Context: So far I have only ever applied to one university, the animation school Gobelins in Paris. I have finally been through the last stage and will find out wether I have been accepted or not on the 25th.
The advice listed here will still remain the same even if I haven't been accepted, it is a culmination of what I have absorbed from teachers, professionals and students. Face to face, via chat, or by online videos.
I hope this might make the process feel a bit less overwhelming to anyone going through or about to go through something similar! I'm mostly talking from just my personal experience, so don't hesitate to add your own, or add onto anything I mentioned!
-also! If you ever plan to write an in-depth text about your university; make sure you won't get in trouble by sharing specific information/details! Just send them an email to ask them about their policies to make sure!
If anyone does find issue with your sharing, you can then point to the email-response to back you up!
Index: (because ohboy is this a long wall of text)
1. - before universtity
2. - alternatives to normal school education
3. - looking for and applying for uni
4. - first exam (the timed drawing one, i.e. "written exam")
5. - preparing for the second exam (Portfolio and original project)
6. - second exam itself (presentation and interview) + some links to sources
I'll just be going through the different steps I've taken so far to get to this point.
And I'll start here:
Last year, I finished my secondary education (7 years "Lycée", the 3 last years of that were "specialized" in the category of art, I was 19 at the point of getting my diploma)
I had planned to take a sabbatical year ( a year of pause done inbetween education /and or jobs)
To take the time to:
1. figure out where / what I wanted to study (illustration? Game design? Digital art?) or if I even wanted to study right now in the first place
2. try working more professionally (didn't succeed as well as I hoped to, but still got into various projects)
3. and in general improve on myself, prepare for whatever I wanted to do
((getting a drivers license is also still on the to-do list for this year oops))(Note: a sabbatical year might have some negatives if you aim to study something like medicine or law, but in art there is so much you can do simply on your own. It will be absolutely worth it if you take your time to make sure you want to study the exact thing you're looking to study (maybe by taking on internships for that thing) or if you want to take more time to make sure you are properly prepared for it.
Maybe you even land a dream job in the process of trying things out, and won't even need to study anymore.)
General improvement - how to do??? If you're planning to do some intense self-improvement all on your own, you'll need to know wether you have the necessary self-discipline and drive to hold up a certain standard (ex. draw once a day) and to be able to slowly improve that standard, specialize it (finish a drawing a day -> draw x amount of hours a day // or do x studies each week, improve on x y z over this time span)
There are a lot of resources you can find on youtube, on art sites, and don't forget that there are books too. The most important thing I have found when it comes to drive, is to have a clear goal. Even if it's just a place-holder until you find something more fitting (I wanted at the beginning of last year to possibly become a concept-artist, now I'm more drifting towards animation)
-here's an hour long youtube video talking more indepth about learning art on your own: [link]
If you don't feel like you can be your own teacher (researching the material, doing exercices, looking for your own faults and improving on them) then you can also look for summer classes or online classes. Many professional artists offer classes / instructional videos / mentorships. And you certainly can mention those things in your resume and or interview too. It will still show that you're passionate enough to seek out help, to invest in your craft.
Here are a couple of examples of where you could find such stuff: fzdschool.com/www.robotpencil.net/www.proko.com/human-anatomy-fo…artcamp.com/
Between being a bit unsure of what options I had with illustration and game design (the former was often very traditional-art focused; and the latter seemed often divided with programming as well) and finding out that animation was really fun, very challenging, and seemed like there's so much more for me to learn still - I figured why not try for one of the main animation schools out there.
(My research of universities basically was: googling lists of art schools in Europe, and looking for each of their sites; checking what they required, what they offered etc)
I wrote down the deadline of the Gobelins application and day of open-doors. I made a beta-version of a portfolio and a video of different animations to take with me on a laptop to the open-doors event, to show potentially students and/or teachers (there was a porfolio review session that I didn't even know of, lucky!)
And like 10 days before the application deadline, I sent away a package with stuff like: copies of my Diploma, resumé/CV, motivational letter, a filled out form, and a print-out of a receipt for the application fee.
(you had to send it a minimum of 8 days before the deadline in case there are things missing, but they ended up extending it anyways,, I guess I wasn't the only one who suddenly remembered that February is shorter than other months)
Next was the "written exam" (you draw during 2 sessions of each 3 hours and a half, more info on this year's exam here if you're curious: ~update~ (TLDR: feel like entrance exam went ok)
Some extra notes: probably the most important skill to have for a "written exam" in art; is to be able to draw quickly. I've always been focusing on minimizing the time wasted when I draw (out of lazyness) so for each session I luckily still had 10-15 minutes to spare at the end.
