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Reputation Vs. Cost


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As for the sprint VS long distance run... I would argue that there are 2 races here. First is your "personal journey" as an artist. Second is your career as an artist. Both races have to be run simultaneously with equal zeal. An artist may be way ahead of the pack with the personal aspect, but back at the starting line with the career. There are others who have barely started training for the personal aspect and find their career way out in front -- but this is more rare. Both positions are uncomfortable.

@sarah J,

While the schools you mention may be big schools, I wouldn't say that MICA or Pratt are the top schools for one's career. Be clear about the different between a big school and a top school. And it is true that the loans hurt. Only a couple schools are possibly worth loans. Also remember that some schools have big stickers with little funding, others have big stickers with lots of discounts to those accepted. Sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes you get a bargain, sometimes you get ripped off.

As to whether a school can be detrimental... it depends on who is looking and why they are looking. Some people look for artists who are already vetted to help make decisions and others are just snobs flat out. Many just don't care -- they look at the work.

Skowhegan does not care where you went to school and it immediately raises you to elite status and networks you. Other residencies you mention are a good way to build one's profile, network, visibility, and help you keep making work.

Best advice: take the US News rankings with a grain of salt. And develop your own ranking system based on what is important to YOU. And what you want that equation to equal. Then try to balance that equation to find the right schools.

Sorry if this is to mathy... Let's suppose that since everyone is trying to figure out the equation that there is one, for say "successful NYC based artist" (one goal among many that people may have). I will throw out one, so let's just say you have:

Formula for "Successful NYC based artist":  your_work + network + je_ne_sais_quoi = degree of success
There are some coefficients to this equation (and possible debt) if you go to grad school:
(school)work + (school)network + school_debt + (school)jenesaisquoi = degree of success
If the school you are considering has a neutral effect it'd be 1, if it has a positive affect it could be anything above 1, a negative affect anything below 1 (e.g. creates a mountain of debt). These coefficients or multipliers will vary depending on who you are in school with, who is faculty at that time, your specific financial package, etc. A good way to start to figure out these things it to look at the data: alumni. So let's take School A vs School B vs School C. School A, a "big" school
(4)work + (2)network + (-6 for debt) + (1)jenesaisquoi = degree of success
School B, a "bargain" school in/near NYC
(4)work + (6)network + (-1 for debt) + (1)jenesaisquoi = degree of success
School C, a "top" school in or near NYC
(5)work + (7)network + (-3 for debt) + (3)jenesaisquoi = degree of success

These are somewhat arbitrary numbers based on my thoughts, but you get the idea. i am basically justifying my opinion that a "top" school is your best bet, otherwise go for a "bargain" school should. And expect to be disappointed by the outcome of going to a "big" school. Just my opinion... but also from what I hear from alumni.

@Beladinah

All the info is online:

http://grad-schools....e-arts-rankings

http://www.usnews.co...ethodology-2012

Students care the most about the rankings because it gives them something tangible in what otherwise seems like a chaos of variables for an infinite number of schools.

Gallerists, curators, and collectors all know the value of Yale and Columbia, yet not all have heard of VCU, the #1 sculpture school. Cranbrook and MICA are ranked 4th overall -- yet look at the gallery representation i posted earlier. Not a Cranbrook or Mica grad in the list, while every gallery had a Columbia grad or two -- a much lower "ranked" school. Last Greater New York show at PS1 was full of Skowhegan, Bard (5), Columbia(12) alums. There are several Yale alumns, but not sure how many total. I don't think there were any Cranbrook or MICA grads (based on Google search). There were grads from other places too! I just don't know where off the top of my head.

http://www.bard.edu/...ting_id=4466428

http://arts.columbia...-new-york-44265

Again, take the US News rankings with a grain of salt!

I realize this is very NY-centric, but that is the perspective I can offer to everyone. And I encourage others to offer a different perspective.

Edited by truthbetold
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@twentyeleven, nice share. i can see this being helpful for many trying to make a decision. With or without automation, this sort of self-generated ranking still depends a lot on having accurate knowledge/data about the programs (and not relying just on US News).

Above all, when making a decision, since it has not been said in this thread: trust gut feelings. This means you must visit any school you plan to attend.

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Above all, when making a decision, since it has not been said in this thread: trust gut feelings. This means you must visit any school you plan to attend.

Agreed–a visit can make all the difference. It's where/when your gut feelings really make themselves known. Plus, it gives you a chance to experience the community you'd be joining, check out the city/town/surroundings, scope out facilities, talk to faculty, and talk to current students ( < this last one can be incredibly insightful, especially if you find someone really candid).

