Waiting Out The Waitlist

It’s April. That means the deadline has come and gone. All results are in. Yeah! Or, perhaps not.

There are only three answers to the college admission question. Two are definitive. One leaves you and your teen hanging. The “yes’s” are invigorating. (They like me; they really like me!) The “no’s” can be crushing. The dreaded waitlist just sits there like a lump in your stomach.

AIGA design archives

AIGA design archives

The Facts
The reality is, more students apply to any individual college than can ever be accepted. Simultaneously, every institution has its own unique goals and priorities. The demographics, artistic ability, majors, GPA, etc. of each incoming freshmen class needs to meet those goals. Taryn Wolf, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at MICA, shared that MICA was on the Common App for the first time this year. Consequently, their application numbers were way up. That’s good for the college and the class as a whole; it just makes the waiting game tougher.

Sadly, choices of who is accepted may sometimes come down to the fact that a college is looking for more illustrators than industrial design majors this year. It’s not personal, although that rarely makes anyone feel any better.

Managing The Wait
So, how do you and your teen master the dreadful waitlist experience with the least amount of stress? It’s a three-step process, with the last one requiring time, dedication, and patience.

stamps logoStart by accepting an offer of admission. Congratulations! You’ve got a kid in college! Make sure to get your deposit in by May 1st, National College Enrollment Deposit Day. Second, I’d encourage your teen to communicate with those schools he won’t be attending. A polite thank you, but no thank you is greatly appreciated (and it may help someone else gain acceptance from that waitlist!)

Then it’s time to get proactive. Staying on a waitlist begins with a response. Karina Moore is the Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management at University of Michigan’s Stamps School of Art & Design (Stamps). She put it clearly, “students must take action and accept the offer in order to be placed on the waitlist.” Then, your teen needs to get busy demonstrating how and why he should be accepted for enrollment.

Knowledge is power. Once he’s on the list get your teen to contact his admissions representative and inquire why he was waitlisted. GPA too low? Dedicated interest not apparent? Listen to the reply and respond accordingly.

Keep Calm waitingColleges welcome and often encourage sending in updates. But please don’t bombard them! Updating a file with solid GPA improvements, a new achievement, a mentor’s recommendations, or new artwork is appropriate. Encourage your daughter to build a website of her new work and send the link. Even better: go visit the school. She should make an appointment with her rep while on campus. Hand delivering that additional work provides an opportunity for greater interaction and a personal pitch of the value she’ll bring to campus. Taryn was encouraging here as well; “the interest and enthusiasm that some students are showing will be meaningful,” when it comes to accepting students off the list.

The waitlist process is different for each college and sometimes each program. Stamps has its own procedure which means your teen isn’t on the same list as those seeking acceptance into other University of Michigan departments. Students waitlisted there are encouraged to email new accomplishments and creative work to stamps-admissions@umich.eduMICA-hopeful students should contact the college for a direct email address.

Want to know more about art and design college programs? Follow us on facebook and twitter.

More College Tour Tips for Visual Artists

Boston College

Boston College

Teenage artists and designers are like everyone else this time of year. They’re anxious for spring and the accompanying warmer weather that gets everyone outside. I’d suggest guiding – and prodding if necessary – those thoughts of outdoor escape towards touring colleges. Spring break and summer are optimal times to explore as a family.

I’ve toured a lot of colleges and universities, and have found these few fundamental tips can turn touring time into very worthwhile experiences. Share them with your teen ahead of time and you’ll have some very successful touring!

Ask questions. In information sessions, while on tour, and of anyone you see. Remember that tour guides are paid cheerleaders. Listen to them, but keep in mind that random students will give you their unbiased view. Professors will have a completely different perspective. (For what it’s worth, parents are the ones asking most of the college tour questions. Getting your teen to speak up will keep them engaged and get noticed by admissions reps. File that under demonstrating interest!)

Take the tour! Getting oriented will help you and your teen visualize the layout of the land. How far is the dorm from the studio? Is the campus integrated into the surrounding city? Or does it have a defined border?

University of Washington textile studio

University of Washington textile studio

Get lost. As an avid traveller, I often find the most wonderful gems when not on a planned tour. The same rule applies to wandering around college campuses. I’d pay special attention to studio spaces; your teen will be spending the majority of her time there. Make sure to include off-campus spots too.

