The Best Fashion Schools in the U.S.

Fashion design students in class
Zero Creatives / Getty Images

If you're interested in a career in fashion, the United States is home to well over 100 colleges and universities that have programs in fashion, textiles, and fashion merchandising. Different programs have different strengths, and a school that excels on the business side of the fashion industry may not be the best choice on the design front, and designing an amazing jacket requires a different skill set than designing and engineering fabric.

All of the schools below have broad strengths in fashion and tend to top the national rankings. All have a talented faculty, excellent facilities, and impressive placement rates for graduates. The schools vary significantly in size and personality. Some are specialized trade schools focused on fashion, and others are large comprehensive universities with strong fashion programs. Some focus largely on undergraduate education while others have impressive graduate programs.

Because the schools vary so much in size and mission, they are presented here alphabetically rather than being forced into an arbitrary ranking.

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Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University
Academy of Art University. JasonS2101 / Wikimedia Commons

Located in San Francisco, California, Academy of Art University is home to about 10,000 students, and fashion and apparel design is one of the most popular areas of study. The university's School of Fashion offers degrees in over a dozen specialties including Costume Design, Fashion Art Direction, Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Styling, Fashion Journalism, and Textile Design. The university has a hands-on curriculum, and students can participate in the Annual Graduation Fashion Show in San Francisco.

Academy of Art University is a for-profit institution with an open admissions policy, so it will be accessible to most applicants. Pricing is competitive with similar non-profit schools.

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Cornell University

McGraw Tower and Chimes, Cornell University campus, Ithaca, New York
Dennis Macdonald / Getty Images

Cornell University may be a surprising entry on this list, for the prestigious Ivy League School is best known for programs such as Hotel Management and engineering. Housed within the College of Human Ecology, however, is the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design, a truly interdisciplinary unit that brings together design, business, science, and history. Undergraduate majors in the college include Fashion Design, Fashion Design Management, and Fiber Science. Students will do far more than design clothing. They will consider how fabric is engineered and how fashion affects people and the environment.

While most fashion schools are located in cities, Cornell will appeal to nature lovers. The attractive campus in Ithaca, New York, is in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region, and students will find beautiful lake views and plenty of woods and gorges to explore.

Admission to Cornell is highly selective, and successful applicants will need impressive grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities.

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Drexel University

Drexel University. Sebastian Weigand / Wikipedia Commons

Located in West Philadelphia just north of the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel is a comprehensive university with notable strengths in engineering and technology. It is also home to a highly-regarded undergraduate programs in Fashion Design and Design & Merchandising.

The interdisciplinary Fashion Design program brings together design, art, science, and technology, and students gain extensive hands-on training. In their junior year, all students complete a six-month co-op experience working full-time with a major designer or national brand. Many students also study abroad during sophomore year in one of the world's fashion capitals such as London and Florence. Senior year culminates in the Drexel Fashion Show where students show their original work to the community and industry leaders.

Don't be fooled by Drexel's 75% acceptance rate: the great majority of admitted students have grades and standardized test scores that are significantly above average.

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FIT, Fashion Institute of Technology

Nagler Hall dormitory at the Fashion Institute of Technology
Nagler Hall dormitory at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Beyond My Ken / Wikimedia Commons /  CC BY-SA 4.0

As its name suggests, the Fashion Institute of Technology has a strong focus on preparing leaders in the fashion industry. Located in Midtown Manhattan just south of the Garment District, the school is ideally situated for students to be able to live and study in the heart of one of the world's prominent fashion centers.

FIT has strengths on both the design and business side of the fashion industry, and the curriculum emphasizes experiential learning, innovation, research, and entrepreneurship. The institute has popular programs such as Fashion Design and Textile Design, and many unusual and specialized programs such as Menswear, Jewelry Design, Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing, and Packaging Design.

FIT offers associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. As a public university and member of New York's SUNY system, tuition is reasonable, especially for in-state students. The school is also relatively accessible with an acceptance rate over 50%.

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Kent State University

Kent State University
Kent State University.

JonRidinger / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Another public university with an attractive price tag, Kent State University is home to a leading School of Fashion. The university's location southeast of Cleveland may not seem like one of the nation's fashion hot spots, but the school draws in high school students with its summer Fashion Academy, and the campus is home to the KSU Museum with its extensive collection of high fashion from the 18th century to the present day. Nor is the student experience centered entirely in Ohio, for all fashion students participate in a study away or study abroad experience, and 40 Fashion School seniors travel to New York City every year to participate in the Portfolio Showcase at Kent State's NYC Studio.

