Swimming in the Pool of College Applicants: How Your Artsy Teen Can Be a Winner

Olympian Ryan Lochte

The time of year always brings it out. Start with a mix of winter cold and overcast skies, add in some snow, feelings of being cooped up together indoors, and presto: apprehension, pressure, and anxiousness about college options and choices rear their ugly heads. The phenomenon is common for high school sophomores, juniors, and their parents alike. No wonder; there are so many parts and pieces to this puzzling process. They each require thoughtful attention. It can be exasperating and exhausting.

But let’s step back a minute. Beyond grades, test scores, and all those other requirements the question needs to be addressed: what will really differentiate your artsy teen from the rest of the college applicant pool?

I believe the answer lies in considering the bigger picture and focusing – now – on your teen’s demonstrated interest. In college-search terminology “demonstrated interest” mostly refers to a teen’s exhibited desire to attend a particular institution. How many times has your son been in contact with the college? Has he attended an on-campus information session or met with the admissions representative? There are numerous ways to reach out and “touch” a college or university, but I’m not referring to that type of expression here. What I’m talking about zeros in on your teen’s passion for art and design, their dedication and drive to create. Whether their focus is on a variety of visual arts or just one specific craft, demonstrating the desire to spend time making art is key.

Rapt Studio, California

Ask yourself, does your daughter repeatedly lose track of time to her detailed drawings? Does your son spend countless hours sketching and studying fashion trends? Is either one clamoring to attend another summer art program? That’s demonstrating interest, and passion. The objective here is to capitalize on that focus.

I’ve put together a few tips for you to consider.

  • Take advantage of all that your high school offers,
  • Research after school and weekend art classes,
  • Search for volunteer opportunities that will let your teen apply her creative talents,
  • Network for internships in a design firm or art museum, and
  • Encourage artistic self-exploration.

Yes, these will enhance that high school resume, but isn’t that, in part, what we’re talking about? It may also seem like I’m just piling onto the “must do” list. The reality is – here’s a chance to put your teen’s interest and dedication to the test. The value will be apparent in an engaged teenager who will have a more in-depth comprehension of a potential college major and career path. Their focus will help them stand out in the applicant crowd and improve their chances of getting accepted to the colleges they want to attend.

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Decision Time For the SAT: In with the New or Stay with the Old?

Parents of high school students are most likely aware that changes are coming soon to the SAT. High school juniors and seniors especially need to be in the know. The last test date for the current SAT is January 23, 2016. In March, the new one takes over. Now is the time for strategic family conversations to either go with what you know or wait for the new version.

So what’s all the fuss about the switch? Plenty. For those who can take either, this isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. If your teen has already been studying with prep-tests and seems to have a feel for the type of questions asked, I’d opt for the current version. On the other hand if your family isn’t at that stage yet and can wait it out a few extra months, I’d most likely suggest going with the new version. Arguments can be made for both sides.

The College Board has two SAT sites now, one for the old, another for the new. And a recent New York Times article explains the abundance of changes.

Here’s the bottom line of what you need to know:

  • March 5, 2016, is debut day for the new SATstopwatch
  • The test consists of two sections now instead of three: Math, and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
  • Students won’t be penalized for guessing answers anymore
  • The new test requires a lot more reading – even in the math section
  • Archaic and obsolete language are out of the reading sections, current language is in
  • Math sections dive deeper into each subject area, and more advanced math from a greater number of courses is included. This may tip the scale towards taking the test later in high school
  • The essay will become optional, and relies more on reading and comprehension than in the past

The new SAT is heavily based on the Common Core curriculum. Translation: it’s centered on what students are actually learning in school now. Again, if you’ve got the time I’d research both before making a decision.

