Artists: How to Stay Focused on College

Haverford College

It’s that golden time of year again. The ghosts, goblins, and Disney characters have all gone home. Sidewalks are blanketed with autumn leaves and daylight savings time ends this weekend. Thanksgiving and winter break will be here before you know it. Even though the calendar ahead is whispering “r & r,” families of college-bound artists need to stay focused. Yes, the approaching December break is a good time for rest and relaxation, but I’d like to add another “r” into the mix: reassessing the family college plan. Irrespective of the grade your high school creative is in, make sure he is being strategic, planning wisely, and taking action towards his artistic future.

Here are some tips to help your visual artist stay focused:

Studio space, Carnegie Mellon

Seniors
January general application deadlines are looming. Now is the time to stop procrastinating and double-check everything. Finalize essays, confirm that applications and transcripts have been received, and verify that reference letters have been submitted. If discrepancies are found, contact your guidance counselor or the college representative to clear things up. Finalize your portfolio. If you find it doesn’t say all you want it to, then create more art! There is still time. Then upload your selections to each college’s SlideRoom account. Lastly, consider squeezing in an interview. Contact your top choice programs to inquire if they offer them. Interviews show demonstrated interest and might be just the added ticket to place you into the “accept” column when decision time comes around.

Juniors
Keep creating! Winter break is a perfect time to focus on your growing portfolio. The downtime also provides opportunities to get closer to what makes you tick. Attending art fairs, local craft shows, and art exhibits can all provide inspiration. Have honest conversations with family and friends to help you hone in on what’s important to you artistically and otherwise. Is your ideal college location a large urban setting? Or would you prefer to stay close to home? What about cost? College costs are staggering. If financial aid is a necessity, then make sure you include it as part of your college family discussions. All these thoughts and considerations will help you find the right college fit. Being realistic now will help eliminate idealistic expectations and crushing disappointment down the road.

College for Creative Studies

Underclassmen
It’s not too early to begin envisioning your college future. Your best preparation is to keep drawing, creating and making. Follow wherever your art takes you. December is also a great time to see what winter is truly like on the campus of your dreams. Go exploring and get your steps in by visiting a college or two – even if most students have gone home for the break. Those still on campus will most likely be happy to answer questions about the place, the food, the professors… You get the picture. And when the weather dictates indoor time make sure to keep up with your reading. The commitment to it now will help develop your vocabulary and writing skills for those upcoming pesky standardized tests.

Juniors and underclassmen can all benefit from campus visits. Most tours and information sessions are unavailable in late December, but it doesn’t hurt to swing by a college or two if you’re nearby. Strolling across campus and checking out the local neighborhood can still influence future decisions. And, especially if winter isn’t your season, start thinking about summer art programs. Sign-ups for pre-college programs will be on college websites before you know it.

What’s the Value of a Summer Tour?

The short answer is PLENTY!

Summer has most of us dreaming of “me time.” Of lazy days spent sleeping late and staying up late, with nothing but choice relaxation in between. Hanging out at a beach with toes firmly planted in the sand would be my heaven.

But reality dictates that summer should be put to practical use too. If you’re the parent of a high school teenager that means college tours should be high on your radar. It’s a great way to spend family time together and to generate ideas of where your teen wants to spend four years following high school.

Here’s a post I wrote about Summer Tours that links to other reliable resources. The thoughts and recommendations are still very applicable today.

What’s On Campus Now

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University

There is nothing quite like the feel of walking across a college campus, especially in fall. The quintessential image of backpack-laden students strolling along paths between manicured green spaces, with leaves crunching underfoot. It has to be experienced to be believed.

Only by visiting campus can your teen obtain that first-hand understanding of the culture or “feel” of a college. Each one has its own unique vibe comprised of its students, the courses, the professors, the quad, the local town, and even the weather.

College information sessions and tours provide a wealth of information. But keep in mind that they only show off what they want you to see. To know which colleges could be “best fit” opportunities, get off the beaten path. Make time to explore the studio space, talk to some unassuming students, and take in a local exhibit or lecture. All will provide you with a better understanding of campus resources, how available and friendly students and faculty are, and what opportunities exist during and after college.

