Artists: How to Stay Focused on College

Haverford College

It’s that golden time of year again. The ghosts, goblins, and Disney characters have all gone home. Sidewalks are blanketed with autumn leaves and daylight savings time ends this weekend. Thanksgiving and winter break will be here before you know it. Even though the calendar ahead is whispering “r & r,” families of college-bound artists need to stay focused. Yes, the approaching December break is a good time for rest and relaxation, but I’d like to add another “r” into the mix: reassessing the family college plan. Irrespective of the grade your high school creative is in, make sure he is being strategic, planning wisely, and taking action towards his artistic future.

Here are some tips to help your visual artist stay focused:

Studio space, Carnegie Mellon

Seniors
January general application deadlines are looming. Now is the time to stop procrastinating and double-check everything. Finalize essays, confirm that applications and transcripts have been received, and verify that reference letters have been submitted. If discrepancies are found, contact your guidance counselor or the college representative to clear things up. Finalize your portfolio. If you find it doesn’t say all you want it to, then create more art! There is still time. Then upload your selections to each college’s SlideRoom account. Lastly, consider squeezing in an interview. Contact your top choice programs to inquire if they offer them. Interviews show demonstrated interest and might be just the added ticket to place you into the “accept” column when decision time comes around.

Juniors
Keep creating! Winter break is a perfect time to focus on your growing portfolio. The downtime also provides opportunities to get closer to what makes you tick. Attending art fairs, local craft shows, and art exhibits can all provide inspiration. Have honest conversations with family and friends to help you hone in on what’s important to you artistically and otherwise. Is your ideal college location a large urban setting? Or would you prefer to stay close to home? What about cost? College costs are staggering. If financial aid is a necessity, then make sure you include it as part of your college family discussions. All these thoughts and considerations will help you find the right college fit. Being realistic now will help eliminate idealistic expectations and crushing disappointment down the road.

College for Creative Studies

Underclassmen
It’s not too early to begin envisioning your college future. Your best preparation is to keep drawing, creating and making. Follow wherever your art takes you. December is also a great time to see what winter is truly like on the campus of your dreams. Go exploring and get your steps in by visiting a college or two – even if most students have gone home for the break. Those still on campus will most likely be happy to answer questions about the place, the food, the professors… You get the picture. And when the weather dictates indoor time make sure to keep up with your reading. The commitment to it now will help develop your vocabulary and writing skills for those upcoming pesky standardized tests.

Juniors and underclassmen can all benefit from campus visits. Most tours and information sessions are unavailable in late December, but it doesn’t hurt to swing by a college or two if you’re nearby. Strolling across campus and checking out the local neighborhood can still influence future decisions. And, especially if winter isn’t your season, start thinking about summer art programs. Sign-ups for pre-college programs will be on college websites before you know it.

Denison University: A Liberal Arts Take on the Arts

Goldilocks knew what she wanted; it wasn’t too big and it wasn’t too small. “Just right” for her was in the middle. Many young artists and their families are searching for that same middle ground. Typically they find it at a liberal arts college. Size is important, but mostly what sways them is the one-on-one learning combined with the opportunity to integrate across the arts and sciences.

If that combination is what you and your teen are searching for, make sure Denison University is on your list. It’s one of the top liberal arts colleges in Ohio. 

Combining art and politics

Quality education, diversity, and integration are what define this college. Varied perspectives are alive and well here. The culture and academic structure are built on a dedication to interdisciplinary education and the core value of developing independent thinkers. Students are exposed to new ideas from multiple perspectives across the campus. Examples include the requirement that all students take at least two art classes (no wonder I like it!) and the school’s Queer Studies major. Quantitative understanding, power and privilege, and writing are the lenses through which all subjects are viewed.

There are approximately 80 students working towards a BA or a BFA in Studio Art, with an average class size of 18. The curriculum is purposely planned to build confidence. Students work individually and collaboratively, finding their own voices and communicating their own unique ideas along the way. The liberal arts setting requires they include oral and written expression as well.

(Denison University)

BA students frequently double major. Due to the emphasis placed on integrating ideas across departments, art and design students are encouraged to bring their creative viewpoints into their other classes. Consequently, each course becomes a learning lesson in how art and design affect the world – and vice versa. Common double majors include Studio Art with Communication, with Educational Studies, with Economics, and with Biology.

Those seeking a BFA apply into the program by the beginning of their junior year. Acceptance is dependent upon a presentation of the portfolio they created at Denison, along with an oral defense.

Seniors have their own studio space (Denison University)

Senior year is demanding. Students participate in a yearlong practicum, participate in a group show with juniors, and produce their own solo show with catalog and oral defense. The goal to develop self-reliant and independent artists seems to be working. Alumni are employed as designers, art educators, and architects, and those moving on to grad school have been accepted at top institutions across the country.

It’s clear that the Denison values the arts. At the January groundbreaking of the college’s new performing arts center University President Adam Weinberg affirmed that “more than 40 percent of Denison students participate in the arts in some way.” That includes literary, performing, and visual arts.

Bryant Arts Center, home of the Studio Arts program, was once the campus’s gymnasium, complete with swimming pool. Eight years ago this 45,000 square foot vertical facility was renovated into spacious and light-filled classroom, studio, and exhibition space, with obvious remnants of the building’s past.

(Denison University)

Study abroad opportunities are encouraged, but not before junior year. During sophomore year students begin working with the Off-Campus Study Center to locate the best options for their specific career and study goals.

