The Value of a College Tour

University of Michigan

Tour season is here. The snow has finally melted and families are eager to get outside, outside to explore campuses without all that snow. Colleges feel the same anticipation. Warmer weather brings spring flowers and students engaged in outdoor activities, resulting in picturesque scenes just as recruitment season kicks into gear for next year’s freshmen.

Those of you who regularly read my posts know what a strong proponent I am of touring colleges. Researching various programs and talking with admissions representatives are essential initial steps in the search process. However, they need to be followed up by a campus visit to determine if the fit is right. Nothing compares to setting foot on concrete and brick covered pathways, and through dorm and classroom building hallways.

Keeping that in mind, we all know that the costs associated with touring every campus your teen wants to explore can become exorbitant. Blame it on the Internet and the Common App; the times we live in encourage students to apply to numerous institutions. And often times, they seem to be scattered across the country.

College admissions personnel understand your predicament. That’s one of the reasons why more and more of them provide virtual tours through their websites. The tours are great tools, offering a realistic glimpse of campus.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.47.07 PMSCAD is striding even further down the path of virtual tours. They’re ahead of other colleges, but I’m sure that will soon change. The school now offers a virtual reality (VR) system to prospective students. They manufactured cardboard VR headsets which when hooked up to your cell phone provide an in-depth virtual tour from your own living room. Does your son want to attend SCAD’s campus in Hong Kong or LaCoste, France? No problem. Assemble your VR kit, hook it up and you’re there. It’s smart and cool.

I’m convinced this application will only expand in use among higher education institutions. It makes sense. Easing family stress during the college search process while enticing prospective students is a win-win. But please don’t let it replace a real visit if you can. VR tours are almost like being there.

While they do provide a realistic preview, VR tours – in any form – don’t provide the chance to interact with students in the hallways, to taste cafeteria food, and to actually feel that the campus culture and vibe is the right one for your teen.

My recommendation; traveling to college campuses during the early part of your search can be a valuable tool that helps your family understand the varied types of college campuses to choose from. Then, when its time to really make a decision, it can be the exclamation point on their search.

Want to learn more about the different types of campuses? I’ll address it in my next post. In the meantime, make sure to follow Art.College.Life. on facebook and twitter for all the latest news.

Do You See LA?

As kids growing up in Los Angeles, my brother and I thought we were pretty clever the first time that popped into our heads. Years later, flying home, it still makes me smile.

Broad Arts Center

Broad Arts Center

Last month, after meeting with Laura Young, Director of Enrollment Management at the University of California at Los Angeles’s (UCLA) School of the Arts and Architecture (SAA) the question morphed into “have you seen UCLA?” As one of the top public research universities in the country with a first-rate arts program in a thriving metropolis, a better question might be “why haven’t you?”

UCLA is big city living. Its 27,000 undergraduate students in 125 undergraduate degree programs on a 419-acre campus! And don’t forget about the 109 NCAA titles and 60+ national and local fraternities and sororities. But take a closer look and you’ll see the details inside the big picture. Two SAA departments, Art and Design Media Arts, combine to an intimate 395 underclassmen. That’s an environment ripe with opportunity to cultivate your artistic abilities.

UCLA arts logo w namesThe Art Department offers classes in painting & drawing, photography, ceramics, sculpture, art theory, and new genres, while Design Media Arts takes a multidisciplinary approach to media creation, offering study in Interactivity and Games, Video and Animation, and Visual Communication and Image.

Students in both departments begin with foundation courses where they learn the language of art and the principal traditions of each medium. But the focus isn’t strictly on how to create; equal effort is spent on why. Experimentation is emphasized, and students learn to combine creativity with the intangible, and to balance technique with problem solving. The focus is conceptual, not vocational. Undergraduate coursework in either area will earn you a B.A.

painting and drawing

painting and drawing

SAA students must be self-directed. The benefit of being part of such a large institution is that your resources can seem almost endless from the time you first step onto campus. The tough part is that working through a large system can sometimes seem daunting.

Laura Young shared some of the details of the application process with me:

          As part of your application to the UC system, you’ll need to identify your top two choices for areas of study (i.e. Communication Studies, Art); UCLA will only consider your first choice.

          SAA professors make the first decision as to who is accepted into the program; university admissions staff become involved solely to address academic standards.

          Make sure to read the application requirements – SAA requires a supplemental application that you won’t want to miss.

          UCLA is the only UC campus requiring a portfolio from incoming freshman. Again, read the application requirements; your portfolio can consist of 8-10 works in any medium.

