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.

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.

Northeastern University: Create Your Own Path

CAMD students

CAMD students

Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media & Design (CAMD) takes creative education to a new level. There are more great things to say about this program than can easily fit into one blog. Seriously. I’ve been researching the program for a family and just had to share my findings with you.

Beginning with the basics, Northeastern (NU) has almost 18,000 undergraduates, with 2,000 of them enrolled in CAMD. What’s unique here is the combination of available educational options. They lead to a plethora of opportunities, especially benefitting those who want to create their own path. Within the college students can graduate with a single major, two double majors, or combine two half majors. Huh? Yep! Undergraduates can explore and intertwine two passions – two half majors – and accumulate more credits than with one major, but fewer than doubling up.

The university is focused on experiential learning; getting up, out of your seat, and becoming involved. Students across all departments are required to engage in at least one form of experiential education:

  • Barcelona architecture

    Barcelona architecture

    Cooperative education (co-op) typically takes one semester. Students can co-op three times, providing up to 18 months of real-world education. Aspiring artists and designers gain professional hands-on experience. They engage with industry leaders, explore careers, and begin building their career paths.

  • Service learning creates opportunities for students to apply their creative skill set to the greater community, and vice versa. They become active participants, utilizing their newly gained artistic capabilities while furthering social justice.
  • CAMD students also have the opportunity to create individual research projects. Here they can take a deep dive into a singular focus with a faculty member, a group of peers, or on their own.
  • Study abroad offers a whole host of opportunities. Beyond spending a semester studying the Medici’s artistic influence in Florence or fashion in France, students can take a co-op, service learning, or research project abroad. Sign me up!!

Designers also have Scout, an on-campus student-led design studio giving them access to real clients as they solve real design problems.

Northeastern University

Northeastern University

Design, Game Design, and Media Arts majors earn BFAs. Studio Art majors graduate with a BFA through a partnership with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA). (A program note: beginning this fall SMFA will become part of Tufts University. I don’t yet know how this will affect the Studio Arts major at NU.) Other CAMD majors graduate with a BA. Portfolios are required for the BFA in Studio Art and are optional for other majors.

CAMD prides itself on educating and molding its students into engaged and vibrant makers, and ensuring that each one has a perspective of place in the global environment. I hope you go check it out.

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More College Tour Tips for Visual Artists

Boston College

Boston College

Teenage artists and designers are like everyone else this time of year. They’re anxious for spring and the accompanying warmer weather that gets everyone outside. I’d suggest guiding – and prodding if necessary – those thoughts of outdoor escape towards touring colleges. Spring break and summer are optimal times to explore as a family.

I’ve toured a lot of colleges and universities, and have found these few fundamental tips can turn touring time into very worthwhile experiences. Share them with your teen ahead of time and you’ll have some very successful touring!

Ask questions. In information sessions, while on tour, and of anyone you see. Remember that tour guides are paid cheerleaders. Listen to them, but keep in mind that random students will give you their unbiased view. Professors will have a completely different perspective. (For what it’s worth, parents are the ones asking most of the college tour questions. Getting your teen to speak up will keep them engaged and get noticed by admissions reps. File that under demonstrating interest!)

Take the tour! Getting oriented will help you and your teen visualize the layout of the land. How far is the dorm from the studio? Is the campus integrated into the surrounding city? Or does it have a defined border?

University of Washington textile studio

University of Washington textile studio

Get lost. As an avid traveller, I often find the most wonderful gems when not on a planned tour. The same rule applies to wandering around college campuses. I’d pay special attention to studio spaces; your teen will be spending the majority of her time there. Make sure to include off-campus spots too.

Document it. This is the voice of experience here. Even if you only visit one campus at a time, you will mix places up. I guarantee it! Make sure your teen records his thoughts and impressions with words and photos. You can thank me later.

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7 New Year Resolutions Juniors Can Use

New-year-2016-imageThe start of a New Year always gets me energized. Perhaps it’s the idea of a clean slate, or more realistically what I didn’t accomplish last year that’s nagging me. Either way, turning the calendar page to a new beginning is an opportunity to refocus and start anew. Parents of high school juniors need to take this to heart: before this calendar year is out your teens will be applying to colleges, and making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. That sounds overwhelming and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The turn of the calendar also provides the opportunity to make a plan and focus on how you can keep your teen on task. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and if you guide your teen with reasonable and actionable goals they’ll reach the end of the school year feeling accomplished and on track. And, they’ll be a bit less stress and mayhem in your household. Here are some tips to get you both started:

  1. Junior year freak outKeep an eye on academics. There’s no doubt about it; junior year is tough. But to maximize opportunities, you’ll want to make sure you’re teen is stretching. That means taking – or on track to take – the most challenging courses in each academic area that she can. Grade point average is one of the most important factors that admissions representatives review when evaluating applicants. Honors and AP courses have weighted scores, which can help bring up GPAs.
  2. Not sure whether or not your teen is on target? Then make a date for a sit-down with your guidance counselor and learn your options. They are great resources.
  3. Paint, draw, sculpt, photograph, design, repeat. Building a portfolio is another top priority. The more your son creates now, the more his skills will improve. He’ll also have a larger selection of artwork to choose from when submitting his application portfolio.
  4. Plan ahead for standardized tests. If your teen hasn’t begun preparation for them yet, it may be crunch time. Prep tests and courses are ubiquitous. The new SAT debuts March 5th.
  5. Colleges also consider extracurricular activities. Has volunteering been a big part of your daughter’s life? Or has she worked through her high school years? Either way, colleges look for depth and consistency. Taking on leadership roles and positions shows dedication. Plan now for taking it up a notch during senior year.
  6. If you haven’t already started, make a plan for spring. It’s a great time for some serious college visits. The most optimal time to tour is when class is in session, i.e. not during their spring or summer break. But, realistically, that’s sometimes difficult. Information sessions and campus tours are invaluable tools for helping you better understand an institution, regardless of the time of year.
  7. Montserrat College of Art

    And if that’s not enough to keep you warm this winter, think summer! Summer college art and design programs, that is. Colleges will be posting their summer programs for high school students from now through April. Find your favorites, check back frequently, and book your slot quickly. The most coveted ones fill up fast.

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