Declaring A Major

Untitled by Daniel Well 2011 Foundations Exhibition

Untitled by Daniel Well
MICA 2011 Foundations Exhibition

Back in the day when I was a university student (go dawgs!), we didn’t need to declare a major until the end of sophomore year. That gave us plenty of time to try out different interests. For me, art history preceded textile design.

Expectations are different today; and programs vary. Some colleges require students to declare a major as part of the application process, while others offer a semester or two to decide.

I spoke with representatives from four art colleges and found four different approaches to the “when to declare” question. Foundation courses play an integral part of each methodology, providing students with additional exposure to 2-D, 3-D, 4-D and art history courses. Some colleges also engage freshmen in a choice of studio electives.

The College for Creative Studies (CCS) requires that students select a major with their acceptance into the college. Amy Armand, Director of Recruitment Services, explained that for undecided students “a semester of exploring often puts them a semester behind,” requiring scrambling to catch up. The good news here is that CCS readily provides counseling for the “best fit” for a major, based on each student’s portfolio, goals, and current work. That means you can still change majors once you’re on campus.

Pratt applicants also apply into a specific major. However, the college does accept “undecided” students. According to their website about 15 percent of students apply “undecided” each year. Michael Barry, Admissions Counselor and Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions, explained that some programs are larger than others, causing those who declare their major after starting classes might “get closed out due to space limitations.” An example: the Graphic Design program is larger than the Industrial Design one. If you want to declare ID after you’ve already enrolled, you can do it, but it may cause timing and class sequencing conflicts down the road.

According to Lucy King, Associate Director of Admissions, at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the first semester of freshmen year is pretty intense. It requires hard work in drawing, design and spacial dynamics, giving students experiences to self-discover “what makes sense and comes naturally, what comes as a struggle, and whether or not they enjoy that struggle.” Following that intense semester – in March of their freshmen year – RISD students declare their majors.

MassArt Foundations Class

MassArt Foundations Class

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) students experience a full year of foundation courses before needing to declare a major. The benefit? “Sometimes students think they know what they want to study, but change their minds,” explained Greg Bartlett, Admissions Assistant and MassArt alum. A year of exposure to multidimensional art and design helps confirm their passions and direction. I didn’t ask Greg, but maybe he knows from his own experience.

There are benefits to each system. By declaring a major at the onset, you’ll be able to jump right in, and immerse yourself at the beginning of your college experience. Conversely, if you’re not 100% sure of your direction, taking a bit of time to decide will expose you to other paths which you might not have previously considered. Also, keep in mind that each institution is unique, and has sound reasons for their curriculum structure. I don’t know that one philosophy is better than another; it’s what works best for you. My suggestion is to add this to your list of decision factors as you research your options.

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Graphic Design Programs To Consider

clif bar logoGraphic design impacts our lives on a daily basis. You might even call it the daily deluge. It’s a part Facebook and the morning trip to Starbucks, the billboards and ads for the local restaurant or hospital that we absorb on the way to school or work, that afternoon Clif Bar or CocaCola, the FedEx or Amazon package that arrives on our doorsteps, and the movie and TV credits that introduce us to our late-night entertainment. It sets a mood and entices us to try something new.

 Prospective graphic design students have a wealth of college and university programs to choose from across the country. Degrees come in a variety of shapes and sizes, at art colleges, liberal arts colleges, and large research universities. Program titles vary as well, and are not always straightforward. Communication Design, Visual Communications, and Design and Technology are just a few of the programs I found.

amazon-logoSo how do you differentiate between programs and institutions? One tool at your disposal is Graphic Design USA’s 50th anniversary survey about the industry. Just out in October, it’s a good resource for identifying top graphic design colleges. Even better, it also delves into the most influential graphic design firms in the country, as well as favorite graphics projects and logos over the past 50 years. Basically it’s a ton of graphics fun!

 The magazine surveyed 10,000 working design professionals to get their results. Some of the choices aren’t very surprising, but I like the range, from art colleges to some of the country’s top comprehensive institutions. Here are the top 10. I hope you’ll seriously consider the full list as well.

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

School of Visual Arts (SVA)

Art Center College of Design

Parsons The New School for Design

Pratt Institute

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

Yale School of Art

California College of the Arts (CCA)

SCAD Savannah College of Art and Design

Want more information? I blogged about Graphic Design last year as well; I hope you’ll take a look.

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College Financial Fitness: Why It Matters

money - bills 2An article in the August 13th issue of Forbes magazine highlights colleges in New York and New Jersey that are in need of a financial pick-me-up. Their “quick fix” solution is to set aside a week in June where prospective students can walk on campus with transcripts and SAT in hand, and enroll on the spot, often receiving a financial discount. A speedy admission process immediately raises enrollment numbers and financial coffers. It sounds like it’s all about the money.

