Discovering my passion for art

Filed Under: Blog

By Olivia Schaer

I have waited for an opportunity to be focused, to deploy talents and passions I possess naturally and maintain with practice. This experience can be hard to find in school, as there are standards that we must meet to prove our basic skills. While this pillar of the public school system is too layered to peel back here, I wish I had found more encouragement and space to explore my interests in a supportive environment. For instance, I have struggled with dyscalculia for my entire childhood. This, coupled with ADHD, makes me appear disinterested in mathematics and unable to problem solve. However, within courses that I take by choice, like Publishing Journalism, I can produce alternative solutions regarding writing, design, and collaboration. For this reason, I am thrilled to be attending university after high school graduation. I know there will still be prerequisites aligned with both humanities and sciences, but I am incredibly eager to begin prioritizing more specific topics of interest. I want to share more about my journey of discovering art as a passion, as well as advice for other students on this pathway.

My affinity for aesthetics was hindered by tedious art classes in elementary school. However, I found fulfillment in theater and choir. Middle school brought a shift, with more time spent on academics and less on creativity. The pandemic allowed me to rediscover my passion for art, reclaiming spare time from schoolwork that didn’t feel relevant. Sophomore year’s return to in-person learning revealed social challenges and resurfaced anxiety. Despite the desire for art classes, academic demands took precedence. Junior year, I found solace in art courses, excelling without formal training. Immersing myself in art and extracurriculars, I shed several misconceptions about high school.

Having solidified my love for art, I wanted to pursue a degree and the opportunity to dive deeply into this passion that I intend to translate into a career. However, navigating university applications with a focus on visual art proved challenging. Limited resources and lack of guidance led to independent research and organization. Despite the hurdles, I successfully submitted portfolios to multiple schools, showcasing my best work.

Understanding the application process for writing and studio art portfolios is crucial for students interested in pursuing these programs, yet it can be hard to find the right information. Although I found alternative outlets and workarounds, many do not. My school counselor did not have information on those specific schools and was unsure of the portfolio submission process. I was out of time and didn’t have the fiscal resources required to hire a counselor, who could walk me through the process. 

Eventually I understood that my applications were only in my hands. Not my parents’, teachers’, or counselors’. So I went to each university’s website and found due dates, requirements, and examples. I was shocked to find that none of these schools had a link to the instructions on the Common App. I created a spreadsheet so that I could log similarities and differences between portfolios. Most required between 10 and 20 images of a variety of finished pieces or sketches, a description of each piece, and its dimensions. Once I had organized the information it didn’t feel quite as daunting. I fortunately had enough completed pieces before each of the deadlines and submitted many pieces that I am proud of.

I want more students to know about the process of submitting both writing and studio art portfolios. My experience tells me that these processes are not common knowledge, and students need to take initiative to get portfolios assembled and submitted. Had I known more about the process earlier in high school, I would have worked on my portfolios more methodically and with much less stress.

I am proud of my proactivity and hope other students can learn from my experience. Now, I continue my art practice because I love it – and I cannot wait to apply my passion at the University of Washington starting in the fall. 

Download Olivia’s Portfolio Organization Tool.