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.

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@Pre-College: 8 Tips To Find The Best Summer Arts Program

Temple University, Tyler School of Art

Summer seems a long way off. Especially since the first real snow is just beginning to accumulate outside my window. Yet, even with snowflakes falling, this is the time to put a summer plan in motion for your artsy teen.

I realize that warm summer months are the perfect time for downtime. But getting into top college programs is competitive; a summer program can further your teen’s artistic skills and resume while simultaneously giving him a real taste for college life.

What should you and your teen look for as you search for the best college fit in a pre-college program? Here are just a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Syracuse University Senior Fashion Show: Lailee Waxman

    Syracuse University Senior Fashion Show: Lailee Waxman

    Programs vary in length between one – six weeks.

  • Some colleges limit their summer programs to rising juniors and seniors.
  • Many institutions will count pre-college courses towards college credit. But make sure to inquire even if your teen matriculates elsewhere; some courses are transferable.
  • Some colleges require campus residency over the summer while others don’t provide campus housing at all. The latter means living at home or finding another residence.
  • Most pre-college courses have spring deadlines. So don’t wait until the snow melts to do your research.
  • And speaking of deadlines, if you’re looking for a financial aid to help cover the costs, keep your eyes open to scholarship application deadlines. They often have different deadlines.
  • When totalling up your costs make sure to consider tuition, housing, meal plan, fees, and supplies. Supply costs vary by course.
  • Health and other campus services are typically available just like during fall – spring school terms. Residence hall and academic advisors are available as well. Recreation and other facilities are open.

Attendance at a specific summer program is no guarantee that your aspiring artist will be accepted in the fall. However, it will provide a substantial leg up by delivering a college-level challenge, building strengths and skills, contributing to a future portfolio, and providing the opportunity to connect with a professor – who could possibly write a reference letter when its application time.

I’ve listed a few great art and design programs to get your search started. Good luck! And let me know where you end up –

CCAD
RISD
SCAD
Syracuse University
Temple University (Tyler School of Art)

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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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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.

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