New Student Guide to the College for Creative Studies
Things you should know before attending CCS
I'd like to share with you a few things I've learned along the way from my experiences at the College for Creative Studies. Looking back I realize there are a few things I wish I would have known when I was first starting out. If you have any questions left unanswered scroll down to the bottom of the page where you can ask me questions or leave me feedback. I hope this is helpful.
Also, check out this link, it will give you an inside look at the campus and student profiles insideccs.com
How to get accepted.
When I applied for CCS in 2005 they were asking for a variety of work to be shown, including things like figure drawings, drawings of hands or feet, and 3D work as well. I made sure to have all different kinds of examples of my work, drawing, painting, sculptures and photography. It paid off because CCS offers an entrance scholarship for academic and portfolio accomplishments up to $5000 a year, and I got it. It's an expensive school, and any extra scholarships are appreciated.
Don't just expect that the work you did in your high school art classes will be enough. Look into what CCS is looking for (the criteria has probably changed over the years) Once you know what they are looking for, spend some time and do some artwork on your own to build your portfolio. If you are talented you will get in, don't stress out too much over this process, just prepare yourself. And even if your work isn't very strong across all mediums, it's no big deal, highlight your strengths when you apply.
Where to Live?
Commuting from home, ACB living, Taubman dorms or apartment living?
I commuted from home all 4 years. I saved a lot of money this way, but there were a few down sides. I feel like my first few years at CCS I didn't meet too many people, I missed out on a lot of fun things around campus because I didn't hear about them, and commuting 30min in the winter was rough on a few occasions because Detroit doesn't really plow the snow.
If you live in the ACB coed dorms, you have a kitchen and you often live with 3 other people. Up side, you get to meet people, you're on campus so you are more involved and more in the know on what's going on and the ACB dorms are pretty large so you have a lot of space. Down side, sometimes you are stuck with a roommate that you really don't like or someone who is really messy, and also try to steer clear of the lower floors. I've heard they have bad bug problems.
I've never been in them, but I know they are new, clean, but small and have no kitchen. I've heard you have to buy a food plan if you live here. I would check them out if you're thinking of living on campus. Again, the up side of living on campus is really getting the full "college experience" and meeting new friends, so it might be worth it for you. Also, after you've lived on campus for at least one year you can apply to be an RA. RA's live for free in a dorm by themselves so I've been told. I would have done this if I lived on campus.
There are a lot of good places to live around school. But one major thing to keep in mind is safety. Good places to check out: Park Shelton, Lafayette Towers, Washington Square, The Pavilion. I have known friends who have lived in all of these places. They are pretty nice and safe.
I suggest if you are living off campus be careful walking back to your apartment at night, even if you live close. I would advise against living in the apartments behind the parking structure on the other side of Peck Park. I'm not sure what the name of those apartments are though. Also behind the parking structure is Palmer Court condos. I'd advise against living there as well. I've heard a few stories of break ins and muggings walking home. Usually between 1:00am and 3:00am are the worst times to wander off on your own or even in a small group. This sounds like common sense, but for some it's not so common.
Free money is always helpful.
Fill out a FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov. You can get government grants or student loans through FAFSA. The administrative department at CCS can tell you more about it.
Pay attention to the bulletin boards or scholarships through your departments, as well. Many different kinds of scholarships are available if you look for them; all of which will take a lot of work to prepare for, because you either had to create work to be judged or do a lot of writing. But it is a pretty hefty chunk of change if you win, and an incredible resume booster. Look at the bulletin boards for opportunities.
How to Avoid Counseling Mistakes
A schedule mix up can cost you a lot of extra money or force you to graduate late.
This goes for any college. Counselors have a lot of students to keep track of, and you can't expect them to be an expert on every single major that your school has to offer. Many students from my experience get led astray because they rely on their counselor to do all the work for them. I know they get paid to do this, but that doesn't mean they do it right. Mistakes mean not graduating on time, and extra money being spent. Ask questions, and go in there with a plan.
Instead of going to my counselor first, I started going to my major's administrative assistant if I had any questions. Going to either the chair of your department or the administrative assistant because they know the ins-and-outs of your major, and are less likely to lead you in the wrong direction.
Yes, it's a heavy workload, but don't be afraid, you can do it if you manage your time.
Yes, you will probably pull a few all nighters, get used to the idea.
Typically your first year you'll have a lot of basic drawing classes that become time consuming, so right off the bat you may feel the heat. If you are a transfer student, and you took a lot of your liberal arts and basic drawing classes already, then you will probably be able to take on 15 credits if you want your first year, but otherwise 12 credits is really what you should stick with if you can help it. With too many classes your quality of work will go way down, and your sanity will waver, so avoid it if you can.
