There seems to be a universal parental panic that occurs when college students come home and announce, "I'm going to be an art major!" This is followed by many moms and dads strongly suggesting – perhaps even begging – their child to find something to fall back on in case being an artist doesn't work out.
But parents should not fall for the cliche that an art degree will be a complete waste of money, leaving students as starving artists. The reality is that there are many careers out there for artists beyond just freelance painting or drawing.
These options include graphic design, advertising, drafting, Web design, interior design and illustration, to name only a handful. Teaching art at the elementary or secondary level is also an excellent option.
As an art major and education minor, my husband ended up with a great job as a high school art teacher and spends his evenings and summers as a successful potter. He ended up with the best of both worlds: a job with a steady paycheck that he loves, and the opportunity to create and sell pottery on the side.
Of course, being an artist likely will not be as lucrative as, say, being an engineer. And since college is expensive no matter what your major, scholarships can offset the amount of student loans you take out and ease the burden of high payments when you're looking for a job or trying to make it as an artist after graduation.
There are a handful of great scholarship opportunities for visual artists that are worth checking out. As always, make sure you visit your college's financial aid office to learn about more opportunities specific to your school's art program.
If you've decided to take the plunge and become an art major, consider applying for the Design Sponge Scholarship. Open to high school students and to anyone enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate art or design program, including international students, this is a no-strings-attached scholarship and may be spent in a way that best suits a student's creative needs. Expenses could include financing an unpaid internship abroad, expensive art supplies or a dream project.
If you're a winner, you can also use the money to offset your tuition. Scholarships range from $500 to $2,500. The 2013 scholarship application opens in October, so check then to apply.
Another great scholarship you don't want to miss out on comes from the full-service marketing and design firm Worldstudio. The Daring Young Artists to Dream Scholarship benefits minority and economically disadvantaged students who are studying the design or arts disciplines at U.S. colleges.
Scholarships range from $2,000 to $6,000 and are paid directly to a school to offset tuition. Winners are selected for their ability, need and commitment to giving back to the community through their work. This year's application deadline has passed, so check back in January 2014 to apply online for the 2014-2015 scholarship.
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For more than 90 years, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have recognized the creative talents of America's youth. The awards have become one of the largest sources of scholarships for young artists and writers.
Art scholarships are worth up to $10,000 and are available to students working in a variety of media – including architecture, ceramics, drawing, painting, film and animation, video game design and more. Each scholarship requires students to submit a portfolio of work, which will be accepted beginning in September.
The Scholarship Coach suggests you check out the complete list of scholarship opportunities and start thinking about what you want to include in your portfolio. You won't want to miss this opportunity.
There are a variety of scholarships available to aspiring artists at the statewide level, so do your own search for scholarships only available to those in your region.
For example, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts awards undergraduate and graduate scholarships to residents of Virginia. If you happen to live and study in Virginia, apply by Nov. 8 for the chance to receive up to $6,000 in scholarships.
Michelle Showalter joined Scholarship America in 2007 and is an alumna of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.