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Admissions 101: The Unusual Stress of Applying to Art School

In Admissions 101 Jay is discussing art school and school stress:

A smart parent wrote to challenge my brush off of high school stress in Monday's Post column. I said high school parents "like to blame schools for the stress of the college admissions process, but those of us who remember our own fearful moments with our own high school juniors and seniors know it is mostly our fault. We choose ambitious goals for ourselves. Our children mimic us." She said her son just got into college, it was very stressful, and she didn't think it had anything to do with her being an ambitious person who went to an Ivy League school. I told her she hadn't proved her case. So she emailed back a stinger missile that wiped me out. Her son applied to art schools. "Each school had its own portfolio requirements, its own essay requirements, its own delivery method [some schools required kids to fold their original art work, some wanted it on CDs, some slides, some wanted a thumbnail sheet, etc.]", she said. I had never before considered the unusual demands of schools that aren't your typical liberal arts/business/pre-med mix. Should we explore this different species of undergraduate institution? Are art and music and culinary and other specialty schools hitting us poor parents, not to mention the applicants, with even more pressure we can't handle?

By Washington Post Editors  | April 15, 2009; 10:49 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions 101  | Tags:  art school, school stress  
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Portfolios such as the type art schools require for application thereto are little different from what the real world requires. Employers vary widely in what they want to see and on what media; so parents and students, it's good practice for getting a job after college. These schools are highly selective, so why not make the applicants work for entry? It's also your child's chance to show they can meet or exceed the requirements and stand out from the crowd. Creativity and an ability to handle pressure and criticism is a must in art/music/culinary fields. What's so unusual about that? If you want bland, vanilla applications, there's always community college.

Posted by: wrigleywrat | April 15, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

If they can't handle the stress of getting into college - how are they going to handle the job market? kids? unemployment? Folks - life includes stress. They're going to have to learn to manage it sometime. These are young adults, not preschoolers. The problem is that the parents whining the loudest are neurotic flakes who can't handle the stress in their own life. I see lots of kids who take life in stride - and they typically have well-grounded parents who aren't texting, driving and sipping Starbucks as they barrel through neighborhoods in their Winnebago-sized trucks.

Posted by: mwcob | April 15, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

I would recommend to parents of seniors who are applying to art schools to work closely with their teenagers' respective art instructors. Those of us who have been sending our seniors to art schools and universities all over the country are familiar with their portfolio requirements and are aware of the changing technologies. Now that portfolios are primarily digital (although there are still some school that require slides), once the art is photographed, it is easy to have prints, Cd's, thumbs, etc. made from the images. I encourage parents to seek help from their son or daughter's art teacher. If a teacher is teaching advanced studio classes (including A.P. studio classes), or portfolio preparation classes, I believe it is also the responsibility of the instructor to help parents through this stressful and demanding process.

Posted by: pjlsan | April 18, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

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