4 Resources To Kick-Start Your College Search

Painting, University of Maryland, College Park

It begins in high school or even middle school for that matter, that panicky feeling in the pit of a parent’s stomach when you envision your teen’s future. What college will my child attend? Where will he get in? What will she study? What type of career can an art major lead to? What will it cost? All of those concerns, circling around in your brain can definitely stir up unwanted anxiety and panic.

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 even know where to start and surely didn’t know which questions would help move me forward without generating more anxiety.

With that in mind, here are four smart and accessible resources to get your and your family started. It begins with conversations and asking questions – lots of questions.

  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 offer specific college suggestions based on your child’s academic strengths, provide advice on grade point averages and standardized tests, and help with transcripts, recommendation letters, and much more.

    Wood shop, Carnegie Mellon University

  1. High School Art Teachers  Your high school art teachers are tour guides for your child’s creative exploration. They introduce teens to the basic principles of art and design and expand each student’s comprehension of the visual arts by familiarizing them with a diverse variety of artists, artistic styles, and media. As up-close observers, they assess your child’s creative skills, guide for strengths, and make suggestions for the future.
  1. Neighbors  If you have teens 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 on their own experiences and offer up personal tidbits that you might not have heard of otherwise.
  1. Foley sound recording room, Watkins College of Art, Design & Film

    Art College Advisors  Yes, I’m tooting my own horn here, but I hope you’ll hear me out. Visual arts college consultants focus on the visual arts, period. We’re the ones engaging specifically with art colleges and with art and design programs across the country. We make it our business to learn the specifics about which program is top at which institution and the nuances that accompany each. And, because of our focus, we have a better understanding of what programs look for in future students. Gaining guidance in the details of course and portfolio prep, learning about the value each type of art program provides, and obtaining an understanding of future career opportunities won’t completely remove all that pre-college anxiety, but having a guide through the college search process will help you identify which path to traverse and help your teen find her best college fit.

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 their best college fit, start talking. Even asking, “where do I begin?” or “how did you begin?” will get you going.

What Art & Design Students Need to Know About RIT

I know, I know. An institute of technology is not the most obvious place to find a top arts program. Most likely it’s not even on your radar. Right? Well, it should be!

cias-twitter-logoAfter an in-depth tour of the College of Imaging Arts & Sciences (CIAS) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) last month I came away thoroughly convinced that this is a great school for visual artists.

Despite its name, artistic learning has been part of RIT since it’s founding in the 1820’s. Today, CIAS encompasses roughly 2,000 of the 15,300 undergraduates on campus. That means visual arts students can benefit from the intimacy of a small college and the resources of a large research university.

CIAS boasts high retention rates, and both the university and the college continually receive high rankings. Clearly, they’re doing something right.

Abundance of available photography equipment

Abundance of available photography equipment

The School of Design is the largest school in the college and it provides a wide path of instruction in 2D, 3D, and 4D design. Emphasis is on designing for process over product and using technology to connect to real world experiences.

Photography looms large on campus. That makes sense when you realize this is the land of photography and print pioneers Kodak and Xerox. Students in the School of Photographic Arts & Sciences start with a comprehensive introduction to the field. As Susan Lakin, program chair for Advertising Photography further explained, “RIT has so many facets of photography available. Students discover the field and its broadness, then are able to explore a multitude of options to discover what their interests are.” Those options include everything from fine art and commercial applications to integration with journalism, business, and science. 

Zara Davis, sophomore ceramics major

Zara Davis, sophomore ceramics major

Another distinguishing program on this technology-focused campus is the School of American Crafts. Seriously. As with other majors, students studying artistic craftsmanship are focused and dedicated. The program has a rigorous studio requirement and includes a year of business courses in preparation for a career in the arts.

Engagement with the real world is built into the curriculum here. Co-ops and time abroad are both highly regarded and highly encouraged. Creative Industry Day, an annual event, promotes portfolio reviews and networking with creative industry professionals.

It’s difficult to gain acceptance into CIAS, which is foretelling that you’ll be challenged once you’re in. Over and over during my visit, I heard that dedication, passion, and focus are required for success. But the benefits are clear and enormous. Artistic mastery, a career-focused education, and a job after graduation. I hope you check it out.

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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A Day in the Life: Art at a University

OSU Welcome WeekAudrey Quinn Galat is a junior currently majoring in Painting and Drawing at The Ohio State University (OSU). I interviewed her for Art.College.Life’s A Day in the Life series to give you a peek inside a large university. Here are her insights:

I personally think attending a school with a large variety of majors is a must, especially if you are an art major. If you are taught in an art school and the environment is just art and art related things how are you supposed to function in the “real world” where there is obviously a lot more then art surrounding you? Attending a well-rounded school like OSU lets you see perspectives of other “non-art” people, giving you fresh ideas for your work, and allowing you to better understand what your future employers will want from you. Many engineers attend OSU. Art students end up incorporating engineering into their art to make it more unique and more interesting. Also, many future artist employers will be non-artists. One story that comes to mind is of a photography major who was also very interested in skateboarding. He started working for a skateboard magazine just editing a few stories and eventually started taking photos for the magazine. He now makes more than his professors. His job was non-art related, but he was able to turn it into his major. I’d advise young artists to take their passion for art and their passion for whatever else, and combine them if you are able. Being in a diverse school opens up tons of job opportunities to the “real world” where you can add your own artistic twist.

