Artful Applications

Working on her college applications, Aiyana White ’14 stands in a recording studio, crooning “Almost Like Being in Love,” “On My Own” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon” into a microphone. White is recording an art supplement: a portfolio of pictures, music or videos that students may send to colleges to complement the rest of their applications.

“I chose to submit an arts supplement to show why I’ve spent six years of my life doing choir,” White said. “I don’t plan to study music, but I would like to participate in a cappella during college, so it’s a good way to show a huge part of myself and my high school experience in a way other than an essay.”

White is part of the approximately 30.7 percent of the 140 seniors polled in a Chronicle survey who submitted or plan to submit an arts supplement.

Instrumental music and two-dimensional art supplements were the most popular, each attracting 15 and 14 respectively of 37 seniors who submitted or will submit arts supplements.

“At the most selective schools, there are just so many kids who are smart, involved and good test-takers,” upper school dean Beth Slattery said. “Anything you have that distinguishes you, sometimes that’s a beautiful voice or artistic talent but other times that’s a leadership position in school or some independent research, helps your application.”

The hope that dance might help her application motivated Alisha Bansal ’14 to submit a supplement focused on ballet and contemporary dance. Clips from school dance shows are mixed with classical ballet repertoire and a personal interview that explains the importance of dance in her life.

“As a dancer, you have very few opportunities to actually show admissions officers how dedicated you are and how much of your time dance has taken as well as your skill level, so a dance supplement is just one way in which you can try and do that,” Bansal said.

Slattery cautioned students, though, not to place too much faith in the power of a supplement to change an applicant’s chances.

“Whereas a positive rating from a faculty member might tip you in, a mediocre rating might tip you out,” Slattery said. “I think that it’s another factor, but it is definitely not getting a kid who is outside of the realm of consideration academically in.”

Bansal plans to submit her video as a physical copy, a YouTube link and through a SlideRoom account, depending on the recommendations of each college.

SlideRoom, a website which White will also use, links to the Common Application and allows students to upload images, PDFs and audio and video files. Although a SlideRoom account normally costs at least $500 a year, when linked to the Common Application, an account becomes free, and students pay submission fees for each college.

Luke Soon-Shiong ’14, who will apply to an art school as well as liberal arts colleges, submitted a supplement that included ten paintings and drawings with individual captions.

“I’ve known that I wanted to work in visual art since I was six, so it wasn’t really a question of whether or not I was going to submit an art supplement,” Soon-Shiong said. “Along with essays, it’s a part of the application process that makes you feel like you’re not just a number.”

Andy Arditi ’14, who plays jazz saxophone, echoed those sentiments, saying performing is a big part of his identity and needed to be a part of his college applications.

“Music is a huge part of who I am, and I felt like my application would be incomplete without it,” Arditi said. “While the Common Application, transcripts and test scores serve as academic benchmarks, the arts supplement can add a creative or artistic element to the process.”

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