Honestly all you need to do is manage your time well, The Student Success Center can help with this. Any project that I thought would only take me "a few more hours" would take me many more. My bed time was about 2:00 in the morning every night. Just something to keep in mind.
Don't be Afraid to Get Involved
4 years go by fast; take trips, join clubs, meet new people.
Especially if you are not living on campus, get involved right away. Go on the class trips, join student government, go to events, art show, Noel Night (I'll mention this later). Some of the departments organize yearly trips; find them and go on them, you will make friends, have fun and learn a lot.
I joined Student Government my senior year, because I was tired of complaining about things and not doing anything about them. In Student Government you get to know people from every other department (which believe me, you won't really get a chance to do unless you live on campus, or make an effort to. Sadly the departments are really divided at CCS) and I wanted to know what was going on around school, and have a say in the decision-making process.
Another great way to get involved around the school and the city is Noel Night! Noel Night is a Detroit event, but CCS gets involved. It's in December, and students can get a table for free to sell their work. A lot of foot traffic goes through, and it's a great way to make some extra money.
Since you will be spending a lot of time in Detroit, you might as well hang out there and check out some really cool places. Check out my other blog to find some really great places in Detroit to eat, shop, hang out or just check out. Detroit has a lot of cool places that you may not even know exist. www.squidoo.com/cooldetroitplaces
You need an internship before you graduate, it will help you tremendously.
By your junior and senior year you should seriously be looking for some place to intern, because you will have a much easier time finding a job if you have an internship under your belt. You can find internship opportunities through Career Services, or by talking to the chair of your department.
Keep in mind, It is really hard to work and go to CCS, so choose your experience wisely. Don't take an unpaid internship unless you feel like you will be doing amazing work that will teach you a lot. Everyone I've talked to that has taken an unpaid internship did not get the "experience" they thought they would. I personally don't think it's worth it.
By the time you graduate you should at least have 1 internship to add to your resume. This will also helps you decide what kind of place you want to work at after you graduate. Narrowing down the types of jobs or agencies you prefer or don't. And you also have a better chance of getting hired on full time at a place you've interned at if you make a good impression.
Working and Going to CCS
Difficult, but sometimes necessary. Choose wisely.
I touched on this a bit in the section above. Yes, it is very hard to handle the CCS work load and have a job, but there are a lot of jobs available to you at CCS, and the perk is you can do your homework on your down time. You can work as an aid for your department, basically helping out your department's administrative assistant with their work overload. You can work in the photo studio, at the Student Success Center (see next section to learn more) or at the Imaging Center (basically a kinko's in the basement of the Walter B Ford building, otherwise known as the big glass building). There are many different places you can work right on campus, and you may not be making a ton of money, but doing your homework on your down time and having a nice computer to use with all the programs you need on it is a great perk. This is especially helpful if you live on campus.
Student Success Center
Great place to get help with homework, use the computers and other recourses, or tutor to make some money.
Tutoring at the Student Success Center is a great way to make extra money, and get your homework done if no one needs help. As a freshman you may not know enough to actually be a tutor yet, but you should definitely go there if you need help, or just a quiet place to do your homework.
There are professionals that work in the Student Success Center that can help you right and correct papers. If I was working and no one needed help with anything, I was allowed to work on my own homework. This was amazing! They have many computers, Macs and PCs, a scanner, and a supply closet incase you are missing some of your supplies.
Student Success Center: cool place, utilize it, and don't be afraid of it. We were taught to be nice to the people that wandered in looking confused.
They get expensive, wait to see if you actually need it, then check online first before you go to the school store.
Teachers are sometimes required to list a text book, but that doesn't mean they will use it, wait till the first day, and ask the teacher if you will be using the book. Then, buy it on Amazon.com it's usually a lot cheaper. Some other sites, like ecampus.com and alibris.com offer better deals than campus bookstores as well. Then there's chegg.com, a textbook rental site with an approach similar to that of Netflix.
You can also sell your books back on Amazon and get more for them then the book store will typically offer.
End Of The Year Review
Teachers make a bigger deal of this than it really is, no need to stress if you take your time to prepare.
At the end of the year you are expected to present all of your work from the year to your professors and sometimes the head of the department will be reviewing you. This is their chance to tell you where you stand in the department, and asses your strengths and weaknesses. They do "grade" you, but this grade really doesn't mean anything, it's just for you to know where you stand.
If your major is photography:
They expect all of your work to be matted. Do not wait till the last second to mat everything because at the end of the year you can rarely find any space in the mat room. Everyone else waits till the last minute and is scrambling. If you are running short on time and can't mat all your work, it's ok to leave out a few pieces (they will never notice one way or another if you leave out a few pieces that you feel are extremely poor or you just don't have the time to mat them. I know they want to see "everything", just don't mention them in the review.)
