Creative Kid College Coach

CKCC blog

College Admissions Scandal

In light of the recent developments in college admissions, I wanted to reiterate that there are many of us in the profession who love our jobs specifically because we see so many talented students finding their way to a college that is just right for them.

As a reminder of how seriously those of us in the profession take our responsibility to ethically perform our jobs, I wanted to share a link to a press release issued by HECA, the Higher Education Consultants Association that I am proud to be a member of.  


Here is an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that addresses the importance of our Code of Ethics: Why Is a College-Admissions Code of Ethics Such a Big Deal?

College Tours and Demonstrated Interest for Visual and Performing Arts Students

I sat down to write this blog with the idea that I would make a strong pitch about the importance of making the most out of your college tour. With so many Class of 2020 students hitting the road during their upcoming spring breaks, I wanted to make a strong case for doing your research before you step foot on campus.

Before I get to my pitch for all students to plan trips with the goal of finding out which school has what they are looking for, I need to address the elephant in the room – the oft-repeated question of “What do I need to do to get in?” Followed by, give me the list of schools that have published in the Common Data Set where demonstrated interest is very important. (To view admissions data and other information, Google the name of the college followed by  “Common Data Set”) To me, the only valid question is “Who has want I am looking for?”

For my students who want to study the visual or performing arts, it is essential that they gain exposure to the culture of the school, the faculty that they feel could mentor them and the student work that the department produces. This is where it can be beneficial to visit a school, tour the campus, and meet with the department. For musicians, school visits are an opportunity to take a sample lesson from a faculty member. However, don’t use the lists of schools that value demonstrated interest as your guide for where to visit. And, do not decide to wait to tour schools once you have been accepted. My reasons are quite simple:

  1. If you tour a school, even an Ivy (Ivies state that they do not count demonstrated interest), this is your chance to understand why you want to apply. If you have identified a professor whose work you admire, you can try to meet with them, or simply stop by their office hours. This type of activity will fuel your response on your application as to why you want to study in their program. A student of mine who was interested in the intersection of art and science identified a professor whose work was focused on this topic. She met with the professor while on campus and was later offered admission. This was a school that admits only 5% of its applicants. I don’t know if her connection made a difference; this school states that they do not count demonstrated interest. However, I think it is clear that when asked why she wanted to attend, her answer resonated with them.

  2. Touring a school before you apply is critical to confirm that you may want to apply Early Decision. Applying ED to a school, you have not visited is a very poor decision that I do not recommend. Would you buy a house that you have never seen?

  3. When you interact with students on campus, this is a far better way to get a sense of the type of student you will come in contact with once you are there. Do you like the students? Do they seem engaged? Happy to be there? Welcoming? Believe it or not, the culture and environment of a school will have a significant impact on your ability to know if a school is the right fit for you.

  4. Visiting a variety of schools:  larger public universities, smaller private schools, conservatories, and institutes is the best way to understand the options you will have for pursuing the arts as an undergraduate. If you can visit your top three or four schools that will help you to be a more informed applicant.

Now, I appreciate that not all students have the means to fly around the country and visit schools. Don’t worry, as there are many important ways to not only show demonstrated interest but also gain valuable information about a school from the comfort of your couch. Many schools participate in local college fairs, and you can fill out a card for them to scan when you meet them at the fair. You can sign up to meet admissions counselors when they visit your high school. Forming a relationship with your local rep is valuable and will prove helpful as questions arise during your application process. You can ask to meet with alumni who live near you. You can go to the school’s website and fill out a form to receive emails from them. You can subscribe to the online version of the school newspaper. You can take online tours that are often found on the college’s website.

My next blog is one that you will want to take a look at as it will give you a list of questions that I think you should ask admissions counselors when touring. And, if you can’t tour, use that list to help you with your online research or posing questions to your local rep.

Resources mentioned in this blog post:

On the state of college admissions (National Association for College Admission Counseling; NACAC)

Virtual College Tours (YouVisit)

Schools Where Determined Interest Is Important

Sample Questions to ask Admissions Counselors or Program Directors

I have written about the importance of determining which schools have what you are looking for in a program. The following questions can be used while on campus touring or as a guide for online research. In any case, these questions are my way of reminding you that you are the customer and the colleges need to demonstrate that they are keeping up with industry trends while also providing a deep and rigorous education.

