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Benchmark for art supplement's "substantial talent beyond standard high-school level"?

Ste11arstarSte11arstar Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
I was considering sending an art supplement with photography to Harvard, but they say you should have substantial talent beyond standard high-school level accomplishment for photography. What would determine this? I'm just not sure what a typical "high-school" level photographer would be.

Replies to: Benchmark for art supplement's "substantial talent beyond standard high-school level"?

  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,584 Senior Member
    edited January 7
    My guess is that photography supplements are judged by criteria similar to the top-rated portfolios on the College Board's website. So your photography skills and portfolio presentation should exceed beyond what is presented here: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/series/ap-studio-art-2-d-design/2018-portfolio/student-samples-portfolio-exam-sections/score-6.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 39,517 Super Moderator
    edited January 7
    My guess is that photography supplements are judged by criteria similar to the top-rated portfolios on the College Board's website
    My guess is that it's much higher; a 5 on AP Studio Art is not, by itself, indicative of "substantial talent beyond standard high-school level." After all, 18% of students scored a 5 on the exam last year.

    Here's my take on supplements to top research universities and LACs: consider the quality of supplements that others will submit. Even for HYP, music supplements would be of the quality to a top conservatory, art supplements to a top art school, and research supplements are ready (or almost ready) to be published (if they have not been already).

    So the OP should ask the opinion of her photography teacher. If s/he deem the OP's work to be amongst the top 1% of the 1% of students taught, then she might consider sending.
  • Ste11arstarSte11arstar Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    Thank you for the information! I was looking at YoungArts Winners' photography as well. If my camera's quality is lower than professional/expensive cameras, would that be okay?
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,584 Senior Member
    edited January 7
    If my camera's quality is lower than professional/expensive cameras, would that be okay?

    Your skills, equipment, and presentation should be at the quality of a top conservatory school -- think RISDI (http://portfolios.risd.edu/search?field=Photography&time=all&risd_status=375&risd_major=383).

    If the quality of your work, whether due to content or equipment is at a lower quality, it will NOT move your application forward. In fact, IMHO submitting something that is less than conservatory level could hinder your application -- in which case you should NOT submit an arts supplement and let your application be evaluated on just the required materials.
  • TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 1,752 Senior Member
    "If my camera's quality is lower than professional/expensive cameras, would that be okay?"

    I've been a semi-professional (by choice) photographer for the past few decades, and I can assure you that great photographers can produce great works of art no matter how lowly their camera is. Given today's DSLR (soon to be extinct, by the way, as the camera engineering is all heading toward the "mirrorless"), even the lowest of them is highly capable of producing great images. In other words, it's not the camera that determines the worth of your art. I've seen many people with most expensive cameras and lenses (between the two, the lens is more important, by the way), yet they produce shots that aren't any better than the snapshots out of a cell phone.

    The best way to compare your level of art work is to look at what top high school photographers are doing, so the YoungArts is a good place to start. Consult with local professional photographers for their assessment, too. There are many photography related discussion forums and groups where you can post your images and seek the opinions of other members. Just in Facebook, there are countless photography related groups. Flickr is another; the Photography on the Net is yet another, etc.

  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,051 Senior Member
    Every year this topic comes up, and I, personally, feel that the responses can be excessively discouraging. I believe, at the undergrad level, that even schools like Harvard (and top conservatories and art schools) are interested in potential rather than polish. If you believe in your photography and it is an important part of who you are, and you have gotten good feedback on it, I would go ahead and submit. You do not need to match anyone else's work (please!) or have won amazing awards (doesn't hurt but not necessary). Make sure to include an arts resume and letters of recommendation as well, if helpful. Be brave, but prudent.
  • TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 1,752 Senior Member
    This is Harvard's instruction for submitting supplemental materials:

    "Supplemental submissions are useful only for applicants with substantial talents beyond standard high-school level accomplishment. Consider carefully whether your supplemental materials demonstrate unusual talent before submission."

    When instructions are like this, are responses really "excessively discouraging" or are they actually being helpful for the applicant to be realistic with expectations? Shouldn't the applicant consider the potential risk of irritating the Adcoms by not following the instructions? Encouraging for the sake of "feel good" could potentially be a disservice to the applicant.

    When my violinist son applied to Princeton, he submitted supplemental materials because we both felt that he had that "substantial" and "unusual" criteria. Upon arriving at Princeton, however, he was very surprised by the level of other musicians who had also submitted the materials. It seemed everyone around him had attended the Pre-College Juilliard since toddler age with the average of dozen competition wins at state, national, and often, international stages before coming to Princeton. There's even a violinist who had debuted solo with the New York Phil at age 13.

    My son has a class with another young man who's a photographer. He was a winner of scholarship that allowed him to join a photography expedition trip with the National Geographic. The point is that the realistic talent level at places like HYP for those who have successfully submitted the arts supplement is very very high. Being aware of such talent level, I take the supplement submission instructions a lot more seriously.

