Creative Kid College Coach

CKCC blog

Posts in Choosing a College
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?

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!

The College Waitlist: rational advice on what to do next

I know that there have been many articles written about the limbo of being placed on a waitlist. Trying to figure out who gets admitted off the waitlist, how colleges prioritize those candidates and what if anything can be done to get the attention of admissions is an age-old conundrum. I want to cut through the noise and give very practical advice to any student giving a second thought to their position on a waitlist.

  1. Accept an offer of admission from one of the schools that have admitted you by May 1. Don’t just accept the offer, but fully engage. Wear their sweatshirt, join their Facebook group, put down your housing deposit and fully embrace your status as a member of their incoming class. There is a reason that they accepted you and it just may be that they are the best fit for you. Don’t underestimate how important this is.
  2. If you remain focused on a school that has placed you on their waitlist, please remember that this isn’t personal. There are just too many qualified students who are applying to the same schools. You should, however, take advantage of every opportunity to let them know why you want to be considered for admission. Email them, let them know about accomplishments more recent than the data in your application and above all, respond with a “yes I will attend” to let them know you mean business.
  3. A visit to the school can help. Try to make a connection to the department where you want to study and make sure your admissions counselor knows you are there.
  4. Request that your high school counselor contact the school to reiterate your interest and to determine if they can provide any additional information that could support your desire to attend that school.

Trying to predict what percentage of students will be admitted off the waitlist at any given school is nearly impossible. Schools will not publish if they rank their waitlist and the truth of the matter is that they have deeply ingrained reasons for using their waitlist. Sometimes it is to placate alumni. Sometimes it is to manage the demographic of their freshman class. If you really want to find out how colleges have used their waitlist to craft their freshman class, you can Google “X College Waitlist 2014” to see if they publish this information. You can also check the Common Data Set to see if your school has published their waitlist data. You can either search “Common Data Set” on the school’s website or Google “Common Data Set” and the institution name. For instance, you can find out how many students were enrolled from Northwestern’s waitlist in 2013: Northwestern University Common Data Set.

What we do know for certain is that schools put large numbers of students on the waitlist with a relatively few number of students ultimately being offered admission. My final advice is that you do not leave your future to the whims of the waitlist. Commit to the top choice school that admitted you and if a waitlist spot is offered to you then make the final decision that meets your needs. You may just find that you don’t want to take off that comfy sweatshirt from your initially admitted school.

 

 

The Growth of the Creative Economy and a Changing Jobs Landscape

I am speaking this weekend at the Dare 2b Digital Conference here in Silicon Valley. My topic is: The Growth of the Creative Economy and a Changing Jobs Landscape. The growth of interdisciplinary degrees is proof that educators are looking closely at the benefits of a culture of learning where both right and left-brain thinking are encouraged. The happy result of blending a conceptual and technical education is a student ready to fill jobs new to our economy. As I have written previously, I believe that the skills that an arts-based degree develops are extremely valuable attributes in our changing work environment.

Interdisciplinary programs such as those offered through the BXA Program at Carnegie-Mellon, The Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts program at UC San Diego and the Computing and the Arts Program at Yale are evidence that colleges are looking to satisfy the demand for integrating a study of the arts with computer science and other diverse fields.

The reason graduates with creative degrees are highly sought after is that hiring managers understand the essential skills that these degrees engender. These attributes are the skills that a valuable employee exhibits:

  • Fearlessness
  • Communication
  • Analytic Skills
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership

The culture of collaboration in these interdisciplinary programs is a predominant characteristic. I am convinced that learning how to solve problems creatively will ultimately play a significant role in our ability to successfully compete in a global economy.  I am not alone in this opinion.  As Thomas Friedman wrote in a recent New York Times column, “Talent can come in so many different forms and be built in so in many non-traditional ways today, hiring officers have to be alive to every one….”

Will I get a good job after college?

This is a question that is often asked, by both parents and students, as they begin the journey of selecting where they will apply to college and what they will study. I have written before about why now, more than ever before, a degree in the visual or performing arts has in fact resulted in long-term career satisfaction. More colleges are acknowledging the challenge of offering their students the opportunity not to train for a job they think they want, but in fact to provide the necessary environment for the unintended consequences of a more flexible career path. Do you think the student with a B.A. in Design planned to get a job as an “interaction engineer” doing data visualization? What about the Director of Online Engagement in President Obama’s Office of Digital Strategy? I doubt she stated that as her career goal when entering college.

Consider the fact that the top six jobs today didn’t exist ten years ago. Educators like Mary Schmidt Campbell, Dean of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU agrees. She recently spoke at a conference “Three Million Stories – Understanding the Lives and Careers of America’s Arts Graduates” http://3millionstories.com. She urges educators to be mindful of changes in the job market that are reflected in our economy creating a need “for curriculum reform and a better understanding of what skills an arts degree develops.”

For more information on this topic, listen to an interview that I recently gave on “College Smart Radio” a program that gives advice regarding the road to college on 1220am KDOW, The Wall Street Business Network. I discussed the topic of the value of an arts degree with Beatice Schultz, CFP®, BSc, MSM. Beatrice is the founder of Westface College Planning and a co-founder of Westface Financial and Insurance Services.

Here is a link to the podcast: http://www.spreaker.com/user/collegesmartradio/college_coaching_for_the_creative_kid.