Audrey Galat - OSU student 10.14.15 copyAs you know I love your wire motorcycle goggles. Was that for a class?
The motorcycle goggles were for my sculpture class. We had to draw in space with wire. Don’t always think of drawing like that, do you?

Can you describe a typical day?
– Wake up at 6:30am, get ready for classes; take the bus to Hopkins (the art building)
– Drawing class 8–11am
(eat a granola bar to hold off my stomach because I can’t eat lunch until 2:30pm)

– Anthropology class and English class 11:30am–2:05pm
– Take the bus home to eat lunch (don’t have money to eat out all the time)
– Work 4–8pm
– Eat dinner at 8pm
– Hang out with friends or do homework
– SLEEP!
– Wake up at 6:30am again and repeat!
Weekends are for catching up on school, hanging out with friends, and for relaxing.

Tell us about one of your favorite classes, and why it’s your favorite?
My favorite classes right now are my painting II class and my sculpture class. My painting class is fairly fast-paced has about 20 students in it. Sometimes we work on two paintings at once!

My sculpture class is just as fast paced; it also has about 20 students in it, which is a ton for a sculpture class. It can be a little challenging because sometimes we have to share power tools. I like to show up to class early and selfishly claim the best tools for myself. Part of what is so great about this class is that I learn how to use so many different tools in different ways. Right now I’m teaching myself how to carve into a tree truck with a chainsaw, it’s pretty cool!

painting studioMany people (including some parents) think that majoring in art is easy, with few demands on your time and abilities. How’d you like to dispel that misconception?
It is interesting how often people will say being an art major is “easy” – but then they take a studio class and they hate it because it’s “too much” work. With that being said an art major will take about three and sometimes a crazy four studio classes plus about two general education classes per semester. Each studio class is about three hours long, twice a week (sometimes three times a week) and you are expected to work at least an additional nine hours each week outside of class for each class. Being an art major might not be “hard” mentally, but it will be time-consuming. You can avoid all-nighters and rushing if you just use time management. I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds. Because you are doing what you love and are passionate about art, time seems to fly by. And, because art is already what you do in your free time it isn’t a chore to work on homework.

Are you involved in any on- or off-campus non-class activities?
I am involved in a church small group that meets once a week. Other than that I don’t have much time for anything else. However, I think it’s great to be involved in groups other than art! Adds culture and character to your work!

What’s your favorite place to eat off campus?
My favorite place is Fabians Deep Dish Pizza. I love pizza and this is literally the BEST pizza I have ever had. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Clearly you’ve thought about life after graduation. So what are you thinking, career-wise? You told me “being an art major is already a daring move.” I love that because it’s true yet your passion for it still comes through loud and clear. Have you considered an internship to help you “try out” one or two paths?
As of right now I am open to internships, but am unsure where to apply. I think internships are a great way to get involved with the “real world” and they would defiantly help with job opportunities.

Want to learn more about what Audrey’s up to? Make sure to check out her website and facebook pages. You can always find more up-to-date tips and information on our facebook and twitter pages.

 

Carnegie Mellon University: School of Design

Touring Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in autumn is a great idea. I was fortunate to visit last week when the trees were starting to sparkle in all their autumn glory.

This private university’s persona is larger than life, but its undergraduate student body is a very manageable 6200. I’ve toured the campus before, so got to focus on the College of Fine Arts this time around, meeting with representatives from the School of Design and the School of Art.

School of Design

School of Design

The School of Design (SOD) has a stellar reputation. I often recommend taking rankings with a grain of salt, but these you should consider. LinkedIn named the school Best for Designers (October 2014) and Design Intelligence named it among America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools (2015).

Steve Stadelmeier, SOD Associate Head, defines designers as those who build things for the greater good; things that help individuals and companies tell their personal stories. Whether it’s the car you drive, the Netflix shows you watch, the graphics of your favorite app, or the layout at your favorite clothing store – they’re all influenced and guided by designers, and they all help you tell your own, individual story.

sophomore communications students

sophomore communications students

At CMU students gain that knowledge through a unique and interactive structure that mirrors real life. Freshmen begin studying across three concurrent areas: Communication Design (graphics), Product Design (industrial design), and Environments (virtual and physical). Sophomores continue in two of the three, juniors narrow it down to one, and senior year unites the entire cohort as they apply what they’ve learned to services and social innovation. Here, the application of design moves from focusing on one item to a grand and global scale. A junior explained it this way: “If you design a lawnmower as a sophomore, then junior year you’ll address the yard and lawn chemicals. Senior year you’ll question, “How can we change the system?” (Ex: how can we water lawns more efficiently to improve water usage?)

junior product models

junior product models

This is a rigorous program; with class time divided approximately 60/40 between design classes and general studies courses. That ratio is typically found at small art and design schools across the country, not large universities. Also similar to art and design schools, SOD teaches a number of design-related general education classes. Examples include design and economics or design and anthropology.

Applications – through the Common App – are directed to the SOD itself, not the university. Portfolios are a required part of the process. Images can be uploaded through SlideRoom as well as delivered in person. Personal interviews aren’t required but are highly encouraged.

Accepted students are the lucky ones. Approximately 650 applied to the program last year, with 35 matriculating. Graduates earn a Bachelor of Design (BDes), and according to Mr. Stadelmeier, all graduate with a job.

Want to learn more about the SOD? Drop me a note or contact the school directly. Have a preference for the School of Art? Stick around. I’ll share what I’ve learned next week.