  1. Who are the instructors?  What is their background and industry experience?  

  2. What is the student-faculty ratio?

  3. What programs are available in my area of interest?  What types of courses are offered?

  4. How difficult is it for students to register for required courses?

  5. How flexible is the curriculum?  Can I design my own program? Can I take classes outside of my major?

  6. What percentage of your students return after their freshman year? Sophomore year?

  7. Can the student sit in on a freshman class when they visit the school?

  8. What are the admissions requirements: Standardized tests?  Portfolios? Essays? Interview? Letters of recommendation?  Does the school offer financial aid and merit scholarships?

  9. Does the school provide all of the necessary equipment needed for the student to learn and work in their field?  Are there enough studio and/or rehearsal spaces and adequate resources for the students?

  10. Who are their students?  How many undergraduate vs. graduate students are there?

  11. Does the school offer opportunities to study abroad?

  12. Does the school invite industry members to talk to classes about their fields?

  13. Does the school provide a list of recent graduates, where they are working and/or provide access to current students or graduates for opinions of the school and program?

  14. Does the school have an ongoing advisory board with industry members to help review course materials and changes to the industry?

  15. Are career services offered to help students develop the knowledge, experience and skills to build and sustain a professional practice and become successfully employed?

  16. Does the school promote their graduates to the industry through organized interviews, student showcases, etc.?  Is there a system in place where industry members are given an opportunity to interview graduates?

  17. What percentage of graduates goes immediately to work in their field?  What percentage goes on to graduate school?

College Application Organizers: Build Your List and Organize Your Applications
Organizer image.png

If I could only give one piece of advice to students applying to visual and performing art programs, it would be a simple choice: “get organized.” This advice applies to every aspect of the college application process. Researching colleges with the right fit and curriculum requires organization, but even before you can commit to that investigation you have to dedicate time to discovering schools that have the majors you want. Then comes the biggest organizational challenge of all - taking that list and finding out exactly what you need to do in order to complete your application.

That’s why we’re happy to announce a new product in our lineup - the Application Organizer.  The average visual and performing art student is seeking the answer to many questions a conventional student isn’t. It isn’t simple to find this information, much less keep track of it. These students need to know: What schools have the major I want? How many pieces can go in my portfolio? What monologues or songs do I need to perform at my audition? Is there a prescreen or an additional profile I have to fill out? Are my deadlines the same as other applicant’s? And that’s in addition to knowing the basic requirements for essays, letters of recommendation and standardized tests.

We’ve spent years collecting this information about dozens of schools for a number of disciplines. We update these lists every year with new schools we’ve come to love and the latest requirements for that application cycle. For the first time ever we’re making that information available to the public. Each organizer has anywhere from 20 to 60 schools and tells you everything that school requires you to submit. You'll know deadlines (which are often different from the main school deadlines), portfolio or audition requirements, standardized testing options, as well as the number of essays and letters of recommendation. We cover a wide variety of schools, from the usual suspects to hidden gems in that discipline. You can discover schools that align directly with your needs and goals while ensuring you know exactly what to do to apply to them. All of this information is in one location, easy to access, and is updated periodically throughout the admission season.

Getting organized is absolutely vital, but it doesn’t have to be a headache. You can benefit from our legwork and years of expertise. Find out more about our Application Organizers here.

Creative KCC Introduces our Summer Pre-College Program Spreadsheets

A good pre-college program offers a variety of benefits. Students can gain college-level training in their chosen discipline or exposure to a practice they’re unfamiliar with. They also make connections with faculty and working artists while they collaborate with students from all over the country. Perhaps most importantly, they get to try out a major or area of study and feel what it would be like to be in that program. We recommend that all of our students, regardless of discipline, attend a pre-college program. It’s not only one of the best ways for students to fill knowledge gaps, learn new skills or further develop their portfolio, but also to experience what it’s like to be a college student. Whether they come back excited about what they studied, or determined to change direction entirely, a few weeks of summer is a small amount of time to invest for a big pay off.

