5 Tips For Choosing The Right College

courtesy of College For Creative Studies

courtesy of College For Creative Studies

At the risk of being redundant, I’m going to revisit a post I wrote last year. The reason? Its decision time for seniors and their parents, and the words I wrote a year ago are true and applicable again today.

April is a critical time of year. Birds know it, flowers know it, and so do high school seniors. For the latter group it’s time to make your final choice of which college to attend in the fall. If you’re lucky enough to have been accepted to more than one college, read on. There are many factors that can – and should – influence you as you aim to find the best fit. I’ve listed a few tips that were helpful when my kids were going through the process.

1 – Get down to the details. Try to identify what entices you about each school. Is it the location? Cost? Studio space? The feel of campus, or something else? I place all of these factors into two basic categories: fit and finances. Make sure the programs available fit your wants and needs. Re-visit each school’s website and contact the school with any unanswered questions you still have. And DO let the financial package impact your decision. If the weight of paying back future loans feels oppressive now, it could feel even heavier later on. Are you eligible for merit aid? Is the financial aid package what you expected it to be? It’s not too late to ask about either.

MICA dorm

MICA dorm

2 – Go back to “walking the walk.” I know that deadlines are approaching quickly, but if you can, visit campus, especially if you haven’t done so already. I’ve said it before; there is nothing like a stroll around campus to see if it’s the right place for you. Take the tour, check out the studios and dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and talk to students and professors. My oldest son thought Tufts was a funny name for a university. Then he visited campus and exclaimed “wow, I love it here.” End of story.

3 – Trust your gut. This is easier than it sounds. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you but there are too many distractions for you to see clearly. If you can, narrow your choices down to two colleges, then flip a coin and mentally accept the results. You’ll probably feel joy, relief, or perhaps a bit of anguish. Those feelings will tell you the real right choice.

4 – If you get wait-listed don’t get too discouraged. You still have a chance to get in, even though it may be a small one. My first recommendation is to accept an offer from one of the institutions that admitted you. Pick a place you’d honestly like to attend. Then congratulate yourself; you’re going to college!

Believe it or not, that does remove a lot of the pressure. If you’re still focused on a wait-listed school let the school know as soon as possible; they like to know that they’re your top choice. Reach out to the school’s admissions counselor for your region, and express your interest. Tell him or her why you prefer their school. I’d also suggest sending additional information that can tip the scale in your favor. Examples might include recent additions to your portfolio, and an achievement or acknowledgement you’ve received since you applied.

5 – Breathe. Don’t forget to take time to sit back and congratulate yourself. You’ve worked hard to get to this point and you’re about to begin your life’s next great adventure. Enjoy the day dreams of what college will be like and look forward to the exciting opportunities ahead.
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Defining Art and Design

stacking bowlsPiqued by the inquiry of a high school parent, I’ve been muddling over this question in my mind for a while now; what is the difference between art and design?

A few weeks ago I posed the question to Gabe Tippery; the Academic Advisor for Ohio State University’s Department of Design. His response seemed simple yet right on target. To paraphrase his words; given a blank piece of paper, an artist will create something that comes from within them, something they feel the need to express. Designers, on the other hand, mostly need a problem to solve in order to put pen to paper.

Gabe isn’t the only one with this mindset. In researching the question I found numerous opinions on the subject that support his theory. To define it in a bit more detail:

Field of Corn, Dublin, OH

Field of Corn, Dublin, OH

Artists are driven to share their thoughts and ideas, period. They’re inspired and motivated to express themselves without boundaries imposed by others. My husband and I call it “art for art’s sake.”

On the other side of the spectrum are our problem-solving designers. They begin with boundaries, and a need for their creativity to spur others into action. They incentivize people to purchase a product, use a service, feel a particular feeling about a space, or learn new information.

Many colleges and universities will divide their art programs into a fine arts division and a design division. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take courses across the divide. In fact, learned skills from both can only help build your comprehensive understanding of the creative environment. A good designer cannot be void of artistic talent, and a fine artist’s creativity will come through along whatever career path he or she travels.

For me, I definitely live in both worlds. How about you?

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Welcome Week

Compass Rose nsew bw.inddI’m going to guess that few college-bound students find a need for a compass these days, even if it is available as an app at the iPhone store. Good thing colleges provide their own directional tool; it’s called orientation. This real-life app guides parents and students as they travel to the new and often, uncharted territory that is college.

Orientation days on a college campus are a bundle of nerves. Uneasy ones can range from “what will my roommate really be like?” to “what if I can’t make it here?” and everything in between. Thrilling ones focus on the adventure of it all, life beyond high school, and – let’s face it, the most common one – “I’m so ready to live without mom and dad.”  Sorry parents.

Each campus holds its own unique orientation experience. Some early in the summer, some right before school begins in the fall. Some last a few days, others an entire week. Whichever way your college rolls, once you step foot on campus your time will be jammed full of information and connectedness. It’s an introduction to programs, services and people that will surround you over the next four years of your life.