Document it. This is the voice of experience here. Even if you only visit one campus at a time, you will mix places up. I guarantee it! Make sure your teen records his thoughts and impressions with words and photos. You can thank me later.

Looking to learn more about college searching for art and design? Follow us on facebook and twitter

Searching for the Best College Fit

This past week I had the pleasure of participating in Bexley High School’s College Awareness Night, an event devoted to answering questions about college for teens and parents. During the evening, I led a wonderful discussion on the College Search Process for the Visual Arts. Our conversation focused on getting organized, identifying options and resources, and planning ahead for a successful search.

A few of the questions I answered included:

  • What are the differences between an arts college and a liberal arts college?
  • Can you explain what goes into a portfolio?
  • How do I determine which are the best art programs for my teen?

It was an energetic and engaging discussion.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 8.02.49 AM

Where are you in your search process? Are you feeling like you don’t know where to begin? Are you confused and overwhelmed in the midst of your teen’s search? Are you trying to compare multiple creative programs, or perhaps trying to understand the portfolio process?

If you answer “yes” to any of the above, give me a call. I’ll help you understand what decisions need to be made, alleviate some of the stress of your search, and help your family develop a plan to find the best college fit for your teen.

Don’t forget to find more Art.College.Life. news on our Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages.

 

Scholarship Season: Tips & Tools

scholarship piggy banks from FastwebThis time of year usually creates a stress shift. Hearts and minds have moved beyond the holiday season and those time-consuming college applications have long been completed and submitted. Senior families are now consumed by “the waiting game;” that time when everyone becomes visibly sensitive to each ping, tweet, and swoosh emitted from cell phones and computers. Did she get in? Is he wait-listed? If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good time to research scholarship opportunities. The cost of higher education isn’t getting cheaper anytime soon, and once admission letters are in hand it might be too late to investigate many opportunities. So, if you haven’t already jumped into this pool, why not dive in now?

The suggestion to research scholarships often results in a deer-in-the-headlights stare from parents and teens alike. Translation: where do I begin? The biggest bang you’ll get will always be from institutions that accept your teen. That being said, there are countless other opportunities to explore. Keep in mind that many deadlines for submission have already passed. And some scholarships might seem small when you consider the overall cost of college. Try not to let this discourage you. Each one can help alleviate the expense of books, art supplies, dorm living, etc. Add multiple wins together and you could be talking some substantial money.

Before you begin a random search, consider a few tips to keep in mind:

Scholastic Art Scholarship  submittal 2014

Scholastic Art Scholarship submittal 2014

Know your resources. The best place to start is with your high school counselors. They can guide you to reputable online sites. Plus, they may be aware of some hidden gems that specifically speak to your search. I’d also reach out to local non-profits and your employer. Both may offer scholarships that you’re unaware of.

Know what you’re searching for. Will he be staying in state? Is she specifically interested in one major? Pay attention to categories that fit your teen. You can search by state, major, religious affiliation, community service, etc.

Read the fine print. Each application has its own unique requirements for submission and awards. Deadlines vary.

Don’t forget college admissions offices. If you’re pretty sure your teen will be accepted at a school – or already has been accepted – you should already be in communication with the admissions office about scholarship opportunities. That’s where you have the chance for the largest financial impact.

Many students feel mentally fatigued from the application process itself. I get that. Spending time searching for scholarships would seem even more draining. And, submitting another unique drawing or essay might feel like a waste of time and energy. I get that too. But your son or daughter won’t have any chance of winning those sought after funds if they don’t even try. That extra effort now may enable a semester for studying abroad or reduce the amount they’ll need to earn over the summer.

Here are a few opportunities to get you started. If you need additional help searching, send me an email and we can work together. I’m at artcollegelife@gmail.com.

