Searching for the Best College Fit

This past week I had the pleasure of participating in Bexley High School’s College Awareness Night, an event devoted to answering questions about college for teens and parents. During the evening, I led a wonderful discussion on the College Search Process for the Visual Arts. Our conversation focused on getting organized, identifying options and resources, and planning ahead for a successful search.

A few of the questions I answered included:

  • What are the differences between an arts college and a liberal arts college?
  • Can you explain what goes into a portfolio?
  • How do I determine which are the best art programs for my teen?

It was an energetic and engaging discussion.

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Where are you in your search process? Are you feeling like you don’t know where to begin? Are you confused and overwhelmed in the midst of your teen’s search? Are you trying to compare multiple creative programs, or perhaps trying to understand the portfolio process?

If you answer “yes” to any of the above, give me a call. I’ll help you understand what decisions need to be made, alleviate some of the stress of your search, and help your family develop a plan to find the best college fit for your teen.

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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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Art and Business at a Liberal Arts College

smart car 2

Smart Car

It’s difficult to find a school that combines the study of art and business for you.  It can be done, but requires time and dedication. I’ve been researching art programs at both large and small colleges across the country for a while now, and am still surprised to find how few opportunities exist for art students who want to enhance their studies with business courses.  As I referenced in an earlier post, we live in the age of iPhones, Smart Cars and ergonomic seating; the intrinsic value of combining design and business seems like it should be obvious. If you’re looking to merge the two in college, there are two paths to choose from; an art school or liberal arts institution.

The decision to attend a private liberal arts college or state university might seem like the easier road to combining art and business, but buyer beware. General studies institutions are typically larger, and offer a wider variety of introductory and even advanced business classes to integrate into your schedule. However – and this is important – attending a larger school doesn’t always solve the problem.  Here’s why. Even though a university offers business courses, that doesn’t mean they’ll be easily accessible to you. When signing up for classes, wherever you attend college, priority is always given to upperclassmen and to those majoring in that subject area, i.e. students who need the course to graduate. Some schools will open business classes to students who are non-business majors, but due to popularity the classes often fill up fast and you’ll have limited time to take them. The take away: even though a university may offer more business classes, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get into the ones you want. Unfortunately, that’s the hard truth.

Don’t get me wrong, studying art at a liberal arts institution is an excellent place to gain an arts education. That’s where I did it! Yet, unless you’re seriously considering double majoring, I wouldn’t choose one based on their business listings alone.

So, how do you overcome being locked out of those classes you want to take? Do your homework now. Talk with the admissions representatives and ask the difficult questions; “how realistic is it that I can seriously integrate business courses with my art degree?” And “what classes will be open to me?” Then, once enrolled, work with your college advisor to ensure you’ll get the classes you want. There are no guarantees, but doing your homework before you’ve committed to a school will give you a clearer picture of the environment before classes even begin.

Art schools are a different story all together. They don’t offer a lot of business courses. Some list general marketing and business overview classes while others provide professional practice classes specific to each major. Once again, each school is different, so you’ll need to do some digging to find out how each one is set up.

I’ve found some winning offerings at four art schools across the country; CCAD, OTIS, SCAD and Ringling. I don’t want my posts to go on too long, so I’ll give you the details of what makes them stand out over the next two weeks.