Community College for Art/Design Major
If you are planning to major in art or design, you have to transfer after only 1-year at a community college. This is because most art/architecture program has specific foundation classes that are not transferable. So, only general education classes (such as calculus 101, reading 101, etc.) would be transferable from community colleges.
So, if you are planning to take the CC(Community College) route and major in art/design:
HS > 1-year CC > 3-year at University/ 4-year College > 1-year OPT
The advantage of doing this is that you can try out different cities and get a feel of the culture. For example, you could go to a community college in the west coast before transferring to an east coast university/4-year college. Financial wise, you could save around $30,000 (assuming the CC is around $20,000 and the university/4-year college is around $50,000). This route can also be useful if you do not have any portfolio to start with or want to polish your portfolio.
The disadvantage of taking this route is that it is hard to know whether the classes you took at CC will be transferable or not because art schools can be very specific in the classes they accept for transfer. Also, you might miss the chance for internship during the summer after your freshman year because you will be busy to prepare for your transfer. Also, you will lose a lot of social time because you need to prepare for a transfer in a year time.
Most community colleges offer an associate degree. So, you don’t have to transfer to a university/ 4-year college after 1-year, but continue your study for another year at the same community college and transfer after you’ve finished your associate degree. After finishing your associate degree, you are eligible for a 1-year OPT and another OPT after you receive your bachelor degree. So, you will get 2 OPTs if you decide to go through this route. The only disadvantage of this route is that it would require a longer time to get your bachelor degree because associate degree could take at least 2 years to complete.
HS > 2-year CC > 1-year OPT > 3-year at University/ 4-year College > 1-year OPT
I went through the community college route because I didn’t have a portfolio to begin with. Personally, I believe that classes at community colleges are much easier to pass. However, the art school that I transferred to, doesn’t have any GPAs so, getting all those 4.0s in community college are pretty much useless. Not all art schools use this type of grading system, so you guys should check thoroughly the schools you’re interested in transferring first.
Even though you’re majoring in art/design, most US schools curriculum requires you to take one or two math/science classes. Math or science classes at art schools are completely different from math/science classes at engineering schools or other disciplines. For example, at my school, there was no final exam for biology classes. We only had to do a painting or other visual presentations. Some students did an anatomy drawing of animals. So, even though it’s a biology class, students at art schools are still required to use their artistic skills.
Whereas at community colleges, math/science classes would not be that much different from math/science classes you guys experience in high school. One of the reasons of why I decided to get all those math/science requirements done at community college is because of how time consuming studio classes are. I’ve had studio classes that lasted 6 hours. There’s also studio time outside of class hours. So, from an efficiency point of view, it’s just better to get all those non-studio classes done before transferring.
With that said, I believe that my community college experience was a good transition period. It definitely helped me to get used to the US culture. Be sure to consider the plus and minus before applying. I hope this article will help you guys.
Silvialy Tjhin is currently an M.Arch candidate at the University of Toronto. She received her BFA in Architecture Design from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her interests are mostly in sustainability, community-based design, and infrastructure development.
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