Zinngia Art Scholarship (Ohio residents, applicable anywhere)

Two-Ten Footwear Foundation

Ladies Auxiliary VFW

Make sure to catch all the latest Art.College.Life. news on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

scholarship signage

 

Guest Post: On Building A Portfolio

By Thom Glick

The portfolio is how artists share their work, their skills, their strengths, their weaknesses, their goals, their fears and, of course, themselves.

portfolio - concept art - scad 2Over the years, I have found myself on both sides of the portfolio. I’ve been a high school student applying to BFA programs, an artist applying for jobs and competitions, and an undergraduate applying to MFA programs. I’ve been a judge, jurying art competitions and exhibitions, and a college admissions representative, reviewing applications to a BFA program. Both sides of the portfolio can be equally intimidating, when you don’t have a clear understanding of its purpose. Over the years, I’ve developed an approach to the portfolio, as a builder and as a reviewer, to encourage a more transparent and meaningful dialogue. I’m hoping that the following advice will be helpful for those of you building portfolios as well as those of you reviewing portfolios.

Mind you, this is just my advice.

Regardless of whether you are applying to a college with a traditional foundations program or a direct-to-major curriculum, the portfolio should be built upon the same four basic ideas: technique, concept, risk-taking, and effort. Before we can get into your specific portfolio, which might be focused on animation, portrait painting, abstract sculpture, vehicle design, or something broader or more specific, it’s a good idea to get familiar with them.

The Four Parts

kitchen sink - d'albon high school 2013Technique is about control. When I look for technique in a portfolio, I’m looking to see how well you know your materials, how well you know the basic principles of design and, if you’re working observationally, how well you understand your subject matter. When I look for these things, I’m not looking to see that you’ve mastered them; I’m looking to see that you’re aware of them and making purposeful decisions.

Material can be graphite pencils, oil paint, computer software, stone, fabric, or an infinite number of things. What’s important here is that you do your best to take control over your material and showcase what you know about it and what you can do with it.

Design principles have to do with understanding color relationships, composition, proportion, value relationships, shape relationships, and so on. In other words, the basic building blocks of making a visual art piece.

Understanding your subject, when it comes to technique, has to do with trying to capture the observable world on paper, with clay, or whatever material you choose. For instance, if your subject is people, do you understand anatomy, proportions, skin and hair textures, and posing?

Again, technique is about control. When having your portfolio reviewed, the reviewer assumes that every decision you’ve made, you’ve made purposefully. This is apparent in the material you use, how you use it, why you use certain shapes repeatedly, and why you use certain color combinations. Be prepared to answer questions about your decisions. If you don’t have answers, don’t be afraid to say I don’t know and ask for advice on how to gain more control.

Concept is about communication. Whether you intend it to or not, your artwork reveals something. It speaks. It’s more than graphite on paper, text on a printout, fabric stitched together, or clay cooked in a kiln. Your artwork is alive, and an extension of you. It’s autobiographical, and reveals what interests you and what doesn’t.

portfolio - parsons 2009 - shoesA strong concept engages your audience, encourages discussion, and compels participation. A strong concept might be making a political cartoon, designing a collection of fall garments, or creating a series of abstract sculptures inspired by sea creatures. It’s whatever inspires you, gets you thinking, and challenges your creativity.

This is your opportunity to decide what kind of relationship you want to have with your audience. Do you want to be an entertainer? A storyteller? A protester? An illuminator of ideas? Someone who makes people’s lives easier? Someone who helps people communicate? Someone who speaks about injustice?

Just like technique, you want to take control of your concept. You want your artwork’s message to be purposeful. Consider that what your art doesn’t say can be as interesting as what it does say. Being in control of your concept is important because it shows you’re not just making stuff, you’re thinking and giving your audience a reason to be interested in what you’re sharing.

Risk-taking is about exploring. This is where progress happens. Being an artist is all about taking risks, pushing limits, getting outside of the box, and figuring out what challenges you. If you get too comfortable your work may become stagnant and boring. As you develop more and more skills and confidence, you should constantly be asking yourself what more you can do or need to do to keep growing.

Risk-taking is different for every artist. What is scary or difficult for you might be safe and easy for someone else. For you, it might be working with a different material or subject matter. It might be working larger or smaller, or working dimensionally. It might be telling a story with comics, redesigning a microwave, learning to sew, building a website, or animating a gif.

Don’t be discouraged if your work isn’t always successful. Failure has a way of revealing things and can guide you ever closer to success.

