RISD or university? Pros and cons?
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Thread: RISD or university? Pros and cons?

  1. #1
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    RISD or university? Pros and cons?

    Hi, I'm relatively new to conceptart.org but I'm really in need of help making my college decisions for next year. I'm a graduating senior in high school who has an excellent academic record but sort of wants to go to art school, if that makes sense.

    I've gotten into both RISD and MICA, but am leaning more towards studying at RISD because of its illustration program. Problem is, I don't really fit the "artist" bill and am still strongly considering going to a liberal art school with a good art program (namely, North Carolina State University College of Design and Boston University) due to both money concerns (RISD gave me 14k in aid for freshman year while BU gave me 26k... when considering funds in the long run, it makes a difference) and questions about my... personality.

    My parents don't believe I am "strong enough" to go to art school and constantly frame their conversations with "when you can't handle RISD and drop out, what will you do?" The issue is that I have an extremely weak personality for an artist and possess an unstable self-confidence and resolve. That, and also because I am better at my academics than art any day and they believe I have more potential at a liberal art school (aka when I "grow out of my artist phase and want to get a real major"). My hope is that going to art school can help me change the greater flaws in my personality... while my parents and even my art teacher are doubtful (my art teacher suggests I go to MICA because it is less competitive there and will thus be "less miserable").

    My real problem is that I'm not sure if it's better to go to RISD or to a liberal arts school and if it would have an effect on my job prospects after I get out. Earning money after school is also a big issue for me...

    If I go to a liberal arts school and end up transferring to an art school, will I be behind? Also, vice versa? Can you even compare art programs at universities and art programs at art schools? What about jobs? Is the price for art school worth it?

    I am mainly interested in going into digital illustration (a more design-oriented field over a fine arts field) and possibly graphic novels and other story-telling-like fields, though unlikely.

    I just don't want to NOT go to an art school because I am too "weak" to go... but I also don't want to fail. Everyone knows how hard RISD's freshman program is, which is why everyone I know is expressing so much doubt about my capabilities to handle it. It's a horribly hard decision for me.

    Any advice regarding the pros and cons of art programs at both art schools and universities, RISD's illustration program, the importance of a good personality for art school, the importance of going to an art school at all... will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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    Hey,

    An awesome thing about RISD is that you can also take classes at Brown for free (assuming it's not already full). This could be a way for you to pursue what you feel most passionate about (art) while getting to take top-notch liberal art courses from an Ivy League school. There is now also a joint Brown-RISD dual degree program, but it's probably too late to apply (it's still very new so I don't know much about it).

    I would say that if deep down you feel most passionate about art, even if you deem yourself "weak", you should go to an art school because it's probably one of the most supportive, creative, and awesome context in which to find your confidence and develop your skills. Be ready to work hard, but don't feel like you are weak just because you are not as self-assured as your peers...you'll probably change your style a lot anyway. However, if you are not sure that you love art and want to keep your options open, than maybe the liberal arts option is better. You seem to have the brains to do well in an academic setting, and scholarships are big pluses. HOWEVER, I don't think it will give you a better shot at a job necessarily...my friends who have gone to art school are employed about as much as the non-arts school kids. The difference is that you'll probably have a much easier time finding a generic job with a broader degree, but also a much harder finding an art-related job if you don't have a good portfolio/art degree.

    I was in a similar situation as you in high school, but actually did not end up applying to art school (which I regret in hindsight). I don't feel bad about anything since I had a blast in college, but I do wish that I had prepared myself mentally a little better and not been afraid to go after what I really wanted.

    To give you some background: I graduated high school at the top of my class, and though I was good at most subjects, my passion was art. However, I figured that I would probably go to a liberal arts school to get a broader education and major in International Relations (or something similar). I ended up enrolling at Brown...without applying to art schools.

    Everyone kept telling me that it doesn't really matter what you study, as long as it's something you're passionate about...in the end, the character and work you have to show for it is much more important. Despite knowing this, I was very wishy washy for a while and couldn't decide what to major in...none of my intended majors really satisfied me. Art was still what I enjoyed most, so (somewhat ironically) I ended up majoring in Art (I actually doubled in Art and American Civ...which I thought would help since I wanted to get into advertising at the time).

