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Feta's avatar

Do colleges care about the classes you took in high school?

Asked by Feta (925points) January 11th, 2014 from iPhone

I’ve taken all AP courses available at my school and meet the graduation requirements with a 3.9 GPA (made a 92 in Geometry).

However, I want to go to an art school for photography and illustration and I’ve only taken one art class.
The reasoning for this is because I go to a very small, very poor (literally, even though it’s public we have to give the teachers class fees every year, it’s never more than $20 per class but still…I’ve also had classes that don’t have enough text books to go around), school with limited space for students in classes, meaning every time I’ve tried to take art, I’ve been told the class was already full (of kids who aren’t even in the art path…I was told by the administration that Art is mainly reserved for seniors because seniors should have an easy last year of high school).
My school makes us choose a career path as freshman and they build our schedules based on that, so naturally mine was art.
I was informed this year that they weren’t sure I could graduate if I kept the art path because I needed 4 art credits and rather than bumping some kid who wanted an easy class out of Art, they tried to stick me in drama and I refused. So, the solution was to change my career path to “humanities” which basically means history classes, and since they’d managed to give me every history/social studies class available at my school in lieu of art, I met the graduation requirements for Humanities with an astounding 7 history credits (only 3 required).

I didn’t really have a problem with this…because I do art at home anyway and the class at school is basically a glorified crafts class.
However, I was reading the requirements for most selective colleges in our student handbook and it says that colleges generally want to see that you took elective classes pertaining to your career of choice.

Well, what are they going to think about my single art class?

I’m double majoring for the sake of having a “Plan-B” career, but I mainly want to be a photographer and my high school doesn’t offer a photography course simply because the teacher died a few years ago and they don’t have the funds to replace her.

This school frankly sucks in many other ways and I’ve begged my parents to please homeschool me, but they can’t afford it and also find me having a social life more important than my actual education (I might add that my social life is lacking in school anyway because I refuse to associate with the drug dealers and down-home hookers that populate it).

So I don’t know…has my high school lessened the chances of me getting into art school or will my portfolio and (high) test scores be enough?

I’m looking at Tisch in NYC and I read that the author Frank McCourt got into NYU with only 8 years of education and the fact that he read a lot of books and was pretty smart.
I mean…I’ve got more than that.

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9 Answers

cookieman's avatar

I am the director of a design department at a college. We teach graphic & web design, photography, etc.

I review high school transcripts for admission all the time. While I do review portfolios (work samples), the main thing I look for is academic performance (consistency or improvement), cumulative gpa, and what is written in the essay. I also interview potential students sometime and am mostly interested in communication ability and stated work ethic. I also like to see family involvement (bring your mom to see me). This tells me you’ll have a support system.

Demonstrated creativity gets you in the door to apply, but other factors get you accepted.

Buttonstc's avatar

You really need to make it clear in the essay portion of your application that the paucity of art credits was NOT YOUR fault but due to the limitations of being in a small school with limited opportunities.

I would mention that first thing and stress how much a career in Art means to you.

The consistency of your excellent grades speaks well for you and hopefully the person dealing with you takes all factors into account.

pleiades's avatar

As a kid who grew up in a low economic standard town take it from me, the “awe” factor that goes into applying for colleges diminishes when you’re a working adult. You’ll realize anyone could’ve applied anywhere and if they just actually tried to wow that college whether it be by demonstrating a certain talent or showing a determination in the field of choice you wouldn’t believe how often those candidates are accepted.

But yes they do care it adds a little pizzazz factor to your profile

Feta's avatar

So it’s actually a possibility I wouldn’t get accepted to a college because my high school put me on the back-burner and didn’t give me art classes even if I have an amazing portfolio?
Are you serious?

cookieman's avatar

@Feta: Nobody said that. Reread the answers above.

Seek's avatar

@cookieman – You’re more likely to reject an application if someone doesn’t have parental support?

cookieman's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr: It’s a piece of a whole. I wouldn’t reject an applicant solely on lack of support (and it doesn’t have to be parental, per se) — but, if other pieces look concerning (low gpa and/or poor essay/writing/communication skills, etc.), AND they have no support at home — then sure, that is a red flag.

I have no interest in saddling someone with a ton of debt if their not prepared to do well.

Feta's avatar

I was going to comment on that…my parents don’t exactly support me.
But that doesn’t affect my artistic ability or aspiration to pursue a career in art.

And the second answer stated that I should explain myself in the writing portion of the essay, so I assumed that meant that the number of art classes I took in high school does matter.

And the first answerer said that the portfolio is reviewed, but what matters is the academic performance. I inferred that that meant the classes I took would be reviewed as well as my performance in them.

If a college sees that I took 7+ history classes and only one art class, wouldn’t they question why I decided to apply to an art school rather than continue with my “Humanities” career path?
Would I not appear to be less dedicated than someone who who took every art course available and had their work featured in art shows/won awards/studied with a mentor?

I don’t think it’s fair to judge based on that because I don’t have those opportunities where I live, my parents aren’t willing to help or believe me that kids my age already do things like art shows (they say that doesn’t make sense because if they already have art in exhibits, why are they going to college? And that you learn in college, you don’t go in with previous experience), and I also have no control over my location.

Seek's avatar

@Feta – You have to understand, they have to judge you based on something. There are more people applying to the school than they have room for, so someone is going to be cut.

Do the best that you can do. Put together a kickass portfolio of your work, write a great essay in which you both extol your artistic virtues and bemoan your heretofore lack of opportunity – but also the fact that you made the best of it.

Humanities is art history. Don’t forget that. I’m sure you studied all sorts of paintings and sculptures and the difference between Ionic and Corinthian columns, and positive vs. negative relief, and the Venus of Willendorf and Miron of Eleutherae and maybe the similarities and differences between Giotto and Raphael’s versions of Madonna Enthroned.

Let them know what you know and what you want. That’s all you can do.

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