Important information regarding portfolios for art college entry for:
- career guidance
- art teachers
- mature students
There is a general misunderstanding about portfolios - what is required, subject-wise, how long it should take to produce, and where it should be done.
NO portfolio should take a year of full-time study.
Mature students - The Way In.
Many people decide to change career or return to college. In this case, the student needs to concern themselves with rediscovering and developing their drawing skills, nurturing their creative curiosity and trying as many different media as possible - in short, enjoying themselves and having fun. This can be done on a part-time basis, on courses with as many different teachers as the students can find - maybe a weekend of pottery, a few days drawing, an intensive week of oil painting and water colours, an evening class in life drawing. This can be done over the course of a year (as opposed to a year-long course), with the intention of putting everything together at the end and vóila, a portfolio full of variety, imagination and TOTALLY unique.
Full-time portfolio courses, The Downside.
I know that some career guidance teachers, with the best will in the world, encourage students to apply for a one-year portfolio course. Regarding mature students, I have heard guidance officers say that they think a full year will help adults experience art full-time, and help them decide if it’s what they want to pursue. This SOUNDS logical, but actually, it doesn’t follow through at course level, for adults OR school leavers. In spite of the fact the most colleges actually offer a full-time course, it needs to be understood that this is largely a fund-raising exercise for the colleges. More full-time students = more funding. Attending their course does NOT guarantee entry to third level courses either at the college of study, or any other college applied to. IN FACT, if a student has attended a full-time portfolio course, their entry requirements alter, and they are interviewed separately to other applicants, and it is actually HARDER to get a place. Added to this, most colleges actually dislike the work produced on full-time courses and find that the students themselves are often sluggish and creatively spent. So fewer places are allocated to students from full-time portfolio courses. All extremely negative, and important factors in students choices. Once again, fewer places are allocated to students applying via full-time portfolio courses.
Short, sharp intense portfolio courses,
A course which has long, fully tutored consecutive days will bring out the best in every student. All benefit from intensive drawing tuition, and the creative energy which accumulates over several days with a group. The work ethic increases and students begin to understand the creative process, and surprise themselves with the quality of work they produce, even if they were almost a beginner at the start of the course. Many students who want to study architecture have given up art at school, but they are so pushed in an intensive course that they catch up very quickly.
What to do?
Most school students have an idea towards the end of fifth year that they’d like to apply to art college (or, for many students, architecture) - the most common attitude is that they know they want to do SOMETHING creative. By the time they apply the following February, they have become much more focused, and have a better idea of their chosen direction. Of course, plenty more students haven’t decided on their subject for third level until Christmas - there is still time to produce a portfolio. Work begins the rounds of interview/assessment from February. So there IS STILL TIME, but the student needs to truly focus on their portfolio above all else, if necessary setting aside school work for that short period, and then launching back into their Leaving Cert work once the portfolio is submitted. In my experience, students who do this find such relief at getting that first hurdle completed that working for their Leaving Cert feels easier.
Students who know at the end of 5th year that this is the direction they want to follow, have an enormous advantage - the gift of Time. This means that they have the long summer break to really knuckle down and produce the best work of their lives, so that the portfolio is completed before they even begin their final year at school, when the workload is tremendous. The portfolio can be viewed as almost an extra subject, so if it’s neglected, it will be difficult to fit-in around school work.
So, coming back to that gift of Time. My experience over the past few years is that school students are so entrenched in the long summer-courses (mostly in Irish, but also French and other subjects), that they are putting those courses FIRST, and sometimes can’t find the time to fit in a short portfolio course. The portfolio is the passport to their future. It must come first, above all other subjects, for that short time till it is done.
(For Architecture, see * below [click here] )
NCAD has changed the requirements for next years entry(2009) and has specified a specific brief for all students to follow. They want this brief to be completed in 30 hours.
Just 30 hours.
Not all students wish to apply to NCAD, but at the time of filling in those application forms, it is important that students have as many options open to them as possible. NCAD and Limerick IT are the only colleges in Ireland which have a Core year as the first year of study, which I believe is vital. It means students try all different disciplines before choosing which area they wish to specialise in. No school-leaver is in a position to choose a discipline without experiencing it and many will not even have heard of some of the choices available. So I encourage all my students to put NCAD and LIT at the top of their list. (This is NOT to say that the other colleges are less excellent in their courses.)
Because NCAD has taken this new step of a specific brief, ALL good portfolio courses will need to adhere to it, otherwise students will NOT have the option of applying there.
On a personal level, I am sorry that they have taken this step, but all the other colleges are aware of it, and they will all accept the same portfolio - it doesn’t mean that students will have to produce 2 portfolios.
While NCAD require 30 hours, I don’t believe the work can be produced in a straight ‘run’ - its a conceptual brief, which will require a lot of Thinking Time. I estimate about 10 days work, spread over two or three weeks or so. BUT, this is a GUIDE ONLY. Everyone works at a different rate, and no one should be tempted to put off starting, with the notion that a couple of weeks will do it.
A short re-cap:
- Colleges allocate the largest percentage of their places to students applying DIRECTLY FROM SCHOOL. If your child leaves school after Leaving Cert and applies the following year having attended a full-time portfolio course, it is MUCH harder to get in. There are fewer places allocated, and the standard of work produced during these courses is LOW. I always tell my students that if they didn’t do well enough in their Leaving Cert, that they should GO BACK TO SCHOOL AND DO IT AGAIN!! (And of course, because I am not their parent, it means more, and makes them sit up and take things much more seriousy). This way, when they apply the next year, they are STILL a school-leaver, with that greater chance of getting a place.
- The standard of work produced on a full-time portfolio course is too low - they lose the creative energy and drive required in the student.
- Mature students, on the other hand, are VERY HIGHLY REGARDED. An adult returning to education brings a wealth of enthusiasm, commitment and sincerity that benefits all students - do not be put off if you are a mature student. You will be much loved and nurtured.
* Students who have visited NCAD and know they don’t wish to apply there, or students for architecture, animation etc, who require a portfolio:
Each college has its portfolio requirements on their websites, which includes the type of content required, and the quantity and weight limit.
For information on Art at The Park Intensive portfolio courses, see http://www.artatthepark.net/art_portfolio_classes.html
for details. The course has been altered to incorporate the new requirements, as well as to serve students with broader needs beyond NCAD.