The Value of a College Tour

University of Michigan

Tour season is here. The snow has finally melted and families are eager to get outside, outside to explore campuses without all that snow. Colleges feel the same anticipation. Warmer weather brings spring flowers and students engaged in outdoor activities, resulting in picturesque scenes just as recruitment season kicks into gear for next year’s freshmen.

Those of you who regularly read my posts know what a strong proponent I am of touring colleges. Researching various programs and talking with admissions representatives are essential initial steps in the search process. However, they need to be followed up by a campus visit to determine if the fit is right. Nothing compares to setting foot on concrete and brick covered pathways, and through dorm and classroom building hallways.

Keeping that in mind, we all know that the costs associated with touring every campus your teen wants to explore can become exorbitant. Blame it on the Internet and the Common App; the times we live in encourage students to apply to numerous institutions. And often times, they seem to be scattered across the country.

College admissions personnel understand your predicament. That’s one of the reasons why more and more of them provide virtual tours through their websites. The tours are great tools, offering a realistic glimpse of campus.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.47.07 PMSCAD is striding even further down the path of virtual tours. They’re ahead of other colleges, but I’m sure that will soon change. The school now offers a virtual reality (VR) system to prospective students. They manufactured cardboard VR headsets which when hooked up to your cell phone provide an in-depth virtual tour from your own living room. Does your son want to attend SCAD’s campus in Hong Kong or LaCoste, France? No problem. Assemble your VR kit, hook it up and you’re there. It’s smart and cool.

I’m convinced this application will only expand in use among higher education institutions. It makes sense. Easing family stress during the college search process while enticing prospective students is a win-win. But please don’t let it replace a real visit if you can. VR tours are almost like being there.

While they do provide a realistic preview, VR tours – in any form – don’t provide the chance to interact with students in the hallways, to taste cafeteria food, and to actually feel that the campus culture and vibe is the right one for your teen.

My recommendation; traveling to college campuses during the early part of your search can be a valuable tool that helps your family understand the varied types of college campuses to choose from. Then, when its time to really make a decision, it can be the exclamation point on their search.

Want to learn more about the different types of campuses? I’ll address it in my next post. In the meantime, make sure to follow Art.College.Life. on facebook and twitter for all the latest news.

Guest Post: Pratt & Fashion Design

It’s fashion show season at art and design colleges across the country. So what’s it like on the inside? I asked Pratt junior Landry Low to give us her perspective.

DSC_0063 -a close upOne of the biggest benefits to going to school in Brooklyn is the fact that I am in one of the major creative hubs, not just in the United States, but also around the world. We have everything at our fingertips – between our close proximity to the other four boroughs and what is available in our own backyard.

I live on the first floor of a brownstone apartment, a short 15-minute walk down the street from Pratt Institute. My roommate, originally from Barbados, is a communications design major (focusing on graphic design). We walk to school together most days, always commenting on how lucky we are to be in such a beautiful neighborhood with a diverse community, rich with culture. Our campus itself is a sort of oasis in the city – complete with expansive lawns, scattered with a constantly changing collection of sculptures. As an Arizona native, I have a special appreciation for the nature on our campus (as most of the nature I’m used to only comes in shades of brown). Whether its tulips and cherry blossom trees in the spring or the colorful foliage of the changing leaves in the fall, our campus is a showcase for the natural beauty that the East Coast has to offer.

I usually try to get to campus a bit early to eat breakfast on the lawn with my friends and cats (we have 16 cats393634_4324009334870_272715025_n -a that live on campus!). Most of my classes start at 9:30 and each meets once a week for a three-, four-, or six-hour time block (with a lunch break splitting up the 6 hour classes). I typically stack my days so that I have two-to-three classes a day, which opens up the rest of my schedule for work. Through work-study I work as a campus tour guide in admissions and as a shop technician in the metal shop.

My favorite day of the week is Tuesday, as that is when I take my six-hour Shape & Form class (a construction based class that is taught in conjunction with our design class). Every other week during spring semester, our department brings in professional fit models for us to fit looks on from our junior thesis collection. This is in 1000896_10201399309767694_1501697596_n -apreparation for senior year, when we’ll spend both semesters developing, creating, fitting, and presenting a final thesis collection. Our entire class is involved in the process – we take photos, videos, and notes for each other, allowing us all to participate, collaborate, and communicate our ideas not just visually, but verbally as well.

As a junior Fashion Design major, I take a four-hour design studio class (Fashion Design), a six-hour construction class (Shape & Form), as well as another four-hour design class (this semester it’s Cut & Sew Knitwear). DSC_0715 - aAfter that, I am free to apply my remaining credits to two liberals arts classes of my choosing, still leaving room for another elective which I can take from any department in the school. I have taken classes in all different areas including Metal Fabrication, Welding & Forge, Intro to Electronics, Woodworking, Perception and Creativity, and Astronomy. One of the best parts about going to a school like Pratt is that I have the opportunity to learn a variety of skills that allow me to create complex cross-disciplinary work. Not only does my own work improve through the implementation of various skills, but I also find that my work has grown dramatically through the collaborative work that I have done with students in other majors as well as in my abroad studies.

Drop me a line if you’re interested in posting about your favorite college art program.
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Lessons For A Lifetime: Transferable Skills

Yosemite 1 (c) David Hockney

Yosemite 1
(c) David Hockney

Last week I had the good fortune to view the David Hockney exhibit, A Bigger Exhibition, at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. What a treat! Clearly, this artist knows color. His intense yellows, vibrant oranges, and bright blues and greens are explosive in their depiction of the numerous portraits and plein air landscapes that comprise the majority of this exhibit.

