Apply for Exchange at RISD

Exchange at RISD is for students from our Global Exchange partnered institutions around the world, who wish to study for one semester at RISD in Providence, Rhode Island.

COVID-19 Update: Due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic as well as RISD’s campus re-opening plans, all RISD Exchange activities are suspended for Fall 2020. Read more in our announcement here.

Rhode Island School of Design
Providence, RI, USA
Rhode Island School of Design
Providence, RI, USA

How to Apply

The entire application process is completed using RISD's online application portal. You will upload, request and submit all required documents there.

Given the ongoing and global COVID-19 pandemic and its significant impacts on travel, borders and visa restrictions, as well as RISD’s campus re-opening plans, all RISD Exchange activities are suspended for Fall 2020 – Learn More.

Am I Eligible?

The Exchange Program at RISD is small and space is extremely limited. Before you begin your application, carefully consider if you meet the eligibility requirements below.

  • Enrollment / Year of Study: You must be enrolled full-time at one of RISD’s partner institutions and cannot be on academic or medical leave from your home university the semester you attend RISD. You must be attending your junior (penultimate) or senior (final) year of your bachelor's degree, or at a graduate level (United States equivalent) while at RISD. RISD has a unique foundation year program and cannot accept 1st or 2nd year students (4-year degree equivalent) for incoming exchange. All accepted incoming exchange students will be enrolled in undergraduate coursework within one of the 16 RISD BA majors; our graduate programs do not participate in exchange.
  • Language of Instruction: You will be expected to have a high level of English (speech, writing, and comprehension) in order to enroll at RISD as an exchange student. All coursework and critique is delivered in English and no supplementary English as a Foreign Language courses are available.
  • Nomination: Admission is competitive and requires an application. Nomination by your home university is a required application component. Please contact your institution’s office of international services to learn more about their nomination process before submitting your application.

Carefully follow the steps listed below to submit the best application possible for Exchange at RISD. All instructions that follow are for Exchange applicants enrolled at RISD's partner schools outside of North America. If you are interested in applying to an exchange location through the Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design, visit AICAD Extended Opportunities for instructions on the AICAD-specific application process.

Step 1: Research

At RISD you will be hosted by an academic department so you will prepare your application to that department directly. Typically students choose the RISD department that most closely resembles the department in which they study at home. You may only apply to one RISD department, so carefully consider which department best matches your portfolio and strengths as a student and artist/designer before applying. Learn more about RISD's academic departments on risd.edu.

Step 2: Nomination

RISD will only accept and review applications made by students who are

  • enrolled at one of our partner institutions
  • have received nomination from their home university

Please contact your institution’s office of international services to learn more about their nomination process before submitting your application.

Step 3: Begin your application online

Applications are always submitted the semester before you plan to attend. Once you’re sure attending exchange at RISD in the upcoming semester is right for you, read through the Application Materials list then open your online application.

Once you open your application you will be considered an active applicant and will begin to receive reminders of when and how to submit by the application deadline.

Step 4: Request Recommendations + Nomination

As soon as you open your application you should visit the References section and submit your requests for your Faculty Recommendations and International Advisor Nomination. Your faculty and nominator need time to submit their recommendations and nomination through the portal, so by completing this step right away, you’re ensuring they have as much time as possible to submit before the deadline. Don’t leave this step until the last minute! Don’t even leave it until the last week.

Step 5: Upload all materials and submit

Once your recommendations and nomination are requested, take your time to thoughtfully prepare the rest of your application materials. Take proactive steps to ensuring your materials are as strong as possible.

Review the portfolio pieces you plan to submit with a trusted faculty member, advisor, or friend. Having another set of eyes on your materials can help you see your application better from an outside perspective, strengthening your application as a whole package.

When everything is just how you want it, submit! You will begin to receive updates from RISD Global by email on the status of your application and the review process.

Step 7: Check Passport Validity

Participation in Exchange at RISD requires a valid passport and a US visa (for all non-US citizens/permanent residents). Get a jump start on this process by ensuring that your passport expiration date falls at least 6 months after your return from your semester in Providence. Once accepted, RISD will offer further instructions to participants who require a visa to enter the US.

The entire application process is completed using an online application portal. You will upload, request and submit all required documents there. All instructions that follow are for Exchange applicants enrolled at RISD's partner schools outside of North America. If you are interested in applying to an exchange location through the Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design, visit AICAD Extended Opportunities for instructions on the AICAD-specific application process.

Statement of purpose This written statement should be a concise and thoughtful consideration of your goals and reasons for seeking to study at RISD. Discuss how the proposed program of study would benefit your artistic development and educational and career goals, and how in exchange your participation would benefit the RISD community. Maximum length is 500 words.

Portfolio A selection of 10-15 images of your work (JPEG, PDF, video files, or website links are accepted). The pieces you select should reflect your strongest, most recent major-related, academic and/or personal work. Include titles, descriptions, and descriptive text for each portfolio piece in the appropriate spaces provided. Text saved as a part of the image may be difficult to read or see.

Nomination from International Advisor This is requested and sent through the Reference section. Your International Office/Exchange Advisor will be required to submit a nomination letter through the online application portal to verify your nomination to be considered for exchange. Please contact your institution’s office of international services to learn more about their nomination process.

2 Faculty Recommendation Letters Once you confirm that a faculty member is willing to write your recommendation, submit your request through the Reference section in your online application and they will be emailed the form to complete. Two recommendation letters should be provided by faculty who have instructed you within the last calendar year. Recommendation requests can be sent before your application is submitted and all letters should be received by RISD by the application deadline. We highly recommend that you request your faculty recommendations well in advance.

Resume/CV A place to showcase relevant work/volunteer/internship opportunities, your skillset, or other areas you’d like to highlight, such as technical skills, language ability, or interests.

Transcript A digital PDF or scan of your most recent transcript, if possible including courses you are currently enrolled in. If you are currently studying at a graduate level, include both undergraduate and graduate transcripts with currently enrolled courses.

What is the deadline to submit?

You should apply the semester before you plan to attend. Applications are accepted twice a year, for the following semester.

How is selection done, and who makes it?

Your application will be reviewed and selected by the department head of your chosen RISD academic department (major). You may apply to one academic department only. Please note that acceptance largely depends on space available, your portfolio work and its presentation, and your technical level of expertise, as judged by the Department Head of the academic department to which you apply.

We do our best to deliver admission decisions as quickly and efficiently as possible so that students who are not accepted can apply to their second choice exchange institution. Typically applicants receive their admission decision within a month of their application deadline.

The online application portal will announce an update on your application status by email when your admission decision is ready to be viewed. If accepted, you will have approximately one week to confirm your acceptance. Pay close attention to the official acceptance confirmation deadline in your admission decision letter.

How many students apply? How many get in?

Selection is based on space available and the quality of your application. The total number of applicants each semester varies, however the overall number of available spaces is always very small. For this reason admission is very competitive and only a few applicants who thoughtfully prepare their applications are accepted. If you are not accepted you are welcome to reapply in future semesters.

Will there be a waiting list?

Typically there is not a formal waitlist for Exchange at RISD. Applicants will be notified if their applications are approved or rejected.

Once accepted, can I defer or withdraw?

Deferral is not possible, but you may reapply the following semester if you are unable to confirm your acceptance. After arrival, if you withdraw from your exchange semester early you will forfeit your RISD academic credits.

Once accepted, can I extend Exchange into a second semester?

No, extension of exchange semester at RISD is not possible.

Next Steps for Accepted Students

See: Exchange at RISD: Get Prepared!