Admittedly, not all summer programs provide an equal benefit. It can be tough to know which programs are worth your time and money. We’ve added a product to our lineup that is designed to help students and their families learn more about the options. We provide recommendations tailored to the student’s artistic needs, age, and academic interests. We maintain a comprehensive list of summer pre-college programs for every discipline our students practice: fine art, digital art and design, product design, fashion, film, screenwriting, acting, musical theater, technical production, creative writing and dance. Students fill out a short questionnaire, and then we craft a custom spreadsheet with our recommendations. The spreadsheet includes a full description of the program and what we like about it, why it would be a good fit for the student, as well as application requirements, deadlines, and cost. Armed with information about a variety of choices, students and their families can take charge of their summer and make sure they’re using the time wisely.  

Summers are the best time for students to expand their knowledge base and gain new experiences that will help to clarify their goals for their college education. Like everything else about the college process, deciding what to do with your summer is all about making informed decisions. The Summer Pre-College Spreadsheets will launch in the next few days.

Take the first step towards making your own informed decisions and check out our summer pre-college spreadsheets here!

Jack Ma on Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
Click the image to watch on the World Economic FaceBook page

Click the image to watch on the World Economic FaceBook page


We’ve written extensively on the benefits of an education in the arts. It was the subject of Harriet’s Dare 2B Digital talk in 2014, and it’s often the first conversation we have with students and their families. The question, “what kind of future do artists have?” is fraught with concerns about the fate of both art and work amidst the impact of advances in technology. If you’ve read our other posts, seen Harriet speak, or sat in a room with us for longer than 2 seconds, you probably know what we're about to say. 

An education in the arts teaches students invaluable skills: creative problem solving, collaboration, resourcefulness, leadership, resilience, empathy - to name a few.  These are vital skills that set creative students apart in a rapidly changing economy, and we’re not the only ones who think so. Proponents of an arts-based education exist in unlikely places. Perhaps most importantly, many jobs currently available to college graduates didn't exist 5 years ago, and more jobs and opportunities requiring new skills are being created across our international economies.

Last week at the World Economic Forum, Jack Ma, the founder of one of the largest tech companies in the world, fielded a question about how to deal with job losses due to automation. As the head of Alibaba, China’s answer to Amazon and a company that is making strides in AI, Mr. Ma has been a vocal source on the subject. But the way he answered was radical and unexpected.

“If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now we’ll be in trouble. The things we teach our children are things from the past 200 years - it’s knowledge-based. And we cannot teach our kids to compete with machines, they are smarter.”

Ma goes on to say that instead, we should be teaching kids values and skills that no machine can possess. Qualities like "independent thinking, teamwork, and care for others" will not just set students apart, they will ensure students can be valuable contributors to society in ways that make them irreplaceable. And how does Jack Ma think we can impart that kind of knowledge?

“I think we should teach our kids sports, music, painting - the arts - to make sure that they are different. Everything we teach should make them different from machines.”

We couldn’t agree more. It’s true that you can’t teach people to compete with robots, but you can expose them to disciplines that give them the skills to do what machines can’t. Luckily for us and the creative students we get to work with every day, there's almost no better way to learn those skills than through an arts-based education. 

To see Jack Ma’s full answer to the question, watch the unedited version of his interview below:

CreativeKCC Introduces New College Counseling Assistance Products

The process of applying to college visual and performing art programs is complicated and fraught with many decisions and barriers. More often than not these barriers arise just because people don’t understand all of the requirements, or how students are assessed by art programs. It can be difficult to find the correct information and then make the best decision, and the cost can be anything from missed opportunities to missed deadlines. 

Here at Creative Kid College Coach we’re constantly working to provide the newest information and most comprehensive support to our students. However, we recognize that it’s difficult for all families in this situation to find helpful resources, and as much as we’d like to, we just can't work with every single student that comes our way. That’s why we’ve revamped our website to include a variety of products and services designed to expand access to college counseling that is tailored to the needs of creative students. 

