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Undergraduate Studies Program Admission Process

All highly-ranked US design programs limit the number of students who enter their programs. This practice keeps class sizes small, and guarantees placement in all required major program courses. Some schools handle the need to limit the number of major students in different ways. They may accept first-year students directly into design programs, but will then eliminate extra students through excessively rigorous coursework. We don't agree with this approach, as students eventually not accepted to these programs often end up with wasted course credits, poor grades, and low spirits.

With this in mind we like to be as transparent in our processes as possible. We are committed to the success of our students and have structured our major programs accordingly. The standard for entrance to our major programs may be very high, but the students who are accepted typically perform at very high levels, and go on to productive and successful careers in the profession. The process for becoming a design major is not particularly complicated, though it can be a little stressful and at times requires a bit of patience.

From applicant to admitted Buckeye to Ohio State Design student, here's the admission information to know.  


Becoming a design major is a three-step process:

STEP 01  STEP 02  STEP 03

Step 1

Undergraduate Admissions

Apply to The Ohio State University. When you do this, select one of our three design majors: Industrial Design, Interior Design, or Visual Communication Design. 

Applicants to The Ohio State University’s Columbus campus are considered for admission on a competitive basis. Undergraduate Admissions seeks to admit students whose application demonstrates that they are prepared for the academic rigor of the Ohio State classroom; who are willing to lead; who see strength in diversity of people and ideas; who seek collaboration when solving problems; and who make use of all opportunities to figure out what kind of impact they want to have in the world. Undergraduate Admissions is a holistic and comprehensive process -- completely separate from the activities in the Department of Design, but we share interest in these same values and qualities in our processes.

Whether you are seeking information about cost, financial aid, how to strengthen your application, life on campus, or details on the Ohio State application process, the Undergraduate Admissions site has a wealth of information to explore!

Explore Undergraduate Admissions

Undergraduate Admissions - Important Dates

November 1: Early action 

While not required, we strongly recommend meeting the November 1 deadline if you wish to be considered for university merit scholarships (larger awards require additional steps), the Morrill Scholarship Program, and/or Honors and Scholars Programs.

By meeting the early action deadline, you’ll get an Undergraduate Admissions decision no later than the end of January. 

February 1: Regular decision 

February 1 by midnight (EST) is the final date by which we must receive your complete application. You’ll get an Undergraduate Admissions decision by the end of March.

Step 1 - Frequently Asked Questions

The Common App will list our three majors under "D", like this:

  • Design - Industrial 
  • Design - Interior 
  • Design - Visual Communication 

Future students are often confused as they will find ART or ARTS, INNOVATION, AND DESIGN EXPLORATION on the list first and just pick one of those. DO NOT SELECT  one of these as they are a different departments and will not flow into the Design Foundations selection process. We understand that the list is long with 200+ major options at Ohio State. We listed them under "DESIGN" so you would not have to scroll as far, but you do have to make past the first 3 letters of the alphabet. 

There are a lot of great reasons to start at a regional campus such as the Lima, Mansfield, Marion or Newark campuses. Our regional campuses are Ohio State, delivered differently. A little more accessible. A little more personal. A little more convenient. When you start at a regional campus, you can begin to make progress towards completing General Education and minor requirements, while preparing to transition to the Columbus campus.

Starting your Ohio State experience on a regional campus can be a great way to easy your transition to college, create room in your schedule later for more co-curricular opportunities -- minors, education abroad, internships, or undergraduate research -- but, it will add time to degree completion if you are pursuing a design major. 

The Design courses are currently only available on Columbus campus, therefor a student must be eligible for Columbus campus coursework for the Autumn semester they will be starting into the Design Foundations program. 

Future students are welcome to begin their Ohio State experience any term they like, but the Department of Design only selects students to start in their programs for Autumn semesters. 

Design courses for major program students are only offered once per year and must be taken in a specific sequence. Starting at Ohio State any term other than autumn will add time to degree completion, but may be a logical choice for some students. We would encourage you to connect with an academic advisor to discuss this plan further and if it might be beneficial for your specific situation. 