          The school has a preference to see self-directed work as part of your portfolio, (not what your high school art teacher instructed you to create).

Last year the Art Department received about 950 applications and Design Media Arts received approximately 850. Both programs admit about 40-50 students. For a top-notch creative education wrapped in a diverse and engaging liberal arts package, I’d say those are some lucky students.

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Painting and drawing photo courtesy of UCLA.

College News Updates: 9/13

Tom Marioni, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art

Tom Marioni, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art

When classes begin and leaves start to crunch underfoot, it’s a sign that outdoor activities will soon take a backseat to indoor ones. And, that the college autumn lecture circuit isn’t far behind. As campus resources go, this is a good one. Many – if not all – art schools across the country use the autumn months to focus students, and engage the broader community with arts and lectures programming. The added benefit for parents is the lectures offer a glimpse into life after college, and the opportunity to hear from those who live as working artists.

Learning from those who’ve gone before you is never a bad idea. I’d suggest checking out what’s in your neck of the woods – at art schools, liberal arts colleges, and research institutions alike. You’ll get a different perspective from each.  And, it could very well prove inspirational.

Here are just some of the myriad programs I’ve come across. Some break them out by department, others group everyone together. Unless otherwise noted, all programs are free and open to the public, although some recommend reservations. Check online.

Amanda Ross-Ho, Cradle of Filth

Amanda Ross-Ho, Cradle of Filth

California College of the Arts, San Francisco

Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design, Washington D.C.

Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia

Pratt Institute, Brooklyn

Purchase College, SUNY, Purchase 

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Department of Art, College of Design

University of Texas at Austin

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Consider The End: Art School Graduate

art school grad pillow - lesrubadesign dot comLife is pretty good. You’re working your way through the maze of portfolio days, applications, campus tours and interviews, but in reality you already know where you want to attend college. You even dream about it. All that’s really left is the waiting game and the email stating “we’d like to welcome you into the class of …” But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before you dream of your happily-ever-after college experience I hope you’ll consider reality for a minute; the reality of graduation.

Colleges and universities work very hard to attract the most talented and brightest students. They invest significant time and resources into recruiting, accepting and enrolling dedicated individuals. But once in the door, how much attention is paid to retention – and its cousin – graduation? Will the school make it easy for you to stay on course and graduate on time? And why should you care?

The answers are wrapped up in a multitude of tangibles and intangibles, often not easily measured. Cost and years to completion play a role. So do learned skills, experience gained, connections made, maturity, and confidence.

Let’s consider graduation rates. Collegereality.com, produced by The Chronicle of Higher Education with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helps navigate some critical issues that should be considered when selecting a college. I used their data on pricing and graduation to compare the most fiscally fit schools, as defined by Forbes.

Average Net Price

Graduation Rate

School

Income Range

$75,001-$110,00

4 years

6 years

 national average for a BA

$18,158

33.0%

48.3%

Cooper Union

$14,052

62.6%

75.7%

Rhode Island School of Design

$38,611

75.3%

86.9%

California  Institute of the Arts

$45,485

50.7%

65.2%

Cleveland Institute of Art

$32,501

31.3%

57.8%

Minneapolis College of Art & Design

$30,863

69.6%

n/a

Reading between the lines, here is what you need to know:

  • Collegereality.com comparisons are based on obtaining a BA, not a BFA.
  •  Most likely you won’t be responsible for the advertised price; you’ll pay the average net price which takes scholarships and grants into consideration.
  • Government graduation rate standards don’t accurately reflect the times we live in. Part-time students, students who take time off in the midst of their college years, and transfer students don’t count in these outdated graduation rates. However, students graduating within 150% of the time it should take to graduate are included, (i.e. students taking up to six years to graduate from a four year institution).

I believe graduation rates also reflect the effort that faculty, staff, and especially career services personnel put into getting students on the right track. That’s where retention plays a role. According to a US News & World Report study, as many as one in three first year students don’t return to the same school sophomore year. Reasons vary from financial to academic to family issues. One way schools fight back is with organized first year experiences that are fun and engaging, and that help freshmen adjust to college life. They teach time management, money management, healthy eating habits, how to live independently from mom and dad, and how to trust yourself as an artist. Professors and career services professionals also help by ensuring students remain focused on their major, understand career opportunities, gain exposure to real-world experiences, and connect to prospective employers.

My advice: keep asking questions. Find out what first year experiences exist at the colleges you’re considering. Ask about their retention and graduation rates. Inquire how they’ll engage you with others on campus and in your chosen career. Even if you’ve got your heart set on a specific school, you’ll be happier in the long run.

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