Portfolio School or Not to Portfolio School?

By Tintin44 - Sylvain Masson
That is the question.

My answer is yes, go to portfolio school. But I agree that's not the answer or an option for everyone.

Truth be told, I'll be paying my student loans back for another 100-150 years. I'm okay with that though, because this is America and education is expensive. I signed up for that when I moved here.
Plus, even President Obama had student loan debt. I consider myself in good company.

Outside of money, I can't think of a good reason not to go to portfolio school.

It's a 2 year boot camp program that whips you into creative shape. When I look at my book before I went into portfolio school vs after - wow. I remember when I was going into my 2nd year and it hit me, I get it now. It's like my first few quarters were practice, training daily.

I hated 1st quarter because it felt like Finger Painting 101 but I get it now, it was Idea Building 101, kinda like Thinking 101 - only you had all these people around you who were also "The Most Creative One" wherever they came from, so the competition and standards were different.

By 5th and 6th quarter I was more agile, sharper, smarter. And my last two quarters were mainly refining my book and networking. And working. Don't let anybody tell you you can't do both. I worked retail, hosted and bartended throughout my two years at portfolio school.

Portfolio school teaches you creative advertising - or how to be a creative in advertising. And it actually trains you on how it works. Getting a project, coming up with ideas, presenting the ideas, getting torn apart, starting over, making them better than executing (creating) them. Week after week after week.
So you can be a great designer or artist or writer, but not be a good art director or copywriter. Portfolio school helps you think and act like an advertising creative. And pushes you to do so much more.

At most portfolio schools, your teachers actually work at ad agencies. They know what's good and what isn't because they live it every day. They can give you great insight into how an agency is run, what is means to really be a creative and share some of the ups and downs and day-to-day parts of the job.

They're doing this part time and aren't making a lot of money, so you know they're in that classroom because they really care and want to help you. That means a lot.

There's the network. The fact that schools have mentors, seminars and networking events that introduce you to so many people, as well as connections and info on scholarships, internships and competitions that help get you in the door and known before you're even your final portfolio.

Some portfolio schools offer a Master's program. While that's really great, it's not necessary for a job as a creative. It won't get you farther when you come out - a good book is a good book. But it's always great to learn so don't let me deter you from getting that degree.

Many portfolio school students are just like you. And by you I mean a wide range of yous. There's the you that just graduated college and want an agency job but don't have the chops yet. There's the you that's been working in media or planning and realised you want to be a creative. There's the you that's been working at a law firm or some other non-advertising business and realised you were kidding. There's you writers who realised you like paychecks. And then there are creatives who want better jobs in better markets. And you high school students who think you have the drive to get in and get 'er done sooner than later.

There's no right time to go to portfolio school. If you're thinking about going, do some research. Talk to some students and graduates. Visit the schools. Look at the work their students are putting out. Look at what schools are winning awards. Compare the prices and the cost of living. It may be cheaper to live in Atlanta than it is NY, for example.

It's up to you. Whether you go to the Creative Circus or Art Center, how great your book is and how far you go is all on you. You have to go to school. You have to come up with ideas. You have to think, rethink and then think again. You have to challenge yourself. You have a create a good book. You will go however far you decide to go. This is your book, your career, your life. Make it great.

All in all, two years goes by a lot faster than you think. And a good book will get your further than you can imagine.

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