Applying to the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts

Was it Fate?

Those close to me know that I don’t believe in a higher power—but sometimes it really does feel as if things happen when they are supposed to happen. At this point in my life, I had never been to New York and had never heard of the School of Visual Arts. The week prior to stumbling across this innocuous banner ad—I had booked tickets to travel to NYC for the first time to see friends and so it was a bit of a strange coincidence to learn that the only open house the branding program hosts was scheduled for the week that I would be in New York.

Off to New York

Two months later, I’m in a room overlooking Manhattan with about 100 other prospective students who frankly scared the crap out of me. My feelings of inadequacy and nobody-ness were on full display around people who I felt were much better at working a room than me. Coupled with a room full of competitors were also my design industry idols like Debbie Millman and Dan Formosa. I felt like I was just the mid-level in-house graphic designer from LA who has this weird obsession with bicycles. Intimidation, anxiety, fear were flowing throughout every cell in my body, but then it all went away when we gathered in the classroom to learn about the program. One by one, professors and students stood up to speak—and it was their passion and energy that made me feel comfortable, welcomed, and familiar.

Dusting off the Critical Writing Skills

Upon my return to Los Angeles, I began to wrap my head around applying to the program. There were about eight weeks before our applications were due and it had been nearly a decade since I had last done any academic writing.

Read my Statement of Purpose

Read my Brand Critique

The Last Steps are Always the Hardest

After traveling to New York and pushing myself to intellectually write from the heart, getting my application package out the door was the last step but not the easiest. As a designer applying to an art school taught by design industry veterans, I felt that it was imperative to print my application materials on the highest-end paper I could source—in hindsight, it wasn’t that imperative.

VCR on Pause

I’ll be the first to tell you that you can’t get anywhere in life without relentless hard work. There is no skipping the line and entitlement only serves to alienate you from your peers. At the same time, it feels as if some people have an easier time of it. For those of us who entered the workforce around the 2008 recession and have had a hard go of it—we feel as if our opportunities are limited for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. My strategy was to relentlessly work towards being as well-rounded and attractive as possible to potential employers. I never thought the job market would be as difficult as it was, but I got stronger and wiser with each rejection.

Seven Weeks + Two days Later

Out of the blue in early April 2013, I received an interview request email. It was only 10 days before the school said we would find out about our applications — by then I had figured it wasn’t going to happen for me and had started the rejection coping process. Receiving that email was shocking, exhilarating, and also obliterated any ability I had that day to do any meaningful work.

The Interview

The following Monday, I skyped with J’aime Cohen, the graduate advisor for the Masters in Branding program at the time. I was expecting a somewhat in-depth interview where I would be asked theoretical questions about my application, however, the questions were more casual. She asked me how I found out about the MPSB program and where I wanted to take the education if I were accepted. My talk with J’aime was short — and afterward, I honestly felt less confident about my chances. I resigned myself and figured that if it was meant to be then it would be.

Thursday, April 11th, 2013—2:45 PM

Sitting in my cubicle after lunch trying to focus on some tradeshow graphics, I heard the email ding on my iPhone —the truncated notification on my tiny iPhone4 just said “Important Communications from SVA”—which caused me to jump from my chair and fumble to read the email.

Keep Calm and Ride On

So now, I’m about to embark on an extreme life-changing journey, risk everything, and let fate decide my future. There are a lot of people who helped me get where I am today and look forward to being there for them as they have for me.

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Jenny Beatty

Jenny Beatty

Bay Area-based Creative Director + Brand Strategist working on the edge of design and technology—creator of #100Hoopties