What’s the Value of a Summer Tour?

The short answer is PLENTY!

Summer has most of us dreaming of “me time.” Of lazy days spent sleeping late and staying up late, with nothing but choice relaxation in between. Hanging out at a beach with toes firmly planted in the sand would be my heaven.

But reality dictates that summer should be put to practical use too. If you’re the parent of a high school teenager that means college tours should be high on your radar. It’s a great way to spend family time together and to generate ideas of where your teen wants to spend four years following high school.

Here’s a post I wrote about Summer Tours that links to other reliable resources. The thoughts and recommendations are still very applicable today.

What Art & Design Students Need to Know About RIT

I know, I know. An institute of technology is not the most obvious place to find a top arts program. Most likely it’s not even on your radar. Right? Well, it should be!

cias-twitter-logoAfter an in-depth tour of the College of Imaging Arts & Sciences (CIAS) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) last month I came away thoroughly convinced that this is a great school for visual artists.

Despite its name, artistic learning has been part of RIT since it’s founding in the 1820’s. Today, CIAS encompasses roughly 2,000 of the 15,300 undergraduates on campus. That means visual arts students can benefit from the intimacy of a small college and the resources of a large research university.

CIAS boasts high retention rates, and both the university and the college continually receive high rankings. Clearly, they’re doing something right.

Abundance of available photography equipment

Abundance of available photography equipment

The School of Design is the largest school in the college and it provides a wide path of instruction in 2D, 3D, and 4D design. Emphasis is on designing for process over product and using technology to connect to real world experiences.

Photography looms large on campus. That makes sense when you realize this is the land of photography and print pioneers Kodak and Xerox. Students in the School of Photographic Arts & Sciences start with a comprehensive introduction to the field. As Susan Lakin, program chair for Advertising Photography further explained, “RIT has so many facets of photography available. Students discover the field and its broadness, then are able to explore a multitude of options to discover what their interests are.” Those options include everything from fine art and commercial applications to integration with journalism, business, and science. 

Zara Davis, sophomore ceramics major

Zara Davis, sophomore ceramics major

Another distinguishing program on this technology-focused campus is the School of American Crafts. Seriously. As with other majors, students studying artistic craftsmanship are focused and dedicated. The program has a rigorous studio requirement and includes a year of business courses in preparation for a career in the arts.

Engagement with the real world is built into the curriculum here. Co-ops and time abroad are both highly regarded and highly encouraged. Creative Industry Day, an annual event, promotes portfolio reviews and networking with creative industry professionals.

It’s difficult to gain acceptance into CIAS, which is foretelling that you’ll be challenged once you’re in. Over and over during my visit, I heard that dedication, passion, and focus are required for success. But the benefits are clear and enormous. Artistic mastery, a career-focused education, and a job after graduation. I hope you check it out.

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.

Trending: Are the SAT & ACT Really Necessary?

Transitions come in all shapes and sizes, and they happen for a variety of reasons. First-grade morphs into high school, Uber has upturned the taxi business, and landlines have lost out to cell phones. Transportation and communication will never be the same. Perhaps moms and dads won’t either.

SAT-scantronThe major shift affecting colleges these days is the diminishing requirement of standardized tests as part of the application process. According to WAMU 88.5 more than 850 colleges and universities across the country don’t require SAT/ACT test scores to gain admission. And that number is growing.

That’s the sign of a definite trend. What the end result will be, no one knows. In the meantime, the beneficiaries are college applicants who excel in other areas but not necessarily in taking standardized tests.

If your creative teen falls into this category you might want to take a second look at colleges that are test-optional or test-blind. The former schools will consider an SAT/ACT test score if submitted, the latter won’t even look at them.

colored pencilsThe National Center for Fair and Open Testing has compiled a comprehensive list of colleges that don’t require a standardized test. The schools on it come in all shapes and sizes from small to large, art-centered programs to general institutions, and private colleges to state universities.

What does this mean for your teen? Options abound – all across the country.

 

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