The Late Start
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By Tobias Joel

It was September and most students were polishing drafts of UC essays. This time in application season is for focusing on student’s prospective schools, especially those selected for Early Action or Early Decision. It was logistically too late to begin selecting new schools, and seemingly too late to start the application process from square one. But, when student L arrived at my office in September, that’s exactly what we did.

L is the first person in his family to attend college in the United States. They were unfamiliar with the process, including the range of schools available and their varying requirements. And while aware of the SATs, they had postponed taking them under the assumption that L would attend community college. But as the application season unfolded, L’s family re-evaluated: L’s unique art skills should qualify him for a four-year university. L had great potential and they saw the opportunity to promote his greatness slipping away. So, starting in early October, L and I began an intensive series of brainstorms and work sessions. We had to get L into college–and fast.

Art students face unique conditions in college applications. Not only are creative portfolios required, but art students are expected to succinctly identify clear passions. They need to show what inspires their creative expression: the concepts, emotions, images, or experiences that drive their work. High-school artists sometimes find this difficult to identify—it was the first step that L and I took in our work together.

We discussed what powered L’s art and identified relevant Art programs. Our biggest challenge was scheduling: most applications were due within two months, and we were still collecting critical document like transcripts. It was an ambitious process, and L’s family was eager to see him succeed. We all did our best with the time we had, and submitted applications with positivity.

We had done what we could, all that was left to do was wait. Moving into mid-March, there were still no updates from L: I began to wonder what came of the applications, and even considered other options L could explore if nothing worked out. So when L surprised me with an acceptance email from San Jose State University, I was pleased and relieved.

Every major at San Jose State is “impacted,” meaning admissions are more competitive than normal. An invitation to San Jose State’s art programs is a clear recognition of artistic vision. It was a pleasure to work with L and I look forward to working with other art students moving forward.