The pros and cons of an art school vs. a university from my experience!
I want to start by saying I loved my previous university. I loved the people, the teachers and the campus. My reason for transferring has nothing to do with their ability to develop and nurture students, but I just felt personally that it didn't fit with my newly evaluated long term goals.
I feel that this is a common dilemma for high school art students pondering if they should go to a full-on university or to a school full of creatives. I wanted to share my personal experience and hopefully it may help a budding artist choose the best path for them.
I think there's three big differences between the art school I go to and the university I transferred from: the social, the academic structure and the art. Let me explain my take on it:
Going to a liberal arts college or university, we're going to be going to classes with tons of different people. Not to say there isn't diversity in art schools, but everyone will be completely different majors and thus have different backgrounds and interests. Since art is an interest in itself, the main thing most art students have in common is we like making art. Of course artists have interests outside of art, but loving and making art will always be a bond between other artists, and gives us common ground. There are usually a lot less clubs at art schools or at least less time to attend them. The work load is also usually a little more unbalanced at an art school which leads me to my next point: the academic structure.
The Academic Structure
General Education classes are much more broad at the university I went to compared to the art school I now attend. Most art schools try and make our general education classes loosely relevant to the arts. There's also a lot less of them. I had been taking a full load of GEs with animation classes at my previous university and by the time I transferred I still hadn't completed all of them. I felt that by doing all of these general classes that I wasn't completely interested in, I was spending a lot of time writing essays and reading textbooks and straying further and further away from why I came to study there in the first place. Which brings me to: the art.
Along with my transfer, I also changed my major. I was an Animation major with a minor in Art and now I'm an Illustration major with a concentration in Entertainment Arts. At my previous university, I had to have an art minor in order to take enough art classes for me to feel like I was doing enough and actually be able to see progress. I was also only able to take a semester of life drawing which seemed odd to me. And the work I was making as an animation student was not work that I was excited to make or was proud of. I got so caught up in the college part of it, I forgot about my art and my artistic goals. I fell into a rut and felt like I had lost my direction. When the pandemic hit, I took time to reevaluate what was truly important to me in my education and my college experience and what I was going to do to reach my new objectives. This filled me with a resurgence for my craft that I had been missing almost since I started school. I was thrilled to create a brand new portfolio for transfer applications and it was so gratifying when an acceptance came and I finally felt that I was finding my way again.
So it's definitely not a linear process, and I think I'm going to be on this long, curvy road a while, but I'm happy to be on it. It was a tough choice leaving everything familiar to start completely over, but in my heart it felt right and it felt exciting. I have no regrets for taking charge and changing my path and I think if you're thinking of going to art school or university, consider what you value most and what you hope to gain for your college experience and never lose sight of it. ✦