Why Grades Matter: Uncovering the Truth About Fashion Schools

Are you considering pursuing a career in fashion? Wondering what it takes to get into fashion school? From building a strong portfolio to securing letters of recommendation, there are several requirements to consider.

But what about grades – do they really matter when it comes to fashion school admissions? Some schools place a heavy emphasis on creativity and talent, while others look at alternative evaluation methods.

Good grades can also open doors to scholarships, graduate school opportunities, and job prospects. In this article, we will explore the relationship between grades and creativity in fashion school admissions.

Key Takeaways:

  • Fashion schools do care about grades, but they are not the only determining factor for admission.
  • Some fashion schools prioritize creativity and real-world experience over grades.
  • Good grades can lead to scholarships, graduate school opportunities, and job opportunities in the fashion industry.
  • What Are the Requirements for Fashion School Admission?

    The requirements for fashion school admission vary by the school but commonly range from a high school diploma to documents such as a motivation letter, letter of recommendation, portfolio with 5-15 original works, and/resume. Istituto Marangoni outlines the most basic requirements for each of their degree programs in the illustration shown above.


    Your fashion school grades are not important, but your fashion school portfolio is. A fashion portfolio is a collection of finished creative work that demonstrates your skills and creative development. It is an essential tool to market yourself and secure a fashion job. A fashion portfolio should include a combination of your best designs, drawings, and digital art that demonstrate your creative process and technical skills.

    Sharon Takeda is a senior fashion and costume curator and head of the costume and textiles department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). She states that The portfolio is extremely important since it offers a sense of what each student is capable of. The quality of work that students graduate with is a direct result of effort put in throughout the course.

    Most universities are not lazy, they will organize curriculum, assignments, and grading systems that are not focused just on making portfolios, but rather on equipping their students with the skillsets necessary for that. An extension of this can go as far as a university offering a Work Integrated Learning (WIL) program or finding industry collaborators to ensure that you can create a strong portfolio. The results of these efforts are usually seen at graduate fashion shows after their thesis projects and the portfolios students put together which usually get a lot of attention.

    Letters of Recommendation

    While fashion schools view grades as a simpler and more uniform way to evaluate students, letters of recommendation written by teachers give a much more detailed insight into a student’s qualities and/or flaws. These letters discuss attendance and participation conduct, the quality of the student’s ideas and problem-solving, and if the student can work collaboratively or needs constant reinforcement and guidance.

    Personal Statement

    Your personal statement is often the most crucial element of your Fashion School application. As one of the requirements, admissions are typically not graded in the traditional academic sense as students are assessed based on the personal elements covered in the statement.

    When writing your personal statement make sure to address the following personal aspects according to Unimail: Why are you interested in the specific program? What are your professional goals within the fashion industry (branding, Business Management, Merchandising, etc)? What special achievements or awards can you include? Any prior industry-related work or personal experience? Do you have a unique perspective that contributes to fashion knowledge or business that you can explore in the program? How will you aid in the diversity of the program’s population?

    Transcripts and Grades

    Transcripts and grades are typically required when enrolling in any educational institution, and the same holds for fashion schools. Annamadeit.com states that the typical requirement for fashion schools is a copy of transcripts showing a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0. This is in line with the GPA requirements of the schools listed in the article, with most listed schools having minimum GPA requirements between 2.5 and 3.0.

    According to Peterson’s and Niche websites, students applying to OCAD University in Canada and WCI Fashion School in China do not need to provide transcripts or grades as part of their applications to the school.

    Do Fashion Schools Care About Grades?

    Fashion schools do care about grades. Grades are essential as a quantitative assessment of how much a student has learned. Whether or not fashion schools consider the GPA over the entire course history or consider only grades in major or relevant classes depends on the institution. Some institutions, such as the Fashion Institute of Technology, care about both the overall and the major GPA. Whether they admit it publicly or not, the course grades of students at these schools, particularly in major classes, are rigorously reviewed and compared to ensure the level of the program is being accurately reflected and that the instructors are performing.

