Tips on choosing a design school

Source: Suné Stassen, Creative Director: Rock City Foundation

Choosing a Design course at a Tertiary Institution will be influenced by factors aside from the course content they are interested in - such as availability, affordability and proximity.

Knowing what they want

It helps to have a clear idea of what the student really want to do. However, many students’ career ideas take shape as they investigate the tertiary options available to them. Keep in mind that they have the best chance of being successful in a career if they are genuinely following their passion. A career guidance counselor or personal mentor/coach can help them to clarify their ideas for a career and map out goals.

Understanding their learning style

As an educator you will already know that different people learn optimally in different ways. Some people gain knowledge easily through conceptual and theoretical processes, others learn best through hands on experience.

Many Design courses will offer a mix of learning processes that best suit the subjects offered; but some courses will be more practical and technical, while others focus on learning theory. It helps to know what style of learning suits them best so that they are well matched to the course they choose. A career guidance counselor or personal mentor/coach can help them to determine their learning style.

Advise and encourage them to research their options

The major work of the selection process is to do as much research as possible – visit websites and read the available literature. If possible, visit some of the schools; attend Open Days, arrange meetings, talk to current and past students, as well as faculty staff.

Research Guidelines

  • Understanding the course content & curriculum
  • Investigate and compare course content. Make sure you understand what the subjects offered are about.

Internships and professional experience.

Find out if the school facilitates internships as part of their graduation requirements and whether the course includes projects from real clients in their training programmes.

Further studies.

Advise the student to find out if the school offers opportunities for further study that will benefit their career.

Investigate the reputation of the school

  • Is the school accredited by the Department of Education?
  • Is the school connected to any professional Design bodies?
  • Who are the school’s most prominent and successful former students?
  • What are the qualifications and experience of the school’s lecturers?
  • What is the school’s reputation in the professional design community?
  • Have the school’s staff and students won any industry awards and competitions?
  • How many of the school’s teaching staff are practicing designers, for how long, at which companies and in what positions?
  • What is the school’s historical reputation? How long has it been in existence and how long has the course of their choice been in existence?
  • Is the school well-networked with business and industry

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