The purpose is simple; set everyone’s mind at ease and engage students with this new place called “home.” For moms and dads it’s an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what life will be like for your child over the next four years. Tours and information sessions provide parents with peace of mind about residential living, available health services, access to professors and administrators, and how students will grow artistically and academically during their time on campus. Parents meet faculty and staff, tour the city around them, and share stories with other restless parents.

SAIC Dining Hall

SAIC Dining Hall

Students get the better end of the deal. They learn about resources and services available to them, in creative and engaging ways. Through workshops and ridiculously fun social activities that no one thought of when I was in college, students become acquainted with their new living environment and begin building friendships that will last a lifetime.

Information sessions are typically led by upperclassmen who were freshmen themselves just one or two short years ago. As peer, residential, and department advisors they introduce students to staff and administrators while disseminating valuable information about academic policies, course registration, and the slew of activities, clubs and organizations on campus. They openly discuss the stresses associated with living away from home – often for the first time – and provide freshmen with tips and resources to help with the adjustment.

Orientation workshops and meetings provide assurance as they educate students about the vast array of services and resources available including student health and counseling, financial aid, and career and professional development services. The pool parties, karaoke nights, competitions, field trips and campus-wide events help make the adjustment that much more fun.

Pre-orientation programs get the ball rolling even sooner. Designed to create connections and build friendships even before stepping foot on campus, they provide opportunities to hike, backpack, canoe or even surf (seriously!) your way to memorable experiences and new friendships, all in the name of engaging you with your new home.

Decision Time: 5 Tips To Help You Choose the Right School

SAIC Dining Hall

SAIC Dining Hall

It’s April and spring is in the air.  Finally!  Better yet all those offers are in.  If you’ve been accepted or wait-listed at more than one college then decision time is almost over.  As the expression goes, the ball is in your court.  And that’s a good thing.

So, how do you decide?  There are many factors that can – and should – influence you.  Here are a few tips I found helpful when my kids were going through the process.

1 – Try to identify what it is about each school that entices you.  Is it the location?  Cost?   Studio space?  The feel of campus, or something else?  I think all these factors fall into two basic categories: right fit and finances.  Make sure the programs available fit your wants and needs.  Re-visit each school’s website and contact the school with any unanswered questions you still have.  And DO let the financial package impact your decision.  If the weight of paying back future loans feels oppressive now, it will feel even heavier later on.

2 – Go back to “walking the walk.”  Visit campus, especially if you haven’t done so already.  I’ve said it before; there is nothing like a stroll around campus to see if it’s the right place for you.  Take the tour, check out the studios and dorms, eat in the cafeteria, and talk to students and professors.  If you can sit in on a class, great; if you can spend the night, even better.  Both will give you a better understanding of what it feels like to actually live there.  Maybe I’m repeating myself here too, but my oldest son thought Tufts was a funny name for a university.  Then he visited campus and exclaimed “wow, I love it here.”  End of story.

3 – Trust your gut.  This is easier than it sounds.  Sometimes the answer is right in front of you but there are too many distractions for you to see clearly.  If you can narrow your choices down to two or three schools then flip a coin, and mentally accept which way it lands.  Whatever the results are, you’ll feel joy, relief or perhaps a bit of anguish.  Those feelings will tell you what is the right choice for you.

4 – If you get wait-listed don’t get too discouraged.  You still have a chance to get in, even though it may be a small one.  My first recommendation is to accept an offer from one of the schools that accepted you.  Pick a place you’d honestly like to attend.  Then congratulate yourself; you’re going to college!

Believe it or not, that does remove a lot of the pressure.  If you’re still focused on a wait-listed school then let them know as soon as possible; schools like to know they are your top choice.  Try to contact the school’s admissions counselor for your region, and express your interest.  Tell him or her why their school is your top choice, and if you’re accepted, you’ll attend.  (Otherwise why are you trying?)  I’d also suggest sending additional information that can tip the scale in your favor.  Examples might be an achievement or acknowledgement you’ve received since you applied, an award won, or even a mentor’s recommendation about an atypical experience that relates to your future studies.  To take it one step further – if you can hand-deliver additional materials to a counselor you’ll have a chance to make a personal pitch for acceptance.  I always believe you’ll be better off if they can get to know you as an individual, rather than just a name on a sheet of paper.

SCAD sidewalk arts festival

SCAD sidewalk arts festival

5 – Breathe.  Don’t forget to take a moment to sit back and congratulate yourself.  You’ve worked hard to get to this point and you’re about to begin another great adventure.  You’re in the midst of a very exciting time of your life.  The future is a big unknown, with lots of exciting opportunities before you.  It’s unnerving and thrilling, all at the same time.  There are lots of new friends to meet at college, and so much art to discover!  Enjoy!