How Artists Can Find a Meaningful Summer Experience

art-splattered-resumeBuilding a resume for college can seem overwhelming. Many parents become confused with the vast expectations put upon them and their college-bound teens. What should my teen focus on? Should she prioritize grades and test scores above all else? Should he allocate extra time to his art? What about extra-curricular activities, volunteering or work?

The seemingly endless questions could make you hyperventilate with anxiety but don’t. Taken one step at a time; there is value is each of these activities but it isn’t necessary for your teen to have them all. Admissions representatives repeatedly will tell you that grades, test scores, and a portfolio top the list. Yes, they want well-rounded teens who have been exposed to a variety of experiences, but they also favor students who are focused and purposeful in their endeavors and accomplishments.

With those confusing requirements in mind consider summer as an opportunity, a great time for your teen to further explore his passion for the visual arts while building his resume. Numerous summer opportunities exist for high school artists who want to explore their creative passions and expand their skill set while working, volunteering, or attending a pre-college program. Any of those experiences will positively impact a resume.

Pre-college Summer Programs

School of Visual Arts dorm room

School of Visual Arts dorm room

I’m a big fan of pre-college summer programs. They provide a wealth of opportunities. Teens typically live on campus, giving them a true taste of college life while they experiment with artistic approaches that are different from those they’ve practiced in high school classes. Instructors, who are working artists, can become mentors. More importantly, they provide a window into the real world of creative careers.

The downside to pre-college programs is that they fill up quickly. And, they can be expensive, at roughly $2,000-$6,000 for a two-to-eight week experience. Other options are available but will vary; mostly depending on which art form your teen is interested in pursuing.

Off-campus 

Disney's Fish Hooks

Disney’s Fish Hooks

So how does your teen prepare otherwise? For many majors the recommendation is the same, “draw, draw, draw.” Diana Lafyatis, children’s comedy director and writer for Nickelodeon’s Harvey Beaks and Disney’s Fish Hooks, and animation alum of the Art Center College of Design echoes that sentiment. “In animation, there is a heavy emphasis on drawing from life.” Her recommendation? “Bring along a sketchbook with you everywhere you go and continually draw the people and places you see.” It’s an excellent way to gain confidence in a skill set. The additional benefits are that many colleges encourage submitting sketchbooks as part of the portfolio application, and they want to see drawings specifically from observation not just what’s in your head.

Jaclyn Didas, RIT grad student

Jaclyn Didas, RIT grad student

Anne Holman, jeweler, and owner of The Smithery is a former college teacher herself. She’s experienced first hand how “translating a 2D drawing into a 3D piece of jewelry can be a challenge.” She suggests tapping into the programming at a local community center or even a local organization’s workshops in jewelry, sculpture, or 3D design to get over that hurdle.

Jane Lewis is a textile designer who began her craft drawing prints by hand but then quickly moved into digital design. Her recommendation for those serious about designing anything in print is two-fold. “Focus on your design and color skills in whatever medium you love – digital, watercolor, pastel, drawing, etc.” Then, if you don’t have the skill set already, make sure to learn graphic software such as Photoshop and Illustrator. “Even a base understanding of the tools in these programs will give you a huge leg up,” she added.

STACKED CUPS - WELLIE'S [Converted]Separate from making art, students can maximize their summer experiences learning about a specific field of interest. Examples include shadowing, interning, or volunteering. Students can reach out to intern at a local advertising agency, shadow a team at a fashion magazine, or approach an art gallery or photographer about volunteer work.

In-depth learning, experience, and exploration can be found via numerous avenues. Whether on campus or not, the idea is to focus on increased knowledge and skill development. At summer’s end, your teen will have a better understanding of future college and career goals, and she’ll have added one more thing to include in her resume.

@Pre-College: 8 Tips To Find The Best Summer Arts Program

Temple University, Tyler School of Art

Summer seems a long way off. Especially since the first real snow is just beginning to accumulate outside my window. Yet, even with snowflakes falling, this is the time to put a summer plan in motion for your artsy teen.

I realize that warm summer months are the perfect time for downtime. But getting into top college programs is competitive; a summer program can further your teen’s artistic skills and resume while simultaneously giving him a real taste for college life.

What should you and your teen look for as you search for the best college fit in a pre-college program? Here are just a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Syracuse University Senior Fashion Show: Lailee Waxman

    Syracuse University Senior Fashion Show: Lailee Waxman

    Programs vary in length between one – six weeks.