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A Day in the Life: Art at a University

OSU Welcome WeekAudrey Quinn Galat is a junior currently majoring in Painting and Drawing at The Ohio State University (OSU). I interviewed her for Art.College.Life’s A Day in the Life series to give you a peek inside a large university. Here are her insights:

I personally think attending a school with a large variety of majors is a must, especially if you are an art major. If you are taught in an art school and the environment is just art and art related things how are you supposed to function in the “real world” where there is obviously a lot more then art surrounding you? Attending a well-rounded school like OSU lets you see perspectives of other “non-art” people, giving you fresh ideas for your work, and allowing you to better understand what your future employers will want from you. Many engineers attend OSU. Art students end up incorporating engineering into their art to make it more unique and more interesting. Also, many future artist employers will be non-artists. One story that comes to mind is of a photography major who was also very interested in skateboarding. He started working for a skateboard magazine just editing a few stories and eventually started taking photos for the magazine. He now makes more than his professors. His job was non-art related, but he was able to turn it into his major. I’d advise young artists to take their passion for art and their passion for whatever else, and combine them if you are able. Being in a diverse school opens up tons of job opportunities to the “real world” where you can add your own artistic twist.

Audrey Galat - OSU student 10.14.15 copyAs you know I love your wire motorcycle goggles. Was that for a class?
The motorcycle goggles were for my sculpture class. We had to draw in space with wire. Don’t always think of drawing like that, do you?

Can you describe a typical day?
– Wake up at 6:30am, get ready for classes; take the bus to Hopkins (the art building)
– Drawing class 8–11am
(eat a granola bar to hold off my stomach because I can’t eat lunch until 2:30pm)

– Anthropology class and English class 11:30am–2:05pm
– Take the bus home to eat lunch (don’t have money to eat out all the time)
– Work 4–8pm
– Eat dinner at 8pm
– Hang out with friends or do homework
– SLEEP!
– Wake up at 6:30am again and repeat!
Weekends are for catching up on school, hanging out with friends, and for relaxing.

Tell us about one of your favorite classes, and why it’s your favorite?
My favorite classes right now are my painting II class and my sculpture class. My painting class is fairly fast-paced has about 20 students in it. Sometimes we work on two paintings at once!

My sculpture class is just as fast paced; it also has about 20 students in it, which is a ton for a sculpture class. It can be a little challenging because sometimes we have to share power tools. I like to show up to class early and selfishly claim the best tools for myself. Part of what is so great about this class is that I learn how to use so many different tools in different ways. Right now I’m teaching myself how to carve into a tree truck with a chainsaw, it’s pretty cool!

painting studioMany people (including some parents) think that majoring in art is easy, with few demands on your time and abilities. How’d you like to dispel that misconception?
It is interesting how often people will say being an art major is “easy” – but then they take a studio class and they hate it because it’s “too much” work. With that being said an art major will take about three and sometimes a crazy four studio classes plus about two general education classes per semester. Each studio class is about three hours long, twice a week (sometimes three times a week) and you are expected to work at least an additional nine hours each week outside of class for each class. Being an art major might not be “hard” mentally, but it will be time-consuming. You can avoid all-nighters and rushing if you just use time management. I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds. Because you are doing what you love and are passionate about art, time seems to fly by. And, because art is already what you do in your free time it isn’t a chore to work on homework.

Are you involved in any on- or off-campus non-class activities?
I am involved in a church small group that meets once a week. Other than that I don’t have much time for anything else. However, I think it’s great to be involved in groups other than art! Adds culture and character to your work!

What’s your favorite place to eat off campus?
My favorite place is Fabians Deep Dish Pizza. I love pizza and this is literally the BEST pizza I have ever had. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Clearly you’ve thought about life after graduation. So what are you thinking, career-wise? You told me “being an art major is already a daring move.” I love that because it’s true yet your passion for it still comes through loud and clear. Have you considered an internship to help you “try out” one or two paths?
As of right now I am open to internships, but am unsure where to apply. I think internships are a great way to get involved with the “real world” and they would defiantly help with job opportunities.

Want to learn more about what Audrey’s up to? Make sure to check out her website and facebook pages. You can always find more up-to-date tips and information on our facebook and twitter pages.

 

Carnegie Mellon University: School of Art

School of ArtHere is a simple truth: The more you do something the better you become at doing it.

A college drawing professor of mine taught this principle well. His homework assignments required drawing, drawing, and then some more drawing. Friends of mine who weren’t art majors would walk down the dorm hallway many nights with comments of “man, you have a lot of work.” (Yes, but let’s save that for another conversation.)

