Finals, Graduation and Beyond

As finals roll on to the TCU campus, students who have been lucky enough to graduate early are looking for the next step, the next piece of the puzzle, and where their next paycheck will be coming from (and for some – it may be the first paycheck).

Although I may just be avoiding studying, but just watching these brave souls venture out into the wilderness known as reality, I’ve begun to think about my future. Even though I still have roughly 18 months to go before I graduate with my degree in Strategic Communication from TCU, it’s never too early to think about the future.

A few months ago, I met with a creative at Launch, an advertising firm in Dallas, to talk about advertising and essentially what it takes to succeed. His big advice was portfolio school. Portfolio school is similar to a finishing school for creatives interested in Art Direction, Copywriting, etc. It’s also similar to a Master’s degree, but instead of a diploma in your hand, you end the program with an outstanding book that will help you to get a foot in the door.

This all sounds fine and dandy – but the problem is two things: money and time. Most portfolio schools are two-year programs that cost around $30,000 for the entire education. I will be going to school for more time expected, with more loans I never expected to have entering the work force. These are some of my major concerns. My minor concerns include work load (could I even handle it?), moving away to a big city on my own (think Chicago, Miami, or Atlanta?), and applying for these selective programs (we are talking anywhere between 20 to 200 are accepted, out of hundreds of applicants). All of these factors are freaking me out beyond recognition.

Applying to college wasn’t this stressful from what I remember.

But portfolio school has some BIG benefits. Having a portfolio school listed on a resume is an instant HELLO! to potential employers. It signifies you have a specific education that will pertain to a job. You will work in professional settings on assignments that prepare you to think through the business of the creative process. You learn how to create an idea visually (if you do Art Direction, if I did Copywriting it would verbally) and you go beyond a typical design atheistic.

As an Art Director (which is something I am highly considering at this point as a job path) you learn how to solve a client’s problem with a 360 degree solution. You learn the flow of communication and teach you how to concept for good ideas. The key to being a successful art director is storytelling, visual metaphors, and great ideas. In portfolio school you try to prove that you have real world experience – without really having it. You tie the big idea of a campaign together through POP, web design, and basic print. You think about a consumer and how a campaign will intersect with their life and speak to them in a creative and personal way.

Portfolio school will teach me how to create

the big picture.

The decision on whether to do this is complicated. It’s a big risk that could have an even bigger reward in the end. But right now, every day it seems like a better idea. After going to the Senior Graphic Design Show today, I realize that I won’t be able to graduate and do the same level of work they are doing. In order to have the same skill set as them I will need to go to portfolio school and work on my skills for a year or two and have a great portfolio to show at job interviews. It’s all up in the air right now, I’m going to continue to do more research on the portfolio schools listed below and keep my options open.

Portfolio Schools

It’s no secret that these are some of the best schools for portfolios but these are my top choices for right now.

Miami Ad School

Portfolio Center

Chicago Portfolio School

Creative Circus

Art Center 

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