Creative Kid College Coach

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Posts in Choosing a Major
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?

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!

 

 

 

 

BFA, BM, BArch, MFA will these credentials be worth anything?

Time and again I am asked by nervous parents about the career opportunities their students will have if they pursue a major in the visual arts.  "But will they find a job when they graduate?" is a common lament.  I can talk about the students that I have worked with who have gone on to be the happiest group of college students I have known.  I can describe the myriad of creative internships and opportunities for growth that are a direct correlation to the relationships creative students form with their professors.  I can list the places that students I know are now working professionally. But, people like statistics.  And data.  And graphs.  So, I am happy to refer you to the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), a research effort led by Indiana and Vanderbilt Universities.  SNAAP surveyed over 13,000 graduates from 154 U.S. public and private college arts programs, conservatories and arts high schools.  These graduates have willingly responded to questions about access to jobs, satisfaction with their professions and the all important ability to support themselves doing something that they love.

Steven J. Tepper, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Vanderbilt University, writes in an article for the Huffington Post, "Arts graduates might not be rich, on average, but the vast majority is gainfully employed, piece together satisfying careers, and would go to art school again if given the choice."

So, for more detailed information about the valuable data that SNAAP has gathered, go to their website:  http://snaap.indiana.edu/snaapshot/ and see for yourself why a degree in the arts just might be the ticket to success and long-term career satisfaction.  Oh yes, and a job when you graduate!

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.

Choosing a College Major – why Visual Arts?

Many of my students are frustrated because their parents are leery about their desire to pursue a course of study in the visual arts in college. It is understandable that parents would be concerned about the future employment prospects for their graduating children. First the hard cold data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: • Employment of artists and related workers is expected to grow 12 percent through 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. An increasing reliance on artists to create digital or multimedia artwork will drive growth. Art directors will see an increase in jobs in advertising due to demand for the overall vision they bring to a project. • For graphic designers, employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average, with many new jobs associated with interactive media. Employment of graphic designers is expected to grow 13 percent, as fast as the average for all occupations from 2008 to 2018, as demand for graphic design continues to increase from advertisers and computer design firms. • Demand for illustrators who work on a computer will increase as media companies use more detailed images and backgrounds in their designs. Medical illustrators will also be in greater demand as medical research continues to grow. • Demand for multimedia artists and animators will increase as consumers continue to demand more realistic video games, movie and television special effects, and 3D animated movies. Additional job openings will arise from an increasing need for computer graphics in the growing number of mobile technologies. The demand for animators is also increasing in alternative areas such as scientific research and design services. Consider this quote from Richard Florida, author of the book, The Rise of the Creative Class, who supports the notion that the growing role of creativity in our economy will shape the future of how we work:

At bottom, a jobs strategy needs to start from a fundamental principle: That each and every human being is creative and that we can only grow, develop, and prosper by harnessing the full creativity of each of us. For the first time in history, future economic development requires further human development. This means develop a strategy to nurture creativity across the board – on the farm, in the factory, and in offices, shops, non-profits, and a full gamut of service class work, as well as within the creative class. Our future depends on it.

I couldn’t agree more.