  • Some colleges limit their summer programs to rising juniors and seniors.
  • Many institutions will count pre-college courses towards college credit. But make sure to inquire even if your teen matriculates elsewhere; some courses are transferable.
  • Some colleges require campus residency over the summer while others don’t provide campus housing at all. The latter means living at home or finding another residence.
  • Most pre-college courses have spring deadlines. So don’t wait until the snow melts to do your research.
  • And speaking of deadlines, if you’re looking for a financial aid to help cover the costs, keep your eyes open to scholarship application deadlines. They often have different deadlines.
  • When totalling up your costs make sure to consider tuition, housing, meal plan, fees, and supplies. Supply costs vary by course.
  • Health and other campus services are typically available just like during fall – spring school terms. Residence hall and academic advisors are available as well. Recreation and other facilities are open.

Attendance at a specific summer program is no guarantee that your aspiring artist will be accepted in the fall. However, it will provide a substantial leg up by delivering a college-level challenge, building strengths and skills, contributing to a future portfolio, and providing the opportunity to connect with a professor – who could possibly write a reference letter when its application time.

I’ve listed a few great art and design programs to get your search started. Good luck! And let me know where you end up –

CCAD
RISD
SCAD
Syracuse University
Temple University (Tyler School of Art)

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Pre-College Art Programs: Sign Up Now!

Programs-high-school-

KCAI

I’m all about soaking up summer’s warmth and long leisurely days. To me, they are the best. However, summer is also a great time to get out and explore. It’s meant for traveling (touring a college or two), and for building up your artistic teen’s skills outside of the walls of high school. That’s why I highly recommend pre-college summer art programs.

Pre-college programs provide the chance for aspiring artists and designers to:

  • Sharpen their skills,
  • Enhance their portfolio,
  • Explore new mediums,
  • Gain a fresh perspective,
  • Meet other teens with similar aspirations, and
  • Get a real taste of campus life.

That’s a lot!

Residential and commuter programs take place across the country, typically lasting from one – six weeks. Consider those in your neighborhood or out-of-town for that first “living on campus” experience. You know; dorm food, roommates, etc.

MCAD

MCAD

Make sure to inquire about earned college credit when its application time. Here’s a wide mix to get you started on your search:

College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI

California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA

Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, OH

SUNY Purchase, Purchase, NY

RIT College of Imaging Arts & Sciences, Rochester, NY

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
Email: DAAPCamps@uc.edu for deadlines and information

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What do professors look for in a potential student?

Grit - Running up stairsWhile researching the variety of art colleges and programs across the country I get the opportunity to talk with a lot of admissions professionals and professors. From size to location and focus, they all share the same goal of guiding their students as they become productive and successful artists and designers. While each program is unique, they employ similar methodologies to reach their goals and objectives. One objective they share is to begin each school year with a class of motivated students.

Why? Research has shown that those who are motivated – driven and passionate about their path of study – will be the most successful in the long run. In today’s vernacular, “grit” is the term you hear most often.

Whether you call it motivation, passion, drive, or something else entirely, it turns out that grit greatly matters. Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth has researched the subject extensively, and she shared her observations about the connection between grit and success at a TedTalks Education forum in April of last year.

Are you passionate about your art? If so, then make sure those at the colleges you apply to can see it. We all know that the things we’re motivated about are those we spend more time on. Put time and dedication into your work now. Search beyond your classroom projects to find opportunities to expand and challenge yourself. Your portfolio will be richer for it, and your investment will pay off when it’s time to apply to college.passion-wordle-1

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Benefits Of A Summer Program

Ringling College of Art & Design

Ringling College of Art & Design

I’d like to tell you that spring is in the air, but honestly I’m just not feeling it. Snow is all around and there isn’t a crocus or daffodil in sight. But spring and even summer should be on your mind because now is the time to plan for a pre-college art or design summer program.

During June, July and August, large and small colleges across the country offer one – to – six week opportunities for high school students to become immersed in a creative collegiate experience.  Depending upon the institution, courses can range from life drawing or game design, to fashion, photography, and portfolio development.

The benefits are tremendous. Here’s your chance to learn from working artists while you gain new skills, find a new passion, and gain a clearer understanding of college-level work.  Grow as an artist while you work on your portfolio and live among like-minded artisans.

I’ve listed a few programs to jump-start your research. While doing your own exploration I hope you’ll keep these key points in mind:

  • On-campus living opportunities vary from program to program.
  • Some summer programs offer college credit.
  • Many programs have a minimum age requirement of 16.
  • Application, financial aid, and scholarship deadlines vary by institution.

Time spent in an intensive summer program will prove to be a worthwhile experience as you plan for your transition to college. I hope you take the time to research some options close to home, and a little further away. Let me know what you find, and where you end up.

Columbia College, Chicago, Illinois

Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, Washington

Ringling College of Art & Design, Sarasota, Florida

University of Cincinnati, DAAP, Cincinnati, Ohio

University of Michigan, Stamps School of Art & Design, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Cooper-Union

Cooper-Union

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