Is there any middle ground between Art Schools and Colleges for GD/Comm Design?

My daughter is a junior and would like to go into communication design/graphic design. In her dream world, she would find a program with a broader focus: editorial design, branding, type design, advertising design, design environments, and graphic design. Yes, she enjoys being a jack of all trades . But we both get that she may need to focus on 1 of those area.

Her dream world also has a limited number of the traditional gen education requirements. She has been at a private classical school all 12 yrs and feels certain that she has had enough classical humanities and math for a lifetime!

We were clicking along very nicely with our list of small to med size private colleges- until she went to a workshop with Brian Collins. That was it for her, whatever he is selling, she is buying! And the college list is out the window.

She wants to spend most of her time in school (and studying a broad) developing skills and getting experience. Sounds like Art School. But I’m a little concerned that she will want a touch of the college experience?

We live in Texas and she would prefer to go out of state-I agree. However, I would also prefer that she have campus housing for first 1-2 years, be within 1 hr of an airport and be in an area she can safely run, walk, and be out at night… (Yes, I am wondering about MICA when I say this.)

Are there any schools, colleges, or universities that come to mind? Of course Yale an CMU would be great- if they put their SAT scores on sale for Design students! I’ll never understand why they judge design student on their Eng and Math scores- at least to the tune of 1450.

Obviously we have Pratt and Parson’s on the list to visit. She has a friend at SCAD and has taken it off the list. But what about any great programs flying under the radar? Surely we are missing something!

Hi! Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles might be worth a look given her broad interests. They have an initial foundation year and then there are multiple majors and minors that you can combine. My daughter is a 10th grader who has been taking classes at various Los Angeles area art schools, including Otis. They have dorms and there are apartments nearby, and the weather might not be as much of a shock as going to the northeast would be. :slight_smile: Probably worth adding to the list of schools to investigate.

We will check it out! You mentioned that your daughter has been taking classes at other art schools. Are there any that have stood out in terns of the campus and general vibe?

She has taken classes at artcenter college of design in Pasadena as well… They recommend that students who apply already know what they want to major in, as students jump right into the major from the first year. It is really rigorous and quite well regarded and definitely worth poking around on their website to see if it might be a fit, but has no dorms. Pasadena is very safe and there are other colleges relatively nearby, including Cal tech and Occidental. She has also toured Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Games and Animation, and will be taking summer camp there for two weeks this summer. They are very focused on entertainment and game art, so probably not a fit given your daughter’s interests. Another school my daughter will look at over the next couple of years is the Laguna College of Art and Design. They have some really interesting programs - and some dorms - and are also a little bit less expensive than many of the other art schools. On top of that, Laguna Beach is pretty much paradise on earth! I will be curious to hear how your process evolves… The art process is so different than other college search processes and this whole adventure has been quite an education for me!

Another possible school to look at if she’s less into the ‘art school’ vibe and wants more of a ‘typical’ college with sports/frats/lots of social events etc kind of experience (I could be wrong but I wasn’t sure from your initial ask)…is Syracuse University. They offer several options of BFA, BAs etc within both the Newhouse School and the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

My oldest is now a senior at RISD and almost went to Syracuse so we visited alot, etc (in my kids case she is super artsy/quirky and so the school wasn’t a great fit tho the academics/art programs were).

Also there’s a good Honors Program that can also enhance her academic experiences there.

Thank you! I have added all of your suggestions to the list and will start looking into them.

For those of you who have visited Parsons, Pratt, SVA, what was your general impression of the students and environment on campus (or the area where classes are held)? Just to be clear (and hopefully avoid any debates), I am strictly asking what your impression/personal opinion was either thru your S or D who attended the school or the feeling you got when you visited.

My youngest is a freshman at Parsons and we toured Pratt (twice) and SVA.

Really liked Pratt’s program, studios and the more ‘collegiate’ enclosed feel of the campus - but the financial aid package didn’t make it viable for our finances.

Toured SVA and neither of us were thrilled with how spread out the campus feels - major buildings are several blocks away from each other and she didn’t get the vibe that there was much of a ‘community’ feel. Didn’t apply based on tour. To be fair, has friends who go there and they’ve loved it and the program.

