7 New Year Resolutions Juniors Can Use

New-year-2016-imageThe start of a New Year always gets me energized. Perhaps it’s the idea of a clean slate, or more realistically what I didn’t accomplish last year that’s nagging me. Either way, turning the calendar page to a new beginning is an opportunity to refocus and start anew. Parents of high school juniors need to take this to heart: before this calendar year is out your teens will be applying to colleges, and making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. That sounds overwhelming and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The turn of the calendar also provides the opportunity to make a plan and focus on how you can keep your teen on task. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and if you guide your teen with reasonable and actionable goals they’ll reach the end of the school year feeling accomplished and on track. And, they’ll be a bit less stress and mayhem in your household. Here are some tips to get you both started:

  1. Junior year freak outKeep an eye on academics. There’s no doubt about it; junior year is tough. But to maximize opportunities, you’ll want to make sure you’re teen is stretching. That means taking – or on track to take – the most challenging courses in each academic area that she can. Grade point average is one of the most important factors that admissions representatives review when evaluating applicants. Honors and AP courses have weighted scores, which can help bring up GPAs.
  2. Not sure whether or not your teen is on target? Then make a date for a sit-down with your guidance counselor and learn your options. They are great resources.
  3. Paint, draw, sculpt, photograph, design, repeat. Building a portfolio is another top priority. The more your son creates now, the more his skills will improve. He’ll also have a larger selection of artwork to choose from when submitting his application portfolio.
  4. Plan ahead for standardized tests. If your teen hasn’t begun preparation for them yet, it may be crunch time. Prep tests and courses are ubiquitous. The new SAT debuts March 5th.
  5. Colleges also consider extracurricular activities. Has volunteering been a big part of your daughter’s life? Or has she worked through her high school years? Either way, colleges look for depth and consistency. Taking on leadership roles and positions shows dedication. Plan now for taking it up a notch during senior year.
  6. If you haven’t already started, make a plan for spring. It’s a great time for some serious college visits. The most optimal time to tour is when class is in session, i.e. not during their spring or summer break. But, realistically, that’s sometimes difficult. Information sessions and campus tours are invaluable tools for helping you better understand an institution, regardless of the time of year.
  7. Montserrat College of Art

    And if that’s not enough to keep you warm this winter, think summer! Summer college art and design programs, that is. Colleges will be posting their summer programs for high school students from now through April. Find your favorites, check back frequently, and book your slot quickly. The most coveted ones fill up fast.

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Decision Time For the SAT: In with the New or Stay with the Old?

Parents of high school students are most likely aware that changes are coming soon to the SAT. High school juniors and seniors especially need to be in the know. The last test date for the current SAT is January 23, 2016. In March, the new one takes over. Now is the time for strategic family conversations to either go with what you know or wait for the new version.

So what’s all the fuss about the switch? Plenty. For those who can take either, this isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. If your teen has already been studying with prep-tests and seems to have a feel for the type of questions asked, I’d opt for the current version. On the other hand if your family isn’t at that stage yet and can wait it out a few extra months, I’d most likely suggest going with the new version. Arguments can be made for both sides.

The College Board has two SAT sites now, one for the old, another for the new. And a recent New York Times article explains the abundance of changes.

Here’s the bottom line of what you need to know:

  • March 5, 2016, is debut day for the new SATstopwatch
  • The test consists of two sections now instead of three: Math, and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
  • Students won’t be penalized for guessing answers anymore
  • The new test requires a lot more reading – even in the math section
  • Archaic and obsolete language are out of the reading sections, current language is in
  • Math sections dive deeper into each subject area, and more advanced math from a greater number of courses is included. This may tip the scale towards taking the test later in high school
  • The essay will become optional, and relies more on reading and comprehension than in the past

The new SAT is heavily based on the Common Core curriculum. Translation: it’s centered on what students are actually learning in school now. Again, if you’ve got the time I’d research both before making a decision.

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Trending: Are the SAT & ACT Really Necessary?

Transitions come in all shapes and sizes, and they happen for a variety of reasons. First-grade morphs into high school, Uber has upturned the taxi business, and landlines have lost out to cell phones. Transportation and communication will never be the same. Perhaps moms and dads won’t either.

SAT-scantronThe major shift affecting colleges these days is the diminishing requirement of standardized tests as part of the application process. According to WAMU 88.5 more than 850 colleges and universities across the country don’t require SAT/ACT test scores to gain admission. And that number is growing.

That’s the sign of a definite trend. What the end result will be, no one knows. In the meantime, the beneficiaries are college applicants who excel in other areas but not necessarily in taking standardized tests.

If your creative teen falls into this category you might want to take a second look at colleges that are test-optional or test-blind. The former schools will consider an SAT/ACT test score if submitted, the latter won’t even look at them.

colored pencilsThe National Center for Fair and Open Testing has compiled a comprehensive list of colleges that don’t require a standardized test. The schools on it come in all shapes and sizes from small to large, art-centered programs to general institutions, and private colleges to state universities.

What does this mean for your teen? Options abound – all across the country.


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The Sophomore Slump: 4 Tips To Keep Your Visual Artist Focused In High School

Typically referring to college, the sophomore slump can just as easily take place in high school. Even though high school has become a familiar place for your teen, now is no time to chill out. Colleges take sophomore year efforts and grades seriously. Your budding artist should too. So, how do you ensure that your teen avoids a second-year slump? A little bit of focus goes a long way.

