Editor’s note: The CAS session on May 16 saw the workshop run by SHBS College Advising Department. At the session, representatives of 12th graders shared their experience in college application with students of lower grades. Elaine Xu made a candid analysis of herself, showed the detours she had taken during her high school years, and offered sincere suggestions to the younger students. Her suggestions deserve to be heard by more, and we are proud of what she has achieved.
PS: Elaine has received offers from many comprehensive universities and art colleges such as University of Toronto (Top 1 in Canada; QS Top 26 in the world), Syracuse University (US News Top 59 ), California Institute of the Arts (QS World Art Top 29 ), School of Visual Arts New York (QS World Art Top 32), and Savannah College of Art and Design (QS World Art Top 33), as well as considerable scholarships.
On High School and College Application
I transferred to SHBS when I was an 11th grader. To be honest, the reason why I chose to leave the previous school was that I was unfairly treated and came into conflict with teachers there. Besides, I didn’t work hard enough and got poor GPA, so I decided to transfer to a new school and start over.
During the early days at SHBS, I behaved like a headless chicken because, as a frustrated newcomer, I wasn’t confident enough and dared not to expect too much of others, and I also feared that teachers here would treat me differently because of my past. Fortunately, SHBS is a warm community where fellow students and teachers have been friendly and kind to me and have never held any prejudice against me. Feeling loved in the community, I gradually opened myself up and decided to study harder.
As I was already an 11th grader when I came to SHBS, it was pressing for me to plan for my college application, but I was still at a loss as to what goals to set and what plans to make. Fortunately, college advisors of our school advised us to think about our interests, hobbies, personality traits and strengths, as well as the university we would like to apply for and our choices of future career paths by talking to us regularly. During a college advising session with Principal Chris, he found that I was anxious and told me that it was natural to feel confused. He said that as a middle-aged man, he didn't even know what he really wanted to do or what he loved unless he kept trying and exploring. Having heard his advice, I felt suddenly enlightened and began to enjoy my high school life.
Advised by my teachers, I came to realize the importance of GPA and decided to work hard so that I could keep my GPA around 3.5. In addition, I participated actively in various activities organized by the school, and offered to help the school make some publicity posters and do some other community service. Since I like music very much, especially Rap, I would like to collect beautifully-designed album covers and help, free of charge, design album covers for my friends who love music. I don’t consider these as tasks or burdens but opportunities to keep improving my aesthetics and painting skills and to refine my style of designs.
Later, I came to realize that among all the subjects, I would like to devote more of my time to studying and exploring arts. After talking to my college advisor, I decided to major in arts and apply for both comprehensive universities and art schools. When I applied for comprehensive universities, I chose to major in macro arts, such as media, brand management, and fashion editing. When I applied for art schools, I chose to major in designing without hesitation. Fortunately, the results of both ways proved to be satisfying, and I ended up going to the School of Visual Arts in New York.
I can't give much professional advice on art school applications. To be frank, I have never systematically studied painting and design. In other words, I have zero professional foundation. When applying for art schools, I need to submit my portfolios. Without asking any art agency for help, I just met what some universities required by arranging my big and small works of art. To be honest, I didn't expect my application to go so well. As far as my personal experience is concerned, I think application for art schools mainly depends on our daily work. I can’t give any advice on the best time to start preparing your portfolio. Instead, I can only suggest that students who want to major in art should start preparing as soon as possible because, as an 11th grader, you have to cope with stress from schoolwork and standardized exams, and your art works take time and effort to polish. In addition, it is also suggested that if possible, you need to find an art agency to help you conceive and create a portfolio, because you can make more rapid progress with the help of professionals. However, the most important thing is passion for art, because only passion can push us to persevere and face all kinds of challenges.
On Communication with Parents
As I have been brought up by very typical Chinese parents, conflicts often arise between us because we hold different views. "We do it for your own good." "I hope you will avoid detours in the future." Parents hope that everything will be going smoothly with their kids in the future, so inevitably and understandably, they tend to impose their own expectations and opinions on us.
I came into a similar conflict with my parents during the application process. After the daughter of one of my relatives, who studied brand management abroad, graduated from college, she went to work in a well-known foreign company and was very successful in her career. Therefore, thinking it would not be wrong for me to follow her suit, my mum kept talking to me about the girl’s major every day, which also made me hesitate in choosing a major. After reasoning, I found that the major of brand management was imposed on me by my mum and not my favorite. Therefore, I seriously talked to my parents and advisors about my thoughts, and ended up choosing to major in what I was interested in.
In addition, parents tend to be very sensitive to numbers, from minor things such as our height and weight to major things like our GPA, so they tend to pay more attention to the ranking of a college and ignore its majors. This is also a common mistake we make when applying for college. In fact, in many cases, the ranking of the major is even more important than the overall ranking of the college itself. This is why I firmly chose the College of Visual Arts in New York: its overall ranking among art schools is not high, but its graphic design program ranks No.1 in the world by QS.
To sum up, if similar problems occur in the application process, we must first clear our minds, decide on our own choices, and then talk calmly with our parents. Don't get hostile to them because you're afraid they may be against your choice. It is our parents who wish us a bright future that pay for our education. They will always be supporting us and trust the choices we’ve made.
1.Anyone, regardless of age or status, has to pay for what they did. Before I came to SHBS, I did not study hard, and got an F on my academic report, which had a great negative impact on my application. At first, I would prefer to study in California most, whose cultural environment and climate attracted me a lot. Even though I worked hard to make up for my previous mistakes after I came to SHBS, I was still mercilessly rejected. Therefore, based on my personal experience, I would like to advise you to work hard from the very beginning so that you won’t regret doing silly things later on.
2.I would like to quote what Principal Chris had once said : “ It’s natural that everyone makes mistakes. What matters is that how they will correct their mistakes later on.” So never lose heart because of one failure in exams or one setback. Instead, you must look forward, do your best to improve ourself, and believe that no pains no gains. After all, anything will be possible in the future, and your destiny will always be dominated by yourself.
3.Stop exhausting yourself internally. Whether it be your high school days or your application, it is a process of self-discovery, during which time it is natural to feel confused, anxious and upset. Instead of racking your brains and thinking aimlessly, slow down your steps to enjoy life, to discover, to explore what you truly love so that you may find your future path.
4.Be your best self. Most Chinese parents always like to compare their kids with others', but they are not comparable because they differ in personality traits, interests, strengths and family backgrounds. Therefore, if you have similar problems, I hope you will not be overwhelmed by "others’ kids" and lose confidence. What we really need to do is to compare what we are today with what we was yesterday to see whether we have improved.
My high school days are about to come to an end, but you still have plenty of time. You must cherish your high school days, connect more with your parents and teachers, and be optimistic about your college application. I hope that you will go to your dream colleges in the future. Please contact me if you need my help. Thank you.