Currently she’s very happy at Parsons - when first toured, absolutely loved the campus, architecture and ‘vibe’. Has found most of classes great, loves the neighborhood lives in, is exploring NYC and the burroughs with new and old HS friends and seems happy with the choice. They were also the most competitive (outside of MICA which would have been lightly less $ for us, and RISD which was about the same but also big sis is a senior there & not quite right fit for her either).

Feel free to DM me if you’d like more Parsons specific info or on any of the schools above. Between my two art college kids I think we’ve toured EVERY East Coast art college…and sometimes up to 3x! :0

I would love to DM you for your insight on Parsons, but unfortunately I do not have the required 15 posts/comments to do so!

Oh no worries - feel free to ask here then!

I appreciate your help! Art schools are entirely new to me. Added to that is that my knowledge of NY City is only from tourist perspective. So here come the questions!

Merit aid is definitely something we will be looking for and I’m cringing when I look at some of the schools avg merit awards. From your experience, was the merit package based on her portfolio, grades, scores?

What is the workload like for her?
Does she live in campus housing? If so, what is it like for her and does she intend on living in campus housing all 4 years? Was she familiar with the area before attending?

If the merit aid had been the same, would she have chosen Pratt?

Did she consider any more traditional schools or CA art schools?

How would you compare your daughter’s first year at Parsons to a traditional college? Roommates, friends, dating, life outside of school.

And thanks again!!

Happy to help - both of my kids attend art schools and I teach in a BFA program at a small liberal arts colleges so we’ve been through this in many ways (and it is a LOT of extra work compared to a ‘regular’ application).

Warning…long :wink:

Merit Aid - (and this will answer where she applied/considered too - also note that her big sister is a senior at RISD so visited along with her and also ruled out some schools from those earlier trips, majors etc):
Hard to tell re grades vs portfolio and the schools didn’t differentiate in their awards, except maybe MICA. She’s a high achieving student from a good public high school, high SAT scores (Ivy League level), APs and heavily involved in art and theater. Portfolio was definitely strong and she got good responses at reviews etc (and got into all her schools).

  • Parsons initially offered $24k “Dean’s BFA Scholarship” and no work study*
  • MICA kept adding in aid (she got initial okish one and then the extra ones you have to apply/be juried for - see more below)
  • RISD offered $25k & $2K workstudy (same package her big sis has)
  • Pratt - I forget specifics but it was like $16k scholarship with $10k work study which is IMPOSSIBLE (I manage work study positions at my school, the highest we go & that’s actually feasible time-wise is $5k); hubs called them multiple times but never got through to a person
  • Ringling & Laguna came in with ok offerrs but ruled out for different reasons, FIT also an option; visited CalArts but didn’t apply

*Hubs is brave and called Parsons and asked if they could do any better since we would have 2 in art college at the time. We were thinking maybe they’d add work study. They put him on old and added $8k more to the package bringing it up to $32k. Woot! At that point we were pretty set on Parsons since that had always been her top pick, but then MICA rolled in around mid-April with those 2 extra ones and became a little less expensive than Parsons. Daughter agonized for QUITE A WHILE…but then decided on Parsons (which in big pic, career goals, NYC etc was better choice for her).

She never wanted a traditional ‘college experience’ - both of my kids are very quirky, artsy so that’s not their scene. She seems really happy. Absolutely loves the city (we have family there, visit alot) and the neighborhood she’s in (it’s a posh area and she passes/is tempted by The Strand Bookstore everyday). Got all As Fall semester and handles the work load well (she had fair warning from big sis re art school!), She lives in a suite in Loeb Hall and we’ve all been happy with security, the facilities etc (avoid Stuyvesant, she’s heard nightmare stories from friends). They’re all kind of quiet and studious in her suite, so not exactly besties, but they seem to enjoy each others’ company so no drama…yet. :wink:

She has several close friends from high school who are also going to school in the city so I was a little nervous she’d rely on them too much and not make friends (since she’s kind of shy). But it seems to be a good balance of doing things with new and old friends. I noticed a lot of her first year classes have had projects where you work with a group, or go to places together, team building stuff which I think has really helped (my older kid at RISD could have really used things like that). It’s a lot of neat things where they need to go as a group to a place, draw it, see an exhibit etc…a lot of fun ways to explore NYC, the arts scene and environment. So I feel like the faculty understands the art kids quirks and are helping nudge them into forming bonds.

