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5 Tips for Creating an Application Materials that Win in 60 Seconds

By Wei-Ling Wang


60 seconds, this is the average time that admission committee review an piece of application materials.


After you have passed the General Scholastic Ability Test, applicants start to prepare their application materials intensely at the following stage. The importance of application materials varies from school to school, some schools are not required it in scoring system. However, It is suggested that you should seen the application materials as a written self-introduction. This is the first impression before you have interview with faculty members, and it should be taken seriously.


Apart from personal statement, portfolio, activities and transcripts, a pack of application materials includes statement of purpose and letter of recommendation. There is no single "right" way to prepare application materials. A fancy or a detailed one doesn’t guarantee a better one. The key point is to show your independent thinking, your curiosity to the world, and your passion about design through the application.


How to show your passion and potential with design in 60 seconds? According to faculty members of design school, there are five fundamental qualities that all outstanding application materials share:


1.  Look before you leap. Be precise.

Gather the information thoroughly before making the application material. Read the admission handbook carefully, especially on the scoring system and department requirements. You may lose score if not following the instruction, or putting too much effort on subjects that is minors. For example, The Department of Media Design, Tatung University used to require an autobiography in hand writing. Applicant who submitted the autobiography electronically will not only lose points, but also receiving a bad impression from admission committee.

Tailor-made every application materials;  you can use the internet and resources from school to fully understand the strengths of the program. For instance, departments like digital multimedia design and animation arts place a high value on your narrative skill and the observation of the future tendency on digital. A story behind of your work or an interactive design may catch their eyeballs. Departments like industrial design regard their students who have the ability to explore social problems. Try to make a better solution on things and facilities in ordinary life.


2. Honesty is the best policy.

Many applicants from high school without vocational training are worried about their artistic professional can’t not compete with applicants from vocational high school. Because of pressure of admission, some students will tend to seek professional help from artist or cram school. “If their works are way too skilful, it is obvious that we will ask “Did you do this by yourself?”, the Head of Department of Media Design, Tatung University Wei-Xin Huang said.

“If a high school students have to be professional, why bother go to university?” Wen-Qi Chen, the Head of Department of Communication Design, Shih Chien University said. The best work is not about how technical you are, is about the characteristic of yourself. Newspaper clipping, diary, notebook, your sketching on textbooks or even your stuffed animals you sleep with can be a piece of work.


3. Prove your real passion.

Design career sounds very cool and interesting on the surface, however, it is very stressful in the back. Are you willing to revise a drawing more than 10 times for making it perfect? Are you willing to give up your free time and sleep just for the best work with total dedication?

Why do you want to study design? Have you mentally prepared for studying design? Admission committee is willing to know your answers. “Only passion can get through the difficult times and get you satisfaction.” mentioned by professor Ho-Jian Hsu, Department of Design, National Taiwan Normal University. Applicant has to show their persistence and passion with design in your application materials.

What can you do if you don’t have any professional training? In fact, any activities you have participated in all counts, including club experiences from high school, related competition, assignments from Art class, or even classroom decoration and creation of custom clothing for a masquerade ball.


4. Show your worldview.

Design can make a social impact. A great designer can also be an acute observer, who explore global phenomena and willing to propose his/her idea. A Designer should study relationships of human, modern society and environment, Wen-Qi Chen pointed out.


Photos you have been taken in everyday life can present your own perspective. Can you see an unseen? Can you explore a possibility of ordinary life? Use a photograph with few words to tell a good story.


5. It’s about quality, not quantity.

Students often believe that additional information can be beneficial, thus, they put together all their certifications, photos and every piece of work in a package. Less is more. According to Wei-Hua Jiang, the Dean of College of Design, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, too many extra documents can take away from the strengths of an application. He recommends that you think very carefully before sending your application materials, focusing on the strongest point.

Each product, or architectures require designers’ discretion, therefore, managing detail is vital for admission committee when making a decision. When constructing the portfolio, too much information and overlooked the low quality of presenting will likely to drown the reviewer. Devils in the details; these mistakes can affect the score. It is important to write down what you have learned from every activity you attended, presenting the progress and understanding through your experiences.


(c) 30 Magazine. Reprinted by Permission