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Should You Apply to ACX Teens at ArtCenter College of Design?

If you’re an artistic, talented high schooler aiming to foster your art skills and enhance your college applications at the same time, then joining a pre-college program for the arts can help you do just that. Participating in art and design programs like ACX Teens at the ArtCenter College of Design can expose you to various art techniques, styles, and resources that you otherwise would not have access to in high school. This will not only help you hone your talent but also demonstrate a dedicated pursuit of the arts, making you a standout candidate in the competitive college admissions process.

What is ACX Teens?

ACX Teens, hosted by the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, offers high school students in grades 9 through 12 a platform to nurture creativity and develop their artistic abilities. The program is designed to place you in a productive and professional environment where you can develop a strong portfolio, learn from experienced faculty, and engage with various artistic disciplines. The program offers more than 65 art and design courses in a variety of topics and formats, from one-week workshops on comic-making to four-week intensives focused on entertainment design. Each of these classes are taught by practicing artists and designers from whom you will learn about the different challenges and opportunities of a career in the arts.

How is ACX Teens structured?

ACX Teens offers diverse courses across different formats each summer, tailored to meet various interests and skill levels in art and design. The program is structured into three main types of summer offerings: 10-Week Saturday Classes, One- and Two-Week Workshops, and Summer Intensives. Here’s how they work:

10-Week Saturday Classes

These courses run on Saturdays at the ArtCenter’s campus in Pasadena (though a few courses are offered online). These classes run from June 1st to August 10th and take place either from 9 am to 12 pm, or 1 pm to 4 pm. These courses offer a comprehensive exploration of specific art and design topics like::

  • Figure Drawing: This course focuses on developing an understanding of the human form through sessions with costumed models. You will get to sharpen your observational skills and engage in discussions about historical and contemporary figure drawing. It's suited for students at any skill level looking to deepen their foundational drawing skills.

  • Character Design: In this class, you’ll be creating and developing characters for various media. The course includes exercises in brainstorming, conceptualization, and the creation of character layout sheets. It's perfect for those interested in animation, video games, and illustration.

One- and Two-Week Workshops

Offered in more intensive, shorter bursts at the Pasadena Campus (as well as online), these workshops are ideal if you wish to learn and participate as much as possible in a condensed time frame. These workshops are conducted Monday through Friday either from 9 am to 12 pm or 1 pm to 4 pm. There are four batches available for these workshops:

  • July 8—12

  • July 15—19

  • July 22—26

  • July 29—August 2

Examples of available courses include:

  • Comic Book Illustration: In this class, you’ll learn to develop your own comic book, covering character design, page layout, and storytelling. This class is great if you’re interested in graphic novels and visual storytelling, providing a comprehensive overview of the comic creation process.

  • Illustration Workshop: This workshop teaches you how to apply drawing and painting skills in the creation of various projects. From album covers to magazine articles, the classes focus on color theory and media handling. You’ll need some background in drawing, and this class will help you enhance your illustrative capabilities.

Summer Intensives

These are the most immersive offerings, lasting four weeks, and are designed to mimic a college-level experience in both scope and intensity. They take place from July 8 - August 10, Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 4.30 pm. These courses are designed for students who want a rigorous dive into their chosen fields. Topics include:

  • Entertainment Design: This intensive covers all aspects of entertainment design, from character and environment design to vehicle and prop design. You will be learning through a series of projects that culminate in a portfolio presentation, suitable if you’re looking to enter the entertainment industry.

  • Industrial Design Product/Transportation Design: This two-part course dives deep into product and transportation design, including sketching, model making, and critique sessions. The first part is focused on the basics like 2D visual communication, design and research methodologies, and project structure, while the later part of the course is about specifics of industrial design, ergonomics and manufacturing. It's perfect if you’re serious about a career in industrial design, providing a real-world consultancy experience.

There are quite literally dozens of courses available, and we highly recommend checking the complete list here.

Is it prestigious?

ACX Teens is recognized for its selective nature, making admission a notable achievement. The program’s rigorous curriculum, experienced faculty, and the prestige of ArtCenter contribute to making this a high-value opportunity for young artists. The faculty includes practicing artists from every field of art and design imaginable, and you will have plenty of opportunities to build valuable networks while receiving highly practical, career-focused education.

Who is eligible and how do you apply?

ACX Teens does not have any strict admission requirements and the courses are open to students in 9th through 12th grade. They do, however, recommend having an art portfolio to waive prerequisites or apply for scholarships. International students can also apply, but since all the programs are either commuter or online, you’ll have to manage your own accommodations and visa process.

Registration is open from 11th March to 31st May, and all classes start on 1st June.

How much does ACX Teens cost?

The cost of the program depends on the type of course you choose to pursue:

  • 10-week Saturday Classes: $500 tuition; $0-100 material costs + any lab fees.

  • One-week Workshops: $300 tuition; $0-100 material costs + any lab fees.

  • Two-week Workshops: $600 tuition; $0-100 material costs + any lab fees.

  • Summer Intensives: $2500 tuition;100-150 material costs + any lab fees.

Scholarships are available for those with financial needs or creative potential, backed by various foundations. You’ll have to apply for these alongside your application.

Pros and cons of attending ACX Teens


  1. Specialized skill development: ACX Teens offers specific, specialized courses with access to industry-standard techniques, tools, and the latest innovations in design and research methodologies. All of these are great if you know the field(s) you intend to pursue in the future and want to skill up accordingly.

  2. Advanced mentorship: All of the ACX faculty are practicing artists and experts in their fields, and their personalized mentorship will help accelerate your skill enhancement.

  3. Multiple formats available: You can choose from multiple different program formats most suited for your specific needs and time availability.

  4. Builds a strong foundation: With its mentorship and skill development, ACX Teens is a great experience to build your readiness for pursuing art and design in college, giving you a headstart in your preparation for your future career.


  1. The cost can build up: Despite available scholarships, the financial investment can add up rapidly when including tuition, lab, and material costs.

  2. It’s commuter only: Most of the courses are commuter only, and with no accommodation available on the ACX Pasadena campus, It can be a challenge for some students to participate.

  3. Intensity: The program's demanding nature might be challenging for some, requiring a high level of commitment and time management.

Our review - should you apply?

ACX Teens at ArtCenter College of Design offers a comprehensive introduction to various art and design disciplines through a structured, professional setting. For dedicated young artists looking to advance their skills and prepare for a career in the arts, this program is an excellent opportunity. If you are ready for an intensive learning experience and eager to develop a strong artistic portfolio, ACX Teens could be the right choice for you.

Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re interested in conducting and presenting in-depth research on various topics, 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.

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.

Image Source: ArtCenter logo


1 Comment

han gu
han gu
Jul 12

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