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@truthbetold - Thanks for posting the link to the rankings (you used to have to pay for this info). I took a look around the site and found some rather interesting tidbits. Firstly, USN gives some insight of its own on how to use their rankings:

'The U.S. News 2012 Best Graduate Schools rankings spotlight the country's academically excellent graduate programs and can start you on the track toward picking the right school for you. But many other factors that cannot be measured also should figure in your decision, including the course offerings and culture of departments that interest you, the advising or mentoring you can expect to receive, career opportunities, cost of attendance, and the location and campus life. 817-grey.gifSo, why study our data at all? Because, for instance, you can see at a glance where your undergraduate academic record and admissions test scores might take you and where you would rise to the top of the applicant pool. You can look up GMATs, MCATs, LSATs, and GRE test scores and compare them between schools. You also can see how deans rate the schools in terms of academic excellence, which may matter to job recruiters.

The data in the ranking tables allow you to compare medical, law, engineering, business, andeducation schools on many other key characteristics and will almost certainly open up further lines of investigation. Someone interested in law, for example, can examine how successful the schools are at preparing graduates for the bar exam. Applicants to M.B.A. programs can see how diplomas from various schools will affect their earning power. Future engineers can get a sense from a school's research expenditures of how cutting-edge their experience there might be. You might even discover possible choices that were not on your radar screen before.

The rankings can inform your thinking—but they won't hand you an easy answer. The rankings should only be used as one tool in finding the right graduate school or program. You need to consider many factors. The rankings should not be used as the sole criteria in deciding where to go to graduate school. We urge you to use them wisely.—The Editors"

Additionally, some of the rankings of other programs take many variables into account in creating rankings. For example, the business school rankings include input from corporate recruiters, acceptance rate data, GMAT scores, and post-graduate employment data as some of the additional variables. Granted, a fine arts career can take many forms, and it is not as simple a question of "employed or not" and "starting salary upon employment." But no where in the rankings does USN attempt to judge the career success of MFA graduates. (How about a question related to the percentage of graduates earning a living from their art five years after graduating?) Nor does USN ask anyone outside academia to rank the various programs. I think we as the consumers of this "ranking" product are being shortchanged. That being said, you and twentyeleven were spot-on when stating how important it is to visit a school before making a decision. I found it invaluable in deciding where to go for my BFA and will no doubt be traveling prior to May 1st this year as well.

If it comes down to everything else being equal (and I think it's probably rare that that is the case), I'd spend more for the better school, but I'll think long and hard before spending a TON more. I know I'll be in this situation, because at this point I have a choice between a higher and lower ranked program. (Still don't have all the variables - don't know funding potential for SFAI, haven't visited it yet). I'm hoping to have a third choice - I'll know soon enough if that's the case. The hardest part will be if I have to sacrifice the best fit and best learning opportunity because of financial issues.

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Yes, folks depend too heavily on the rankings... they are for the intellect, not the gut.

I know there is a sense of impending dread for some folks about not getting in anywhere, or not getting in to one of their top choices. I feel it, too. So I would say to everyone not satisfied with their options: there's always next year. Just because you get in does not mean you have to go, as terrifying as it may be to walk away (here that gut instinct becomes crucial, as you don't want to regret it, and you can't ever question it later). But it would have to be accompanied by a hussel, by starting to work towards app deadlines for next year now, by really stepping up the risk in one's work. To balance this boldness: the idea that it is easier to create opportunity from opportunity than from nothing. In other words, if you let go of the bird in your hand you have to have confidence in your ability to catch birds -- or in your resolve to learn how to catch birds.

It takes some folks more than one attempt to get in to top schools. Lots of folks apply to schools before their work is ready or before they are ready. In this sense I'd echo again to previous commenters' statement about it being a long distance run. As long as you are making work, reading, talking to other artists, you are making progress.

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  • 1 year later...

TiredofWaiting, I'm trying to decide between those two schools too! Sam Fox/WUSTL and UNC-Chapel Hill.

From what I've learned: You are almost guaranteed teaching at UNC-Chapel Hill. I think there are also many oppurtunities at WUSTL for teaching, but maybe not the 1st semester if you didn't apply for a teaching scholarship.

As far as reputation, The Sam Fox School at WUSTL is pretty new (wikipedia says it was created in 2005), so it's quite amazing that it has such good rankings at this point. When I spoke to UNC-Chapel Hill, they told me their students and faculty have recently won a bunch of awards, and that several of their current MFA students have become really successful-- so maybe their reputation is on the rise?

What I'm worried about is size (with UNC-Chapel Hill at least)....if the program is too small, I'm worried everyone might get in each others business. I sort of like my space and independence, and thinking about being part of a group makes me nervous. But maybe it's great?

Did you visit either of them?

If so, what did you think about the size dynamics?

Edited by reddogshoe
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