Molly Newman, director of college counseling at Idyllwild Arts Academy, and the next Spotlight on Leadership speaker. Photo by Marshall Smith

College counseling at Idyllwild Arts Academy is the subject of the next Spotlight on Leadership talk on Sept. 10.

Molly Newman, director of college counseling, will discuss the many facets of IAA’s finely tuned program. And of the subjects and arts disciplines featured in the Spotlight series, this one might be of highest interest to community members.

IAA’s faculty ably mentors and develops artists whose skills have been recognized by alumni successes in their fields. But how does the academy prepare student artists to navigate their fields as professionals? How do they learn what will best promote them as artists and help them achieve success in the real world? Finding work as an artist demands well-honed skill sets just as much as the process of creating art.

That is where Newman and her associates in the counseling office come in — Sabrina Strickland as full-time counselor and recent University of Southern California doctoral graduate, Michelle Do, who is serving as counseling intern and part-time music faculty.

“The foundation and philosophy of the college counseling program at Idyllwild Arts is that students have all options available to them, so it’s vital that they reflect and develop self-awareness in order to determine what type of place is the best fit,” said Newman.

And since admission to the top-line arts schools is highly competitive, IAA students must learn who they are as artists and how to select a school that best fits their professional goals and personal needs.

In junior year, Newman and her group work with students in a year-long “Life Skills” class to help them prepare for life beyond Idyllwild Arts — learning to set goals, collaborate with peers, write grants, create professional résumés, utilize social media, communicate with professionalism, prepare college essays, time manage, and set schedules.

In addition, IAA is the only arts high school to offer an Arts Enterprise Lab, funded by a national foundation, that gives participating students the opportunity to compete for project-specific grants. Students may write grant proposals to create an original work of art that goes above and beyond the curriculum in their arts departments.

Their applications must include a proposal, a timeline, anticipated collaborators and a proposed budget. Newman and her group review the proposals and help educate applicants in financial realities. “I tend to encourage smaller grants,” said Newman, “because that is the real world.” Students may also apply for AEL funding for summer internships or community projects.

With a full-time college counseling office, IAA now offers students state-of-the-art preparation for finding the right college fit. Even more importantly, Newman and group teach real-world life skills especially needed for succeeding in the arts.

As part of that preparation, the academy hosts a college panel in the spring, with a representative from each of the three types of institutions students are likely to attend — a full-service university, a liberal-arts college, and an arts school or conservatory. A typical panel might include a representative from California Arts Institute, New York University and Bennington College. The representatives speak and then hold break-out sessions for interested students to ask questions about student life at those institutions.

Each year, the academy also hosts a college fair in the fall. This year, 63 schools, including several international institutions, are coming to campus from noon to 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, in Nelson Dining Hall. Newman invited community members to attend to see another facet of student preparation at Idyllwild Arts.

“Our students attend the top colleges, conservatories, universities and art schools around the world,” said Newman.

Associates of Idyllwild Arts Foundation sponsors the free Spotlight on Leadership Series at its monthly meeting. Everyone is invited at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 10, in the Fireside Room of Nelson Dining Hall on campus.

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