There’s No Stopping Students Thanks to No-Barrier Admissions at Academy of Art University


"No-barrier admissions saved my life," says university graduate-turned-instructor Michael Buffington. After a troubled childhood, a dismal academic record in school, and a false start in college and in his career, Michael was able to pursue a life-long passion for art and creativity through the no-barrier admissions policy at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California.

While no-barrier admissions is usually limited to community colleges or colleges that grant only Associate degrees, a growing number of four-year colleges and universities also have this type of admission policy. Academy of Art University is one of them. Why would an institute of higher learning adopt such a policy? For people just like Michael Buffington.

Tough Beginnings

Michael grew up in the Mission District of San Francisco with few opportunities to excel. Primarily raised by his mother while his father battled addictions to cocaine and alcohol, there were days when Michael would come home from school to discover the family TV had been sold. That was a pattern to which young Michael would grow accustomed. "I’ll never forget the Christmas when my mom sat down and told us that my dad had sold all of the presents that she had bought us so that he could buy drugs," Michael admitted.

Michael's neighborhood was filled with drugs and violence. His mother and father wrestled over money - one to keep food on the table and the other to support his addictive behaviors. With such a background, Michael descended into the type of trouble every parent hopes their children never encounter. "I’m very lucky to be here," Michael says. "I’ve been shot at, I’ve had to fight off multiple attackers. I’ve watched my friends get buried, and I still know people serving time behind bars."

A Shot at Success

Although his father was not a model parent, Michael credits him with a piece of advice that changed his life. After watching Michael struggle to find his way, and knowing of his passion for drawing, Michael's father suggested he check out "the art school downtown." He was talking about Academy of Art University. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Michael walked downtown and shared his dream with an enrollment counselor.

Although he possessed no portfolio of work and no record of academic achievement, The Academy allowed Michael to set out on a course to radically alter his future. "Thank God for the policy because I didn’t even know what a portfolio was at the time," he said. Beginning with a simple figure drawing class in the Computer Graphics Department (now the School of Web Design and New Media) in 1997, Michael began pursuing his passion and honing his skills.

Upon graduation, he worked creating concept art for video games, worked with comic books, and as a creative artist for major motion pictures. Eventually, he pitched animation ideas to Disney and worked as a concept designer on season 3 of “The Clone Wars” at LucasFilm Animation. Michael became an instructor at Academy of Art University in 2012, serving as a Concept Art lead in the School of Game Development where he currently works. He continues to exercise his craft with freelance projects for several prominent companies.

What is No-Barrier Admissions?

No-barrier admissions, or open admissions, is an admissions process in which the only required criteria for college entrance is a high school diploma or GED (General Educational Development) certificate. This type of enrollment policy was first introduced in the 1960s as a way to provide equal opportunity when it comes to applying for college. Such a policy encourages all students with a wide range of potential to attend college.

Advantages to a no-barrier admissions policy include:

  • Less Academic Pressure - For students who may not have earned high grades in high school that are necessary for more selective colleges and universities, no-barrier admissions allows them the opportunity to prove that they can be successful in completing college-level work.
  • Less Psychological Pressure - For some students, the pressure of the admissions process is overwhelming. SAT or ACT testing, and other entrance requirements are simply daunting.
  • Less Social Pressure - Students who attend a college or university with a no-barrier admissions policy will be exposed to groups of students with a wide range of talents and skills.

While schools with no-barrier admissions policies do not require SAT or ACT test scores, students will often be asked to take several placement tests to measure their overall competency. Once admitted, students must maintain satisfactory academic progress and meet the required standards to remain in good standing.

Academy of Art University

Have you ever considered a career in the arts? Academy of Art University has been training highly-skilled creatives in the heart of San Francisco since 1929. Will you choose to be one of them? Creativity and the arts are found in almost every professional discipline, from fashion design and architecture to gaming and the internet. Are you seeking to leverage your creative flair into a prosperous and fulfilling career? Let the team at Academy of Art University show you how. Call or contact them online for more information.