University admissions is completely separate from any competitive processes at the Department of Design level. You can find more about the admission criteria for Ohio State Columbus Campus here:  http://undergrad.osu.edu/apply/freshmen-columbus/who-gets-in 



Step 2

Design Foundations Program Selections

Ohio State Design receives applications from many more students than we can accommodate. In building the class to meet our goals, our selection committee evaluates each applicant against all applicants in that year’s pool provided by the Undergraduate Admissions process outlined in Step 1. 

The criteria for selection to the foundations program are the same criteria used by university admissions in their holistic review process. From this process, the Department of Design selects 100 students roughly equally distributed between our three majors to go through its first-year Design Foundations course sequence on an annual basis.  

EXPLORE Design Foundations 

Design Foundations Selections - Important Dates

Early action 

Students who met the November 1 early action deadline for Undergraduate Admissions in Step 1 will get a decision on Design Foundations selections no later than the end of March. 

Regular decision 

Students who met the February 1 regular decision deadline for Undergraduate Admissions in Step 1 will get a decision on Design Foundations selections no later than the end of April.

Step 2 - Frequently Asked Questions

Most years, there are about 200-300 students eligible to attend Columbus campus with an interest in one of our three undergraduate degree programs, and we select 100 students -- roughly evenly distributed between our three majors -- to become Design Foundations students. We make these selections based on all the same information you gave Undergraduate Admissions, and we value all of the same factors in forming our incoming class. 

We love that you had an opportunity begin to explore the design disciplines already, and there will be opportunities to leverage that experience. That stated, the Department of Design does not review portfolios as a component of the Design Foundations selection process.

Did you know that nearly half of the students who graduate from Ohio State Design had little or no experience in design before applying? Some went to schools that lacked support for the Arts, others had a more STEM focused high school experience, and some didn’t even know they wanted to be a designer until much later in their academic journey. Great designers come from all sorts of backgrounds and the Design Foundations program is designed to help you uncover this, no matter your previous exposure.

Over the course of the design foundations year, we will help you build a portfolio and there will even be the option to include a bit of that high school work if you like.  

Not yet, but you are on the right track!

Ohio State is a big place, and we are all excited to be among your options. You will be getting communication during this time from both The Ohio State University and the College of Arts and Sciences with lots of helpful things to get you excited about becoming a Buckeye.

While that email confirms that you have been admitted to The Ohio State University and The College of Arts and Sciences, it does not guarantee acceptance to any of the undergraduate major programs in design or the design foundations program.

You will receive a separate email that will very clearly welcome you to Ohio State Design and the Design Foundations program and will quite obviously be from the Department of Design specifically. It will probably take longer to arrive than you prefer, but that is only because we are being very thorough in our selections because we know how important this is to you.

As stated, the Department of Design is not able to accommodate everyone who would like a spot in our Design Foundations program. Unfortunately, if it turns out that this is the outcome for you, it does not impact the fact that you were admitted to both The Ohio State University and the College of Arts and Sciences. You can still attend Ohio State and you still have access to the 200+ other majors here.

You will receive an email from Undergraduate Admission with details on how to declare a new major if you like and they will switch your major to Arts and Sciences Undecided in the meantime, so that you can get additional support during orientation exploring all your options – including the minor in Design Thinking. This 15-credit hour minor is open to all Ohio State students – no competitive process. Through the lens of Design Thinking, students will build a solid understanding of basic principles, processes, and applications of Design as related to a wide spectrum of disciplines.

Yes. See below in the yellow box as this would now apply to you since you would technically be trying to change your major to design from another major at that time.

Transfer, Major Change, and Regional Campus Students:

Any student who did not attempt to enter the foundations program in their first year at Ohio State may petition to be selected for a following autumn term. This applies to Ohio State student who started in any other major and/or on one of our regional campuses and are now eligible to attend Columbus campus. Additionally, this applies to students transferring from another institution of higher learning where they were not studying with in a formal design related degree program or have not yet completed 18 or more semester credit hours in Art, Design, or Architecture specific coursework.

