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Study Art and Design at Southampton College New York

One of the most frequently asked questions by prospective students wishing to gain a place on an Art and Design Degree studies or diploma course is 'What do I put in my portfolio?'
There are no easy answers to this question. However. this article should provide you with some useful tips.

Firstly, you should try research the particular courses and institutions that provide Art, Media and Design courses before you get to the final foundation course, or 'A' Level stages. This helps clarify the emphasis contained in the specific programmes of study. The  serious applicant should obtain detailed institution prospectuses before they start compiling their portfolio.

What will become clear at this stage is that there can be substantial differences between courses, and hence great opportunity for the individual applicant to find a course that matches their needs. In Fashion Design, for example, there are subtle and dramatically different opportunities to study fashion design, fashion and marketing; printed, woven knitted and sculptural textiles, fashion design for industry, fashion accessory design and more.

The variety of such a discipline is reflected in all major Art, Media and Design-related courses. Another example of such diversity of interest can be found in Graphic Design. where course Emphasis may be identified through titles and content. Graphic Design is a particularly important lesson in the need to 'do your homework', as prospective students will find that  this course may mean illustration, electronic visual communication, design for industry, advertising communications, media and visual communication, video and time-based graphics, multimedia graphics, and more! These titles may often reflect the beliefs of staff and institution regarding opportunities available for students to explore their own creative visual language, career pathways and skills.

In addition  to consideration of course descriptions and the consequential emphasis upon vocational direction, discipline skills and individual creative development (which you should find in prospectuses), applicants need to carefully consider the character of the course for which they are applying, as well as how the course is delivered and assessed. In recent years, modular courses have become Extremely popular. For many students however, they do not allow sufficient time for reflection, nor for discipline-specific Experimentation in the  early years of their programme.

Applicants should carefully consider (and ask questions about) the exact content of their programme, the phases through which they will pass and the appropriate skills, creative problems, team projects, and critical/  cultural studies programmes they will receive during their time at an institution.

It is not possible for all students to visit the institutes to which they are applying - but if possible, it is recommended that you do so. Most institutes have 'Open Days' or an international office that deals with applications from outside the US. If it is not possible to visit on open days, then read the prospectus and course information,carefully before contacting the admissions office or course leaders for the courses for which you are applying, and asking the questions that are most important to you.

Once you have made your choice of coursers), you must consider the application process itself. There is a tradition in US Art and Design education that the student applicant is interviewed with their portfolio. However, a number of institutes do not rely solely on the brief interview to make their decision. Applicants within the UK will now often find themselves being invited to the college for a longer period where they may be shown around in groups, provided with a presentation on courses, and interviewed.

Selection teams and admissions staff consistently looks for certain portfolio components:

1. The portfolio should reflect a capability and commitment to the specific area of application. For example, a portfolio with photographic strengths could apply to photographic, graphic design, or fine arts courses.

2. You should have works that indicate your capability to work at a high standard in the chosen areas, and which demonstrate your commitment to achieving that standard. There should be finished works, that demonstrate potential and capability in the subject area.

3. You should have work reflecting your individual identity, not simply that of your current college. It should reflect your ability to creatively investigate, with the potential to find a visual language of your own. Often, people ask about the importance of Drawing as a discipline. This is important, but it is only one means of establishing your own creative language. The advent of computer technology, for example, and the capacity to creatively innovate and invent with media will always be well received when portfolios are being viewed and applicants are being selected.

4. The  capacity to develop a project through a variety of stages, so that exploration of the ideas, media and possible solutions as demonstrated. Above all, do not be afraid of including work which is developed from a brief, but which demonstrates a variety of possible solutions - admissions tutors look for applicants who can think flexibly and creatively, and who have the ability to generate a number of resolutions to problems set within teaching programmes.

5. Organise the contents of your portfolio. Some tutors emphasise the importance of a chronological order, whilst others prefer the grouping of drawings, projects and theoretical work. This helps tutors to obtain a clear picture of your development, strengths and weaknesses.

6. Above all, be prepared to talk about your work and your ideas. The student who indicates that a project has only been done because it has been given by a tutor will not be  impressing admissions tutors. A good preparatory exercise is to identify the strongest and weakest items in your portfolio. Be prepared to discuss why they are so, and also where your ideas have come from. Admissions tutors are looking for portfolios with creative ideas, a commitment to achieving a high standard of finished work, a willingness to demonstrate investigative thinking and establish your own visual language which supports using whatever media are appropriate, and a sound set of reasons in your own mind as to why you wish to study the course to which you are applying. Good luck in your application and future studies! . 

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Southampton College Long Island University
239 Montauk Highway, Southampton, NY - 11968-4196
Telephone: (631) 283-4000 Fax: (631)283-4081
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