  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,051 Senior Member
    edited January 8
    I am well aware of the talent level at these schools. And also well aware that many applicants (and students) come from wealthy backgrounds with savvy parents who get them access to programs, competitions and awards.

    I stand by my advice that if a student is passionate and has put hard work into an artistic discipline, and the art form is a major factor in who they are presenting to the school, but has not garnered those national awards etc., , that they should still submit their work.

    A couple of years ago, an art student was discouraged and PM'ed me. She was too scared to submit after reading these posts. I saw her work and it was phenomenal. What a shame.

    I feel it is elitist to imply that only those who study at pre-college or summer programs or who win big awards should submit their art work or music. Potential, hard work, and love of an art form is honored too.

    Just as elite schools are trying to honor working at the local ice cream stand versus some impressive volunteer stint in Africa, they are looking hard at a variety of talents among those who may not have had the same parental and consultant grooming.

    If you think your work says something, and reflects you, consider all of these posts but don't lose it by not submitting because this thread is scaring you.
  • TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 1,752 Senior Member
    "I feel it is elitist to imply that only those who study at pre-college or summer programs or who win big awards should submit their art work or music. Potential, hard work, and love of an art form is honored too."

    There was no such implication. I quoted the actual instruction by Harvard, and I stated what my son learned about his musical peers and their talent level at Princeton. That's the reality that anyone who wants to submit their art work at such schools would have to be faced with. I don't recall anyone here on CC that stated that "only those who study at pre-college or summer programs or who win big awards should submit their art work or music." Not once by me or anyone. There's no such qualifying instruction provided by Harvard or its peers, either. If anyone feels that their work is high enough to meet the criteria provided by these ultra selective schools, then they should by all means submit their works regardless of whether they've attended a pre-college or won big awards and whatnot. My son never attended a pre-college, by choice, yet he did submit his art supplement because he felt his work to be on par with others and met the instructional criteria. No one has discouraged the art student whose work you found to be "phenomenal" from submitting. Who knows other than her whatever the ultimate rationale for not submitting her work, but that was entirely her decision and no one else's.
  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 Registered User Posts: 1,034 Senior Member
    Here's a middle ground. If your artwork was good enough to submit to an art school in that medium then consider it. For example, does your photography meet the criteria of what RISD would expect in a high school portfolio? If so, then submit it. If not then think about what it adds to your application. There are organizations that can tell you what the criteria for various medium are. Additionally, there are national and regional competitions. These are well known ( National Scholastic art and writing awards for example). Most art teachers esp in urban centers know what the criteria are. If you ask them ( early) they can help with selection and portfolio preparation.

    Just having passion isn't going to cut it. At all. Sorry. It doesn't have to be perfect or won an award.
    @compmom You are right many parents know of high level programs. But many arts programs are free or nearly so. There are many national works which come from high schools across the nation and in very poorly funded areas. The great thing about art is it's very inexpensive to buy a pencil and paper. In addition, art isn't something that requires lots of programming. Many talented artists have an inner voice. They have something they want to say and do so in a visual manner. It's very similar to someone who has a writing talent.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 39,517 Super Moderator
    Let's move on from trying to debate the point, please. Express your PoV, and the OP can decide. But based on my experience here, nobody's opinion will be changed (and debate violates ToS).
  • jzducoljzducol Registered User Posts: 582 Member
    Its logistically impossible to review all submitted supplements by faculty experts. Only when requested by AOs do these supplements get reviewed, and only when the applicants are being seriously considered do those requests arise. The question most non-art applicants face is that what if the quality of art is not on par with the national awards would submitting the work help or hurt their application? IMHO, if an non art applicant is on verge of being admitted and AOs want to see his/her art work because its part of the many ECs, they will likely ask for it. If the art work is already there and its sub par it is likely going to hurt the cause. So, either way, if you are unsure about its being top notch it seems that the better strategy is not submitting it.

    But compmom raised an interesting point: would the same artwork coming from a student "working at the local ice cream stand versus some impressive volunteer stint in Africa" be viewed differently? I don't know the answer to that. It seems that an art work like a piano concerto is a pretty clear cut case to evaluate. But photography? hard to say.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,051 Senior Member
    I didn't intend my comments to be taken personally. Instead they referred to more generalized advice on this issue. I believe my comments are in line with some changes schools like Harvard are trying to make, but obviously everyone is right here: quality does matter. Apologies to anyone who read my post as being directed to a specific individual. I was just trying to suggest another point of view for balance.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 39,517 Super Moderator
    edited January 8
    would the same artwork coming from a student "working at the local ice cream stand versus some impressive volunteer stint in Africa" be viewed differently?
    My opinion is no, they are not viewed differently, any more than the track coach evaluates times differently.

    As you correct that not all supplements get sent for evaluation. The AO does not evaluate music/art/research, etc. as that is not their expertise. The faculty that evaluate the supplements do not get the application package; they just get the supplement and are only critiquing the supplement on it's own merits.
    Post edited by skieurope on
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,051 Senior Member
    I did not write anything about artwork done by a kid working at an ice cream stand. My comments were misunderstood apparently.
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