    Yes, Grades Matter

    According to Fashion Retail Academy Deputy Director Michael Jaconelli, grades in high school or prior higher education can have as little as 50% or as much as a 95% weighting on the admission decision. Programs such as Bachelors in Business and Retail Management or Merchandising are specifically looking at A-level or college marks. At the University of East London’s Fashion Business School, they weigh six different pieces of information, of which your high school marks or prior university achievements between the ages of 16 and 18 could be worth 10 or up to 30 credits. Estates Gazette reports the London College of Fashion bases 24% of its admission decisions in part on academic qualifications. Certain other fashion schools have a more stringent admissions policy and require specific grades as minimum qualifications, regardless of the grade’s importance in gaining admission to the program.

    No, Grades Do Not Matter

    According to Dr. Troy Hargrove, grades do not matter at fashion design schools, unless you want them to matter. He asserts that the most significant impact of a student’s grades will be on themselves and their future job-seeking or academic pursuits. Having a high GPA level in your official transcript makes parents proud, employers take you seriously, peers know you are one of the best and motivates the student themselves for further academic excellence.

    But Hargrove raises the question, “Do the grades truly reflect all aspects of a student’s capacity to learn and be professionally successful?” T his is particularly pertinent when looking at a student’s grades in non-major classes which presumably have a minor influence on their fashion design capacity. In a paper published by Kim D. Rahn, M.S. and Liah Chung, M.S. of Illinois State University in 2013, one-third of the fashion students they surveyed claimed that grades influenced their amount of learning, and almost a fourth reported they influenced difficulty in fashion courses.

    Why Do Some Fashion Schools Not Care About Grades?

    Some fashion schools do not care about grades because they believe these scores are not the best metric to determine a student’s dedication, creativity, viscerality, or what they will bring to the fashion industry.

    How do they then determine success rates for their graduates? A better metric would be something that measures whether the professors are creating an environment that fosters these values. In an industry that is so subjective and where the value of a voice is determined by industry need, the ability to motivate students to engage in the fashion industry should be the role of the clothing design and fashion educational institutions.

    Emphasis on Creativity and Talent

    Fashion schools do not care as much about grades because academic performance is given less weight than creativity, talent, design ability, personality, and other criteria. Fashion and design schools emphasize creativity, talent, and the ability to stand out in the fashion industry. They look for inborn talent as well as visionary and creative thinking abilities, which are not always directly related to academic success but are more critical for success in their field.

    For instance, Parsons School of Design asks for grades only C* in applications which is regarded as below average performance, and it is not directly related to long-term success. Basic minimum entrance requirements may be specified by design and fashion schools but there is a subjective component that is best demonstrated in a portfolio, which allows a faculty committee to make more informed admissions decisions.

    Real-world Experience

    Typically, fashion schools do not care about grades because their pedagogy considers practical real-world experience much more important. Industry experience is by far the best indicator for how successful a student can be in the workforce, but this comes from learning outside the classroom. Graduates of fashion design and technology programs sometimes use their portfolios as a substitute for work experience, but the most successful fahsionistas usually create and run their own fashion projects before establishing a position with another brand.

    To help graduates get this hands-on experience, programs often have internships to help give them a foot in the door. Because of this, even people with average to poor student grades can sometimes be successful in the world of fashion. It should be noted that some higher-level fashion programs at colleges and universities may indeed look for strong college grades. But entry to the fashion industry is typically not as strict when it comes to grades.

    Alternative Evaluation Methods

    At Fashion and Design Schools alternative forms of evaluation and grading such as self-evaluations, class evaluations, or portfolios may replace or supplement traditional testing. In a recommended analysis and discussion of the Student Assessment of Interest-Based vs. Traditional Engineering Math Projects by Soo lim for the Journal of Engineering Education, the following was found.

    In the case of bachelor of engineering education, a case-based math project appeared to outperform the typical theoretical engineering math subjects in terms of increasing problem-solving and conceptual thinking skills. This suggests that success in alternative grading methodologies such as student, peer, and self-assessments is possible.

    How Can Good Grades Help in Fashion School?

    Good grades can help in fashion school by creating positive feedback loops in student acclimatization to the industry. Good grades give teachers and academic advisors the information they need to either move the student forward if they are ready or to provide constructive feedback on areas of improvement. This is important if the student wishes to continue in the industry or has aspirations to apply to other institutions or jobs that may require the grade records of the student in fashion school.