When adding exploratory work to your portfolio, make sure it supplements your other work. It shouldn’t be disparate or distracting. It should be complementary, offering more insight into your goals and interests. As a reviewer, I’m looking at your risk-taking work as a way of understanding what you’re aspiring to as an artist.

Effort is about commitment. You can’t have a strong portfolio if you don’t have effort.

This should be the easiest of the four components to understand, but can often be one of the most difficult to execute. As artists, we constantly question our decisions and chase after a perfection that doesn’t exist. In this way, we can often be our own worst enemies.

If you’re truly serious about building a successful portfolio, being a successful artist, and getting into your dream art college, my advice is get organized. Make a plan. Build yourself a schedule. Set aside time every day to work. Some days you might write down ideas and do research, or do preliminary work, sketches, and mockups. Other days you might work on your final piece. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish by setting aside as little as thirty minutes a day.

Your effort is apparent to the person reviewing your portfolio. This is important. I suggest that you include 15-20 pieces in it. If you have fewer, it might be a sign that you’re not devoting enough time to your work. The same rule applies for portfolios with more unfinished than finished pieces. And, consider what it says if all of your work is from your art class. Reviewers can easily determine which pieces are class assignments. Class assignments can be good portfolio pieces, but we do want to see that you’re working outside of class, that you’re making work even when no one is asking you to.

Effort is so important because it tells your reviewer, almost immediately, how serious you are.

Your Portfolio
Think about the four parts as a foundation upon which you build something that is uniquely yours. What actually goes into your portfolio should represent your interests, your goals, and above all else, it should represent you. As colleges become more selective and applications more competitive, it’s important to find ways to separate yourself from others. The more purposeful your portfolio is the better.

Make sure your portfolio lines up with your interests. If you say you want to be a fashion designer, but your portfolio is full of portrait paintings, there’s a disconnect. You might not have access to the right equipment or know how to make garments, so you might have to get creative. Consider designing a collection with illustrations or paper dolls. Do some research; look at fashion portfolios online for ideas on what to include. If you feel stuck, don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals to ask for advice. For any major or career you might consider, think about whether or not the work you’re producing contributes to your interests or dilutes them.

Portfolio folder 1Don’t be afraid to be specialized. If you’re interested in animation and specifically focusing on backgrounds, that should be apparent in your portfolio. If you’re interested in industrial design and specifically designing office furniture, your portfolio should reflect it. If you’re interested in sculpture specifically multimedia abstracts, your portfolio should show that.

Don’t be afraid to be multidisciplinary. If you’re interested in more than one major, career or type of art, consider how you can include that and still build a cohesive portfolio. Look for the intersections within the different types of work and exploit them. If you’re interested in fashion design and cinematic arts, your intersection might be storytelling. As you build your portfolio, focus on how important storytelling is to your fashion design and cinematic arts work.

Have influences, but find your own voice. It’s important to have influences, ones you admire and ones you loath, and as many as you can find. It’s also important not to simply copy your influences. You should be looking to develop your own voice, your own way of working, your own style, your own spin, your own way of solving problems.

When building your portfolio, remember, it’s your portfolio. Be true to yourself and your goals. Be smart, be passionate, be creative, and make sure you’re portfolio says to your reviewer what you want it to say.

Now What?
Do keep in mind that some colleges have specific portfolio requirements. Some might ask for a specific number of drawings from life or works based on a particular theme. Some want more variety, some want more focus. Be sure to do your research and follow directions.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your art teachers, local artists, artists you find on the internet, and college reps. Have your portfolio reviewed often and by different people. You’ll hear a variety of feedback, some you’ll like, and some you won’t. Be smart about the feedback you accept and the feedback you dismiss; all feedback has value. Some will guide you to what you want to accomplish and some will guide you away from what you want to accomplish. The more you work on your portfolio and the more you have it reviewed, the better you’ll be at curating the feedback you receive and ultimately, the better you’ll understand your goals and the work you’re making.

Thom Glick is a graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design. He has been working as a professional freelance artist for over fourteen years and in college admissions for over seven. Connect with him online at thomglick.com or linkedin.com/in/thomglick.

Make sure to catch all the latest Art.College.Life. news on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.