National YoungArts Foundation

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a female student painting

The Benefits of Applying for the National YoungArts Foundation

The National YoungArts Foundation is a great way for students to diversify their college applications and qualify for a wide range of financial and creative scholarships. The YoungArts program offers students the chance to participate in a variety of workshops and programs taught by some of the world’s leading multidisciplinary artists. YoungArts offers its programs for students between grades 10-12 or between the ages of 15-18 and provides finalists with a wide range of scholarships, experiences, and benefits.

The foundation is best recognized for its YoungArts week, a week-long program consisting of classes and workshops located in the heart of the Wynwood Arts District in Miami, Florida. The YoungArts week also offers several regional programs in different creative hubs throughout the United States including:

  • New York
  • Los Angeles

Alumni from the YoungArts program have been accepted into some of the nation’s top schools including Harvard, Yale, and Juilliard. AdmissionSight provides numerous ways to improve college applications which include methods about diversifying extracurriculars and applying for scholarships. The YoungArts program provides ample opportunities like these for students who wish to stand out among the overcrowding incoming applications.

a group of gamer looking at a character sketch in front of them

Admission into the Program:

With a wide range of opportunities for prospective college students including scholarships, grants, and letters of recommendation, the program’s rigorous application process consists of several requirements. Some of these include:

  • Contact Information
  • Background of Artistic Training
  • $35 Submission Fee
  • A Media Submission

The program does offer an application fee-waiver for certain students who meet their basic qualifications. Applications require a letter from a parent, teacher, guardian, principal, or, in the case of students 18+ who still qualify for the program, a personal statement explaining why a fee waiver is being requested. Information on ways to improve the personal statement can be found on the AdmissionSight website.

The Media Submission differs depending on which creative field students apply for. The YoungArts program offers ten different media disciplines:

  1. Classical Music
  2. Dance
  3. Design Arts
  4. Film
  5. Jazz
  6. Photography
  7. Theater
  8. Visual Arts
  9. Voice
  10. Writing

Each of these programs has their own set of requirements which can be found on the YoungArts website. Students are allowed to apply for several different media disciplines, but may only accept and attend one.

Some of the programs also offer a “blind-audition” process which allows for a non-bias evaluation for students who apply.

The application for the 2020 YoungArts program closes on October 16, 2020. Winners of the competition will be notified directly by email of their acceptance. A complete list of winners is then posted to the YoungArts website no later than the last week of November.

With over 7,000 applications submitted to the program each year, approximately 700 lucky students are selected for admission, making the acceptance rate into the program around a highly coveted 10 percent. Students selected are then offered access to apply for specific scholarships and grants as well as the opportunity to participate in the program’s YoungArts week.

If accepted, students are also offered the choice to opt into the YoungArts Student List Service. This list allows the National YoungArts Foundation to share submitted media materials with prospective universities. While this service does not guarantee acceptance into a conservatory or the university. The Student List Service has helped with admission into some of the top Ivy League schools in the nation. Alumni from the YoungArts program have gone on to attend a diverse range of top universities including:

  • Carnegie Mellon
  • Princeton University
  • Berklee College of Music
  • California Institute of the Arts
  • Cooper Union
  • New York University
  • Oberlin College
  • Rhode Island School of Design
  • Harvard
  • Yale

The YoungArts Alumni community consists of over 20,000 students and creative professionals who continue to receive access to programs, grants, and opportunities for other academic and career-based achievements.

The benefits of gaining acceptance into the program are not just for the students either. High schools receive an engraved plaque to display which includes the names of all the YoungArts selected students from that academic year.

a professor looking at the output of his students


The National YoungArts Foundation awarded close to $40 million in four-year merit-based scholarships since 2016. These funds are offered to students and help pay the YoungArts week tuition fee, provide programs from esteemed professionals in a variety of fields, and are used to help host and support a variety of events for alumni throughout the year. The program also offers unrestricted cash awards for up to $10,000. These stipends can be used to help pay for college, art school, a conservatory program, or anything the accepted students wish to spend their grant money on.

The program also offers alumni certain institution-based scholarships which include collaborations and funding for schools such as:

  • Rhode Island School of Design
  • Savannah College of Art and Design

Acceptance into the program also provides certain selected students to qualify and apply for the U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts Scholarship.

U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts Scholarship:

The U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts Program, also referred to as PSA, was established by President Lyndon B. Jonhson in 1964 to recognize top graduating high school seniors. Since 1979, the program has included a variety of students who demonstrated skills in visual, creative, and performing arts. The initiative relies on several qualifying factors including:

  • Academic Achievement
  • Personal Characteristics
  • Leadership
  • Service Activity
  • Writing Ability
  • Outstanding Performance on the SAT and ACT Exams (Innerlink)

The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Education and selects only 161 outstanding high school seniors each year. Decisions are also made based on letters of recommendation and suggestions made by Chief State School Officers or the National YoungArts Foundation.

The National YoungArts Foundation is allowed to nominate 60 candidates for the scholarship, 20 of whom move on as selected Arts Scholars. These 20 winners are then invited to join other winners from different academic fields on a trip to Washington, D.C. where they meet with several career-focused leaders and professionals including:

  • Government Officials
  • Educators
  • Authors
  • Musicians
  • Scientists

Students who attend the excursion to D.C. visit a variety of museums and monuments and attend several recitals, reeptions, and ceremonies. The visual and literary arts students are also allowed to exhibit their work at the famous John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

For students who applied to the National YoungArts Foundation early on in their high school careers, they are invited back during their senior year to apply and qualify for the U.S. Presidential Scholar Program.