    Scholarships and Financial Aid

    Scholarships refer to money awarded to students based on their financial need or academic, artistic, or athletic merit. Financial aid is a general term that includes grants and scholarships, loans, and work-study. Fashion schools often take grades into account when offering financial assistance. Poor grades or financial need are often requirements when receiving financial assistance. On the other hand, excellent grades or a history of academic excellence are often requirements for academic scholarships. A majority of fashion colleges offer financial assistance in the form of scholarships, grants, and fellowships. They do so because they believe that a high-quality fashion education needs to be accessible to all talented students, regardless of their financial means or the background.

    Graduate School Opportunities

    Few fashion schools offer separate graduate programs for fashion studies. Instead, interested students can read further regarding graduate programs in fashion history and theory at non-fashion schools and submit corresponding graduate applications. If you are thinking in terms of applying to do a Masters in the domain of Fashion Studies whether at the Art Institute or elsewhere, yet another figure is that 50% of graduate admissions do tend to accept students who have a good GPA in their fashion courses. However, this is not always the case as, for many programs after the baccalaureate, the curriculum does not always have to be centered around fashion.

    Job Opportunities

    Increasingly, fashion companies in the US rely on campus student resume databases to seek out undergraduates based on their grades, experience, skillsets, and extracurricular activities. The key databases used by the fashion industry to find fresh graduates include Handshake, LinkedIn, Chegg Internships, and AfterCollege.

    Despite the continued importance that major sectors of the US fashion industry place on GPA, it is worth noting that there is a growing number of employers in the US that see strong academic performance as a poor diagnostic indicator of real-world performance. A 2021 article from Forbes written by Lyme Strategies Co-founder and Chief Programming Officer Brendan Beck and Chief Executive Officer Roger R. Whitney, argues that GPA signals student motivation and knowledge rather than better skills.

    The article summarizes extensive research literature that shows that evidence of grit, conscientiousness (including good time management), communication skills, autonomy, collaboration and teamwork, and problem-solving are better long-term predictors of post-college success than a higher GPA.

    With this in mind, many employers have moved away from focusing on the GPA as a defining element of a potential employee. This is supported by a 2019 GMAC Corporate Recruiter Survey that found that only 23% of employers in the US consider a graduate’s GPA when making a hiring decision.

    Conclusion: Balancing Grades and Creativity in Fashion School

    Fashion schools care about creativity in student work more than they care about grades. Grades and academic performance set a level of aptitude for fashion school acceptance and are employed by SKEMA and Stony Brook University in France to narrow down the field of applicants. According to fashion students, grades vary from course to course but are on average important. The average graduate student GPA is 3.48

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Do fashion schools consider grades important for admission?

    Yes, many fashion schools do consider grades as an important factor for admission. While the specific requirements may vary, most schools look for a strong academic background to ensure that students are prepared for the rigorous coursework.

    What is the importance of grades in fashion school?

    Grades are important in fashion school as they reflect a student’s ability to handle academic challenges and meet deadlines. Additionally, good grades can demonstrate a strong work ethic and dedication to learning, which are important qualities in the competitive field of fashion.

    Do fashion schools look at specific subjects when considering grades?

    Some fashion schools may look at specific subjects, such as math or art, to assess a student’s skills and potential for success in the fashion industry. However, each school may have different preferences, so it is important to research the specific requirements of the schools you are interested in.

    Can poor grades affect a student’s chances of getting into fashion school?

    Yes, poor grades can potentially affect a student’s chances of getting into fashion school. However, schools often consider other factors such as portfolios, essays, and letters of recommendation when making admissions decisions. It is important to showcase strengths in these areas if grades are not as strong.

    Are there alternative pathways to fashion school for students with lower grades?

    Yes, there are alternative pathways for students with lower grades to get into fashion school. Some schools may offer conditional admission or have specific programs for students to improve their grades before officially enrolling in the fashion program. Additionally, there are online courses and workshops that can help students enhance their skills and portfolio.

    Do fashion schools care about grades once a student is enrolled?

    While grades are important for admission, most fashion schools place more emphasis on a student’s portfolio and hands-on skills once they are enrolled. However, maintaining good grades is still important as it can impact scholarship opportunities and future job prospects.

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