The Sophomore Slump: 4 Tips To Keep Your Visual Artist Focused In High School

Typically referring to college, the sophomore slump can just as easily take place in high school. Even though high school has become a familiar place for your teen, now is no time to chill out. Colleges take sophomore year efforts and grades seriously. Your budding artist should too. So, how do you ensure that your teen avoids a second-year slump? A little bit of focus goes a long way.

Maintain your attention on grades. Colleges consider high school coursework and grades more telling than anything in their selection process. That being said, take note of the classes your teen is taking. Is she stretching herself artistically and academically? The most advanced studio and non-studio classes all have prerequisites. Honors Drawing and Painting preclude Studio Art and Independent Study just as Global History precludes AP U.S. Government. Now’s the time to reassess and refocus to ensure your burgeoning designer is on task to achieve her goals. Your high school guidance counselor and art teachers can help tweak her schedule and focus if needed.

NY Times

NY Times

Get ready for the SAT. Those bedeviling proficiency tests are looming. Whether an art school or university is in your creative’s future, taking them is necessary, and now is the time to get practicing. The PSAT and PLAN provide your teen with an introduction to the SAT and ACT exams respectively. These “practice” tests deliver real value: they lessen fears by getting your teen acquainted with what is unfamiliar and they convey an idea of the score range your teen can expect in next year’s real exams. Additionally, the PSAT is used to determine National Merit Scholarship awards. The PSAT and PLAN are typically taken in October. Check with your college counselor to know when your tests will be offered.

sophomore-yearEngage with your teen. Discover what he wants to study in college and uncover the type of college experience he envisions. Is a BFA or a BA the desired end result? The decision will impact the type of school he chooses. Does he prefer a large campus experience with a diverse student body and non-stop activities or will he thrive best in an environment that breathes art and design 24/7? Visiting colleges will give you and your student a sense for campus life as well as begin to define preferences for size and location. Pick diverse colleges to visit, make a plan about when you’ll tour, and use those long car drives to discuss his likes and dislikes.

Portfolio prep (c) ashcan school

Portfolio prep (c) ashcan school

Focus on portfolio development. This should be a top priority throughout high school regardless of where your teen applies. Many programs don’t require a portfolio for admission, but you’ll want to be prepared for either option. Also, just like muscles, repeated development and practice of artistic skills will only strengthen them. Your teen should be working with high school art teachers and engaging in outside artistic opportunities to broaden his abilities. Here the adage “practice makes perfect” definitely applies.

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Your Artistic Teen Is A High School Freshman: 4 Tips You Need Now!

The beginning of freshman year in high school can feel like a seismic shift for students – and parents. That’s because your child is on the way to adulthood, whether you’re ready for it or not. And, whether your freshman is an artist or designer, decisions made now will affect their future exponentially. Here are four tips to help you guide your creative kid through the next four years:

  1. freshman keep calm 2Pay attention to your teen’s schedule. Academic and artistic grades matter all four years and so do the difficulty of courses taken. Guide your teen wisely. Talk with your guidance counselors and outline a plan. Think about the progression of which classes are prerequisites for the ones your kid really wants to take. The end goals are honors and AP courses. Demanding class schedules demonstrate ambition and maturity, traits that colleges want to see. If your high school has subject tracks make sure to choose the one with the most art and design courses as well as the most challenging classes.
  1. Consider extracurricular activities. Your teen will gain immeasurable value from activities outside of school that relate to future college and career aspirations. After school art classes demonstrate the desire to grow beyond a traditional classroom environment. Volunteering at a local photography studio or working in an interior design office will teach a lot about the practical side of working as a creative. Both show colleges that your teen is an out-of-the-box thinker and is willing to push boundaries to gain better results.

On the warning side of this equation, be aware that extracurriculars can be taken too far. Authentic interest is essential. If a Saturday art class isn’t clicking then don’t push it. And don’t aim for quantity over quality. You might think that dabbling here, there, and everywhere shows broad interest and exploration. Most likely it will come across as trying too hard and a lack of commitment.

  1. LSU fashion photography

    LSU fashion photography

    Start exploring colleges. Did you know that creatives have three types of colleges available to them? Besides state universities and private liberal arts colleges, visual artists should also consider art and design colleges. The latter provide a 24/7 environment where art and design are incorporated into every class, and every student is seeking a creative career.

  1. Breathe! Don’t stress out. Job number one is a happy kid. If high school becomes only about getting into “the right college” then your family will have four years of misery with burnout as the end result. This time should be fun and full of exploration. If it isn’t, then maybe your teen needs to consider a different path.

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College Tour: Art Center College of Design

In early April, I toured the Art Center College of Design in California. Set in a single modernist Ellwood-designed building that spans a ravine in the hills of Pasadena, the aptly named Hillside Campus is a visual study in contrasts. Harsh steel and glass are surrounded by eucalyptus trees and fragrant sweet jasmine.

Art Center walkway 2

Ellwood Building Walkway

It’s difficult to gain acceptance into this selective school, often ranked at the top of many college search lists. The reward for getting in is hard work and readiness for the real world.

As one admissions representative said, “you’ll never work as hard in industry as you do here.” Kit Baron, Senior Vice President of Admissions explained the reasoning behind the schools demanding curriculum and structure, tying it to the college’s core mission. Art Center “was founded not as an atelier but for industry, to listen to what client’s want,” she said. Translation: the school educates and helps students transition into the job world.

An example of the school’s strength is their Transportation Design program, which is constantly ranked #1 internationally. That stellar rating is reflected in the fact that every major automotive manufacturer has had an Art Center alum as a design chief or leader. Think about that; every major automotive manufacturer.

Class time

Beyond transportation, Art Center has 10 other undergraduate programs leading to BFA or BS degrees. Students are guided and challenged by approximately 400 faculty members, most of whom are also working artists. Classes are taught on the semester – or term – system, with three terms per year. A completed degree is based on eight terms, which means that students can graduate in fewer than three years. Most don’t though, typically taking 4–6 years to complete their education. There is no foundation year here, meaning students must be focused when they begin, but they’ll get to spend more time dedicated to their majors.

The smartly and strategically structured Illustration Department is the largest on campus. Five tracks exist within the department, directing students towards entertainment arts, motion, design, fine arts, or surface design. Each has a unique focus, requiring a different set of skills to work in their respective industries.

One of the hottest new majors trending across the country right now is Interaction Design, and Art Center has it. New due to our tech-focused world, it’s the study of apps and interfaces.

model shop projects 2

End-of-year model shop projects

Beyond the Ellwood building and adjacent Sinclair Pavilion for relaxation, there isn’t much else to this campus, reinforcing the focus on creating art. Students live down the hill, in off-campus apartments. A short drive away is South Campus, where Fine Art and Illustration students study, alongside graduate and community programs. The school’s long-range plan includes building dorms there in three years.

Art Center is not for the indecisive or inexperienced. Applicants already have a defined proficiency and a sense of direction. Prospective students apply directly into a major. The college accepts students on a rolling basis with just a few admissions deadlines.

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