Maintain your attention on grades. Colleges consider high school coursework and grades more telling than anything in their selection process. That being said, take note of the classes your teen is taking. Is she stretching herself artistically and academically? The most advanced studio and non-studio classes all have prerequisites. Honors Drawing and Painting preclude Studio Art and Independent Study just as Global History precludes AP U.S. Government. Now’s the time to reassess and refocus to ensure your burgeoning designer is on task to achieve her goals. Your high school guidance counselor and art teachers can help tweak her schedule and focus if needed.

NY Times

NY Times

Get ready for the SAT. Those bedeviling proficiency tests are looming. Whether an art school or university is in your creative’s future, taking them is necessary, and now is the time to get practicing. The PSAT and PLAN provide your teen with an introduction to the SAT and ACT exams respectively. These “practice” tests deliver real value: they lessen fears by getting your teen acquainted with what is unfamiliar and they convey an idea of the score range your teen can expect in next year’s real exams. Additionally, the PSAT is used to determine National Merit Scholarship awards. The PSAT and PLAN are typically taken in October. Check with your college counselor to know when your tests will be offered.

sophomore-yearEngage with your teen. Discover what he wants to study in college and uncover the type of college experience he envisions. Is a BFA or a BA the desired end result? The decision will impact the type of school he chooses. Does he prefer a large campus experience with a diverse student body and non-stop activities or will he thrive best in an environment that breathes art and design 24/7? Visiting colleges will give you and your student a sense for campus life as well as begin to define preferences for size and location. Pick diverse colleges to visit, make a plan about when you’ll tour, and use those long car drives to discuss his likes and dislikes.

Portfolio prep (c) ashcan school

Portfolio prep (c) ashcan school

Focus on portfolio development. This should be a top priority throughout high school regardless of where your teen applies. Many programs don’t require a portfolio for admission, but you’ll want to be prepared for either option. Also, just like muscles, repeated development and practice of artistic skills will only strengthen them. Your teen should be working with high school art teachers and engaging in outside artistic opportunities to broaden his abilities. Here the adage “practice makes perfect” definitely applies.

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The SAT & ACT Go To Art School

SAT ACT pencilsThis past Sunday, The New York Times Education Life section focused on the college admissions landscape, and the changes occurring in and around standardized tests. According to the Times, ACT test takers are on the rise and, more than ever before, applicants are choosing to submit scores from both the SAT and ACT as part of their college submissions.

Naturally, this piqued my curiosity. I wondered what role the SAT and ACT play in the admissions process at an art college.

As a right-brainer myself, taking standardized tests was never my forte. However, the SAT and ACT analyze how you think. Consequently, they play a critical role in the college admission process. Bottom line: you still need to take them.

Some schools, like the Pacific Northwest College of Art and Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, don’t require either test, but they are in the minority. David Sigman, Director of Admissions for Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design put it this way: “We strongly encourage students to submit standardized test scores, if they are available, but only so that the student’s application file is as comprehensive as possible.” In other words, the SAT and ACT are an integral part of the process. They help tell the story of the whole student.

According to Dustin Liebenow, Director of Marketing Communications and Enrollment Management at Pratt, the average ACT score for incoming freshmen is 26/27. The average SAT verbal and math score combined is 1200. Dustin summed up what I found at most other top art schools that require standardized scores; there is no minimum score threshold nor a preference for which test is submitted. Schools consider test scores along with the rest of each student’s application.

SAT ACT signageAnalytical thinking skills are a critical component to an artistic education. In order to succeed in any classroom students need to be able to objectively scrutinize what is being taught, whether in a studio setting or a liberal arts environment. “Professors want their students to succeed in the classroom,” explained Densil Porteous, Director of Admissions at Columbus College for Art & Design (CCAD). “Ability, portfolios, academic competencies and how students present themselves are all considered.” CCAD Assistant Director of Outreach and Recruitment Thom Glick explained further that standardized scores are reviewed with GPA and letters of recommendation in the academic section of an application. Portfolios make up the creative component.

Taryn Wolf, Director of Undergraduate Admission at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) got into the scoring details for me. At MICA, where the average ACT of enrolled students is up to 28 this year, the school considers individual ACT “sub-scores” and SAT “super-scores” for whichever test is submitted. What are sub- and super-scores? Consider them the parts that make up the whole, (a 580 in Math on the SAT or a 32 in English on the ACT). The benefit is if you take a standardized test multiple times and score higher in different areas each time, you can submit all your tests and the college will use the highest and best component scores. Yes, it means taking the test multiple times, but the end result is a win-win.

None of the schools I contacted could tell me whether they’ve actually seen a rise in ACT over SAT submissions, nor did any of them mention a rise in applicants submitting both tests. However, they all agree the exams are valuable. Even the colleges that don’t use them when considering admissions find them helpful when considering scholarship opportunities.

So what does the future look like in the world of the ACT and SAT? Changes are afoot for both. 12 states now require (and pay for) their public high school juniors to take the ACT. I’m guessing more will follow. And, beginning in 2015, students will be able to take the ACT on-line. The folks at College Board, managers of the SAT, are making changes as well. They say “the heart of the revised SAT will be analyzing evidence.” Stay tuned.

If you’re at all like I was, taking these structured tests can seem daunting. Remember that even though they’re necessary, they are only one part of your application picture. With a strong portfolio and dedication to your academic grades, you’ll end up at a great school and be able to pursue an education in the world of art.

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