So what gives? Called “tuition junkies,” these colleges are heavily reliant upon tuition and fees to make ends meet.  They follow a philosophy – which I’ve never understood – to raise prices along with every other school, but give deep discounts to attract freshmen. Hundreds of schools across the country follow this same addictive behavior. (Clearly our system of financing higher education needs an adjustment, don’t you think?)

Hidden somewhere in this up-and-down yo-yo are the real costs of attending college, something that consumers rarely see. That’s where Forbes stepped in.  They created Forbes College Financial Grades to measure the fiscal reliability and security of over 900 four-year, non-profit colleges across the country. Their research considered balance sheets, operational soundness, admissions yield, and more to try to get a true picture of the financial health and wealth of each college. Fewer than half of the schools they studied ranked an “A” or “B.” And the list of art schools comes up a little short, but here are the results in the top two categories. Keep them in mind when considering the fiscal soundness of your college choices.

Ranking

College

City

74

Cooper Union

NYC

90

Rhode Island School of Design

Providence

113

California  Institute of the Arts

Valencia

133

Cleveland Institute of Art

Cleveland

137

Minneapolis College of Art & Design

Minneapolis

242

Kansas City Art Institute

Kansas City

249

College for Creative Studies

Detroit

254

Art Center College of Design

Pasadena

288

The New School (Parsons)

NYC

309

Ringling College of Art & Design

Sarasota

336

Maryland Institute College of Art & Design

Baltimore

379

Moore College of Art & Design

Philadelphia

 

 

 

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Where Art and Science Meet

STEAM graphic.indd

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is one of the top institutions in the country to study art and design.  Saying the school is a leader is an understatement.

One of the institution’s more recent efforts has been to focus overdue attention on the arts as part of a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) dedicated education; turning STEM into STEAM. Many don’t realize the critical role art and design play in successfully integrating STEM into mainstream society.  Where innovation is concerned, it’s a symbiotic relationship.  Need an example? Think Steve Jobs and Apple.

Will Novosedlik is a passionate brand management consultant in Canada who recently wrote about the critical intersection where art and design collide with math, science and technology.  This collision is taking place on numerous campuses across the globe.  Read his blog, Post-Industrial Art School, and you’ll realize this collision is happening on art school campuses like RISD and Pratt, but also at less traditional and perhaps unexpected locales as well – like MIT.

What does it mean for you?

Creativity and innovation will play an increasingly essential role in our future.  If your interest is in studying art and design there are a lot of potential career paths you could walk, more than you might initially consider. There are also more places to obtain an art education than you might initially imagine.  So keep your eyes and your mind open.  If you’re passion lies at the heart of design and technology then look for schools that provide the opportunity to mesh the two.  That may be at a traditional art school – or maybe not.  If your top choice school isn’t shouting about an integrated arts – science program that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Don’t be shy; tell them about your interests and ask what type of collaboration is already in place or how open they are to new ventures.  Who knows?  You may help create a new opportunity for you and other interested students.

College News Update: 1/13

Want to keep up to date on the latest news from art programs across the country?  Me too!  From time to time I’ll post timely findings that I think are relevant.    Here’s what I’ve found this week – – –

school logoOn Tuesday, February 5th, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) will present its inaugural “Beyond RISD” lecture series.  The lectures are designed to create conversations around the work of RISD alumni, giving current students and the public at large the opportunity to explore a variety of creative career opportunities.  Each event is free-of-charge and open to the public.  The speaker line-up through April includes sculpture, painting and photography alumni.  Detailed information can be found at beyond.risd.edu.

In June 2013, the College of Visual Arts (CVA) in St. Paul, Minnesota will close its doors.   According to an article posted on Minnesota Public Radio, the school is closing primarily because of its “inability to meet financial and academic needs of its students.”  According to the article, the four-year art and design institution suffered from a deep drop in enrollment this past year.  Classes will continue through spring semester, with promises of financial aid met through the end of the academic year.   MPR reported that CVA has reached an agreement with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design to take in students who will be seniors next year.

Parsons logoParsons is returning to Paris!  In 1921 the (then) New York School of Fine and Applied Art initiated a Paris program.  Over the years the relationship waned and eventually ended, presenting Parsons with the opportunity to open a new Parisian campus.  This fall, the new campus will open its doors, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as study-abroad opportunities.  To learn more about it visit the Parsons Paris webpage.

logoThe San Francisco Art Institute’s (SFAI) Open Drawing Studio begins again this Friday, January 25th and runs through Friday, April 26th.  A well-known art resource in the Bay Area since the 1950’s, the free Open Drawing days let art students of all levels draw from a live model in a relaxed environment.  Open Drawing days are open to the public on the SFAI campus.  Details can be found on their website.

Savannah College of Art and Design is offering its SCAD Summer Seminars for rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.  Designed to offer prospective college students a sneak peek into what it’s like to pursue an art degree, this program consist of week-long workshops in a variety of artistic media and disciplines.  The admission requirements – including scholarship opportunities – are listed on their website.