The application process to creative majors in the U.S. has its specifics and nuances. I receive many requests from students and parents to shed some light on the requirements of these programs. Today, I invited Olga Kachura, the current student of Champlain College, VT, who is majoring in Game Art and Animation and has just successfully completed her freshman year to share her experience on that issue. Below, you will read an interview I have conducted with her other day.

Hello Olga! Why did you choose a creative major? Was there any experience in your background that helped, in your opinion, to gain admission to your dream school? What did the U.S. schools pay attention to when considering your application?
– Hello! My parents have always known that the artistic specialty would best suit me, and therefore they started preparing me to become a professional in that field since I can remember. Drawing was and is my passion. My family and I did our best to better prepare for entering U.S. schools and started working on preparing me for that well before the admission. I graduated from the Moscow Art school, “Start”, took part in exhibitions and creative competitions, and received all my diplomas. since this is a big plus for admission, and I think, as a result, it played a big role). Moreover, in the 9th grade, I transferred to the Lyceum of Information Technology #1533 that offered a strong program in graphic design, and I am sure that the experience I gained there for the last three years contributed a lot to my success. For college, this meant that I approach what I will study in a responsible manner, and this prehistory was a big advantage.

Many American universities require letters of recommendation from teachers. Were they useful to you for admission? What characteristics of the student are considered the most valuable ones in the eyes of the admissions committee?  
– My college required at least two letters of recommendation, which I got from the teachers of my lyceum. A university wants to understand how a student works, what personal qualities this person has and how they behave on the team. I guess, the most valuable qualities for the university are diligence, academic honesty, participation in the life of the school outside the class (additional courses, clubs), and dedication (if you know for sure what you want, and follow the same path for years, achieving your goal little by little). My teachers also mentioned that I maintain good relations on a team and I am sure it helped me as well as for American society. The ability to communicate and be able to bond with others is very important. The more you do outside the school program, the better. Volunteering is highly encouraged and I could say that the experience in assisting EducationUSA in fulfilling different tasks and participation in their activities helped me a lot. I was also the head student in the senior classes (for the admissions committee, it is a sign that you are in good standing at school and that you are trusted), and mentioning this was important.

– Many who are interested in art majors in an American university believe that portfolio matters much more than exams (or think exams don’t matter at all), and often do not realize that they will also have to pass them. Did you take SAT (which is to some extent is the American analog of our Unified State Examination) or TOEFL (language exam)?
– Yes, of course, because this is one of the mandatory requirements. A good result was very important for admission because in any institution there is a specific minimum number of points to be obtained in order to file documents and, in principle, have a chance to study there. Regardless of your specialty, I recommend taking preparation for these two exams very seriously. It’s good that unlike our USE, both exams can be passed several times a year, and then choose and send the best result.

How did you prepare your portfolio? By what criteria had been the works selected? How did you send them to an American university?
A few months before the submission of documents to any university, I recommend that you look up their requirements for the portfolio far in advance. In spite of my expectations that this is just a standard selection of any best works, the American universities I was interested in had very own, strict requirements for the theme, style, and format for the works they want to get from students. For example, my dream college asked me to send one still life, one perspective, one portrait and several works in 3D. Specially for my college, I created a separate portfolio, and it took me several months. Therefore, it is important to manage the time thoughtfully and know what exactly the university of your choice requires. I also found examples of works of current students and compared their skill levels to my own ones. In addition, I was very much inspired by them. All the work, as required by the college, I converted in PDF documents (scanned them) and sent by e-mail to the admissions office. Some universities have their own platforms, for which you need to upload a portfolio.

– At the end of the program, will you become a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)?
– Strangely enough, neither one. I will become a Bachelor of Science (BS). Despite the fact that the game Art and Animation is a creative specialty, for the most part, we work in graphics editors using computer technologies, and this is considered to be science. After getting a BS, I plan to enter graduate school and ultimately get Master of Science.

– And the last question. What courses did you take this year? How did your studies go in general?
– Each student of my institution, regardless of their specialty, must take four mandatory courses each year: this year it was the rhetoric of self, the rhetoric of the community, the concepts of self, the concepts of community; something in between literature and psychology. And from the courses of my major alone, they include: Drawing for Realism, Game Art Fundamentals, Game History and Development, Introduction to 3D Modeling and Texturing, and Introduction to Animation for Games. The courses were more difficult than I thought, but professors know how to prove exactly how they will help us in the future profession and what skill we will get. The main thing is to keep a positive attitude, manage to do everything on time (in America punctuality is very important for the student, any delay with work means loss of points or even that the work will not be accepted at all), and the ability to work together in a team. To all who plan to apply this year, I wish good luck! Admission is a complex process, but the experience of studying abroad is worth it.
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