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:
- Analytic Skills
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….”
Posted in Choosing a College, Choosing a Major, Counseling for Visual and Performing Arts, Jobs in the creative arts, Uncategorized
Tagged arts, college admissions, Creative degrees, Dare 2B Digital Conference, Interdisciplinary Studies, Jobs, technology
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.
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.
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:
- 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/
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Take a look at my earlier blog that discusses what high school juniors should consider doing: https://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
Musicians, actors, dancers and visual artists who do not plan to major in the arts should consider completing the Arts Supplement. Students who have devoted multiple years and countless hours to the pursuit of their artistic passion need to communicate their level of commitment. Submitting evidence of this special accomplishment or interest through an Arts Supplement is an opportunity for schools to get to know you better. I fear this opportunity is squandered by many college applicants.
There are currently approximately 60 schools on the Common Application that will accept the Arts Supplement. To find out if your school is one of them, log on to www.commonapp.org. Select the “Member Colleges and Universities” menu and go to the applications requirements grid. You can then select the arts supplement column to see a list of the schools that accept this additional information.
Don’t be deterred if your school is not listed as one that accepts the Arts Supplement. Sometimes, if you contact the admissions department and indicate that you would like to send in a portfolio or other evidence of your talent, they will allow you to do so. These extra materials are often forwarded to the appropriate department at the school. Your work will be evaluated and the arts faculty may make a recommendation to the admissions committee based upon their judgment of the work you submitted.
You may have an opportunity to pursue your art form in college even if you are not majoring in the arts, but are not required to do so in order to submit an Arts Supplement. For example, Stanford states: “While we would like students with a vested interest in the arts to continue their participation at the collegiate level, an arts submission neither guarantees nor commits a student to participate in the arts.”
When deciding whether or not to submit an arts supplement, you should keep in mind that your work will most likely be judged along with work submitted by students who intend to continue their pursuit of the arts or may even be planning to minor in their particular art form. You should only submit a supplement if your work is strong and can stand up to such scrutiny. An impressive arts submission can be a compelling part of your college application.
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!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Volunteer. See my blog on volunteerism High School Junior Volunteers – Commit! Create! Contribute!. I list websites to help you find volunteer opportunities.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.