Need help for son seeking very specific school: art, creative writing & open curriculum

Hi All,

My son who is a rising Senior in HS is seeking a very specific kind of school. He seeks an open curriculum and ability to explore visual arts, animation and creative writing. We live in DC and he doesn’t want to go too too far away. Additionally, he is not the most independent kid yet - summer birthday. It looks like University of the Arts would not work for him due to lack of meal plan and student CTR. LGBT Friendly is a must but I think that goes without saying with the list below. Does anyone have input on the schools below or any thoughts on other schools in PA, DE, MD, NOVA that fit the needs above?

Many thanks,

Open Curriculum
Not too far from DC
Art School or Liberal Arts school that has a great art/animation and creative writing program

List so far:

Sarah Lawrence
Bennington (Not close tho home but extended family not far)
Tyler School of Art at Temple U
VCU School for the Arts
Arcadia University
MICA (hard to get into I hear)

It’s a little farther than you would like but check out Vassar College. It has an open curriculum, great English dept., studio art and is very LGBT friendly. I don’t think they have animation though.

We know a few MICA students who are very happy with their college experience. My best friend from high school went there many, many years ago, and is now a professional scene designer and painter.

I have another friend with a kid at Sarah Lawrence who is very happy there.

My kid has a friend at Temple in the theatre department. She didn’t get a deposit in early enough to get a dorm room so she’s sharing an apartment, and that has been difficult. If your kid isn’t very independent and he ends up at Temple, make sure you deposit early.

I was going to suggest Bennington except for the distance. Marlboro College in VT may also be a possibility.

MICA is a 57% admit school. You didn’t say what his grades or test scores were like so I can’t tell you whether he looks like a difficult admit. They do like to review a portfolio, though, maybe that’s where you perceive the difficulty?

Campus Pride rates school for LGBT-friendliness and they have a minor search engine on their site. It may be worth playing around with their parameters and reading feedback on their site.

Is UNC School for the Arts too far for you? I’ve read good things about them.

Cost constraints?

Sarah Lawrence (which you already have on the list) is an obvious candidate, but it is expensive.

Emerson in Boston is worth a look if he’s willing to go farther north. The curriculum isn’t completely open, but it’s pretty flexible. Emerson is one of the most queer-friendly colleges around, and it’s great for writing and the arts.

What about Hampshire College?

Thanks, @elena13!

Thanks, @warblersrule. We’ll check it out!

Thanks,@ucbalumnus good point to consider.

How about The New School in NYC? It includes both Eugene Lang College, for open-curriculum liberal arts including creative writing and visual arts, and Parsons which has more intensive BFA programs including Art, Media & Technology. There’s also a 5-year BA/BFA for students admitted to both Lang and Parsons.

If maturity is an issue, a gap year can be a great option, especially when a students interests lie in creative fields where there are any number of non-credit opportunities that can make for a productive year before entering college.

Thanks, @ninakatarina He has pretty good grades except for math which are average. He also will have a portfolio to submit. MICA is def a place we will check out.

Thanks, @stradmom !

My older daughter was looking for similar things in colleges when she applied (2009). Bennington was her first runner-up; she ended up at the University of Redlands, which is in southern California. Obviously, the latter would be out of your desired geographical range but I still clearly remember how hard it was for her to turn down Bennington.


NC School of the Arts is a conservatory. I’m not sure it has the majors this kid is interested in…and it does not have an open curriculum.

Goucher in MD. Lesley in MA (Lesley now has an art school). I was going to suggest Bennington and Sarah Lawrence!

Brown and Amherst have open curricula. Not sure how compeititve he wants to go.

Most BFA/studio arts colleges like MICA will have a foundation year that is pretty structured. Make sure when you explore those options that you understand the curriculum requirements. MICA is one of the more flexible BFA programs and will really allow encourage exploration and experimentation so you find your identity as an artist and a creative. SAIC in Chicago might be another option - very flexible with a lot of different options.

Does he want an art school/BFA? That will be more narrowly focused on the visual arts/animation without so much creative writing. Some schools will have a BFA in creative writing but often it is part of or a concentration within an English major.

Because the original post mentioned interest in both visual arts and writing, and asked about open curriculum schools, certain liberal arts schools came to mind (like Bennington).

If the original poster wants an art school, it would be great to clarify that, but that was not the impression I got.

There is a great book obtainable online, entitled “Creative Colleges.” It lists schools that are good for music, theater visual arts, film and writing, as I remember.

Other thoughts; Skidmore in NY (very artsy) Kenyon in Ohio (known for writing), Clark in MA, Macalaster, Hobart William-Smith, Vassar, along with Bennington, Marlboro, Sarah Lawrence, Hampshire (requires maturity), Goucher, Lesley (gorgeous new art building), Brown, Amherst.

Look at Colleges that Change Lives- a website and book and national fairs. Loren Pope also wrote a book that is now a bit dated, entitled “Looking Beyond the ivy League,” which is still useful in its lists of schools for different interests.

For a kid like this, there are many many schools that would fit the bill, but I would think actual art schools might be too narrow in curriculum for him, as well as structured. He could attend art school and do writing on the side, but it would seem that with multiple interests, an artsy liberal arts college would be the best way to go. Even some state universities might fit the bill, though they would not have an open curriculum (but are financial safeties for many).