Top 10 Things to Consider When Choosing an Art School

8 Mar

If you have an interest in an education at an art, design and media institution, it’s crucial that you do some research on your end. By this point, some of you have already applied to a host of art, design and media schools for the fall 2012 intake and are waiting on your letters of acceptance. The next couple of months will serve as the critical point for the big decision of where you will be attending school this coming fall. During this time, it’s best to weigh out your options with each institution and draw up a list of pros and cons. I’ve compiled a decent foundation for your list, whether you’ve applied for this fall, or are currently in research mode and are considering a possible application in the future.

Alumni News
This is an important consideration as it may help to provide insight into student success, as well as if an institution is supportive both during and after graduation. If your research provides you with a host of links and features to successful alumni from a particular institution, this is a good thing. If you do a comprehensive search, and don’t come up with much, this isn’t good. Perhaps the graduates aren’t doing much with their education (a sign of poor quality), and/or that the institution in question doesn’t celebrate their alumni.

Emily Carr University of Art + Design alumni

Finding an Institution
The beauty of this modern age is that with a bit of online research, you can check into personal student experience at individual institutions, public ratings, and can contrast and compare different institutions based on specifics. If you’re looking into North American art institutions, the AICAD website is a great resource.

While many institutions have on-campus housing, there are some who do not, due to location of the school and a lack of space on campus. Fear not! There are a host of options for students who are looking for housing including homestay options, shared accommodations, and temporary housing while you get to know your new city. Check in with each institution about the resources that are available to you, including housing boards, internal housing assistance, and on-campus dorms, when available.

Emily Carr University of Art + Design housing assistance

This will be your home for the next few years of your life. Would you thrive in a big city with lots of culture, or a smaller city with more of a focus on community? It’s also worth noting where the location of the campus in the city, as the institution will have a different vibe if it’s in the city centre, as opposed to on the outskirts of town.

Emily Carr University of Art + Design location

Rather than wait until graduation to make contacts and find a job, there are a host of activities that you can do to get some experience in your back pocket. This is smart, as it will give you a leg up on your fellow graduates who have not sought out and seized opportunities that are available to them. Things to check if an institution has: co-op and internship options (can you do these as a group, individually, or both?), industry links (who are they and how current are these relationships?), an exchange program (how does this work, where can you go, and how can you participate?), exhibitions (how can you participate and how frequently can you submit?), professional practices training (is this covered in your program, and will you learn how to launch/manage your own business/career in detail while you are in school?), work and study permits (if you are an international student, are you able to work and if so, what are the logistics?).

Emily Carr University of Art + Design opportunities

Portfolio Submissions
When it comes to putting together a portfolio, there is no magic combination that will fit all art school submissions. Once you have narrowed down your list of institutions, make sure to look through each site and make note of the portfolio submission guidelines. Some institutions will be looking for a diverse range of media with a strong focus on conceptual content, while others will be looking for more traditional media and will have a very specific framework for exactly what they’d like to see in a portfolio. Remember that this requested content is often a good indicator of what your experience would be like while in the classroom and working on projects. If you are in North America, and would like to get some feedback on your work, it’s worth checking into National Portfolio Day.

Emily Carr University of Art + Design portfolio submission guidelines: Undergraduate and Graduate

Qualifications Desired
Make a list of the type of work that you’d like to do down the road, and what type of career that you envision for yourself. What do you want your life to look like 2, 5, and 10 years out of school? Public institutions generally offer degrees, diplomas, and/or continuing studies programs and certificates. Make sure to consider things like if you want to go to grad school down the road (better to get an undergraduate degree, in this case), or if you want to move through your program quickly, and head straight into industry work (a certificate or diploma program may be best in this case).

Emily Carr University of Art + Design programs

Student Body
Who makes up the student body of a school and how would you fit into that mix? Many institutions are looking to broaden the depth of student experience with a diverse student body, and international students play a big part in this. The demographics of the study body will partially be reflective of the make-up of the areas surrounding the campus, but are also often the result of international recruitment, global recognition, and general word of mouth. It would also be a good idea to check into the average age of students, along with the male to female ratio, if this matters to you.

Emily Carr University of Art + Design facts and figures

This is a big consideration for most, and tuition fees will vary from country to country. Of the G8 countries, Canada designates the most to their education system, so the quality of education is high, while tuition prices remain quite low. The tuition for most institutions should be listed online, but if you don’t see it, it would be worth emailing the admissions department. You may also want to request a list of estimated expenses so that you can get an idea of how much you’d need in the way of living expenses on an annual basis. Every institution should be able to provide you with a list of possible scholarships and bursaries, and you will also want to research scholarships that are available for local and international education abroad.

Emily Carr University of Art + Design tuition for Undergraduate, Graduate, and Continuing Studies

Visits and Tours
Nothing will give you a better feel for an institution than visiting in person. Check with your top choice to see if a tour is possible. Sometimes these are done in groups, and sometimes they can be arranged individually. To avoid disappointment, it’s always wise to contact the admissions department at least a month before your scheduled visit (the more notice, the better). You will want to check to see if you can arrange for a tour, and meet with a staff advisor, along with the financial and international offices, when applicable.

Emily Carr University of Art + Design tours for Undergraduate and Graduate


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