What does it mean to be a first generation student?

31% of Otis College students are first generation students.

A student is considered a first generation student when neither of their parents/guardians have earned or completed a bachelor's degree. Students whose parents/guardians did not earn a bachelor's degree in the U.S. may also be consider themselves to be first-generation since their family's educational experience is different to the one which they are applying for.

Below you will find information and resources on how to undertake the application process as a first generation student at Otis.

Our Application Process

Preparing a Portfolio

All applicants are required to submit a portfolio of their strongest artwork. You can view our Portfolio Guidelines to get instruction on how to prepare your portfolio. Taking as many art classes as you can through your school is a good start. However, if you've never taken art classes before, our Portfolio Guidelines page can guide you on specific pieces to include. You may also consider taking classes outside of school, such as a Summer Program or courses through an arts non-profit (like Ryman Arts here in LA). If you are looking for help getting started on your portfolio, we recommend attending a Portfolio Development Info Session or meeting with an Admissions Counselor. Portfolios and all required application materials must be submitted by our Priority Deadline.


First-Year Applicants: applicants who are interested in attending college after high school, can apply through our Common App. Transfer Applicants: applicants who have graduated high school and attended some college courses, can apply though our Otis Application.

Our applications open August 1st for Fall/Spring applicants. 

You may qualify for a fee waiver. If you're unsure which application to complete or if you qualify for a waiver, please contact us.


We accept applications for the Fall and Spring terms. The Priority Deadlines for our applications are: February 15 for Fall entry and November 1 for Spring entry. Applicants interested in being considered for merit scholarships should complete their application by our Priority Deadline and submit the FAFSA.

Unsure what term to apply for? Our admission counselors can assist with your decision. Most students will apply for fall entry to enter college the semester after high school graduation, but students also have the option to start in spring.


You must submit all required application materials to be reviewed for an admissions decision. We look at all aspects of your application, with close attention to the portfolio and your unweighted cumulative GPA.

Spend some time on the Personal Statement. Tell us more about who you are as a student, artist and citizen. Your experience is unique and we want to learn more about you.

Learn More About Applying

Frequently Asked Questions

At Otis, we understand that cost of tuition and financial aid may be topics that are difficult to make sense of. We will work with you to help comprehend your financial aid packages and answer any questions you may have about how to fund your education.

  1. Federal Pell Grant, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
  2. Cal Grant (California residents only)
  3. Otis College Scholarships
    • Otis offers generous merit scholarships that students are automatically considered for during the review process of their application. Merit scholarships awards are based on the strength of your portfolio and unweighted cumulative GPA. 
  4. Federal Direct Loans and PLUS (Parent) Loans 5. Federal or Institutional Work Study

No separate application is required to be considered for merit scholarships. 

U.S. Citizens / Permanent Residents:

  1. Obtain a Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) online at fsaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm
  2. Complete the FAFSA online at fafsa.gov
    • Enter school code: 001251
    • The FAFSA is required to officially receive a merit scholarship awarded in the acceptance letter.

If you are a dependent student, you will need your parent's info to complete the FAFSA. View helpful information for parents on the FAFSA here.

  • DACA recipients are eligible for Otis scholarships
  • Graduates of California high schools are eligible for state aid. Complete the Dream Act Online application: www.csac.ca.gov/undocumented-dreamer-students
  • Unfortunately, DACA recipients are not eligible for federal financial aid
Students who are looking for a more affordable option than attending Otis for four years may consider attending a local community college first and then transferring to Otis as a sophomore or junior. It is possible to take many Liberal Arts and Sciences requirements, as well as some studio requirements at most community colleges. View our Transfer page for more information about transferring credits and articulation agreements that we have with community colleges. We recommend that you set-up an appointment with an Admissions Counselor if you are interested in transferring to select the appropriate courses and to create a pathway to Otis. 

Yes, starting Fall 2020, the College started to offer specific need-based diversity scholarships to increase financial support to underrepresented student populations at Otis. On your Common App or Otis Application, please indicate your race/ethicity and complete the FAFSA to be considered. Underrepresented student populations at Otis are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. This also includes students who are multiracial including one or more of these categories. No seperate scholarship application is required. 

A student should consider an Undergraduate program when they are interested in pursuing a 4-year college Bachelor’s degree program.  This is what all students will be applying for often out of high school, or after obtaining a 2 year Associate's degree.  A Graduate program is the next level of study.  This is suited for someone who has already earned a Bachelor’s degree and is seeking to to pursue a higher education in a particular field of study at an advanced level.  Learn more about our undergraduate programs.

Merit Scholarships are awarded based on academics and strength of your portfolio. Scholarship awards are determined during the review process, and there is no separate application to be considered for scholarship.  To accept a merit scholarship from Otis, new incoming students will need to accept their award and submit their FAFSA (domestic students) or CSS Profile (international students)

Of course! There are many scholarships that are provided by various organizations. General search engines are listed below, but please be mindful of possible scams - you should never pay for a scholarship application!

We recommend students to apply to the FAFSA as soon it becomes available, October 1st. The CSS profile opens on October 1st as well. Packages will be awarded upon receiving an official admissions decision at Otis College of Art and Design

  • First year at Otis College is Foundation year.  You will focus on your major of choice beginning your second year.  65% of your class time will be dedicated to studio courses and 35% liberal and science courses. Studio courses are held once a week for a length of 6 hours, while LAS courses are 3 hours long. 

Admissions Counselor - Admission staff members here to help you through the application process, up to your enrollment into Otis College.