Every campus has great events and lectures taking place throughout the year. Here’s a sampling of some that caught my eye. Let me know what others you find.

Cranbrook Academy of Art
University of Michigan, Stamps School of Art & Design
University of Florida, College of the Arts
Pratt
UCLA
RISD

Is Graphic Design an Option for Your Teen?

I’m beginning to think that graphic designers rule the world. Seriously.

trader joes salsa

Think graphic designers don’t influence you? Guess again. Do you choose a product at Trader Joe’s because you like the label design? Thank a graphic designer. Do you read the nutrition fact panel on the side? Thank a graphic designer. And we haven’t even left the grocery store. The art form has applications in every field from advertising to education, science, healthcare, and more. Skillful graphic designers inspire us, keep us safe, and change our lives. They work with line, color, shape, form, space, and type in every medium. They’re master communicators hiding in plain sight behind a pen, pencil, or keystroke.

So who becomes a graphic designer? And is it a plausible career path for your teen? Here are some observations to consider.

tour de franceDesigners are inquisitive at their core. They’re creative makers who can spend endless hours devoted to perfecting the details of a drawing or design. Yet they’re also keenly aware of the big picture and how the whole fits together. They have an aesthetic awareness and appreciate connections that others may not perceive. And they’re often drawn to the conceptual or visual applications of math. Think geometry instead of algebra.

Graphic Design USA recently announced the top graphic design programs across the country. There are many familiar names on the list and some not as well known. It’s a great place to start a college search if your teen is intrigued by the world of graphics. Do your research to ensure your family finds the best college fit. Also, make sure to check our ValuePenguin’s list of the best cities for graphic design careers and the salaries that accompany them.

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Northeastern University: Create Your Own Path

CAMD students

CAMD students

Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media & Design (CAMD) takes creative education to a new level. There are more great things to say about this program than can easily fit into one blog. Seriously. I’ve been researching the program for a family and just had to share my findings with you.

Beginning with the basics, Northeastern (NU) has almost 18,000 undergraduates, with 2,000 of them enrolled in CAMD. What’s unique here is the combination of available educational options. They lead to a plethora of opportunities, especially benefitting those who want to create their own path. Within the college students can graduate with a single major, two double majors, or combine two half majors. Huh? Yep! Undergraduates can explore and intertwine two passions – two half majors – and accumulate more credits than with one major, but fewer than doubling up.

The university is focused on experiential learning; getting up, out of your seat, and becoming involved. Students across all departments are required to engage in at least one form of experiential education:

  • Barcelona architecture

    Barcelona architecture

    Cooperative education (co-op) typically takes one semester. Students can co-op three times, providing up to 18 months of real-world education. Aspiring artists and designers gain professional hands-on experience. They engage with industry leaders, explore careers, and begin building their career paths.

  • Service learning creates opportunities for students to apply their creative skill set to the greater community, and vice versa. They become active participants, utilizing their newly gained artistic capabilities while furthering social justice.
  • CAMD students also have the opportunity to create individual research projects. Here they can take a deep dive into a singular focus with a faculty member, a group of peers, or on their own.
  • Study abroad offers a whole host of opportunities. Beyond spending a semester studying the Medici’s artistic influence in Florence or fashion in France, students can take a co-op, service learning, or research project abroad. Sign me up!!

Designers also have Scout, an on-campus student-led design studio giving them access to real clients as they solve real design problems.

Northeastern University

Northeastern University

Design, Game Design, and Media Arts majors earn BFAs. Studio Art majors graduate with a BFA through a partnership with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA). (A program note: beginning this fall SMFA will become part of Tufts University. I don’t yet know how this will affect the Studio Arts major at NU.) Other CAMD majors graduate with a BA. Portfolios are required for the BFA in Studio Art and are optional for other majors.

CAMD prides itself on educating and molding its students into engaged and vibrant makers, and ensuring that each one has a perspective of place in the global environment. I hope you go check it out.

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