Welcome to TP’s 12 Days of College Apps series, where we’ll be helping you out with your most pressing college app questions during the remaining 10 days until applications are due (December 20th-31st). Each day, we’ll feature a different post to help you suffer less and get more out of your super exciting admissions process experience. You can view all of the posts in the “12 Days of College Apps” series HERE.
So, without further ado…
On the seventh day of college apps, The Prospect gave to me…guidance when it comes to deciding whether or not to include an arts supplement!
Fortunately, despite what all of your peers, teachers, counselors, parents, and jerks on College Confidential may have told you, the years of blood and toil you have poured into refining your arts have not been in absolute vain…at least not when it comes to the college application season. It turns out there is this nifty aspect of your application called an “art supplement,” in which you are allowed to showcase your talents in the arts, including various subjects such as music, dance, fine arts, photography, and creative writing.
To make this easy, there is a simple outline I have formulated just for you, which I like to call The Three C’s:
1. Be creative.
The general concept of “What can I do to set myself apart from the rest of my competitive peers?” applies to art supplements as well. How can you organize and communicate your work in which you will be able to capture the attention of your audience? How can you showcase years of your talent and dedication into a single slideroom file? It’s hard to give advice about creativity, but I will say this: be creative for the sake of pleasing your inner artist, not for the sake of conforming to those who will be judging your college art supplement.
At the same time, as a general rule for all artists, realize that it’s not completely about creativity. Fundamentals are just as important as a killer choreography. Tone and technique are just as important as a unique composition. While you always want to impress your audience with the depth of your mind, you also want to show them what you can do with the techniques of your physique. The pieces at the top of the article are parts of a portfolio submitted by my friend when he was waitlisted by Cornell University, where he was eventually admitted.
2. Be confident.
You can never succeed as an artist unless you feel validated of your own work. This isn’t just about your art supplement or you being an artist in general anymore. Allow me to digress for a little bit here, but you should always feel accomplished of your work, no matter what anyone else tells you otherwise. It’s always important to learn from your errors and improve upon your flaws, but it’s just as important to acknowledge your strengths and set positive standards for yourself. Perhaps your artwork won’t be as highly regarded by the colleges you submit them to. But realize that within every failure is a hidden success, and use it as a golden opportunity to make yourself a better artist and person. Because you are a fabulous and talented individual.
3. Be conscious.
At the end of the day, you have to objectively determine how accomplished you and your mentors consider your artistic prowess to be. While you should be proud of your abilities and confident of your work, you must remain humble in your self-praise. And sometimes, there’s the sad realization that your artistic merit is not up to par with the standards set by your academic achievements.
Various colleges have extremely different processes for their art supplements. Some are very strict and narrow-minded; some are quite loose and open-ended. Some colleges won’t allow certain art supplements (a lot of colleges tend to dislike creative writing supplements). Some colleges will purposefully penalize you for a subpar art supplement, such as Yale University, who explicitly states on their website: “Submissions that do not reflect a high level of talent can actually work against a candidate.”
Talk to your artistic peers and mentors. See if your art supplement is at a level you deem is appropriate to be sent as something that would bolster your chances at admission. Remember the three C’s and consider them carefully. In fact, let that be your third and a halfth C: Be careful. For most schools, art supplements are offered through an extremely vague and ambiguous process, and sometimes have no impact on your overall application at all whatsoever. Other times, it may be that sliver of an edge that sends you to the acceptance pile. This is a big decision to make: be creative, be confident, be conscious, and most of all, be careful.
With that being said, there have been anecdotal rumors that some students are being “recruited” to top tier colleges due to their musical abilities, signing to perform for the college’s orchestral groups. And I thought to myself, “Can this possibly be? Musicians and artists being considered on the same level as… *takes a deep breath* athletes?”
Unfortunately, I’m not completely sure. There haven’t been any official sources to confirm this. Regardless, one thing is most definitely and undoubtedly certain: pursuing the arts could give you a potentially unique edge when it comes to admissions decisions. And take it up a notch! Write that concerto you’ve always thought of in your head! Put down that cool short story idea you’ve always had into real, tangible words! Use your low-quality-plastic-based-piece-of-crap watercolor set your aunt bought you in elementary school that you never bothered to throw out! Do something!
Good luck with your applications!