Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advice from VP of Graduate Admissions‏

I got this nice email (*cough* form letter *cough*) from the VP of Graduate Admissions. It had some nice words of advice and I thought I would post it (with my own comments added of course).

Art and design is hard work: I don't mean hard as in astrophysics, but it is the most time consuming thing I've ever done. Most students, who do not come from a studio intensive program, underestimate the time commitment factor because they crammed for their midterms and finals and got A's and B's in their undergraduate degree. In art school, you cannot complete projects last minute. This is something instructors recognize right away and there's no hiding it. If you only spend 5 hours on an assignment, it will not compare favorably next to your fellow student's work, which took 10 hours.

I did come from a studio program, but it has been years. Thankfully, I'm not one to procrastinate on homework. Just everything else. You know like sitting in my PJs typing this an hour before I go to work which is three weeks after it should have been posted.

Art and design takes commitment: Don't get frustrated if you are not at a level you want to be after the first semester. Remember that you are just at the beginning stage of the program! Getting great at your craft takes practice and patience. One of our directors compares it to training for the Olympics. If you do not practice often, you cannot win, regardless of how talented you are. Those who persevere will succeed. "I am doubtful of any talent, so whatever I choose to be, will be accomplished only by long study and work..." (Jackson Pollock)

That reminds me of the one and only time I took a tap class. The instructor said, "You realize you are getting mad at the floor, right?" It was true. Id be an amazing tap dancer if the floor was not involved.

Don't consider a "C" a passing grade: The art and design world is completely different from anything else. When you go apply for a job as an accountant, you will not be asked to show your transcript. When you apply for a job as a designer, your portfolio is a direct reflection of your transcript. Remember your classmates are your peers and your competition. If you are producing "C" level work, then you are likely competing for the same job as "B" and "A" level students. Don't go into each class with the goal to just pass the class. Your goal should be to produce portfolio pieces.

I never understood people who thought of a "C" as passing. Aside, of course, from math and science classes.

Don't overload on classes: You have a finite number of hours in your week. If you overload on classes, just by pure mathematics, you will have fewer hours to complete each assignment. Don't set yourself up to produce mediocre work that cannot be in your portfolio. Your goal for graduate school should be to build a strong portfolio, not to race through a program.

I was told that at Columbia too, but the only time I made Dean's List was when I took 22 credit hours on top of a part time job and an internship. However, I'm taking it slow my first few semesters since this is a whole new level and it has been a while since I was in school.

Come in with an open mind: Remember why you decided to attend graduate school in the first place. You are looking for help in pushing your art and design in a new direction. If you want to produce the same level of work in graduate school that you are producing now, you don't need us. Your instructors are here to push you out of your comfort zone so you can grow. To share my own experience, my Anatomy instructor drove me to tears of frustration because he was breaking me out of some of my bad drawing habits. While painful at the time, in retrospect, I needed someone to tell me what I was doing wrong.

I try to have an open mind, but it depends on the teacher. If I'm told I'm doing it wrong, but they can't tell me why it is wrong or how to make it right, then I tend to not listen to them. I ran into this with a few of my instructors at Columbia.

Network: The best jobs are those that you hear about from your fellow students and your instructors. If you want to be tapped on the shoulder for an internship, demonstrate that you work well with others and that you're reliable. Network from day one!

This is the key. Who you meet can be as important as the classes you take. I'm interested to see how well that is going to work on an online program.

It takes courage to be an artist! It would have been easy to tell friends and family that you are going to law school or to medical school, but it was probably a struggle to tell loved ones that you are going to art school.

Actually, I think it would be the reverse. I think I'd get less encouragement if it were law school or medical school. Plus this way people can enjoy my photos as opposed to "Look at the cadaver I dissected."

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