Congratulations to Mary Mao on her admissions from RISD, MICA and SAIC!
Mary is from the Coquitlam Campus. She was the winner of the EWW Cover Page Design of 2015. For her interview in 2015, click here.
Below is her pathway to the top art schools.
Ever since I learned how to hold a marker, drawing has always been my passion. After years of studying and practices, I finally got accepted to SAIC, MICA, and RISD.
Since some schools require SAT/ACT test scores, I started SAT preparation at Elite since grade 10. Although academic requirements for getting into art schools aren’t very high, it’s the best to keep the grades in the A-B range and have a SAT score at around 1800. Some students with a very well prepared portfolio can get in with a score around 1600; however, higher score does benefit within the competitive applicants.
Portfolio is the most important part of the application. Some schools have more specific requirement for the portfolio depending on the major the student is applying to. Most of the schools look for use of a variety of medium in the portfolio pieces. I started my portfolio preparation in January 2015, my grade 10 year. At first, I did not know what work I should make for a portfolio since I had no idea which schools I wanted to go to. All I knew was that I was supposed to create 15-20 pieces of original artworks. It takes practice to get into creating art pieces that are not just visually appealing but are more meaningful. The process of portfolio preparation is never a waste of time. Art is about passion, learning, and practices.
Many students go to art studios to take classes specifically for portfolio preparation. I am no exception. However, after spending a year in the art studio, I started to realize that I wasn’t really learning much from the teacher anymore. I felt that I was restricted with the teacher’s ideas, the workspace, and the medium I was using. I decided to quit the class and produce works on my own. I did learn a lot during my times in the art studio. Once I got the idea and had enough practices, I felt that it would be better to produce work independently.
At the beginning of 2016, I was lacking inspiration to create art. I felt that art, what I’ve been enjoyed doing, had became a stressful process. The lack of motivation was painful. I had a hard time creating anything until I went to pre-college program in RISD in summer 2016, majored in Illustration. It was a great learning experience to meet with art students from around the world and get a sense of college life in RISD. Although it was an intense 6 week program, I had fun and learned a lot. The artistic atmosphere in the school made me really comfortable and productive. After coming back from RISD, I took the ideas I have for class assignments and made them into finished pieces to add into my portfolio. I recommend students who can afford going to pre-college programs to experience the programs different schools offer.
During the last year, I kept around six sketchbooks. Colleges care about the originality and process of the ideas as much as finished projects. Sketchbooks are for documentation and practices. I filled out two and half small sketchbooks with observational drawings during the year of 2016. While concepts are important, skills in observational drawings can give a higher chance in acceptance. The feedback I got from my visit to Sheridan College in Toronto is that backgrounds, hands, and feet are really important. Focusing on practice of those details would help student to stand out in the contestants.
Art schools care about passion. They want to see who you are as a person and how you express yourself through art making. Writing samples are no exception. Writing about what you truly believe in is more important than bragging about yourself. It is a chance to grab the school’s interest to learn more about you. I know that getting into art school have different meaning to various people; however, I believe in staying honest to myself and my creations. I believe that having passion allows artists to success to communicate and resonate with the viewers.
I have to admit that portfolio preparation is a painful and long process for me because I continued to search for ideas that I truly believe in. For me, I can’t prepare for college for the sake of getting into a college. I wanted to create every piece from the bottom of my heart. I wanted to enjoy, learn, and explore about myself during this process.
After getting the acceptation letters, making a decision wasn’t so easy. Despite the ranking, it is more important for the student to find a school that’s the most suitable for them. There are many other factors to consider such as location, environment, programs, etc. At the end, I decided to attend Maryland Institute of Art College due to the program, construction style, residence, and scholarship. However, I do recommend that the best way to get the vibe of a school is to visit in person.