And Then She Applied to Grad School

Yes. It’s true. As of an five hours ago, I  submitted my complete application to the School of Visual Arts.  I received my confirmation around 3:30 today.

Many of you readers may be puzzled about this development. After all, I have been talking about going to Japan for a while now and much like you, I too am a little confused.  But see, THAT is the sheer genius of me, Sara – I do things spontaneously and reflect after the fact. Does this mean I can often be found in the middle of trouble? MOST DEFINITELY!  Which is what makes things all the more fun.

I have always believed that while sometimes embarrassing, the more mistakes we make the better we become. I don’t know if applying to Grad School is the right decision or even the best, but I know that opportunities don’t always knock twice and so I had to make take the risk.

To give you some back history here, last June, I got wind of a new Master’s Degree program starting in the fall of 2012 at the School of Visual Arts. As I read more about the program, Design for Social Innovation, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I even sent the program description to a few friends who all said it sounded right up my alley. After thinking about it for a week or two, I contacted the Chair of the program, Cheryl Heller and asked questions while also sharing my life story in an extremely long email. Cheryl responded quickly and asked to hold a phone conversation to discuss the program, my background and interest.

We had the conversation and it changed my life. Clearly! I just submitted an application,  portfolio (made from scratch!), letters of recommendation, an updated resume, and a personal statement.The kicker is that I did all of this in two-and-a-half weeks time.  I changed my decision to not apply on January 10th, meaning that between that time and today, January 30th, I ordered transcripts, requested letters of recommendation from reliable sources (a co-worker, a past client, and my high school English teacher), put together my resume complete with the addition of S2 Stationery and Design (BIG High-5 to me and my friends who helped!), wrote a personal statement, and last, but not least selected pieces for my manually designed and crafted portfolio.  All I can say is that I’m tired. I’m tired of gluing, editing and yet, I’m so euphoric today!

Honestly, I think it’s my portfolio. It is something that I put together in my mind last minute and it just worked. Well, it works for me. We’ll see what the design team that reviews it thinks.

Anyhow, I’ll get back to my portfolio in a minute. I want to continue talking about Cheryl Heller because it is my interactions with her that have really gotten me to this point. See after our phone conversation, I met Cheryl at a BeSocialChange event in October 2011 (see picture below) where we not only met, but I had the chance to listen to her talk about her interest in social innovation and understand her passion for it. It was one of those moments where I truly felt connected to someone who might better understand my environmental rants more than  anyone else.

Meeting Cheryl

Yet, I still wasn’t 100% sure that applying for the fall 2012 program was the best idea. Honestly, between you and I, all I could think of was “do you really want to be in the first class?” or “$80K for two years of school?! Sara, you do NOT have that kind of money!”. All of this led to continuing with traveling to Japan and learning paper, but 2012 would have something else in mind entirely…it would find me applying for a visa to Japan AND applying for the Design for Social Innovation program at the School of Visual Arts.

I have pros and cons for each, the $80K price tag being one of the biggest cons of them all, but you know, when I really think about it, gaining this education may help more before going to Japan rather than after. So now, I wait and see whether they call me in for an interview and am accepted, or whether I’m rejected. If I’m rejected, then it’s a good thing my pen pal in Japan is helping me with my visa application.  Silver lining friends, silver lining.

With my conversations with Cheryl in mind, I decided to apply and while ordering a transcript and asking for recommendations were easy, I was left with my resume, personal statement, and non-existent portfolio. Luckily for me, I have amazing friends who were able to help with the barrier I created that stopped me from writing a statement and updating my resume. It was really my incredible roommate Lisa who said, “Sara, state that you created this company and a business model and then develop points, about two each, for the three areas you focus on- finance, marketing, and design.” Really, that was all I needed to hear.

For my statement, I wrote a ton of things out and then chipped away at it until I got it down to under 500 words and then down some more. I have to also add that without Katie, I would NOT have been able to piece everything together. I tend to be verbose and when it comes to the how, why, and what regarding my business there is just so much to say (my one sentence statement/elevator pitch, not quite existent yet). Once that all got cleared, I was left with my portfolio and my decision that I did not want to have anything like anyone else. Which is when magic happened.

I am sure that I’ve mentioned before how some of my best ideas come from dreams, si?

SI! About a week ago, I had a visualization of my portfolio for this application. I saw newspaper, cardboard, tissue paper, and white and yellow paint mixed with my selected pieces. Which pieces, I wasn’t sure yet, but I knew what I had to do!

I gathered boxes and cut them into various skinny rectangles and short squat squares. Then, I gathered old newspapers, paint, and glue and I got to work. I spent last Friday night gluing newspaper to cardboard. I spent Sunday morning painting a thin layer of white or yellow paint on each piece and then with the assistance of clear removable squares placed each piece as I wanted.  I included a letter explaining my physical portfolio with a content list for each square.  Not that I need to defend myself, but if my portfolio is not the most professional, it is my first one AND it is true to me. That is all I could offer and I stand by my decision.

My final piece to the portfolio was tying it together with ribbon from Anthropologie shopping bags (between you and me, I take all the reusable ribbons and twine from paper shopping bags and reuse it for gift wrapping and any other decorating uses I may have). When I finished, it reminded me of the way we used to wrap up newsletters for collection day in Cleveland Heights.  With that thought, I knew I had achieved the effect I was going for, or as I described in my letter, “show my interest in reusing materials”.

This afternoon around 12:45, I hand delivered my boards along with my documents to the SVA’s admission office. The woman at the desk seemed intrigued by my portfolio. I can only hope the same goes for the review board. Until then, I’ll leave you with shots of my portfolio boards and a the air of curiosity until I know any further status of my application.

Until I know, I’ll type with my fingers crossed.


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S2 Stationery & Design

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

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