How to Survive Art School – Redux

I recently got a message from someone who read my first post about Art School and wanted a bit more information on the difference between private art school, liberal arts university, my preference and finally the dirty question “is the price of tuition worth it?”

Decided this might be useful to other folks so here it is slightly edited.

Private art schools- I haven’t had too much experience (I only went to one for a few weeks in a summer program) but I can tell you a few things. For obvious starters, private art school tends to be more expensive than university. I’ve had more than one friend go for a couple years and quit because they couldn’t afford it anymore. While it’s not uncommon at uni, I felt like I saw it more with private schools. A lot of the students who go to these schools rely on scholarships and financial aid from the school to go.

However, they tend to be smaller and more focused. While at a public university you might be a Fine Arts or Studio Arts major and take a few classes of painting, a few life drawing classes and be spit out in the world – at a private art school you get more chances of specializing. So you can end up with “Illustration” or “Painting and Drawing” or “Sequential Art” degrees with a series of classes and degree plan much more related to those specific goals.

Public university, most of my experience has been with liberal arts colleges. So I took a lot of general knowledge courses along with art. I didn’t mind that too much myself, but for others I can see that being a huge drag. If your passion and skills are in the visual arts, being forced to take a year or so of math and science can really throw a monkey wrench in the works.

As for how good the programs at a uni tend to be, that varies greatly with the school, but generally I haven’t been too impressed. Art colleges don’t tend to get the universities much prestige so they may not get the best facilities, equipment, etc. If you have a few professors who care enough to throw a fuss, there might be a chance of things not being crap. But that’s if.

I’m generally talking from my own experiences though, I’ve heard tales that other schools aren’t that bad and actually have good programs. Though I haven’t had a chance to see them.

Personally I don’t really regret where I ended up. But in a perfect world I would have preferred to go to the private art school as a full student.

I do not mean to say all private schools are good and all universities are bad, they are a crap shoot. Like all schools, you really need to research them to get an idea. Look at artists you admire and see where they went, if you can ask them, ask their opinions. I’ve seen some good artists come out of bad schools and bad artists come out of good schools.

As for whether or not the tuition is worth it…I’d have to say, it is if you think it is. If you feel you are learning and improving under the tutelage of the school then I’d say yes. If you feel you aren’t learning anything you wouldn’t have been able to pick up on your own, then no. Also maybe find a new school.

It also really depends on your goals. Some industries you need the degree and formal education to advance, others it’s less your degree and more who you know and what your portfolio looks like. Colleges can be a good place to build up contacts and portfolios, but not a requirement.

In the end it’s more what works for you than anything else. There is no right or wrong school.

One thought on “How to Survive Art School – Redux

  1. Great explanation 🙂 The system is a lot different in the U.K where there are more art genre choices in the university’s (illustration, photography, fine art, surface pattern, advertising etc). I was lucky to go to a uni that was smaller than most and employed tutors who were and are active artists, which makes all the difference.

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