I’ve been a Hockney fan for a while, but what really caught my attention this time was his exploration of new mediums. In 2009, just two years after the iPhone was launched, Hockney began using it as an artistic tool, using the touchscreen to “paint” dogs, flowers and everyday objects; then emailing the images to his friends. Lucky friends! In 2010 he turned to the iPad, and since then has positively exploited still and video cameras as well, pushing technology to portray the world as he sees it.

In one room of A Bigger Exhibition, attendees view an almost “Cubist-like” movie, created from digital video cameras. The results were synchronized and presented on nine 55-inch NEC screens to depict varied viewpoints of a changing landscape. Another room showed individual stroke and color choices as they were applied on an iPad – giving us a lesson in how Hockney actually paints. Throughout all, his distinct style, vision and color palette remain the same.

A Bigger Matelot Kevin Druez 2 (c) David Hockney

A Bigger Matelot Kevin Druez 2
(c) David Hockney

For many of today’s artists, the integration of traditional techniques with new mediums may not be a new phenomenon.  But what is blatantly clear in this show is the transference of skills, and of vision, from one medium to many.

Artistic skills are transferable. Don’t feel hemmed in by one major or area of study. Just because you decide to pursue a degree in painting, or sculpture, or fashion design doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re tied to that particular medium forever. What’s learned in one can be applied to another. David Hockney has clearly shown us the way to do that.

So, here’s my question to you: Given the skills you’ll gain in college, what limitations will you leave behind? What boundaries will you push beyond? I hope you’ll let me know.

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Faculty

Im in love with an art professor iphone caseLet’s be honest; when it comes to the list of things that will influence your college selection the professors on campus probably won’t be near the top. You’ll consider which programs are taught, cost, location, the prestige of the college, and the comfortable feeling you get on campus. And you should. Maybe, somewhere near the bottom of the list might be – “how good is the faculty?”

I’m here to suggest you move them higher up your list. Why? Your college professors have a lot to do with your future. They’ll probably become the most influential people in your artistic college life. The challenges they put in front of you will guide and shape your creative development. They’ll motivate and mentor you; shaping the direction your art takes. Some will help you find future jobs – and your career path. Others will become friends.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult to assess which ones are the best, and which ones you’ll connect with before classes begin. So, what to do? The good people at Design Intelligence (DI) have done some of the work for you. As in previous years, the DI staff, with input from “thousands of design professionals, academic department heads, and students,” has created a list of the 30 Most Admired Educators of 2014. The list includes educators and administrators working in architecture, industrial design, interior design, and landscape architecture. Of note; 80% on the list work at public institutions.

Other online searches should begin with each college’s website. Whether illustration or fashion design is your passion, research the faculty members. Google them. Look at their bios. Do any have experience in an area of interest to you? Check out their work. Other resources to consider include Rate My Professors and College Prowler. The former does just what its name implies, with the ratings and comments coming from current and former students. College Prowler offers even more detailed information.

My favorite suggestion for finding out about a specific college applies here as well; visit campus. In addition to all the other benefits you’ll gain, you can make an appointment to meet with a professor or sit in on a class to see how they really operate.

Sad but true, when it comes to professors, there will always be the good, the bad, and those who should have retired already. But, by spending time researching the faculty members at your choice colleges, you’ll gain a better overall understanding of each institution, and you’ll have a better chance of finding your best college fit.

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SAIC: A Clear Mission

fvnma_taping2 from SAIC websiteEvery institution of higher education has its own mission; a singular statement of purpose that speaks to their raison d’être, or reason for existence. How they interpret that mission, and deliver their educational objectives to their students is what intrigues me. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, SAIC, follows their own path. And, as a consistently top-ranked art college they must be doing something right.

Here are some distinct, core characteristics that caught my eye:

  • SAIC believes in exploration. That’s why their students don’t declare majors. They choose to focus their studies in one area or create their own concentration from among 18 intermingled departments. If graphic novels and critical studies are a passion, combine them here. If writing and fashion design is your preference, that’s possible too. Students are encouraged to stretch and experiment across disciplines. The sky’s the limit.
  • Art is subjective. You know that, I know that, and so does SAIC. That’s why their students are graded on a credit/no credit basis. The college utilizes frequent critiques and portfolio development to help build independent, creative thinkers in its studio courses. A strict class attendance policy ensures focus and participation.
  • logo -Right from the start freshmen at SAIC jump in with both feet. The college’s rigorous program is comprised of 16.5 credit hours the first semester and 15 the second. Students gain an “overview of surface, space and time, and how they interplay and connect with each other in year-long Core Studies and Research Studies classes,” explained Andrea Tarry, Associate Director for Undergraduate Admissions. A complementary, one semester course, Wired, teaches students how to use their computers as artistic and design tools. Additional requirements are English First Year Seminar, Art History Survey, and a studio elective in a department of their choosing. “We want students to begin exploring their personal interests right away,” offered Alexander Zak, Assistant Director for Undergraduate Admissions.
  • A new perspective is a good thing, and the school wants its students to see the world from different perspectives. So much so, that six credit hours of off-campus study are required for graduation. They could come in the form of a study abroad program, a co-op internship, a three-week study trip, or classes at another university. Inspiration is the goal here. Experiencing the world from varied vantage points will affect how you think, how you act, and how you create. Numerous scholarships are available to help pay for the experience.

 SAIC offers vast resources to its students and alumni, and I’ve only skimmed the surface here. I hope to explore more in the future, but in the meantime I’d suggest you go exploring yourself. Visit the Windy City. Get inspired and see what this creative institution has to offer.

Image courtesy of SAIC. Don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.