School of Fashion undergraduates can choose from two programs: Fashion Design (BA or BFA) and Fashion Merchandising (BS). At the graduate level, Kent State offers a Master of Fashion Industry Studies program.

Admission to is only moderately selective, and over 80% of applicants get in each year.

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Parsons, the New School of Design

Parsons, the New School for Design
Parsons, the New School for Design. René Spitz / Flickr

As the former home of Project Runway, Parsons School of Design, part of The New School, is one of the better known fashion schools in the country. It's strengths, however, have little to do with a television show. With small classes and a 9 to 1 student/faculty ratio, students get plenty of personal attention. With about 250 graduates each year, the BFA program in Fashion Design is the most popular program offered by any of the schools and colleges in The New School.

The Parsons School of Design has programs in Manhattan and Paris. Both feature an interdisciplinary first-year curriculum focused on the fundamentals of art, design, and critical thinking. Starting in the second year, students can choose one of four pathways: Collection, Materiality, Fashion Product, or Systems and Society. The school emphasizes hands-on learning, and students share their work with industry leaders and the public in the graduating student exhibition. The school has partnerships with companies including COACH, Louis Vuitton, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Admission to The New School is selective, with just over half of applicants being admitted. SAT and ACT scores are optional, but all applicants will need to submit an essay, portfolio, and additional information related to a piece in the portfolio.

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Pratt Institute

Pratt Institute Library
Pratt Institute Library. bormang2 / Flickr

Located in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, Pratt Institute's BFA program in Fashion Design consistently does well in national rankings. The program, housed within the School of Design, takes advantage of its location, and students complement their classroom and studio work with visits to the city's museums and design studies. Pratt students conduct internships at companies including Ralph Lauren, Rag & Bone, and Zero Maria Cornejo. Students also participate in the annual Pratt Fashion Show.

Pratt also has a Fine Arts program with an emphasis on jewelry for students who are interested in fashion accessories.

About half of all applicants to Pratt are admitted, and they typically have grades and test scores that are well above average. The application for fashion students also includes an essay and visual portfolio.

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Rhode Island School of Design

RISD, Rhode Island School of Design
RISD, Rhode Island School of Design. Allen Grove

RISD, the Rhode Island School of Design, ranks as one of the nation's top art schools, and its fashion programs contribute to the school's overall strength. Students can choose from 16 bachelor's degree programs including BFA programs in Apparel Design, Textiles, and Jewelry & Metalsmithing. The Apparel Design program includes a required internship, visits to New York City's Fashion District, and opportunities for students to enter their work in competitions.

Along with it's strong art programs, RISD's location is another attractive feature. The school sits along the Providence River and Canal Walk with plenty of cafés, restaurants, and shopping within easy walking distance. Brown University, the prestigious Ivy League School, borders the school to the east.

Admission is highly selective—about a quarter of applicants are accepted. You'll need strong grades and standardized test scores as well as an impressive portfolio to be admitted.

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Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)
RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images

SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design, is the only southern school to make this list. The school is home to over 14,000 students, and the BFA in Fashion is one of the most popular undergraduate programs. All three fashion programs—BFA, MA, MFA—are offered on the Savannah campus, Atlanta campus, and online. Students collaborate with major brands working in SCADpro, the school's in-house design studio. They can also take advantage of the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion and Film where the works of famous designers are showcased.

Additional programs at SCAD include Accessory Design (BFA, MA, MFA), Business of Beauty and Fragrance (BFA), Fashion Marketing and Management (BFA), Jewelery (BFA, MA, MFA), Luxury and Fashion Management (MA, MFA), and Fibers (BFA, MA, and MFA).

Most applicants to SCAD are admitted, but applicants will still need to have solid grades and standardized test scores. Applicants will need to submit a portfolio to be considred for achievement honors scholarships.

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Grove, Allen. "The Best Fashion Schools in the U.S." ThoughtCo, Jan. 29, 2021, Grove, Allen. (2021, January 29). The Best Fashion Schools in the U.S. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "The Best Fashion Schools in the U.S." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).