Please be aware that the sequence of courses for all Design major programs is four years in length. Any student who did not enter the foundation course sequence for their first year will have another four years of mandatory course work in a major program, should they be accepted.

Transfer, Major Change, and Regional Campus Students who wish to petition for selection to the design foundations program should submit the "Design Foundations Petition." The Design Foundations Petition is accepted annually from March 01 to April 30. 

Submit Design Foundations Petition

You can certainly give it a shot. Any student intending to transfer from an undergraduate major program from a recognized, peer institution of higher learning and has completed 18 or more semester credit hours in Art, Design, or Architecture specific coursework (not General Education or Art History) may request to be considered for acceptance to an Ohio State Design major program beyond design foundations. That stated, we do not have any transfer pathways established with any community college programs and the reality is that you are putting your portfolio up against the portfolios of the Design Foundations students who just spent the year getting to know us and what we thought was important in the first year. If this doesn’t worry you, skip down to Step 3. Worst that happens is that we suggest you petition for Design Foundations (see the question above).



Step 3

Step 3 - Application to a Design Major Program

At the end of the foundation year, students submit a portfolio for review. The portfolio consists primarily of work completed in the Design Foundations courses, though there is opportunity for supplemental work as well. From the portfolio review, finalists for each major are selected and given opportunity to interview with the major area faculty. Through this process, no more than 54 students are selected to become Design majors (16-18 in each of the three design disciplines). 

Application to a Design Major Program - Timeline

Portfolios are submitted by the last Friday of regularly scheduled classes during spring semester. 

Interview requests are sent to finalists the afternoon before Reading Day for interviews to occur on Reading Day. 

Final outcomes are sent to students by the last day of finals week. 

This is generally about the last week in April through the First week in May, but please reference the Academic Calendar for specifics. 

Step 3 - Frequently Asked Questions

Yes – and that is okay and more normal than most think. As a practical matter, about 80% of students in college end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Historically 20%-30% of students who start the year in Design Foundations will choose not to apply to one of the design major programs. There are several reasons for this, but the most common is simply that they gave it shot and learned that it was not what they wanted. Sometimes it is that they realize design was more of an interest than a passion, other times it is that they discovered something else they did not realize was an option previously. This is easy to understand when you consider that Ohio State has over 200 majors – there are things you can study here that you don’t even know exist yet!

Some of these students will make this decision between the first and second semester, others will persist through the first year. Either way, our academic advisor helps these students explore their options and assists them in connecting to the next leg of their academic journey.

Absolutely not! Those that complete both semesters of the Design Foundations program – and earn C- or higher in all 6 required courses -- earn a highly exclusive Design Foundations Minor. This minor is only open to students selected into the Design Foundations program and we are the only program we know of with this built into our process. First-year students also work with our academic advisor over the course of the year to make General Education progress applicable to most other majors at the university and to explore options for their back up plan – just in case.

The portfolio is a large component of the process, but it is not just about aesthetics and project outcomes. We work with you to document your process, your ideas, and your reflections on what you learned along the way. We also have just spent a year hanging out with you in studio – paying attention to how you give and receive feedback, what kinds of questions you asked, what sort of support you offered to those around you, and how you participated in our community. This stuff does matter in the process.

Technically… yes -- you can apply again the following year, but we do not recommend it. This process only occurs once per year, and once you have taken and passed the Design Foundations courses, you cannot retake them. So, you must ask yourself what you can really do that will potentially change your outcome significantly a year later? If you find yourself in this situation and strongly considering this option, we recommend you have some deep conversations with your Design Foundations instructors, the Design Foundations Coordinator, and your Academic Advisor. Probably should have some conversations with a few other trusted mentors who don’t work at Ohio State as well.