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Applying as an introvert


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This has been a great forum. I think it's my turn to ask for some advice.
I have socially anxious tendencies, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. I'm realizing they may be hindering my application process. I know I can't be alone here.
I applied to programs for the first time in 2021 (Hunter, NYU, and Columbia for painting). I didn't get accepted anywhere. I was going to try again for 2022, but decided instead to spend the year developing my work and becoming a stronger candidate. I've learned a lot since then and now see that I may be fumbling some crucial steps because I get nervous about the parts that involve other people.

Reaching out to programs in advance so they have some familiarity with me - This is a big one and the topic I'd really appreciate advice on. I only reached out to Hunter in advance and never got a response. I emailed the head of the painting dept, which feels silly now. I don't know where to begin with this. I know there are people at the programs specifically for this purpose. How do I go about connecting with people/faculty at schools and who should I reach out too? Is there anyone that would want to look at my portfolio in advance and get to know me beyond answering generic inquiries? I'm interested in Yale, UCLA, Hunter, Rutgers, CalArts, and Columbia. When is a good time to start doing this?
Rec letters - It took me years to apply the first time because I got really hung up thinking about this. I can naturally develop good relationships w/ instructors at first, but after a while, once I start getting individual attention from someone I admire, I get nervous about disappointing them and retreat. I know a lot of this is in my head, but it stresses me out. 
Statement - I only shared my statement with my sister and my closest friend. Neither of whom are visual artists. How do I get solid feedback on this part of the app?
Halp. Thank you very much.
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  • 3 weeks later...

From what I have gathered, faculty (especially at top ranked programs, like the ones you applied to) does not respond to cold emails, mostly to remove bias when they review applications. Even the people at the programs who are specifically there for potential students to reach out to will not give you an in-depth review for the same reason. From what I have seen on the forums, even at portfolio review days and such, several people were given the feedback that their work would be a great fit for the program but were rejected from the same program without an interview. 

It may be more fruitful to reach out to current students/ recent alumni/ admin contact to gain a more intimate sense of the program, which can help you with your statement and answering the questions "why do you want to go here". I also genuinely believe that program fit matters more than "reputation" or "rankings" so talking to people who have been through the program might help with figuring that out too. 


As for rec letters, professors know it is part of their job that their past students will ask for letters in the future. Instead of cold emailing them to ask for a letter, it may be helpful to schedule a studio visit a few months in advance, to update them on what you have been working on, as well as get their feedback on your portfolio. This will allow you to reestablish your relationship with them before asking for the letter. As always, when you email them, give them an easy out ("I know you are really busy with xyz so if you cant write the letter I completely understand!") and be gracious if they say no. Also, it is not always ideal but you could also ask a recent employer/ curator/ mentor to write a letter. 

I get the not wanting to disappoint people you look up to - I often feel the same - but I think the more I have personally been in the art world, the more I have realised that there is no concrete way to define success or failures, and every person has had their fair share of rejections. I am sure the people you look up to feel the same, so what you think is a disappointment to them, may just in their eyes, be a success, if you get back out there and try again! 


Statement - share with the people writing your letter, people you know from undergrad, etc. I shared it with all 3 recommenders, 2 past professors, and 3 artist friends. (I also asked the same people for feedback on my portfolio in relation to the statement). 


Hope this helps :)


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As far as recommenders, I would just be honest and say that you wish to build a mentor relationship with them but sometimes feel awkward or anxious because of the expectation you place on yourself. You can also just name this for yourself while pretending your find from the outside. 

As far as statements of purpose, that is a whole craft and there aren't a tone of great examples online. I can message you with some suggestions but one thing is to be really concise and specific. Talk a bit about what you've done, what you are doing now, and why the school you are looking at can specifically help with your next evolution as an artist. It actually takes a long time to write a good statement and even ones that I've read that are supposedly strong are pretty vague and generic. Mention specific elements of the program, specific faculty you wish to work with and how their practice informs your own. The more you can demonstrate understanding of your artist practice and your objectives and how that aligns with the program's specific attributes, the better. Don't just say location or reputation. 

In regards to reaching out, every program will have different policies but I find it better to email the art department more generally. Their point-person can let you know the department policies e.g. someone told me that faculty will not talk to prospective students while another person connected me with the chair. Sometimes you need to reach out the graduate office who will have students or alumni already assigned to talk with prospective students. It takes time, and sometimes you just get radio silence no matter what. Anyway, feel welcome to DM me and good luck!


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