High stakes: episode 1

By Ali Pechman

It’s a sticky-hot late August day, and Raquel is inching back into the city after a day in Malibu, enjoying her last breaths of summer. With the temperature stuck in the mid-90’s and her car stuck in traffic, she figures this as good a time as any to call us.

But when she begins to talk about her plans for college, the road suddenly becomes clear.  She’s applying to three schools. Only art schools. She will apply to Parsons, located in New York City, in October, since the admission process there is similar to rolling admissions, and she will most likely find out in November if she has been accepted. If she is rejected, she will apply to the Art Institute of Chicago and San Francsico Academy of Art.

But to get to where she is now, a virtual parking lot on the 405 freeway during rush-hour, she had to do some soul-searching. 

Now her schedule is overflowing with art classes: a directed study in fashion design and AP Studio Art, as well as classes outside of school. She has spent two summers at Parsons’ fashion design programs.

Until she came to the Upper School, Raquel was an athlete.

“There was a point in my life when I thought I was going to go to Stanford for [my sport] but I was like 10. I mean now,” she laughs, “not doing it was maybe the best decision I ever made because I was able to focus on what I really wanted to do.”

Once she quit sports, Parsons came into the picture.

“I’ve wanted to go to Parsons ever since I knew what it was,” she says. “It’s the only school where I see people walking through the doors and I can see myself being there.”

Her commitment to Parsons came during her 10th grade parent-dean meeting when she mapped out her next two years of high school with the intention of solely applying to art schools.

Raquel has completed her requirements for graduation in math and science and therefore will not take those subjects senior year. Though three years of math is recommended, Raquel does not believe it will help her reach her individual goal. She still must take five academic solids but art schools will count AP Studio Art as a solid. It will be the first AP class she has taken. 

Raquel knows she is sort of a wild card in a sea of students who are Ivy-inclined, but in some ways, her pressures are greater. 

“If you get a bad SAT score, you take it again.  If they don’t like my portfolio, there’s really not anything I can do about it.”

Raquel in fact didn’t take the SAT, and after doing “really well” on the ACT in June, she does not plan to. 

Even if she does not get in to Parsons, she plans on transferring in for sophomore year. Freshmen at Parsons take a Foundation Year, in which students practice their art skills before deciding on a major, and Raquel could complete this program at another school first. 

We look ahead and ask her what she sees down the road after college. She’s set on one track.

“After Parsons?”

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