Greenwich House After-School Offers a New Kind of Prep: New Program Helps Students Apply to Arts-Based High Schools

By Joe Salas

Applying to high school isn’t as easy as walking down the street and registering at your local school anymore. As many overwhelmed parents and pre-teens can attest, the application process for New York City’s selective enrollment arts high schools rivals that of most elite colleges. Prospective students are asked to submit transcripts, test scores, personal essays, and teacher recommendations. For arts-focused schools like Sinatra School of the Arts and LaGuardia High School, aspiring seventh and eighth graders are also asked to submit portfolios of their work.

To help students navigate the arts-based side of the application process, Greenwich House’s After-School Program has launched a new Portfolio Building Weekend Workshop. The six-week program is part of a series of new weekend workshops run by the After-School Program, which provides advanced arts enrichment opportunities to aspiring young artists.

For many students, the portfolio can be the most daunting part of the application process, as it lies largely outside the average admissions process. Typically, school administrators help submit grades and test scores while teachers write recommendations and help students develop personal statements. Most schools, however, do not have the resources to guide students on developing and assembling portfolios.

Portfolio Building is a full service program at Greenwich House where students will produce new works to include in their own portfolios and ultimately bind in an admission-quality body of work. Students will begin by learning how to incorporate the fundamentals in their portfolio, including traditional drawing, perspective drawing, and traditional painting using still life, landscape, and figurative subject matter. “We want the students to be able to demonstrate their technical skill as well as demonstrate their personal expression,” said Program Director Omar Amores. After mastering the fundamentals, participants will have opportunities to express themselves through experimental and abstract art projects for well-rounded portfolios.

“The application process has become so competitive,” Amores added, also stating, “We want the students to have fun while building their portfolios, but we also want them to be accepted at their first choice school.” Each student will receive a sketchbook and will be expected to work on it both in and out of the class. Students are also welcome to bring in outside work for consideration in their portfolio. At the end of the workshop, students will work with the arts instructor to select the work that best demonstrates their artistic identity, skills, and interests. Participants will leave the workshop with personal portfolios suitable for admission presentations.

For more information about the class, Program Director Omar Amores is always ready to answer questions from parents and aspiring art students by phone at 212-242-4140, Ext. 263 or by email at

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