But it's also important not to be too stressed out about the time-limit; in this particular case, it was clearly stated that it's ok if you do not finish entirely. You will be marked for the quality of your drawings, not on the completion of the assignments.
The supervising staff/teachers are also there to help you; do not hesitate to ask them if you have questions during the exam.
You didn't have to finish your portfolio until the actual last entrance exam, the oral presentation one.
To figure out what an animation school was looking for, I:
1. google searched for portfolios of accepted students at that school
2. contacted teachers of an animation 2 year cursus nearby, and asked to meet up / for a consultation
3. went to both Gobelins open doors, and that 2 year animation thing too; talked to the students asking for feedback
Try getting into contact with a student of the place you're trying to get into; they know the best what the school is looking for, and what you need to look out for.
I wrote a bit on what an animation portfolio would need in this post: ayy portfolio 'n stuff(Note: I also know now, why exactly it is stupid to wait until the last possible day to get it all done - in this case, it was preferrable if the portfolio was on paper and not on a digital screen. - Sure I had printed out -most of it- on the Saturday before (my exam being on Tuesday) and wanted to print out the rest on Monday. But upon going back to the same place, something was off about the printing, and the images weren't being printed on the center of the paper. The staff was ready to let it be at "we'll call in a technician, so you'll need to come back tomorrow" until they tried one last thing which made it work.
Sure I could've cut off the borders of each A3 page to make it all even, but that would be 42 possible mess-ups
General rule, try to minimize as much stuff that might work against you; if you have the option for a clean presentation - then put that extra work into it. It luckily worked out in the end and I didn't have to make the call between either have 9 pages be off-center, or a bunch of extra risky work)
This particular school also asked for an original project that needed to be presented; all of the "pre-production" that would go into making an animated short.
I made it, but I'm still too inexperienced with animation projects to really talk in depth about the process. Think of some kind of story that is in your range of abilities, design characters, design an environment, draw out scenes or a storyboard etc.
(if you've never written out dialog scenes, don't make your project be about characters who stand around and banter about philosophy,, or at least don't make it your first project that you'll be judged on)
For this exam they would first, for 30 minutes with you waiting outside, look at your portfolio, your sketchbooks (<- also very important! if you're a digital-only kinda artist like me - work on a sketchbook to show that your skill isn't dependant on the digital medium) the project, and an USB / disk with a max. 2 minute video. (not everyone has already animations to show, try doing some in free programs like FireAlpaca and Krita; it will give you a huge plus ( search "how to animate in X" to find out more about those programs) )
Then 10 minutes for the presentation of your project; 20 minutes to talk about your motivation.
Questions that you can normally expect to come up; that you should prepare for in advance:
Why this major? Why this school? What do plan on doing afterwards / or if you don't get in? What kind of "X" media do you like? Do you think you could work well in teams?
And boy was I glad I thought of writing down some movies that I like,, it makes a good impression to know which studio they came from,, and maybe even the main creative leading figure (example: I admire the works of director Satoshi kon, like Paprika and Millenium Actress /// I love Prince of Egypt and The road to El Dorado which are both from Dreamworks)
((also, something I forgot myself - try to find one or multiple movies you like made in the country the uni's from :'0 I mentioned primarily american and japanese films while applying for a uni in France, oops - but I already had talked about how I wanted to do freelancing online, thus I wouldn't be bound to locations -> the Jury knew something like that wouldn't be a big issue for me))
You can find those kinda questions described here at the end, spelled out more eloquently: www.gobelins-school.com/sites/…
(For english speakers, you can only apply for the 3rd year of the main animation cursus - which means the entry level is set a bit higher compared to what I am applying for)
-this file is 2018 specific so once it updates, you should be able to find it at the bottom of this page www.gobelins-school.com/format…
under "terms of enrolment"
((btw the 4 years cursus has an age limit of max 25, so be on the lookout for that kinda stuff too))
If you have any kind of experience with working in anything related to what you're applying for, mention that! The people you are talking to could maybe become your coworkers in the future, they are looking for students who are passionate.
And of course you'll be nervous, my voice would tremble at multiple points during the whole interview even though the jury were incredibly friendly.
If you speak a bit of French you can find more info here: www.gobelins.fr/formation/conc…
(if you scroll down to "téléchargements" you'll find different PDF files, some featuring previous exam's (both French and English! example: www.gobelins.fr/sites/default/…
That you can check out and practice, and also a PDF called "modalites admission" where you find more detailed info of some of the things I've talked about here)
Again, if you have any of your own advice, anecdotes, experiences to share; please feel free to comment!