Alumni from the YoungArts program have excelled in a diverse amount of creative areas and have been selected to participate in some of the top conservatories and exhibitions around the country including the New York City Ballet and the Venice Biennale. Winners have also gone on to become notable New York Times Best-Sellers, exhibited at several top museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and have gone on to win some of the entertainment industries highest honors including Tony, Grammy, and Academy Awards.

The YoungArts Foundation first started including Cinematic Arts for film and video in 2000 after partnering with the Music for Youth Foundation. This program provides up to $25,000 in awards for students. Alumni from the Cinematic Arts program have been accepted into some of the top festivals around the world including Cannes and Sundance Film Festival. They have also gone on to win several Academy Awards in both Screenwriting and Acting.

The program has recently recognized several alumni as top culture-icons and rising stars within the entertainment industry including Timothee Chalamet and Hunter Schafer. The YoungArts program has also helped sculpt the careers of several world-class performers as well including Viola Davis, Josh Groban, Sarah Lamb, and Kerry Washington.

Masterclass workshops held during YoungArts week are taught by fellow alumni from the program as well as several other professional artists. Some of the classes led by world-renowned artists such as Wynton Marsalis and Alan Alda were simulcast as an HBO series in 2010, resulting in several Emmy Awards.

students practice singing

History of the Program:

The National YoungArts Foundation was founded in 1981 by Ted Arison, founder of the Carnival Cruise Line, along with his wife Lin Arison. They established the foundation to help identify and support rising artists ranging from ages 15-18, allowing for an early start in training for certain eager students.

The foundation began as a coalition to provide students with mentorships opportunities from some leading creative professionals. It hosted its first National YoungArts Week in Miami in 1982, selecting finalists from several different disciplines including:

  • Dance
  • Music
  • Theater
  • Visual Arts
  • Writing

That same year, the foundation also assumed the role of sole responsibility for nominating students for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts award. The first Kennedy Center performance and exhibition featuring winners of the PSA award also debuted in 1982.

By 1985, YoungArts expanded its donations and grants, allowing for alumni to apply for Career Advancement Granting Programs. These grant programs allowed a new stream of income for artists and professionals just starting their careers. Some of these early grant recipients included musician Dave Eggar, actress Viola Davis, and dancer Rachel Moore.

YoungArts also went on to found the separate but affiliated organization the New World Symphony, a concert hall, and music school based in Miami. The conservatory offers 87 students the opportunity for fellowships and grants lasting up to three years which include programs on traditional and modern repertoire, developmental training with lead conductors and soloists, and a variety of classes and workshops taught by both visiting faculty and YoungArts alumni.

YoungArts also went on to found the Career Advancement in the Visual Arts program, a partnership with Corcoran Gallery of Art that provides financial support for individual artists and alumni through residencies in Miami. The program was later renamed the Fellowship in Visual Arts in 1997 and continues to provide relief and housing for rising artists within the Miami arts community.

The Career Advancement program went on to fund several other foundations, institutions, and competitions by 1995 including:

The creation of the two year Pilot Program was established in 2000 and created several additional regional programs for alumni and accepted students to participate in. Some of these regional programs include classes, workshops, and exhibitions in:

  • Wisconsin
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota

The most recent and highly-coveted addition to the National YoungArts Foundation came in November of 2004 when the foundation created the YoungArts Gold Awards. Honored to students who demonstrate extraordinary achievement in art, each discipline in the YoungArts program awards one student from each of the 10 disciplines the YoungArts Gold Award. With such a select group of winners, the opportunity can override the importance of a student’s GPA and other factors that might otherwise hold them back during the application process. Grants for the title are $10,000 and can be used as tuition for a university or conservatory as well as a variety of other artistic programs the student wishes to pursue.

In 2012, the program acquired the YoungArts Campus, the iconic Bacardi Tower and Museum buildings located in Miami. The campus was renovated and became the national headquarters for the National YoungArts Foundation and also served as the Miami base for students who attend their YoungArts Week.

Recent Changes and Adjustments:

The National YoungArts Foundation has made several recent changes to their programs due to the ongoing Coronavirus restrictions. They have also joined and formed several different coalitions to help struggling artists and fellow alumni during this difficult period.

Several of the programs that YoungArts hosts annually have unfortunately been cancelled or port-poned during its 2020 academic year. These include not only the popular Backyard Ball which serves as the culminating celebration to YoungArts week but also:

There are also several YoungArts events that have been updated to be made available through the website via Livestream. The 2020 scheduled events to be streamed on their website include:

The National YoungArts Foundation has also formed several coalitions to support artists and alumni from the program who are currently struggling due to the Coronavirus restrictions. The YoungArts Foundation recently joined the Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and several other institutions and companies to form a $10 million coalition to provide direct relief to multidisciplinary artists in need. Applicants who qualify must be:

  •  21+
  • Live and Work in the United States
  • Demonstrate Financial Need Due to Coronavirus Closures

YoungArts also created the YoungArts Alumni Emergency Microgrant program which has dedicated over $250,000 to alumni who have lost income because of COVID-19. Alumni can apply for the 1,000 grants directly through the YoungArts website. The grants are expected to be distributed from April to June 2020.

The National YoungArts Foundation provides a wide range of resources for incoming college students. Beyond its financial help and scholarship access, it also provides students with a way to diversify their applications and stand out among the growing number of submissions. The program also provides a community where other young artists can bond and learn over inspiration and access to some of the top art facilities and programs in the nation. Events for the program expand beyond YoungArts week, making the opportunity a valuable asset not just for incoming college students, but also for alumni working professionally as career-driven artists.


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