She hasn’t decided re housing next year and I’ll be bugging her about it on spring break. I think the plan is to get an apartment with new and old friends possibly in Brooklyn or Queens. One friend is in Queens now and they explore on the weekends. Renting there is A LOT cheaper than the dorms and a quick subway ride to classes (which she’s mastered pretty quickly on her own and now talks routes with the relatives like she’s been there for decades). There’s also a good New School FB parents board that shares a lot of tips etc on this topic.

Hope the info helps!

This was super helpful! So if you don’t mind, here’s a few more…

My D really likes the Comm Design program at Parsons and we are planning to visit in the next 2 months. However, I’m concerned about the chances of her getting merit aid (enough to knock it down to the 35-38k range). She goes to a private school, not a great test taker/1300 on SAT but has a high GPA, has been an editor in Magazine for 10th, 11th, and will for 12th, Does a lot of photography work, and is into other artsy/creative things on her own. BUT, applying to a school full of these kinds of kiddos- I’m not feeling like there’s anything that makes her a standout. Because of this, I think we might have to hedge our bets and find 2-3 really good non-art school, private colleges to consider.

With your background and your experience college shopping, were there any Private Colleges that you came across with solid GD program? The better ones seem to require Ivy League scores and the others we’ve found just feel “meh.” And she’s not fond of the idea of taking 2 years of unrelated classes before getting to her major.

Any advice or resources that you could recommend to help guide her in creating a strong portfolio for communication design? She has a good bit of work, but As a non artsy parent, I’d like to know from your perspective.

Last question. What was your daughter’s impression of Laguna?

Unfortunately, graphic design is an art field I don’t know much about. Both my kids are illustration majors and I’m in another field too. Sorry!

If you start another thread asking about solid GD programs you’ll probably get a better list.

Re Laguna: Good fit academically - she wants to be a concept artist & they have a specific major for that, which is rare. Appreciated that there isn’t really the standard foundation year and instead you start right off into your major (her older sister really did NOT like foundation year!). Laguna also has strong ties with nearby gaming companies which is one field she’d like to enter. Thought the small class size might be nice too…but legit hates hot, the beach, etc (my kids are weird!).

So the added expenses of travel (we live on the East Coast) and housing (freshman dorm housing isn’t guaranteed), and the town of Laguna Beach actually not being a draw for her made it one of her least fav options/not a great fit personally. I enjoyed the visit though and dinner overlooking the ocean! :wink:

@hillcountryview have you attended a National Portfolio Day? You’re daughter can get specific feedback from schools she is interested in. She can also find other schools there she may not have considered. My daughter tailored her list a good bit by attending.

@ArtAngst great information! My daughter got into Parsons for Graphic Design and is waiting on RISD. Since you have two kids attending both I would love your thoughts on both colleges. One of the issues I have had with Parsons is they really will not allow you to meet with an advisor or sit in on a class so it’s a bit of a mystery on whether the quality and fit would be good for her. She is looking for a college that will allow for both art school quality classes and the ability to take liberal arts classes. On paper, RISD appears to be stronger in this area with the option of taking classes at Brown even though New School is a Liberal arts university. In your opinion what are the pros and cons of Parsons vs RISD? She also received the Deans Scholarship too from Parson. Thank you!!!

@hillcountryview - we are from SoCal so I know LCAD very well. It is a very small art school in Laguna Beach. Amazing area but tiny. Really good for gaming but you will not have a campus social life IMO. From my research, for my daughter, some of the art schools for design in the US she checked at that we liked are RISD, Parsons, Pratt (needs to be a strong illustrator to get in IMO), SVA more commercial focused, CalArts and Art Center very commercial and specialized. Of the university programs I researched, I liked Syracuse, UT Austin, USC, Cal Poly SLO, RIT, Carnegie Mellon, Michigan, Cal State Long Beach, Washington University and ASU. All of those universities have great BFA programs. She is also considering the UK and got into UAL’s colleges but they push a foundation year which I really was not impressed with. You do need a strong portfolio/interview to get into the direct 3 year programs and each course is different and undergraduate education is highly specialized too - no minors. The University of London Goldsmiths is great for Design - broader focus than just graphic design. It is cheaper and the student accommodations are amazing in the UK in general - private rooms with a bathroom.