For Advertising or Graphic Design majors:
They expected us to have most of our work matted and organized by class. You will usually have a room to lay work out on tables or pin it up on the wall. They also love to see your process books! Don't wait till the last second to make one. Try your best to stay organized throughout the year and put together your process books as you work through your projects. They typically want to see all of your work put into a portfolio book, (this may have changed, your teachers will tell you exactly what is expected of you for your review as it nears the end of the year). For this you can either buy a large portfolio book from the book store and organize your work by class and have the work labeled and the project brief outlined. Or you can design a portfolio book yourself and have it professionally printed and bound. If you plan on making your own books and getting them professionally bound keep in mind, THERE IS NO NEED TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY PREPARING FOR YOUR REWIEW.
I knew a student who designed, printed and professionally bound all of her process books and her final portfolio one year. She told me she spent close to $200 to do this. That same year, for my process books, I basically printed out my process work black and white on the classroom printers, and clipped my process books together with binder clips, and I still got a really good review. Granted, I did get my final portfolio professionally printed and I had all of my other work matted and neatly organized by class. But I probably only spent around $50 between mat board, printing and binding my portfolio book.
No need to stress out, go over the top or spend a lot of money. Just don't wait till the last second to prepare everything. Teachers will typically make a big deal of the end of the year review, but don't let them stress you out over it, it's really not that scary. Take your review as constructive criticism, the teachers are really trying to help you, if they tell you they think you should switch departments or CCS isn't right for you think about it, because CCS is an expensive school to waste your money if it's not right for you.
Portfolio & Resume
You need a website portfolio, and you don't need to know how to code to get one.
Ask the head of your department and see if you can get a basic web design class to count as one of your electives, it's a very important skill to have. But you don't need to know how to code to get your own website. There are many templated sites out there to work from.
You should be thinking about designing an identity that represents you as an artist, and following through with that design to make a portfolio book and website. There are many websites that offer templates or really simple tools to build a website, and they do all the back end coding for you. A lot of students I know used indexhibit.org and cargocollective.comThese sites offer free tools and templates to build your site. All you will need to do is purchase your domain name: www.whateveryouwantyournametobe.com, and your hosting space. I go through godaddy.com where I purchased my domain name, and for a while, hosted my website. There are some other sites I found that are pretty cool, and a bit cheaper to do this. doteasy.com is a website that will host your website for free, and all you have to pay for is your domain name yearly, this website is cheaper than godaddy. But both of these websites just offer you the domain name and the space to host your site. They do not help you build your site, so you will need to know how to build it yourself.
If you're a freshman, you really don't need to worry at all about building a website, but by your senior year you will need one. I recommend taking a basic web design class, and start thinking early on about how you want to visually represent yourself in your portfolio. Check out my portfolio and resume at helloshello.com if you want an example.
Sell Your Work on Etsy
If you haven't noticed yet, I'm all about saving money, and making money.
etsy.com is a website where you can buy and sell "All Things Hand Made." It is a great community of artists where you can network, get inspired and make some money in the process. It only costs .20 to post something, and if you sell it Etsy only takes 3.5% of your total profit. I've recently started selling some of my photography and other random art projects on Etsy, and I'm really happy with it. It is a great artist community, I've been invited to sell my work at local arts and craft fairs, and found out about a book that is publishing work from local Michigan artists through people that I've met on Etsy, great site to network on. Check them out, even if you don't want to sell anything, they have so many cool things on there. It's a great place to buy unique gifts.
Is CCS a good school / worth the money?
When all is said and done, will I be able to get a good job?
CCS is well known on a national level, especially for it's automotive department. Not as well known nationally for it's other majors, but it is a very prestigious school none the less to have on your resume. Personally, being in Advertising, all the Ad agencies in Michigan know about CCS and tend to hire creative graduates from CCS over other schools. If you are a creative person and you want to go into the arts, CCS is really the place for you. It's a pretty expensive school thought, so don't take it lightly. But also, don't let the cost deter you if you are really talented. There are lots of different scholarship and government grants you can apply for. So if you've got the talent and the drive, CCS is the place for you.
If you want to get some good tips on how to succeed after graduation, check out professoradman.com.
So Is CCS worth the money?
It all depends. If you plan on taking loans to float you all 4 years, and don't have any money saved or any scholarships, it becomes a toss up. I work with people now who are in their 40s who are still paying off student loans. It all depends on your major and your motivation as well. For instance, being a fine art or crafts major will require you to be extremely self motivated after graduation to self promote if you want to make a living selling your work on your own.
For me personally I feel like it was well worth it. I was able to graduate with relatively minimal student loan debt, from a school that has an amazing reputation that has made it easy for me to find work. Post your work on CCS Job Book, I get calls and emails all the time just from posting my work there.