    The art department at Brown was supportive and cool, but much more traditional/Fine Arts oriented. I took 2 classes at RISD, an intro Illustration course, and a digital art course. The first one was ok but all the students were great and it was inspiring and motivating to see their work...and the second class was amazing, I learned so much! So from my experience, my liberal arts college definitely had a more limited and traditional approach to art, whereas RISD had everything you could want as a young artist. However, I got a pretty solid education all around. I guess my ideal situation would have been to not be so indecisive with my major, gotten more involved with the Brown art department early on, and taken as many RISD classes as possible while at Brown!

    No matter where you go, make sure to push yourself and try a lot of interesting things! Take a lot of different classes for the first semester or two and find something that you really like (art or otherwise), and go with it. Take advantage of what your school has and ask for a lot of feedback, and you will be happy

    As for me? I'm currently working a music-related job and doing a few freelance art things on the side. I want to pursue illustration full time, so I will probably apply to an MFA illustration program (eying SVA) so that I can get that art-submersion experience and the contacts that I never got in undergrad. That's always an option for you if you like school a lot and want the best of both worlds!

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    PS: Also consider the people at each school. Visit if you can to get a general feel for the vibe. At an arts school, you'll be surrounded by incredibly creative types, which is good but could be overwhelming. At a liberal arts school, you'll meet a lot of different people that could inspire you in their own way. I've met some of my best friends and boyfriend of nearly 3 years at Brown, and only a few of them do art, so you never know...just think about where you thrive best, who inspires you. You'll be fine!

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    Thanks so much for responding! I feel that you made so many good points... about art school and university, both.

    I really do feel that art is my passion, though all these other factors keep distracting me. Even if I do end up going to a university I doubt I'd major in anything else anyway, even if I try out English or Math (I like Math only when I understand it. Which is a horrible philosophy, I know, but still). I realized after more researching that BU's art program is also pretty fine-art focused. Since I'm looking more for a digital/design field, I don't think it'll fit me as much. Money is still a big concern, however, for many reasons.

    RISD, even when taking into account the meager scholarship/work-study it offered me and my parent's help, would cost me around $23,000/year to attend, adding up to a principal of $92,000. For a BFA, I feel that this may be just craziness. I'm now more closely considering my local state design program (NC State College of Design), which though didn't offer me any scholarships, my parents can completely pay for (leaving me with no loans at all). That, and they like how it's a university...

    I really don't know. I want to go to RISD... I know how important the experience is in life. Even if the financial reward is equal to going to a public university, the actual courses/learning you receive is just that much different. But hearing all these student loan horror stories and with the hefty price on my mind, I'm hesitant to jump into it. Since my intended major and career is in illustration.

    Which, really, doesn't make all that much unless applied into a different field.

    (I applied to the Brown/RISD dual-degree program but was rejected from Brown. Though I was disappointed, I knew even if I got accepted into it it wouldn't have been for me... the coursework of RISD itself is already very hard. Adding on a degree from Brown sounds impossible.)

    If anyone knows anything about NC State's reputation outside of North Carolina... It's difficult for me to research public art programs since schools like RISD and MICA keep popping up on search engines.

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    Hey!

    So I'm in a very similar situation to you! I also live in North Carolina (Winston-Salem) and was having a very hard time deciding where to go to college. I was debating between RISD and UNC- Chapel Hill and had been accepted to both. Although my dream college experience would have been to be a part of the Brown- RISD dual program, I was deferred and then rejected at Brown. My parents wanted me to go to UNC for similar reasons that you talked about (money, distance, other options, etc..). After thinking for a long time, I decided to enroll at RISD. My family has become hugely supportive and are genuinely excited and proud of me. And even better, my confidence in my decision grows everyday. I'm so glad that I made the decision to go away and study what I love - I feel like it will be an experience I'll never regret. I can imagine myself enrolled at Chapel Hill and thinking , "Why did I let such an awesome opportunity pass me by??" So that's how I made my decision. I hope you had as much luck and hope you're happy with the decision you've made! (I'm guessing you've already enrolled somewhere since it's past May 1st). If you decided to enroll at RISD, I might see you in the fall up in Providence!

    Good Luck,

    -Kristen

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