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.

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7 New Year Resolutions Juniors Can Use

New-year-2016-imageThe start of a New Year always gets me energized. Perhaps it’s the idea of a clean slate, or more realistically what I didn’t accomplish last year that’s nagging me. Either way, turning the calendar page to a new beginning is an opportunity to refocus and start anew. Parents of high school juniors need to take this to heart: before this calendar year is out your teens will be applying to colleges, and making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. That sounds overwhelming and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The turn of the calendar also provides the opportunity to make a plan and focus on how you can keep your teen on task. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and if you guide your teen with reasonable and actionable goals they’ll reach the end of the school year feeling accomplished and on track. And, they’ll be a bit less stress and mayhem in your household. Here are some tips to get you both started:

  1. Junior year freak outKeep an eye on academics. There’s no doubt about it; junior year is tough. But to maximize opportunities, you’ll want to make sure you’re teen is stretching. That means taking – or on track to take – the most challenging courses in each academic area that she can. Grade point average is one of the most important factors that admissions representatives review when evaluating applicants. Honors and AP courses have weighted scores, which can help bring up GPAs.
  2. Not sure whether or not your teen is on target? Then make a date for a sit-down with your guidance counselor and learn your options. They are great resources.
  3. Paint, draw, sculpt, photograph, design, repeat. Building a portfolio is another top priority. The more your son creates now, the more his skills will improve. He’ll also have a larger selection of artwork to choose from when submitting his application portfolio.
  4. Plan ahead for standardized tests. If your teen hasn’t begun preparation for them yet, it may be crunch time. Prep tests and courses are ubiquitous. The new SAT debuts March 5th.
  5. Colleges also consider extracurricular activities. Has volunteering been a big part of your daughter’s life? Or has she worked through her high school years? Either way, colleges look for depth and consistency. Taking on leadership roles and positions shows dedication. Plan now for taking it up a notch during senior year.
  6. If you haven’t already started, make a plan for spring. It’s a great time for some serious college visits. The most optimal time to tour is when class is in session, i.e. not during their spring or summer break. But, realistically, that’s sometimes difficult. Information sessions and campus tours are invaluable tools for helping you better understand an institution, regardless of the time of year.
  7. Montserrat College of Art

    And if that’s not enough to keep you warm this winter, think summer! Summer college art and design programs, that is. Colleges will be posting their summer programs for high school students from now through April. Find your favorites, check back frequently, and book your slot quickly. The most coveted ones fill up fast.

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4 Tour Tips Help You Choose The Right College

Campus tours are valuable during any part of your college search. For rising juniors or seniors they can help narrow down the type of institution you’re searching for, as well as where you want to be geographically. For graduating seniors they can become a window into your future.

Within the next few weeks high school seniors will know all of their college options. That means final decisions need to be made in a little over a month. The pressure is on. To break a tie between two favorites, or just for personal assurance, I’d suggest making one more quick campus visit. Whether you’ve toured before or not, aim to get the most out of the experience by personalizing your trip.

Campus visits typically include an information session and a campus tour. I’d suggest you spice it up a bit. Add some exploration time into your schedule and make sure you see the places you want to see. The benefit will be a more accurate feel for life on campus. Here are the best options:

1. Wander around campus. Get lost. Walk into buildings just to see what’s inside. Find areas that entice you. If Ceramics is your passion, then make sure you locate the clay studio. Don’t be shy to stop and engage a student or professor along the way. Asking for directions can lead to a tour of spaces you didn’t know existed and new insights.

MassArt cafeteria

MassArt cafeteria

2. Engage with students. Go to the cafeteria or student union and strike up a conversation. This is your chance to obtain impromptu and honest opinions of what people really like or dislike about the college.

3. Sit in on a class. Your admissions representative will be happy to set this up for you. It will give you a view into your life for the next four years.

4. Spend the night. Your admissions representative can set this up for you as well. Better yet, if you know someone on campus ask if they can put you up for a night. The idea here is to give you the opportunity to see what campus life is like beyond classes. You’ll experience dorm life, gain a better feel for time spent in the studio after hours, and get a first-hand take on the morning rush at the Cheerios counter.

SAIC dorm studio

SAIC dorm studio

If you come to campus with unanswered questions, now is the time to get them resolved. Need to meet with a financial aid rep? Do it now; face to face is always better. Want to get a clear picture of the surrounding community? Here’s your chance. Find out where the closest art supply store is located and check out the neighborhood.

By the time you’ve finished your visit, whether it was for three or twenty-four hours, you’ll have a much better grasp of this college experience, and the road that lies ahead for you.

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Faculty

Im in love with an art professor iphone caseLet’s be honest; when it comes to the list of things that will influence your college selection the professors on campus probably won’t be near the top. You’ll consider which programs are taught, cost, location, the prestige of the college, and the comfortable feeling you get on campus. And you should. Maybe, somewhere near the bottom of the list might be – “how good is the faculty?”

I’m here to suggest you move them higher up your list. Why? Your college professors have a lot to do with your future. They’ll probably become the most influential people in your artistic college life. The challenges they put in front of you will guide and shape your creative development. They’ll motivate and mentor you; shaping the direction your art takes. Some will help you find future jobs – and your career path. Others will become friends.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult to assess which ones are the best, and which ones you’ll connect with before classes begin. So, what to do? The good people at Design Intelligence (DI) have done some of the work for you. As in previous years, the DI staff, with input from “thousands of design professionals, academic department heads, and students,” has created a list of the 30 Most Admired Educators of 2014. The list includes educators and administrators working in architecture, industrial design, interior design, and landscape architecture. Of note; 80% on the list work at public institutions.

Other online searches should begin with each college’s website. Whether illustration or fashion design is your passion, research the faculty members. Google them. Look at their bios. Do any have experience in an area of interest to you? Check out their work. Other resources to consider include Rate My Professors and College Prowler. The former does just what its name implies, with the ratings and comments coming from current and former students. College Prowler offers even more detailed information.

My favorite suggestion for finding out about a specific college applies here as well; visit campus. In addition to all the other benefits you’ll gain, you can make an appointment to meet with a professor or sit in on a class to see how they really operate.

Sad but true, when it comes to professors, there will always be the good, the bad, and those who should have retired already. But, by spending time researching the faculty members at your choice colleges, you’ll gain a better overall understanding of each institution, and you’ll have a better chance of finding your best college fit.

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