500 drawings - 2Andrew Johnson, Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) School of Art knows this to be true as well. He challenges the school’s freshmen to create 500 drawings over one weekend in the fall. He even provides the pizza. My hand is cramping just thinking about drawing that intensely, but what an outstanding way to strengthen your skill set while developing your craft.

The School of Art (SOA) is an interdisciplinary program. Students study across four concentrated areas and are not required to focus on just one.

  • Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, and Photography
  • Electronic and Time-Based Media
  • Sculpture, Installation and Site Installation
  • Contextual Practice

It’s that interconnectivity – within the arts – and with non-studio academic courses as well that separates this program from others. BFA graduates earn a comprehensive education and a broader understanding of what it’s like to be working artists.

Study consists of conceptual studios and media-based courses. Foundation classes are spread out during the first three semesters on campus and are media focused, providing students the chance to independently immerse themselves into clay, wood, painting, animation, etc. Advanced studios begin during the spring of sophomore year.

Upperclassmen studio space

Upperclassmen studio space

Senior year focuses on independent studio work. Four faculty members team-teach and students are free to choose the concepts and media they wish to explore. The primary goal is to develop a body of work across both semesters.

Like its sister program, gaining acceptance into SOA is competitive. 50% of acceptance decisions are portfolio driven. Mark Cato, SOA Assistant Head, told me that the ideal student “should consider art and art history in society, work should be conceptually based, and they should be open to a broad exposure of different media types.”

For those interested in tapping into even more of the best of CMU, I’d suggest considering the university’s BXA Interdisciplinary Degree. Here’s the chance to combine a humanities, science, or social science degree with an arts degree. Students must be accepted into both schools independently. But the reward is the chance to explore and develop your own approach to interdisciplinary studies.

Is design more your style? Learn about CMU’s School of Design.

Carnegie Mellon University: School of Design

Touring Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in autumn is a great idea. I was fortunate to visit last week when the trees were starting to sparkle in all their autumn glory.

This private university’s persona is larger than life, but its undergraduate student body is a very manageable 6200. I’ve toured the campus before, so got to focus on the College of Fine Arts this time around, meeting with representatives from the School of Design and the School of Art.

School of Design

School of Design

The School of Design (SOD) has a stellar reputation. I often recommend taking rankings with a grain of salt, but these you should consider. LinkedIn named the school Best for Designers (October 2014) and Design Intelligence named it among America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools (2015).

Steve Stadelmeier, SOD Associate Head, defines designers as those who build things for the greater good; things that help individuals and companies tell their personal stories. Whether it’s the car you drive, the Netflix shows you watch, the graphics of your favorite app, or the layout at your favorite clothing store – they’re all influenced and guided by designers, and they all help you tell your own, individual story.

sophomore communications students

sophomore communications students

At CMU students gain that knowledge through a unique and interactive structure that mirrors real life. Freshmen begin studying across three concurrent areas: Communication Design (graphics), Product Design (industrial design), and Environments (virtual and physical). Sophomores continue in two of the three, juniors narrow it down to one, and senior year unites the entire cohort as they apply what they’ve learned to services and social innovation. Here, the application of design moves from focusing on one item to a grand and global scale. A junior explained it this way: “If you design a lawnmower as a sophomore, then junior year you’ll address the yard and lawn chemicals. Senior year you’ll question, “How can we change the system?” (Ex: how can we water lawns more efficiently to improve water usage?)

junior product models

junior product models

This is a rigorous program; with class time divided approximately 60/40 between design classes and general studies courses. That ratio is typically found at small art and design schools across the country, not large universities. Also similar to art and design schools, SOD teaches a number of design-related general education classes. Examples include design and economics or design and anthropology.

Applications – through the Common App – are directed to the SOD itself, not the university. Portfolios are a required part of the process. Images can be uploaded through SlideRoom as well as delivered in person. Personal interviews aren’t required but are highly encouraged.

Accepted students are the lucky ones. Approximately 650 applied to the program last year, with 35 matriculating. Graduates earn a Bachelor of Design (BDes), and according to Mr. Stadelmeier, all graduate with a job.

Want to learn more about the SOD? Drop me a note or contact the school directly. Have a preference for the School of Art? Stick around. I’ll share what I’ve learned next week.