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8 Pre-College Offerings at UMich STAMPS

As a high school student, particularly one interested in art and design, you might be thinking about how to enhance your college application, build your portfolio and hone your skills. One of the best ways to do that is by participating in pre-college programs offered by universities – these can help deepen your understanding of art, give your college applications a competitive edge, showcasing your diverse interests and your dedication to developing them.


University of Michigan’s School of Art and Design, or STAMPS, hosts a number of such pre-college programs for high school students that are definitely worth considering. In this blog, we’ll explore 8 of the best pre-college programs STAMPS has to offer. 


These programs give students the opportunity to find their own niche in the vast arenas of art and design, develop a unique set of skills, work on their portfolios while they network with professionals, gaining insight into what careers in art and design can look like.


UMich STAMPS: Is it Prestigious?

The University of Michigan STAMPS has been ranked in the top 10 colleges in the country for art and design. As a student considering art or design, STAMPS should be on your radar with its range of pre-college programs, faculty, and the sheer range of subjects it offers. While doing a STAMPS pre-college program does not guarantee your admission into the college for an undergraduate degree, it definitely improves your chances – it will give your college applications a boost, whether you’re applying here or anywhere else. While not too competitive to get into, these programs demonstrate your dedication to your subject, and tell admissions officers that you will go the extra mile to pursue your passion and develop your skills, which is something they look for. 


Pre-college at UMich STAMPS

Program offerings, structure and logistics

STAMPS’ pre-college programs cater to students in grade 9-12, who are keen to explore their creative expression, providing courses that are focused on developing fundamental skills. These programs offer personalized training and guidance from STAMPS faculty and staff on how to build a competitive portfolio, in a variety of formats — virtual and in-person; after-school, weekend, and residential — that work with any schedule. While we’re covering the spring and summer pre-college offerings in this blog, you can check out their fall pre-college programs here!


The spring session includes a number of in-person and virtual courses covering animation, drawing, ceramics, textile design, painting and more – there’s something for everyone. The summer session offers a ‘Portfolio Prep program’, an intensive studio experience designed to help participants curate a competitive portfolio for college applications. We’ll cover these in detail below!


STAMPS Pre-College: Summer 

The summer session currently offers only one program: Portfolio Prep. Students can choose to attend this program virtually, or choose one of the two residential sessions offered. 


Portfolio Prep is an intensive program focused on developing and curating a competitive portfolio for a college application. The coursework is not unlike the structure and rigor of the first year undergraduate experience at STAMPS. Guided by faculty and staff, students can dive into studio work and explore a variety of media and methods to produce creative work. The program also includes sessions with the STAMPS admissions team, where students will learn about the admissions process and get some insight into the advantages of earning an art and design degree at a top university like UMich.


The program will include 4 studio classes: drawing, 2D, 3D and 4D (time-based) art work. Students in the program will also be mentored by current undergrad students at STAMPS, and can get their portfolios reviewed by the STAMPS admissions team. The residential program also includes field trips to local museums and cultural institutions, and tours of the school and UMich’s Central Campus.


Dates: June 17 - 28, 2024 (Virtual) | July 7 - 20, 2024 (Residential 1) | July 21, 2024 - August 3, 2024 (Residential 2)

Cost:  $750 (Virtual. This includes instructional materials and shipping costs) | $4,950 (Residential. This includes tuition, room, board, field trips, instructional materials and shipping costs.)

Application Deadline: February 1, 2024 (Early Action) | March 15, 2024 (Final)


This program fosters artistic growth and provides a glimpse into college life as an art student, making it a solid summer pre-college program option. 

Note: This program is open to international students too.


STAMPS Pre-College: Spring

The spring session offers both virtual and in-person studio class options, starting May to early June, for high school students in grades 9-12. The courses are perfect if you’re looking to build a new skill to further your creative pursuits. The studio sessions will include personalized training and guidance from STAMPS faculty and staff on building a competitive portfolio. We’ll cover some of the classes offered below, but you can take a look at all of them here.


  • 2D Visualization (Virtual): This online class introduces students to fundamental visualization skills, practices and media used by artists and designers when working creatively in two dimensions. Dates: May 7, 2024 - June 6, 2024 (Tuesdays and Thursdays) Cost: $245. This includes program materials.

  • 4D Animation (Virtual): 4D This online class introduces students to techniques used by artists and designers when working creatively with the fourth dimension, time. Students will learn the fundamentals of working with time by exploring basic audio, video and animation techniques that can easily be used at home to make creative work. Dates: May 7, 2024 - June 6, 2024 (Tuesdays and Thursdays) Cost: $245. This includes program materials.

