Sometimes you just gotta say...
April 15, 2012 12:54 AM   Subscribe

Thinking about going back to school, but I have some questions about things, and hoping people can help me and answer them. (Information and questions inside.)

I'm hoping to go for a graphic design program at Seattle Central Community College, since my job hunt in IT has been, uh, fairly fruitless (more than ten years working for a bank has both stunted some of my skills due to in-house software that no one else uses, and the bank itself seems to be kind of a poison). I also put in with North and South Seattle CC. I have no degree, and actually failed out of college in 198*mumble*

I've sent through my application to the community colleges and filled out my FAFSA paperwork, but to be accepted to the graphics design program requires a portfolio review, and while I'm pretty good with photoshop and indesign and doing layouts and such (I was always the one tapped to do the department newsletter because I 'had an eye' for making them look good, for example, and I did a lot of the training documentation because I could make them both look good and make sense), the traditional arts are... not something I am good at.

So questions:

1) how long will it be before I hear from the colleges about further paperwork I might need, or do I have to push the processes even after putting in the applications?

2) As someone self-trained in a lot of these things, is that a significant handicap? The portfolio requires an essay about 'strengths and weaknesses' and part of me thinks that mentioning that I'm self-trained and don't know what I don't know I need to know is the kind of self-insight that might be helpful, or it might be a killer.

3) should I not worry about the application to the program for a bit, but get some of my general education credits in first, along with some basic art classes, just to have some background?

4) where can I get a decent pre-review of a portfolio before submitting, so I get some ideas about how I'm doing? I have a deviantArt site that I've posted things on, but I don't really know how to search these things out.

5) In my 40s, am I crazy for trying this?

6) am I overthinking this? Or should I just listen to that little voice inside me that quotes "Risky Business" at me?

Thank you.
posted by mephron to Education (5 answers total)
The quote in question is:

"Every now and then say, "What the fuck." "What the fuck" gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future. Say "what the fuck."... If you can't say it, you can't do it."
posted by mephron at 12:54 AM on April 15, 2012

Just applying does not commit you in any way. So explore whatever you want to explore and worry about making a decision when you actually have to make one :)
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:56 AM on April 15, 2012

1) Colleges are slower than you want them to be and much slower than banks. They'll generally need 2-4 months to get back to you.

2) "Self taught" is just fine. It shows initiative. Sure, there are some angles you might have missed--but everyone knows that there is a good possibility that you found some original angles that might be fresh. Do a google search on "outsider art" and "self trained art"--there are interesting histories there.

3) General rule of thumb with art education: move towards your goal. If you want to be a designer than start designing (or things like it). Sure--you can take other classes while you're waiting, but don't avoid art classes. Always be moving close to your goal--you've delayed enough.

4) Seriously: contact a professor at one of the schools you've applied and make an appointment to go talk with them. They won't turn you down--they live for that stuff (I know, I'm one).

5) Absolutely not. You're crazy for not following your interests. Anyone who tells you differently is probably not following their interests. There are many people like you.

6) These are all good questions. Hop in and change your life.

posted by Murray M at 3:58 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh also:

You might consider looking at other art schools besides the community colleges. Do yourself a huge favor and tour the state universities, art institutes and museum programs. There can be worlds of difference between them--so much so that paying a lot more money for one of them can actually be much more financially rewarding in the long run.

The most important thing is choosing a program where you connect to the profs and the mission.


Don't make your decision based on the architecture (common mistake) or the reputation (which is often 10 years behind the reality). Good programs have good teachers that work with you the way you want and follow a mission that you believe in. How you spot a terrible art program is when there are teachers and a mission (read: direction) who you don't connect with.

The mission thing is the trick. That's how you spot the difference between a art program that's riding on their reputation and a art program that perhaps doesn't have the best rep yet but is fighting hard to get one--all art programs are either getting sleepy or fighting to be great--you want to be at a program that is on the up and up.

posted by Murray M at 4:09 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ignorance is an essential part of the education process.

The colleges are not looking for someone who knows it all already, or looking only for world-shattering artists. They are looking for students who can benefit from what they teach. You may need to demonstrate that despite being self-taught you do have the vocabulary and mastery of concepts to handle their starting level.

Taking any sort of educational class now may help to ease you back into formal learning, and may help your credibility as an effective student.

Thousands of people make successful career changes in their forties. Why shouldn't you?
posted by Idcoytco at 4:28 PM on April 15, 2012

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