Making the most of campus visits to an art college

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Friday, August 28th, 2015

Why visiting colleges is so important

No matter how the college brochures and website make the program seem like a perfect fit, it is during the visit where you get a true sense of the environment and can imagine yourself in that place.

Personally, I grew up in Chester County, so when I was looking where to study art, I first checked out the schools in Philly. It was once I got to the campuses, I quickly realized that that large city environment was not for me. I felt overwhelmed. Reality sank in. I would get lost. When I visited Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, I realized that I could thrive in its visual arts community. Not only is Lancaster a smaller city, but the PCA&D’s size makes it a close knit community.

I always ask my visiting students if they’ve checked out other schools. It’s important to scope out different schools and different types of schools, absorb the atmosphere and take notes as well as snap some photos, so you can make informed decisions about the best place for you to study art.

Ask questions

I love it when students come prepared with questions. That certainly helps them get the most of their visit, and allows the student to get the information needed to make informed decisions in the future. Go beyond the questions about class size (at PCA&D it’s 15 or fewer) and curriculum (check out PCA&D’s here ).

Ask about the admissions process.

You’ll soon find out that there are differences among art colleges, liberal arts schools, state universities, etc. Visual art schools tend to have a similar process and ask a student to submit a portfolio. However, pay careful attention as each school looks for different things in a portfolio and may have specific requirements. During your college visit, having an informal review of your current portfolio work can be very informative. You will get a good sense of what is successful in your portfolio and particular areas you may need to develop even further. It’s a great opportunity to seek feedback from another prospective and to receive guidance in building a strong portfolio. Check out PCA&D’s portfolio review requirements

One of my favorite parts of the admission process is reviewing portfolios. I gain a sense of the student’s interests, their very own personal narrative, and to understand their thought processes and goals as they continue to grow as an artist. You can ask for a portfolio review as a one-to-one appointment, as part of an open house event with our faculty, at a National Portfolio Day, or through online submission through PCA&D’s SlideRoom.

Ask about deadlines

Make sure to know and understand and meet the deadlines. Here at PCA&D, the portfolio review doesn’t need to be done when you submit your application. We operate on rolling admission, but I encourage everyone—the earlier the better! Here’s PCA&D’s admissions requirements.

Talk to the faculty and the students

If you visit during the school year or at an open house, ask the faculty some questions to learn about their classroom approach and their professional experience as an artist. Talk to the student ambassadors, to learn their perspective of life on campus. This will help you get a feel of a normal day and get a sense of a studio class experience.

Ask about student housing. PCA&D has independent living arrangements, and our students grow through this experience. PCA&D has a variety of options to consider from our Steinman Lofts, exclusive house for our students, to roommate meet and greet events and help locating nearby apartments.

Observe your surroundings

Notice the artwork on the walls.

Does it excite you or challenge you? How do you see creating art like that fit into your ultimate goals? Over the course of your time at an art school, you will be learning and experimenting with new media and perfecting the techniques you see exhibited.

Get a sense of the place where the school is located.

Lancaster is truly a city, not just farmland, and has a thriving and growing arts community. Lancaster’s vibrant and welcoming art community helps our students form relationships with gallery owners, and link with other avenues to further their art. Lancaster City is really an extension of the PCA&D campus because of all the resources available to our students. Lancaster is also close to all the major cities in the North East with an easy drive or a quick trip on the Amtrak train. At PCA&D, you can plan on frequent field trips to New York and Philadelphia. http://pcad.edu/student-life/living-in-lancaster/

I’m looking forward to meeting you when you come to PCA&D and will be glad to help you on making this huge decision: “what art college is right for me!”


NicoleDuquetteNSS2Nicole Duquette is one of PCA&D’s admissions counselors. Nicole grew up in Chester County, Pennsylvania and received her Bachelor of Fine Art degree in Illustration from Pennsylvania College of Art & Design. She now calls Lancaster City home and loves to share in the creative energy found downtown. Never found without a mechanical pencil, a fine tipped in pen or a piece of paper, Nicole’s light-hearted designs (www.helloniccoco.com) always begin by hand before transforming digitally. Currently she licenses her hand drawn creations, sells prints and stationery nationwide and works one on one with clients to meet their creative needs.