We have three new video and document packages that were made to give you a comprehensive guide to applying to visual and performing art programs. Together they provide a detailed overview of the application process and break down some of the most common components. In our first free video, Harriet Katz, the head of Creative KCC, gives a broad explanation of how to apply to visual and performing arts programs. She covers a variety of topics, everything from how to begin researching schools to practical tips for applying to majors in digital, fine and performing arts. You’ll find out when to start, what you need to know to prepare yourself, and most importantly, you’ll become aware of all-too-common pitfalls.

In our second tutorial, Harriet walks you through our detailed guide on how to make a visual arts portfolio. She gives examples and practical suggestions for different programs ranging from fine arts to film and fashion, along with comprehensive tips for documenting the work. More importantly, Harriet explains how to use the "Additional Comments" section of Slideroom to discuss technique and concept so that admissions counselors understand essential context about your work. Once you’ve put together a memorable visual profile, she shows you how to craft an artist statement that is proof of your ability to communicate your ideas and support your enthusiasm for your artistic practice. Her advice along with our thorough questionnaire helps you identify your unique point of view, influences and skill set, and then describe them in a way admission counselors will connect with and remember.

Of course, we also give students and parents the opportunity to request one-on-one counseling with Creative Kid College Coach as they go through the college application process. We work intensively with High School Juniors and Seniors on all aspects of college program selection, applications, essays, auditions, and portfolios.

The journey to an arts education doesn’t have to be fraught, but you do need to equip yourself with the right tools. Check out all of our tutorials here, and best of luck!

What college admissions officers are really looking for . . .

Students and parents never stop asking for the definitive list of what will "get them in." At Creative Kid College Coach, we believe that the most authentic and thorough explanation of your passion and creativity is what will ultimately help you to be a successful applicant. Read this blog for more thoughts on "getting in."

Now that got your attention, didn’t it? Thought you were finally going to Google that ultimate checklist of what to do to make sure you get in? I am here to give you another sort of checklist.

How about: How to apply to the schools that are right for me? That could also be phrased as: How to be fairly confident they will admit me? Well, here is my list:

1. No one thing will “get you in.” Stop worrying right now about the perfect essay, the most impressive monologue or the most gorgeous portfolio.
2. In everything you submit, stay as true to your personal message as possible. The combination of an honest essay, your work and your stated goals should provide the most complete picture of who you are for the admissions committee to consider.
3. Use your application to paint a broad picture of who you are. One thing like your GPA or your test scores won’t be the deciding factor of whether you are in or out.
4. Bring something extra to the table. Show them, tell them, and make sure they understand what unique quality you possess. This type of information is an important component of helping the school to understand “why them?” “Why their program?” “Why do you belong there?
5. A strong letter of recommendation from a teacher or someone who knows you well can make a difference. The most important thing is not particularly who sent it, but what it says about you and your ability to succeed at their school.
6. Want to be absolutely certain you will get in? Then, apply to the RIGHT schools. What that really means is: do your homework, visit the school, educate yourself and know exactly why this is the right place for you. Nine times out of ten, they will agree with you. Better yet, have several of these “great fit” options ready so that if the whims of the admissions counselor work against you, those same whims are likely to work in your favor somewhere else.

An underlying streak of insubordination and truculence, combined with a desire to take the most difficult possible courses at the most advanced level (which will result in often mediocre grades, or even failure), all leavened with a profound, gentle skepticism and sense of irony, will forge a student’s character far better than conforming to what admissions counselors want, seek, or think.— A.T. Lineower-Jones

Preparing for Your College Tours

Visiting a school is really a 2-way street. It does send a message to a college that you are interested. It also gives you a chance to visualize being a student on that campus. Time and again I am surprised by the visceral responses students have to different school environments. Too big? Too remote? Not urban enough? Not enough places to eat late at night? I have had students make their final decision about a school based on what they ate during their visit! Here is a brief checklist of things to consider:

  1. Do you like the physical environment? How big is the campus? How many students?
  2. Do you like the academic environment?
  3. Do you like the social environment?
  4. Are there financial aid considerations that you should keep in mind when looking out of state or at private school options?
  5. What type of access will I have to studio, performance or production space?
  6. How many students drop out or transfer after their freshman year?
  7. When I visit can I meet someone in a particular department? Is there a current student I can talk to?

