In A Buckeye State of Mind

Student work - Department of Art 3-D Foundation course

Student work – Department of Art 3-D Foundation course

For many, searching for the right college begins with the question “art college or university?” The two choices lead to very different college experiences. And, true confessions here: I attended a state school and came away with an exceptional education. (Thank you, U Dub!) Unfortunately, I don’t live in Washington anymore, but Ohio offers some outstanding opportunities as well.

The Ohio State University (OSU) is one of the largest land-grant, research universities in the country. I thought they only did “big” in Texas, but OSU proves that theory wrong. Think 49,000+ undergraduate students, ½ million alumni, and 175 majors. Those numbers translate into significant opportunities and support for the Departments of Art, Arts Administration, Design, and Art History.

I’ve had the chance to tour both the Art and Design Departments, and I came away impressed. You won’t need a portfolio to gain acceptance into the university. However, you’ll need one for acceptance into one of the 10 majors these two departments provide. With guidance from professors and your foundation classes you’ll create one during freshman year (Design) and your sophomore year (Art) to compete for acceptance into your major of choice.

Industrial Design class

Industrial Design class

The two departments reside in buildings adjacent to each other, providing plenty of opportunity for cross-pollination. Both are competitive to gain entry. Only 80 students are accepted into the Department of Design’s Pre-Design program, which is narrowed down to 54 after freshman year. That equates to 18 new students each year joining one of three majors; Industrial Design, Interior Design, or Visual Communications. The end result is small classes with highly motivated students who graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Design, and excellent career opportunities.

The Department of Art is slightly larger but no less competitive. Students complete five foundation courses before gaining acceptance into the rigorous and challenging program. Those admitted earn a BFA in Art and Technology, Ceramics, Glass, Painting and Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, or Sculpture in a traditional studio environment. Also available is a Bachelor of Arts in Art, a more general degree for students wanting a career related to the arts.

Internships are highly encouraged, especially following sophomore year when students have more confidence in their skills. Study abroad opportunities are also encouraged, providing the chance to learn from other cultures and gain an international perspective.

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4 Tour Tips Help You Choose The Right College

Campus tours are valuable during any part of your college search. For rising juniors or seniors they can help narrow down the type of institution you’re searching for, as well as where you want to be geographically. For graduating seniors they can become a window into your future.

Within the next few weeks high school seniors will know all of their college options. That means final decisions need to be made in a little over a month. The pressure is on. To break a tie between two favorites, or just for personal assurance, I’d suggest making one more quick campus visit. Whether you’ve toured before or not, aim to get the most out of the experience by personalizing your trip.

Campus visits typically include an information session and a campus tour. I’d suggest you spice it up a bit. Add some exploration time into your schedule and make sure you see the places you want to see. The benefit will be a more accurate feel for life on campus. Here are the best options:

1. Wander around campus. Get lost. Walk into buildings just to see what’s inside. Find areas that entice you. If Ceramics is your passion, then make sure you locate the clay studio. Don’t be shy to stop and engage a student or professor along the way. Asking for directions can lead to a tour of spaces you didn’t know existed and new insights.

MassArt cafeteria

MassArt cafeteria

2. Engage with students. Go to the cafeteria or student union and strike up a conversation. This is your chance to obtain impromptu and honest opinions of what people really like or dislike about the college.

3. Sit in on a class. Your admissions representative will be happy to set this up for you. It will give you a view into your life for the next four years.

4. Spend the night. Your admissions representative can set this up for you as well. Better yet, if you know someone on campus ask if they can put you up for a night. The idea here is to give you the opportunity to see what campus life is like beyond classes. You’ll experience dorm life, gain a better feel for time spent in the studio after hours, and get a first-hand take on the morning rush at the Cheerios counter.

SAIC dorm studio

SAIC dorm studio

If you come to campus with unanswered questions, now is the time to get them resolved. Need to meet with a financial aid rep? Do it now; face to face is always better. Want to get a clear picture of the surrounding community? Here’s your chance. Find out where the closest art supply store is located and check out the neighborhood.

By the time you’ve finished your visit, whether it was for three or twenty-four hours, you’ll have a much better grasp of this college experience, and the road that lies ahead for you.

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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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Spring Break Tours – Time To Get Started

Otis College of Art & Design

Otis College of Art & Design

Winter is hanging on, but warmer days will be here soon. Spring break means students can enjoy time away from classes. For moms and dads it offers an opportunity to explore college campuses with your teen.

So how do you start the “tour” process? Which campuses do you visit first? The answer is simpler than you think. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal here is to help your student begin to determine the best place for his or her future. That means your first objective is to help him differentiate one place from another. I like to begin by categorizing the size of each institution: small liberal arts college, large research university, art college.

Does your child like to feel part of a big crowd? Or do you think he needs a more intimate setting to fit in? The good news is there are options available at both ends of this spectrum, and many places in between.

At the suggestion of our high school’s college counselor (thank you Stephanie!), we took a road trip during my oldest son’s sophomore spring break. Our objective was to visit three different colleges, one small, one medium, and one large – kind of like Goldilocks. We also focused on different settings and ended up touring a large research university, a liberal arts college in a suburban setting, and a smaller college in the center of the city.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University

Our tours turned out to be great kick-starters for our college conversations at home, and helped us all begin to envision the best post-secondary environment for our teen. And, once he started narrowing down what he wanted, we then knew where our next campus tours would take place.

There is no substitute for walking around a college to get a true feel for campus life. But visiting numerous colleges can be time consuming and expensive. It’s best to tour when classes are in session, but that often conflicts with high school schedules. And visiting institutions across the country might seem like a waste of money, especially before applications have been submitted. For these reasons I’d make sure to check each campus’s website and take a virtual tour. Most, if not all, colleges offer them. They might even influence your next road trip.

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3 Resources Close To Home

colored pastels 2It starts in high school, or even middle school; that panicky feeling parents get as they consider their teen’s future. What college will my child attend? What will she study? What type of career can it lead to? And – here’s where the panic kicks in – how do I help him find the right place?

When my kids were beginning high school I felt like I needed to know all the answers to these questions, and more. Truth-be-told, I didn’t know where to start, and didn’t know which questions would help move me forward instead of just adding to the panic.

With that in mind, here are three places you can begin your own research. They’re simple, easily accessible, and right under your nose.

1. High School Counselor

These tireless advisors are true advocates for your children. Given the responsibility of guiding students through high school, they offer the ultimate in academic, personal, and developmental support. Traditionally they work with each student for four years, which gives them the chance to truly know your child and help with the transition to college. They’ll offer specific college suggestions based on your child’s strengths and interests, provide advice on grade point averages and standardized tests, and assist with the quagmire that is today’s application process.

2. High School Art Teacher

Your high school art teachers are tour guides for your child’s artistic exploration. They introduce students to the basic principles of art and design, and expand their comprehension of the subject by engaging students with a diverse variety of artistic styles, artists, and media. As up close observers they’ll assess your child’s artistic skills, guide for strengths, and make suggestions in the form of medium, career, and even school choices.

3. Neighbors

If you have children in high school then I’m guessing you have friends or neighbors with college age children as well. Although they haven’t walked in your exact shoes, they’ve been down this road before and should be a wealth of information. They can make recommendations based their own experiences and offer up personal tidbits that you might not have heard of otherwise. Most importantly – for that panicky feeling – they’ve survived the process, and lived to talk about it.

As a parent, you’re the one with the front row seat to your child’s artistic strengths and passions. If you want to know how you can guide them to the best college fit, start talking. Even asking “where do I begin?” or “how did you begin?” will get you going. After you’ve started these conversations I’d suggest you start checking out some colleges, but we can talk about that next week.

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