MBNAN- thanks for your input! Can I ask what area of study your daughter is pursuing and what schools she has it narrowed down to?

When it comes to programs in the UK, did you have any help getting thru their application process? It’s a bit overwhelming to me and I would love any direction here.

Sorry long again :wink:

Both of my kids toured the schools more than once (we have family in both cities so that helped), read lots on Niche and from current students, talked with reps at a regional portfolio day, etc. Neither met with an advisor or sat in on classes (as a college instructor myself I don’t mind it necessarily and have had it happen a few times, but we’re a very small program…for schools like RISD and Parsons I could see how that would get very disruptive). I’m generally happy with both of my kids’ choices - their pros and cons + needs were different, and I think they both made the right choices for themselves.

New School does a lot of things online, so advising so far has mostly been remote/group video chat in the summer/via email. My youngest seems fairly comfortable with that tho. My RISD kid’s advisor has changed like 3x which may have been a fluke re sabbaticals etc. You will have 2 at RISD - they have a foundations year one and then you get a new one sophomore year when you enter your major. This has kind of been annoying for RISD kid, she learned that others’ advisors were more hands on/involved with job searches etc. BUT on the flipside, RISD kid has had a lot of great instructors who have mentored her and provided those kind of relationships instead.

WORK/STRESS BALANCE (or lack thereof!):
Both kids seem to have worked equally hard foundation year…art school in general tends to be INSANE that first year. So in some ways it seemed like Parsons may have been less stressful for my youngest, but I was chatting with her tonight and asked about this and she said she feels like she’s doing the same amount of work (and stressing!) as her sister, BUT she knew what to expect, so a matter of ‘riding it out’.

Re the RISD/Brown, it’s not really that easy to take liberals there. The Brown schedule is 2 semesters, whereas RISD is basically 3 - 2 full semesters and a 6 week winter session - so they don’t line up. My RISD kid is taking her first Brown class now, it wasn’t hard to register etc and the instructor didn’t seem to mind that she missed a class due to RISD break etc, but it’s not always as easy to fit in as they sell it.

I asked Parsons kid if taking liberals was easier, but she’s not sure yet since she hasn’t had the opportunity to explore that, BUT heard it can be a little difficult. Not sure why tho. Related to this tho is APs…


  • RISD only accepts 3 APs. They took (2) as liberals and (1) as an art elective; gave some wiggle room to get a concentration in LCAS (Language Creative Arts Study - basically she got first dibs on creative writing and Brit Lit classes she wanted)
  • Parsons takes all of them; gave credit for (7) classes so now has ALL of her liberal requirements met; she's hoping this gives her more freedom in upcoming years to explore additional interests

Hope this helps @MBNAN and feel free to hit me up for more info!

1 Like

@ArtAngst Thank you so much I really appreciate the information!! Last question is housing situation and making friends. Both are super important to my daughter any pro or con to either college?

My Daughter will be studying Design. She has not decided if she will go UK route or stay in US as she is waiting for all the acceptances to come through on the US side. With regards to UK approach it is very different than US undergraduate and art schools. I spent weeks studying and researching this. Her guidance counselor was of zero help. There is a company Across The Pond that works with certain uk uni and are helpful. Some uni have us reps. Goldsmiths and AUB have wonderful reps. UAL was the hardest to get info. I preferred working directly with their London admissions vs local rep. In fact we are heading home now from UK. It is highly specialized vs US. No minors - you only study your major. They do have a foundation year option but frankly for my daughter had taken equivalent already through local art schools and colleges in addition to her high school. Art University at Bournemouth, UAL (various colleges within and really pushes foundation), University of Edinburgh, and Goldsmiths are favorites of mine for Design but it also depends on the fit and living experience the student wants. Application process is different-UCAS for direct BA programs and direct option for UAL. Each uni outlines their US requirements for admission- certain test scores and portfolio. You can interview via Skype. Portfolio approach is more focused on showing your process vs just showing the perfect final piece. I highly recommend if your daughter is interested in this route take a trip during their fall open days. Meet with course leaders and students. Get a sense of the area where the uni is located and check out the student accommodations. This way it will give your daughter time to include and develop the process work in addition to the final pieces. Good luck!!!