work with people. Previous mental health-related volunteer experience that involves using art therapeutically is also recommended.
- Take part in your own personal therapy, ideally art therapy, to focus on self-awareness, resolve personal issues and get a different viewpoint of what art therapy is like. Many leaders in the field of art therapy education believe that experiencing art therapy as a client is an invaluable element when training for professional practice as an art therapist.
“I was drawn to the location and the networking and internship opportunities that come along with being in the nation’s capital. But it was the emphasis on trauma care and study abroad that set GW apart.”
- Is this program feasible for someone who works full time?
Yes, however, the program would take at least three years to complete and you would need a flexible work schedule during your second and third year in order to take all the required coursework, as some are offered during traditional work hours.
- Can I sit in on a class or observe an art therapy session?
Unfortunately, due to confidentiality, this is not a possibility. While this may be obvious for client sessions, it also applies to our classes. Art experientials can be a part of each class and students create their art based on their own personal experiences, essentially doing art therapy on themselves. This artwork is then presented in their class to their small cohort of classmates who maintain confidentiality.
- What is the process for becoming a licensed art therapist, and how does GW's program prepare me?
The Art Therapy Program provides the maximum number of credits toward state licensure. Learn more on the MA in Art Therapy page.
- Can I still apply if I am missing prerequisites?
Yes. You could have the spring and summer semesters after you apply to the program to complete prerequisites. You should let us know your plans for prerequisite completion in your Statement of Purpose. All prerequisite courses must be completed by the start of the fall semester.
- I have not done figurative clay, but I have done other forms of sculpture work. Does that count?
Possibly — we require that each student have a foundational knowledge in figurative clay work (i.e., are able to build a figure out of clay). This requirement is based on working with clients and being able to guide them in creating a figure that doesn’t fall apart. All sculpture work is important, but you must have this foundational knowledge as well and be able to show your skills in your portfolio.
- Do the course names on my transcript have to match prerequisite titles exactly?
No, as long as the course includes the overall topic and you can provide the content through a course description or syllabus, the names do not have to be exactly the same. Some examples include: Human Development and Child Development; Abnormal Psychology and Psychopathology.
- How much is tuition?
Visit the GW Student Accounts Office website for current costs.
- What is the application process and what are the requirements for international students?
Students for whom English is a foreign language may find it to their advantage to begin the application process earlier, thus allowing for English courses and prerequisites to be taken during the spring semester and art therapy courses in the following fall.
English Language Test Scores
International students must submit scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the academic International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Scores may not be more than two years old from the time you apply. The minimum scores for admission consideration are:
- TOEFL: 550 on paper-based; or 80 on Internet-based
- Academic IELTS: an overall band score of 6.0 with no individual score below 5.0
Exceptions may be made for applicants who hold a degree from a university located in a country where English is the official language and also the language of instruction at the university.
International students who meet the minimum TOEFL score requirement can start immediately; however, we recommend that international students complete the program part time.
English for Academic Purposes Courses
The university requires all international students to either complete EAP courses or demonstrate high language test scores. Learn more on the GW graduate admissions website.