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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!

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:

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: .
  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:
  3. Stanford University offers online courses via Coursera, Check out Computer Science 101 This class can be taken as “self study” without any deadline or pressure to work towards a grade.
  4. 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:;;
  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:

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:

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.
Portfolio Workshop for High School Sophomores and Juniors

There are many things that high school juniors can do to make the college application process less stressful. Visit colleges, attend a pre-college program and of course, work on their portfolios. I have a created a workshop that will provide helpful information to students who intend to submit a portfolio or an Arts Supplement to the Common Application. Here are the details: Creating a Portfolio for College Admissions with Harriet Katz

Sunday, March 11, 2012 2:30 – 4:30 PM

Greenmeadow Community Center 303 Parkside Drive, Palo Alto CA 94306

The art portfolio is a definitive component to admission to any art program. In this two hour workshop, Harriet teaches you how to prepare your art application or Common Application Arts Supplement by reviewing the following crucial components:

* Elements/Contents of a portfolio: what work to include and exclude, how to find   inspiration and commitment in the work you select to present. *Portfolio Layout and Preparation: how to order and edit your work *Artist Statement: writing *Portfolio review: one-on-one reviews by Harriet

Presentation includes examples of student portfolios that have resulted in admission to such programs as The Rhode Island School of Design, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Maryland Institute College of Art, NYU, USC and UCLA.

Register at or by calling Harriet at (650) 302-8053.

Tuition: $100 includes 2-hour presentation, portfolio review and materials. Limit: 15 Students

Preparing for Your College Tours

Spring break is right around the corner and many students and their parents are starting to plan their college visits. 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?

Be creative in how you schedule tours to make the most of your time and cut down on travel expenses. Make the most of your visit by scheduling interviews with faculty or arranging to sit in on a class. You can find a great list of questions by downloading a brochure from the National Survey of Student Engagement, A Pocket Guide to Choosing a College: Questions to Ask On Your College Visits.

High School Junior Volunteers - Commit! Create! Contribute!

Everyone talks about the high school resume and showing colleges that you have contributed in some way to your community. Rather than looking at this as another box to check off on the road to college, I urge you to think of volunteering as your chance to inspire creativity in others. As a creative student, you are uniquely qualified to use your talents in innovative ways to change our world.

Are you a filmmaker? Contact a local non-profit and offer to create a short film that highlights their program and helps them to find community support.

Are you a visual artist? Find a local program where you can do art with children living in homeless shelters or help to sponsor arts-related programs for children in need. You will be able to use your passion to help someone else build their self-esteem.

Technically savvy? Volunteer at a local senior living facility. You can teach classes on how to use email and you will be a true hero if you can show seniors how to text their grandchildren.

Share your ideas here on my blog so we can work together to use our knowledge and creativity to advance the lives of others. Here are some links to volunteer organizations:

Summer programs for high school students

A parent recently asked me whether her son should pursue an internship or make a film during the summer after his junior year in high school. Of course, what she really meant was "What does a college want my son to do this summer?" She wasn't happy when I answered with this question: "What does your son want to do?" If you have been reading my blog, you know that I can't support seeking out activities for the sole purpose of impressing a college admissions committee. I am passionate about the pursuit of activities that will further demonstrate who you are and what grabs your interest as a student of visual or performing arts.

My advice is to seek out opportunities that will help you to further define your area of interest. Are you a filmmaker or screenwriter? Look for a local non-profit who could benefit from a short film highlighting their work in your community. Are you interested in photography? Offer to help your classmates who need to photograph their work for their portfolio. Here are a few more suggestions of ways to spend the summer after your junior year in high school:

1. Take a course in an area of the arts that you haven't tried yet. This is an opportunity to push the boundaries of what you know and explore how you respond to the challenge of trying something you might not be good at. 2. Decide now if you want to attend a particular summer program. Research the programs online and determine whether you are able to travel or need to stay closer to home. 3. Start working on your portfolio. What I mean by that is conceive, create and produce! Even if you aren't certain that the program you will apply to requires a portfolio or audition, organize your work as if you will need to present a concise snapshot of who you are. This exercise will help you to collect your most recent work and prepare to explain in your college application just what your are passionate about doing. 4. Start several college essays. Many schools will have prompts and topics online during the summer. Once you begin the process of writing about yourself and your work, the big job of applying to college will have just gotten easier.

If you are among the fortunate students who are able to take advantage of a college-level program for high school students, don't wait to research programs in your area. The registration deadlines for these pre-college programs are coming up and are often as early as February.

If you are interested in particular schools, locations or programs, send me an email and I will provide a few suggestions for you.