In December of last year, I started applying to university, one of the places I applied to was Glasgow School of Art. If you’ve read the title of this post you may already know that I didn’t get a place. A lot of people assumed I was going to be quite upset about this but honestly looking back I’m quite happy about the whole situation.
I should also point out right now, I have a place on a course. Don’t feel mad for me getting rejected (cause I’m not).
APPLYING TO GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART
In going to start by explaining how applying to art courses work because it’s a little more complicated than just going through UCAS. The first part of the application is through UCAS, but then you have a second part which is sent to each individual university.
Usually, this means sending a digital portfolio along with information about your work. Each university has different requirements for this portfolio stage. Some want images uploaded online, others want a PDF, one even wanted the portfolio on a pen drive which was posted to the university.
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This is a bit of a nightmare. You end up creating multiple versions of your portfolio, highlighting the work each university is looking for. Some also ask for written information about your work and one even wanted me to fill out a whole questionnaire about graphic design.
For most universities, this is just the first stage of the application process. Some are slightly different depending on the course and level, your place could entirely depend on the quality of that submitted portfolio. In most cases, though if your portfolio is good enough you then get some sort of interview, either one to one or as part of a group.
This gives the course tutors a chance to see your physical portfolio and for you to find out more about the course. After this, the final selections are then made.
GETTING AN INTERVIEW AT GSA
So I sent of a portfolio to GSA and a few weeks later I got an email back inviting me for an interview. Which was terrifying. I actually said to a lecturer at the time I was amazed they liked my portfolio because I had sent personal work along with my college stuff. I hadn’t really shown anyone my personal stuff so I had no idea if it was good or not. The fact I got an interview means they must have seen something in it*.
Fun fact: you don’t actually have to be good at art to apply to GSA. They are looking more for ideas than actual technical skill.
So I went for an interview and it was one of the most terrifying things I have ever done. In fact, it got to the point where I was so nervous about it I couldn’t even feel scared. I just wanted it over and done with. The interview didn’t exactly go well but I’m still glad I did it.
The whole point of the interview is to convince someone you’re enthusiastic about the course and that you would be a good choice to do it. I knew that this would be the point where I would fail. I’m not great at talking to people, especially about my work, being able to explain it and convince someone it’s good.
I would say if anything that was the thing which lost me a place. But I’m okay with it. Because I took everything I learned from that interview and used it in the next one. The next interview I went to was much more positive because I found it easier to talk about my work and this was the university which eventually offered me a place.
Over the last few years, I’ve felt unhappy with my life. I realised part of this was because I felt like I was missing out. Having chronic fatigue syndrome really doesn’t help. But also I realised I wouldn’t do stuff because I had no one to do it with. As a way to fix this, I started going out more on my own. I do stuff even if there is no one to come with me.
As part of that, I’ve tried to be more proactive with taking and finding opportunities. In the past, I would put things off because I was scared or because I was alone. By actually doing something I have started driving lessons, went to GDFS and did something really silly like apply to Glasgow School of Art.
Everything hasn’t gone without problems. I started extracurricular projects which I had to give up because of my health. It would have been way less stressful if I hadn’t applied to GSA at all. But I’m achieving more and in turn that is making me happier.
I applied for Communication Design and I did that because the course sounded amazing. Art school is the only time in an artist’s life where they can totally dedicate their time to the work. The course at GSA would have given me the time to experiment and improve on what I already do. I would have loved to do that course.
But I also have to think in more practical terms. Even before I heard back from GSA I knew if I was offered a place I probably wouldn’t take it. It’s all well and good being a student who goes to an internationally known art school. But I had to think in longer terms. I’m going to university so I can get a job at the end of it. Graphic design jobs don’t actually need a degree. The good thing about doing a course is the structured learning with feedback from people who work in the industry.
It wasn’t good enough to say oh yeah I went to Glasgow School of Art. The important thing was how many students leaving the course found employment. And the one huge problem with that course is that it didn’t set people up with the right skills to work in the industry.
Even though I didn’t get a place I’m still glad I applied to GSA. It has given me a massive confidence boost, in regards to my work and also in a more general way. Students apply to GSA from all over the world. The fact that I got to the interview stage is incredible. Out of all the people I know more got rejected at the portfolio stage than got interviews.
In fact, while talking to a lecturer I found out only 4 people from my college got offered interviews. That same lecturer said GSA was missing out because I didn’t get a place (and he should know because he went to GSA). But looking back I’m still glad I did it. I mean how many other times in my life will I have the opportunity to apply to a world-famous art school.
*I was told in a later interview that some of my personal work could be submitted to galleries so that’s my life validated.