Here is how you can be prepared when you tour:

  1. Do your research. Identify courses and professors who are of interest to you.
  2. Plan your questions. Do not ask something you could easily find on their website. Do ask about research opportunities, internships and career counseling.
  3. Make an appointment with a faculty member. Do not just “drop by.” Set up an appointment with a faculty member you have identified.
  4. If Admissions offers “optional” interviews, you should try to schedule an appointment when you are on campus. This will provide an opportunity for you to show your interest in the campus by discussing what you have researched.
  5. If you do not have a scheduled appointment with a faculty member in your department, make sure to either schedule a tour of that specific department or if those are not offered, stop by and introduce yourself to someone in the office.
  6. Inquire as to whether you are able to sit in on a class. Some schools are happy to let you do so.
  7. Pick up a copy of the student newspaper while you’re on campus. It generally offers an uncensored take on the issues facing students and the college as a whole.
  8. Walk around campus and talk to students. Ask them about their experience with registering for classes, the dorms, student support services and anything else they want to talk to you about. Most students who see someone touring the campus on their own are happy to stop and talk about their life on campus.

Be creative in how you schedule tours to make the most of your time and cut down on travel expenses. Do not just show up on campus. Registering for an official campus tour is important and will put you in their “system.” Don't miss out on this important opportunity to discover if a particular school and program has what you are looking for!

Summer Programs in Acting and Musical Theatre by Robynne O'Byrne

Hey Juniors! If you are seriously considering applying to college for acting or musical theatre, now is the time to start thinking about doing a summer theatre program. The vast majority of kids who are accepted into the top acting and musical theatre programs have participated in at least one rigorous summer program. Attending one of these programs offers you several benefits.

- Many of the more competitive summer programs offer serious training by experienced faculty. Often the faculty come from BFA programs at colleges around the country. By participating in a summer program you can receive excellent training around monologue work, acting, voice and dance technique and audition preparation.

- Some of the programs are offered at universities with strong BA or BFA programs. Attending one of these programs can give you a good sense of the program at the school in which it is offered. For example, UCLA has a summer program that is staffed by the UCLA faculty. Students attending the UCLA summer program have an opportunity to learn a great deal about the program as well as to become familiar with the faculty. The faculty also has a chance to become familiar with you, which can be an advantage when you’re auditioning down the line (if you made a good impression that is!).

- Many summer programs allow you to meet faculty from different BFA programs across the country. You can get exposure to many different teaching styles and learn a great deal about the programs in which the faculty teaches. For example, The Performing Arts Project (TPAP) offers an excellent summer program for both theatre and musical theatre and the teaching faculty is comprised of professional actors and faculty members from a wide variety of BFA programs. Attending a program such as TPAP will allow you to make connections with all of these faculty members and also help you decide if you are interested in applying to their programs.

- Attending a rigorous summer program also gives you an opportunity to discover whether or not a conservatory style program is interesting to you and whether you are more inclined toward pursuing a BA or a BFA. For example, my son Sam (currently a sophomore in the Acting program at Carnegie Mellon) attended the musical theatre summer program at the University of Michigan the summer after his junior year in high school. Heading into the summer Sam was convinced he wanted to pursue a BA so that he could get a broad education while also focusing on theatre. After spending three intensive weeks at MPulse Sam realized that he really wanted to pursue a BFA. He also learned quite a bit about both the University of Michigan and the industry as a whole. Sam was exposed to people involved in many aspects of the industry and realized that pursuing a BFA in Acting would prepare him for many possible jobs within the industry.

- Attending a summer program away from home indicates to faculty and admissions counselors that you are capable of being away from home and that you are serious about your discipline. Also, you will have an opportunity to experience what it is like to study your craft full time. You’ll make connections with other students interested in pursuing the arts and get a sense of how your skills and talent compares with other students auditioning for top programs.

There a many good summer programs out there. Some are audition based and some simply require an application. Which sort of program you choose depends a great deal on your objectives. If you are interested in learning more about summer program opportunities here is a good resource:

This is not a comprehensive list. If you would like some advice or guidance on choosing and applying for a summer program feel free to contact me at: