(what I wish I had known)
1. If you are undecided about medium or concentration, don't go to a school that is strictly art.
They will require you to apply directly to a particular program as a high schooler. A liberal arts institution will offer you much more leeway during the first year or two to explore media and concentrations.
2. Don't rule out state schools or community college.
It may be your best option financially, geographically and artistically. Just because a school is private, does not mean it is better or more prestigious. Going to college is something to be proud of wherever you go.
3. Visit the art building.
If you show up and you have one or two floors for art--that's a big red flag. Visual art is such a vast area, the building should be large enough to accommodate that. Also, don't sacrifice studio space! Make sure there is adequate space for you to store your work (ie. lockers, studios).
4. Create a Professional portfolio.
*NEVER submit originals. Always photograph or scan your work. Photoshop is not a bad thing. Use it to take out that last smear or even out the white balance. Just don't get too carried away (unless you are a digital artist).
*It's perfectly fine to submit work in different media. Just because you are applying to photography doesn't mean the school doesn't care if you can draw.
*Have copies of your portfolio on CD and a hard copy in a presentation folder or basic black photo album. Many schools prefer online submission.
Just like you have someone proofread a paper before you turn it in, have your art teacher/friend/family review your portfolio before you submit it.
6. Keep (and keep up with) a sketchbook.
Get used to keeping a sketchbook and drawing daily--even when you aren't in the mood. No matter what medium you prefer, sketching is a great way to work out details and become a better artist. Keep all your sketches-even the bad ones.
Also once you get to college, each art class will probably require you to fill a sketchbook per semester. If you have trouble keeping a sketchbook, keep several. Put one in your car, one in your room, one at school in your locker.
7. Sign your work!
Even if it is a sketch, sign it. Discretely put your initials and date on the front and signature on the back. It is easier now than ever to plagiarize artwork. Protect your property.
8. Explore different media in high school.
This is your time to play around and try lots of new things. Even if you prefer one particular medium you will have to take drawing, basic sculpture, design and other classes.
9. You will have to be creative more often...
It sounds silly but it's true. Most art classes are two times a week- 3 hours each, or three times a week- 2 hours each. Also, you WILL spend time working outside of class. Lots of time. That means working at night, on the weekends, when you're sick, when you don't feel creative and most importantly over breaks and on vacation. Just because you don't have class doesn't mean your craft should be ignored. Even simple doodles and coloring can keep your artistic mind active during holidays.
10. Art is physical.
When you draw, paint, sculpt, photograph you are using your whole body. Take care of your body and stay active. 2D artists rely on much upper body strength and standing for hours at a time. Sculptors need a strong core and the ability to lift 40+ pounds. Work out!
Also take care of your hands:
*Wear rubber gloves when using corrosive materials or chemicals.
*Use lotion to keep your hands from feeling like sandpaper.
*Take proper care of cuts--they can get easily infected when using art materials.
*Consider Massage Therapy if your muscles get tight--especially sculptors.