  • Drawing for Artists & Designers: This class is offered both in-person and virtually. Students will learn drawing concepts fundamental to contemporary art and design practice, gain knowledge and experience in a variety of approaches, ranging from observational to experimental drawing.  Dates: May 7, 2024 - June 6, 2024 (Virtual: Tuesdays and Thursdays) | May 6, 2024 - June 5, 2024 (In-person: Mondays and Wednesdays) Cost: $245 (virtual) | $295 (in-person). The fee includes program materials. Note that the in-person program is not residential.

  • Ceramic Fundamentals (In-Person): In this class, students will get to explore various methods of creating with clay to produce functional and expressive forms. Students will be introduced to creative works and technical processes as they relate to contemporary art. This program will focus on hand-building techniques including coiling, slab-building, surface application with slip and glaze.  Dates: May 6, 2024 - June 5, 2024 (Mondays and Wednesdays) Cost: $295. This includes materials.


The next few course options are Weekend Workshops.

  • Watercolour Painting (In-Person): In this class, students will learn concepts and techniques fundamental to watercolor painting, gaining experience using this material to explore composition, color and working from direct observation. Dates: May 11, 2024 - June 8, 2024 (Saturdays) Cost: $245. This includes program materials.

  • 3D Exploration (In-Person): This class surveys the elements of 3D design and introduces students to the rigor of a college-level course in 3D Design and/or Sculpture. Students will learn the fundamentals of working with form and space by exploring materials and processes used to create three-dimensional works of art and design. All Stamps undergraduate students are required to take Studio: 3D as a part of their first year, so adding work from this class to your portfolio is a great way to prepare for the STAMPS undergraduate curriculum. Dates: May 11, 2024 - June 8, 2024 (Saturdays) Cost: $245. This includes program materials.

  • Relief Printmaking (In-Person): This class introduces media and methods associated with relief printmaking. Students will explore making and printing images in color from a variety of relief surfaces and cover a range of single and multi-plate methods. Through hands-on projects, students engage print concepts such as multiplicity, serialization, and sequence. Dates: May 11, 2024 - June 8, 2024 (Saturdays) Cost: $245. This includes program materials.

  • E-Textile Design (In-Person): If you’re curious about the tech STAMPS undergrad students have access to, this class will allow you to work at the Stamps Digi-Fab Studio, with its cutting edge digital fabrication technology. In this class, students will be introduced to textile design through the context of digital fabrication, gaining a basic understanding of textile-printing and surface embellishment while expanding knowledge of tools such as the vinyl cutter, embroidery machine and laser cutter. This program will help aspiring artists and designers earn confidence and experience with digital fabrication. Dates: May 11, 2024 - June 8, 2024 (Saturdays) Cost: $395. This includes program materials.

The virtual classes will introduce content synchronously and asynchronously, so students can get direct feedback from their instructors, along with enough time to build their skills and apply new concepts. 


Note: The application deadline for the spring session is the same as summer’s: February 1, 2024 (Early Action) | March 15, 2024 (Final)


Application requirements

The STAMPS pre-college programs follow a structured application process for each session with specific deadlines, including an early action application deadline and a final application deadline. Required application materials typically include a portfolio of your work, a personal statement, and an unofficial high school transcript. You can find the application link here!


Scholarships & Financial Aid

A few scholarships are offered to students who demonstrate financial need and merit, with options for fee waivers for those facing financial hardship. To be eligible for financial assistance, applicants must submit the most recent tax return of their Parents/Guardians' along with the number of dependents


Michigan residents also have the option to apply for the Watson A. Young scholarship. Further details and the scholarship application can be found on the U-M Center for Educational Outreach website.


Are the STAMPS Pre-College Programs Worth It? Here’s our take.

The UMich STAMPS pre-college programs do come with a degree of prestige. However, you must take the associated costs into consideration, which could potentially affect the program’s perceived prestige in comparison to fully-funded or highly selective pre-college programs. While the program offers valuable experiences and mentorship, the financial aspect may also impact its accessibility and, thus, the overall perception of its prestige.


There’s no doubt that participating in UMich STAMPS pre-college programs offers high school students a valuable opportunity to build new skills, develop a competitive portfolio, and gain insights into the fields of art and design. These programs provide personalized training, mentorship, and a glimpse of college life. They will help enhance your creative abilities and equip you with knowledge that will be an advantage when you’re applying to college. If the cost is not too much of a deterrent, investing time and resources for these programs can be a worthwhile step toward starting your creative journey and building a strong foundation for a future in the field.



One more option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research on various topics in business management and leadership, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Tenzing Dolma is a Masters student specializing in research following the Nechung Oracle and the historical, religious, and cognitive approaches to its presence. She has a bachelors in Neuroscience from Loyola University Chicago and is currently completing her graduate studies at Columbia University. She hopes to help students find their passions through access to programs and organizations the same way she found hers!


Image Source: UMich STAMPS logo



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