Denison is located in the charming village of Granville, 35 miles from Columbus. Campus residency is required, which makes sense. It contributes to the tight-knit communal experience and the strong bond between students and faculty. Walking through Bryant Arts Center I felt I was on the set of “Cheers,” where everyone knew your name – well, at least the names of the professors and students passing by.

Last, but far from least to consider is the cost of attendance. Tuition for the Fall 2017 academic year is just under $50,000. But don’t be discouraged, Denison is committed to affordability and is known for the number of quality scholarships it offers. I hope you check it out.

Scholarship Season: Artists Paying It Forward

Obstacles, by their very nature, create frustration. They restrict us and often cause us to just give up. Thank goodness, every once in a while, someone comes along to change the status quo and create a new path forward. Alison Hess is such a person. She’s a trailblazer who’s paying it forward.

As a high school student, her heart was set on studying art in college. Yet she didn’t have the financial means to make it happen. Her obstacles were many, including finding scholarship after scholarship for prospective pre-law and pre-med majors but not for burgeoning artists. Having to rely mostly on her good grades and general scholarship opportunities, she made it happen. But that struggle stuck with her.

Fast-forward to 2014 and a new path emerged for students wanting to study art and design in college: Zinggia Ohio Art Scholarship.

Alison, with help from her husband Jason Salisbury, did the difficult legwork to establish the fund. Now beginning their third year, both are happy to report that they’re making a difference in the lives of others. Their goal, to “help art students in Ohio further their education in the visual arts field“ is clearly making a difference. Award winners in the first two years of the fund’s existence have applied their newfound financial resources to art programs at Ohio University and SCAD. The $2,000 scholarship is for Ohio-based high school seniors, and can be used towards art and design study at any college in the U.S. The deadline for this year’s application is March 5th.

passion quote - chasing it downWhen not paying it forward, Alison, an illustrator, can be found selling her artwork through her Esty shop, Canning Crafts.

Jason can be found applying his graphic design skills at Ohio Thrift Stores where he is in charge of marketing, graphic design, and advertising. Together they’re also creating coloring books and other kid-centered creative items.

At the risk of being repetitive, take the time to read Scholarship Season: Tips and Tools for some valuable scholarship insights. And make sure your Ohio-based teen looks into Zinggia. Both parent and teen will be glad you did.

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@Pre-College: 8 Tips To Find The Best Summer Arts Program

Temple University, Tyler School of Art

Summer seems a long way off. Especially since the first real snow is just beginning to accumulate outside my window. Yet, even with snowflakes falling, this is the time to put a summer plan in motion for your artsy teen.

I realize that warm summer months are the perfect time for downtime. But getting into top college programs is competitive; a summer program can further your teen’s artistic skills and resume while simultaneously giving him a real taste for college life.

What should you and your teen look for as you search for the best college fit in a pre-college program? Here are just a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Syracuse University Senior Fashion Show: Lailee Waxman

    Syracuse University Senior Fashion Show: Lailee Waxman

    Programs vary in length between one – six weeks.

  • Some colleges limit their summer programs to rising juniors and seniors.
  • Many institutions will count pre-college courses towards college credit. But make sure to inquire even if your teen matriculates elsewhere; some courses are transferable.
  • Some colleges require campus residency over the summer while others don’t provide campus housing at all. The latter means living at home or finding another residence.
  • Most pre-college courses have spring deadlines. So don’t wait until the snow melts to do your research.
  • And speaking of deadlines, if you’re looking for a financial aid to help cover the costs, keep your eyes open to scholarship application deadlines. They often have different deadlines.
  • When totalling up your costs make sure to consider tuition, housing, meal plan, fees, and supplies. Supply costs vary by course.
  • Health and other campus services are typically available just like during fall – spring school terms. Residence hall and academic advisors are available as well. Recreation and other facilities are open.

Attendance at a specific summer program is no guarantee that your aspiring artist will be accepted in the fall. However, it will provide a substantial leg up by delivering a college-level challenge, building strengths and skills, contributing to a future portfolio, and providing the opportunity to connect with a professor – who could possibly write a reference letter when its application time.

I’ve listed a few great art and design programs to get your search started. Good luck! And let me know where you end up –

CCAD
RISD
SCAD
Syracuse University
Temple University (Tyler School of Art)

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Graphic Design Programs

GD USA is an excellent resource for those working in the field of graphic design. In January, the online publication spotlighted their top picks of graphic design students to watch. 29 talented individuals made the list as tomorrow’s trailblazers and game-changers. Their collective contributions and experiences are already quite impressive.

This month GD is following it up with a list of 35 colleges – the ones who’ve nurtured, supported, and guided the previously-listed top students, plus a few more outstanding schools. The list of programs is diverse, including non-profit, for-profit, art and design colleges, and public universities. It provides a clear testament to the wealth of quality graphic design programs across the country.

You may ask what is graphic design, and what career paths will be available to those studying it?

As far as careers go, the sky’s the limit. Graphic design is the sharpest tool in today’s design toolbox, used to communicate ideas and information. Through images and typography, graphic design informs, inspires, and persuades in every field imaginable. Science and technology, healthcare, entertainment, education, business, hospitality, and government all need graphic design to communicate, advise, and guide us.

If graphic design sounds like your teen’s passion, GD’s list is a great place to begin your exploration of “best fit” programs.

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