Sunday, August 20, 2006

Which College or University Is Best For An Aspiring Renaissance Artist, Scientist, or Humanist?

"You think the average college applicant has to jete through hoops? Consider the student who wants to pursue the arts. In addition to worrying about grades, standardized tests, and essays, an applicant for a selective program must often act, sing, or dance before judgmental faculty members. Or submit a portfolio of drawings or fiction.

That's a lot of stress for a college career that could lead to a life of waiting tables.

Nonetheless, the number of students who want to study the arts seems to be increasing. Philadelphia's University of the Arts, for example, received 2,771 applications this year, up from 2,081 in 2001. Potential applicants need to ask themselves a few questions. Do you want to prepare for a career right after college? Then you might consider arts conservatories or professional art schools, which usually offer a B.F.A. degree. If you aren't sure about your commitment or have other academic interests, a B.A. or B.S. program at a liberal arts or public university may be a wiser option.

Arts students also need to ask the right questions to size up a college program.

For all disciplines. Is an audition or artistic or creative writing portfolio required? (If so, the program is clearly competitive. Are you up for the challenge?)

Are courses you want to take offered on a regular basis and at several levels (beginning, intermediate, advanced)?

Is there a minor in your discipline? (In case you decide not to major in the field.)

Can you double major?

Can you take classes in a department or perform/exhibit/publish without declaring a major?

How many performance/exhibition/publishing opportunities are offered a year? (Obviously, the more the better.)

Can you perform/exhibit/publish as a freshman or must you wait till you are an upperclassman?

If you're interested in the practical side of the arts, are there courses or a minor in arts administration?" ...

Is there a musical theater program?

Do you yourself have industry contacts--casting directors, theaters, film production companies--to help with internships or post-college gigs?

For artists. Does the program require a freshman "foundation year" of required art courses? (In other words, you have to take Drawing 101 before, say, computer animation.)

Do faculty exhibit (and win awards) in local or national shows?

For dancers. Which technique is emphasized: ballet, modern, jazz, or a combination?

How many class and rehearsal dancing hours will you log each week? (Ten is a decent number to maintain and improve technique.)

Do guest artists regularly teach and choreograph? Do they create original choreography for undergrads?

For musicians. Can you take a private lesson with a faculty member before making your admissions decision?

How many faculty members specialize in your instrument? (At least two gives you different teaching perspectives.)

Does faculty perform professionally?

Is there a music ed certification program for a potential teaching career?

For writers. Is there a creative writing-only major or a degree in the English department emphasizing creative writing? (The former usually offers more opportunities for writing.)

How many lit courses must you take besides creative writing courses? (Just fyi.)

Do writers-in-residence teach undergrads? If so, how often?

Do you have to submit a portfolio to take classes in creative writing? (It can be a headache but also means a more selective program.)...

Elaina Loveland "How to Be Artsy Smartsy [if not a Renaissance Artist]" U.S. News and World Report America's Best Colleges 2007 August 19, 2006


200 college programs are profiled in Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians, and Writers by Elaina Loveland.

Creative Colleges Web-site.

"Truly creative people don't always need a college to do their work for them".

Russian and Ukrainian art and humanities students studying Slavonic architecture, art, and culture in the outlying areas of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union.

Photo credit: Justyna Mielnikiewicz via The New York Times, August 20, 2006. With thanks.


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