 

 

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:

  1. 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 .
  2. 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/.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Happy hunting!

 

 

 

 

Choosing a College

It is January and it is time for high school juniors to think about their college list.  I have been asked many times, “How should I begin?”  The short answer is to immediately go online and begin reading blogs, looking up student comments and learning about programs and professors, not just school reputation and data.  Here is a simple list of suggestions for starting the process:

  1. There are practical considerations:  location, cost, size of school, etc.  This information is easily found on sites such as:  https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-search; http://www.petersons.com/college-search.aspx; http://www.ecampustours.com/https://collegeprowler.com/
  2. Try to ignore all of the “helpful advice” you will get from friends, siblings and parents.  Picking a school because it is where everyone you know has gone is definitely not a way to ensure that you will have an experience that meets your own personal goals.
  3. Research courses and then take a look at the teachers.  Google them.  Where did they study?  What have they accomplished?  Is there something about them that makes you want to meet them?  Your instructors, as well as the students sitting on either side of you, will be your own personal community.  They will be the ones that impact where you go, and perhaps what you will do once you graduate.  Do not overlook the rich opportunity you have here to obtain an irreplaceable undergraduate experience.
  4. Try to visit colleges.  So many students think they know exactly what they want and then they walk onto campus, or better yet sit in on a class.  There is no better way to find out if you have discovered a place where you want to be for the next four years of your life.
  5. Take a look at my earlier blog that discusses what high school juniors should consider doing:  http://creativekcc.com/2012/03/13/high-school-juniors-it-is-time-to-get-organized/.

Frank Bruni wrote a wonderful article in the New York Times, “How to Choose a College.”  He makes the very important point that we should all be leery of the data provided in lists including statistics about entrance requirements, GPA’s and test scores.  Even some venerable institutions have had to admit that they inflated their data.  What truly matters is that you find a fit, an authentic reason to pursue your education at a particular school and ultimately the chance to use your undergraduate experience as springboard to a very happy, satisfying adulthood.  As one very wise college senior said, "I think what matters most when you choose a college is choosing the one that gives you opportunity for growth."

Read Bruni's article here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/opinion/sunday/bruni-how-to-choose-a-college.html

High School Juniors it is time to get organized!

This is a very busy time for most high school juniors.  If you consider what most visual and performing arts students are doing right about now, staying organized and thinking about college probably isn't high on the list.  The thing to remember is, the more time you spend getting ready for the application season, the less stressed you will be at the beginning of your senior year.  So, here is a list of things that every junior interested in the arts should be doing:

  1. Tour colleges.  Make sure to visit the department you are interested in, which may require an additional appointment after the general campus tour.  If you have a portfolio or sketchbook, bring it along and make an appointment to see an admissions officer.  If you are not able to go for a visit, most schools provide online virtual tours.  You need to familiarize yourself with the various programs so that you can have a final list of schools to which you will apply by June.
  2. Keep a journal.  Start writing down your thoughts and ideas that may end up helping you to answer the various essay questions.  Take time to think about who or what has influenced you and why you want to pursue a certain course of study.
  3. Volunteer.  See my blog on volunteerism High School Junior Volunteers – Commit! Create! Contribute!.  I list websites to help you find volunteer opportunities.
  4. Visit galleries and museums.  Go to the movies.  See live performances.  You will be asked what you like and who influences you.  Not having an opinion because you have not been exposed to the creativity of others is no excuse.  Take the time to analyze what you like and what you don't.  This will all have an impact on your portfolio, audition and artist statement.
  5. Think about who you will ask for your letters of recommendation.  Do not let this school year end without having locked in the teachers you want to write your letters.
  6. Keep your resume current.  You will need this information for your applications and it will be much easier if you have everything in one place.  By working on your resume now, you will remember activities that are important to include as well as see areas where you need to focus.  Naviance and online resume templates will help you to get started.
  7. Take a deep breath.  This is an important time to learn that the more relaxed and focused you remain, the better off you will be.  Panic doesn't help and the more you remain true to yourself and your personal goals, the more likely you are to find a program and a school that is the perfect match for you.
How to prepare yourself to study visual arts in college

I interviewed a current senior who attends the UCLA Design|Media Arts program. I asked him for his thoughts on what he wishes he had known 4 years ago when he was applying to college. Here are his comments: • I wish I had known what types of digital art and media exist and are accessible to undergrads. • I looked at what different professors teach, but I wish I investigated what they do when they aren’t in the classroom. That information tells you a lot about what you will be able to learn from them. • I wish I had more experience showing my work. It is really important to get involved with other artists and designers. Look at their work, collaborate and maybe even experiment a bit. This will get you in the right mindset for collaboration as a college student. • There is a vast amount of information to be considered. Use all of the online resources that you can. Look for destinations where you can explore artists, studios and collections. This will help you to articulate what your point of view is. The more you can synthesize your own artistic voice, the more you will be able to participate and contribute at college. • It is really important to study other things besides art. Think about your interests and look for schools that support your exploration.

I hope his thoughts encourage you to think beyond the gossip about what is the best school. Remember the true value of pursuing a major in the visual arts as an undergraduate; to learn how to communicate visually, to explore new career options and to be inspired by those who teach and study right along with you.

I was a guest blogger on the site The College Solution. Check out my 6 admissions tips for Visual Arts majors.