Advice for high school juniors who want to study the visual arts in college.
As a high school junior, I am sure that the chatter about college has begun. Are you touring campuses? Have you prepared for the SAT? Where do you plan to apply? I encourage you to remember that it is the informed student who ultimately creates the best college application list. The summer is the best time to do this. Not everyone can afford the time or money required by most precollege programs. But, don’t let this stop you. It is important to consider areas of study that take you outside of your comfort zone. Perhaps you know you enjoy design, but never considered learning to write code?
I recently attended a presentation by the production crew from the sketch comedy series Portlandia. The producers, assistant director and production assistants did an excellent job of describing the realities of working on location while trying to solve unpredictable challenges. At the end of the presentation, the assistant director surprised everyone when his final recommendation to the audience of film students was “If you can, learn to write code.” In his experience, this added ability would open many doors in the film industry. I think this was unexpected, yet really smart advice. That is why I urge high school students to research the people whose work they admire. It is often surprising to learn what these professionals studied in college and how their careers took paths that were unpredictable.
Here are some simple suggestions for challenging yourself and in the process perhaps you will discover a new area of interest:
- Considering animation? Look for local life drawing classes. Most animation programs will want to see life drawing in your portfolio and typically you don’t have the opportunity to sketch nude models in your high school classes. Showing this type of work in your portfolio is proof to schools of your commitment. You don’t have to enroll in a local community college or art school, you might find a resource in your community such as the Pacific Art League in Palo Alto: www.pacificartleague.org .
- Consider an online course. Interested in digital media or design? Brown University offers several online programs. Storytelling in the Digital Age is one offering that might be suitable. Check out the course at: http://onlinecourselearning.com/brown/writing-multimedia/overview/.
- Stanford University offers online courses via Coursera, www.coursera.org. Check out Computer Science 101 https://www.coursera.org/course/cs101. This class can be taken as “self study” without any deadline or pressure to work towards a grade.
- http://www.lynda.com/ offers online courses in animation, design, software, etc. It is a monthly subscription service that offers a wide variety of tutorials and courses.
It is your job to research student work, courses and then faculty at the schools you are considering. You will be asked why you are interested in a particular program and your ability to articulate your interest is essential. Look for connections to work or courses that you might have not known were available. Be ready to talk about why you are drawn to this aspect of the program and specifically what classes/faculty relate to your ambitions for studying art on a college level. Your ability to communicate these connections will have an impact on whether admissions can understand why you are a good fit.
Remember that the best fit for a student may not be the biggest “name” school. You might be surprised to find the perfect course of study with student work that is stellar coming out of a smaller lesser-known school. It is your job to find these “hidden gems” so that you have some true options on your college list.