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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California College of the Arts: An Easy Choice

Graphic DesignIf finding the best college fit is all about options and decisions, then California College of the Arts (CCA) is sitting pretty. Why? Simply put, the location, history, and course offerings of this small arts college combine to create a wide-ranging combination of options without the need for much compromise.

Let’s start with location. CCA resides where the open-minded and creative culture that defines northern California slams head-on into our hi-tech future. Twitter, Pinterest, Adobe, Pixar, and Intel are just a few neighbors that the college draws from for educational inspiration and contributes to, in the form of future employees.

Two seemingly opposite campuses in Oakland and San Francisco actually complement each other by fusing their two aesthetics. The historic Oakland site is where CCA began more than 100 years ago. The Arts & Crafts movement is readily apparent in this lush, residential-style and almost camp-like setting, which is also home base for the school’s First Year Program and freshmen housing.

Oakland campus

Oakland campus

Fittingly, it’s also home to the more traditional and craft-focused programs of ceramics, printmaking, photography, textiles, glass, jewelry, and sculpture. The San Francisco campus is the urban pair of this duo. The culture and tempo here fit its industrial and mixed-use setting, footsteps from the University of California’s biomedical research campus and the Dogpatch neighborhood that is bursting with artisan studios.

Major offerings here include painting and drawing, and the design-focused programs of architecture and interior design, graphic design, industrial design, and furniture design. Students decide their major by the beginning of sophomore year, giving upperclassmen the chance to live on either side of the bay. The college shuttle provides an easy connection between the two.

The depth and breadth of course offerings are front and center in the San Francisco campus main building. The “nave” of this light-filled former Greyhound bus terminal acts as display and critique center for class projects, constantly changing throughout the year. More importantly, it’s a hub of activity and cross-pollination for the college’s 22 undergraduate and 13 graduate majors, providing fodder for the stimulating interdisciplinary and exploratory vibe here.

Critique in the Nave

Critique in the Nave

David Asari, Assistant Chair for Graphic Design, explained that CCA’ers learn how to figure things out. The institution’s must be present to win attitude inspires “students to take responsibility and ownership, and give back to others,” he said. Student critiques are just one way “they develop the thinking and confidence skills to run the show in a few years.”

Due to its long-standing reputation, CCA has developed some top-ranked programs, each attracting faculty that are leaders in their respective fields. A few to check out include the internationally known ceramics program and the fashion design program, which was recently ranked as one of the best in the world. One of the campus’ newest programs is Interaction Design. It doesn’t focus on the form and material of Industrial Design, but rather on how people interact with objects. Think smartphones, apps, TV, etc.

Delve into CCA’s excellent website to learn more. Better yet, go visit. Make a day of it to ensure you see both campuses. It’ll be worth your time. They are making a difference and changing lives here. It’s all in their tag line: Make Art That Matters.

Interested in researching a specific college or program? Let me be of help. In the meantime make sure to catch all the latest Art.College.Life. news on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.