Academic Advisor - Provides individual guidance in program of study-specific course selection, scheduling, and graduation checks as needed prior to registration each semester.

Award Letter - The award letter includes information about the cost of attendance and details for how much financial support the student is eligible for. Otis students will view their award letter on the Dashboard at my.otis.edu.

CA/IL courses - Created Action, Integrated Learning (CA/IL). Creative Action is an integrated learning program that introduces students to compelling social and environmental issues within their community through a series of core courses.

Common App - A college application that allows students to apply to multiple colleges at a time. Most colleges and universities accept the Common App.

Early Action - A deadline in which applicants submit their application and materials by December 1st to receive an early decision by mid-January and an early financial aid award estimate (requires submission of the FAFSA).

FAFSA - This is an abbrevation for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is the federal government's financial aid application. The FAFSA must be submitted online here for you to be considered for financial aid and is required if you receive a merit scholarship from Otis. 

Fee Waiver - The $50 Commom Application fee waiver can be waived for students who demonstrate economic need based on the list here. Otis fee waivers are also available for Veterans, alumni from Ryman Arts, CSSSA, Otis Summer of Art and Otis Portfolio Prep. If you feel like you do not fall into one of these categories, but need assistance with the application fee, please reach out to Admissions

First-Generation Student - When neither of their parents have earned or completed a bachelor’s degree.

Foundation Year - The first-year at Otis is called Foundation year, since this is the year students develop skills and knowledge needed for the rest of the academic career at Otis.

LAS - Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) are academic courses that are integrated throughout your 4 years at Otis.

Merit Scholarships - Merit scholarships are awarded based upon your application with great focus on your portfolio and your academic achievements (cumulative unweighted GPA). These types of scholarships do not factor in your financial need. 

The One Stop - At Otis, Office of Financial Aid, Registration and Advising are centralized at the One Stop. Students who have questions for any of these areas, will reach out to the One Stop first where an advisor can answer their questions or connect them with a staff member in these departments. You will reach out to them if you have any questions about your financial aid, paying your tuition or clearing registration holds. 

Otis Application - The application that should be completed if you are a transfer, graduate, or exchange student found here.

Portfolio - Your latest and greatest pieces of artwork that show us your your technical abilities and ideas as an artist. View our portfolio page for more information.

Priority Deadline - The deadline to submit your application and supporting application requirements to the College. After this date, Otis continues to accept applications on a rolling basis (see below). This is the date to apply by if you want to be considered for merit scholarships. 

Rolling Admission - When a deadline is recommended, but applications are still accepted as space remains available. The College can decide at any point after the deadline when to stop accepting new applications. 

As a First Generation student, we want to make sure you are able to connect with the programs and resources we have available.

Want to get an early look at how it is to be a student at Otis and develop your portfolio? Summer of Art is a four week summer program for students 15 and up. The Summer of Art program offers multiple art and design courses in line with Otis' majors. In addition, these classes can also be used towards college credit.  The Summer of Art program offers scholarship opportunities that cover the full cost of summer tuition. Scholarship applications are typically due in March. Find more information.

As an admitted student, you are invited to attend our summer bridge program focused on developing strategies and techniques to enhance your academic experience at Otis.

Our student support services at Otis College are positioned across our campus offering a myriad of programs and services focused on student retention and success.

  1. Student Learning Center - The Student Learning Center (SLC) seeks to provide Otis College's diverse student population with the support tools they need in order to grow as individuals, scholars, and artists. 
  2. Academic Mentoring - Academic Mentoring provides sequential, guided discussion and fosters student reflection about individual educational and career path issues.
  3. Academic Advising - Through core programs and centralized advising students have access to pointed advising around individual pathways such as minors, choice of CA/IL courses, LAS electives and course makeup opportunities throughout their undergraduate studies.
  4. Career Services - Provides support and resources to students and alumni through all stages of career exploration, personal and professional growth, employment and creative professional practices.
  5. Student Basic Needs - Resources and services the College offers to address and provide support for some challenges that many students face, such as food insecurity, housing insecurity, and lack of access to basic needs.
  6. Office of Student Activities - The Office of Student Activities provides programs and events that stimulate creativity and support the co-curricular student experience. The Office of Student Activities also oversees all student clubs and organizations, the Peer Mentor Program, Team International Student Outreach Program, Orientation Week Leaders (OWLs) and the Commencement Owl program. 
  7. There are Affinity Groups for First-Gen students at Otis. These groups are designed to help you connect with other First-Gen community members. Find out more about the Affinity Groups on our Diversity Page.

Otis Admissions recruits a global community of diverse, multidisciplinary creatives by providing individualized support, fostering inclusivity, empowering students to make informed decisions, and granting equitable access to Otis College's BFA and MFA programs.

We're here to help. Whether if it’s a portfolio review, explaining application details, or college credit transferability, our admissions counselors are available to assist.

  • Book a virtual appointment to meet with a counselor here. Appointments are available in Spanish.
  • Admissions will host monthly Info Sessions for First Generation students, which will go over the application process and financial aid options. Dates will be announced soon.
  • Portfolio development and transfer specific Info Sessions are also available here.
  • Want to Transfer to Otis? Many students consider transferring in as a sophomore or junior level student as a way to make the cost of earning an Otis BFA degree less expensive. Applicants who have earned college-level credit from a community college or other college can be considered for transfer credits as a part of the admission process. These include courses taken at another regionally accredited college, participation in dual-enrollment, or having earned AP, IB, or A Level credits. Find out more about transferring to Otis here.
  • Find an Admissions Counselor to Contact
  • Chat with an Admissions Counselor or Current Otis Student