The Value of a College Tour

University of Michigan

Tour season is here. The snow has finally melted and families are eager to get outside, outside to explore campuses without all that snow. Colleges feel the same anticipation. Warmer weather brings spring flowers and students engaged in outdoor activities, resulting in picturesque scenes just as recruitment season kicks into gear for next year’s freshmen.

Those of you who regularly read my posts know what a strong proponent I am of touring colleges. Researching various programs and talking with admissions representatives are essential initial steps in the search process. However, they need to be followed up by a campus visit to determine if the fit is right. Nothing compares to setting foot on concrete and brick covered pathways, and through dorm and classroom building hallways.

Keeping that in mind, we all know that the costs associated with touring every campus your teen wants to explore can become exorbitant. Blame it on the Internet and the Common App; the times we live in encourage students to apply to numerous institutions. And often times, they seem to be scattered across the country.

College admissions personnel understand your predicament. That’s one of the reasons why more and more of them provide virtual tours through their websites. The tours are great tools, offering a realistic glimpse of campus.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.47.07 PMSCAD is striding even further down the path of virtual tours. They’re ahead of other colleges, but I’m sure that will soon change. The school now offers a virtual reality (VR) system to prospective students. They manufactured cardboard VR headsets which when hooked up to your cell phone provide an in-depth virtual tour from your own living room. Does your son want to attend SCAD’s campus in Hong Kong or LaCoste, France? No problem. Assemble your VR kit, hook it up and you’re there. It’s smart and cool.

I’m convinced this application will only expand in use among higher education institutions. It makes sense. Easing family stress during the college search process while enticing prospective students is a win-win. But please don’t let it replace a real visit if you can. VR tours are almost like being there.

While they do provide a realistic preview, VR tours – in any form – don’t provide the chance to interact with students in the hallways, to taste cafeteria food, and to actually feel that the campus culture and vibe is the right one for your teen.

My recommendation; traveling to college campuses during the early part of your search can be a valuable tool that helps your family understand the varied types of college campuses to choose from. Then, when its time to really make a decision, it can be the exclamation point on their search.

Want to learn more about the different types of campuses? I’ll address it in my next post. In the meantime, make sure to follow Art.College.Life. on facebook and twitter for all the latest news.

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

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.

Big Southern Charm

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is a large art and design school.  Try 8,000 students large.  And that’s just in Savannah.  SCAD also has campuses in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France.  With all that bigness you’d expect a lot of options, right?  Right.  The art and design school offers over 40 majors, including Furniture Design, Television Production and Equestrian Studies, and many are interchangeable throughout their four campuses.  That means you may be able to switch campuses without affecting your major.

So, what about quality of education?  Well, they must be doing something right.  DesignIntelligence ranked SCAD’s interior design program the top in the country this year – for undergraduate and graduate work.  In 2011 the Huffington Post named SCAD’s fashion design program number one in the country.  And to mix things up a bit, SCAD was the first art and design college to offer comprehensive intercollegiate athletics.  That means you can focus on your portrait and abstract painting courses as well as compete with the Lacrosse or Cross Country teams.

SCAD events are big as well.  Their signature event, the Savannah Film Festival, just celebrated its 15th year bringing famous filmmakers and actors to the city for interactive lectures, workshops and films.

The main campus is fully integrated into one of the largest and most well-known landmark districts in the country.  Downtown’s grid-and-park system, lined with beautiful live oaks, envelops students and visitors in southern charm.  The school has gone to great lengths to restore and renovate numerous historic structures into workable and livable contemporary spaces for SCAD students.  In fact the college’s first academic building, which started out as the Savannah Volunteer Guard Armory, was originally constructed in 1892.

Because the school is so well incorporated into the city there is not a well-defined campus with traditional grounds.  Consequently, student living is a bit scattered.  Most students live off-campus, outside of residence halls.

SCAD works on a rolling admission – that means you can apply pretty much all year long, and you won’t have to wait for a pre-determined date to find out whether or not you’re accepted.  They’ll let you know soon after you apply.  The bulk of applications are received in January and February.  Last year’s acceptance rate was 63%.

If you’d like to check out the place before you submit an application (which I highly recommend!), try to visit during their next “SCAD Day,” January 12, 2013.  It’s designed to be a full day of exploring and experiencing all the school has to offer.  If you can’t make the trip, call the school with any questions you may have.  Admissions representative and alum Corey Green was very helpful.  If everyone else is as enthusiastic about the school, you’ll be in good hands.

Anderson Hall: studio space for Foundation courses

What’s On Campus?

Resources matter, especially when considering which art school to attend.  So make sure you check out the gallery space available on campus.  Galleries give you the opportunity to view successful artists work up close and in person, as well as the chance to possible display your own creations.

Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Love Affair With Textiles

I was lucky to stumble upon Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Love Affair with Textiles, showing at Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s Bakalar & Paine Galleries during a recent visit.  As a textile artist, I loved it!  This British fashion designer has been crafting incredibly creative textiles and clothing since the 1960’s.  It’s well worth a visit.

Coincidentally, the Savannah College of Art & Design is currently showing Little Black Dress in the SCAD Museum of Art.  Curated by SCAD Trustee and Vogue Contributing Editor André Leon Talley, this fashion show focuses on you guessed it, that standard in every woman’s closet.  The show includes contributions from designers around the world as well as those of the Best-Dressed List.

Make sure to view the gallery space when you tour a school.  If you’re headed to Boston and Savannah check out Mass Art’s Love Affair with Textiles, open through December 1, 2012 and SCAD’s Little Black Dress, open through January 27, 2013 then traveling throughout the year.