Portfolio required for new fashion design students

Emily Rasinski

Change in entrance requirements requires prospective students to submit portfolio

The fashion design major entering this fall will face a new challenge compared to their predecessors: getting in.

A new entrance portfolio requirement will limit the number of students allowed to enter the program.

Elizabeth Rhodes, director of the School of Fashion Design, said the new requirements do not change the minimum grade point average and ACT/SAT scores required from the prospective students. Instead the school will limit the number of students based on a portfolio of drawing, sewing and writing samples. Only the 60 students with the highest scores on their portfolio will be permitted to enter.

Rhodes said the portfolio requirement was added to raise the quality of education the students will receive as well as the retention rate of these students.

“A lot of students enter never having really seen a fashion designer or known a designer,” she said. “Being from the midwest, most students don’t have the opportunity to work for a design firm.”

Rhodes said because of this, most incoming freshman have their own perception of what the job of a fashion designer is, many of which are wrong. As a result, on average only 50 percent of the students who enter the fashion design program as freshmen continue into their senior year.

“Most leave because they find out it’s not what they wanted,” Rhodes said.

Elaine Thomas, program coordinator of the fashion design program and instructor, agreed, stating they usually receive 150 applicants at the freshman level and graduate a class of only 30 or 40 students. She said the dropout rate is highest at the freshman level.

“Some students come in not realizing they have to draw and sew,” she said.

The portfolio assignment will assess these basic skills of the applicant as well as their ability to follow instructions. Each student was given the same instructions: to draw three figures printed on 8 1/2 by 14 paper, follow instructions to sew a small pouch, and write a short narrative based on their intentions to enter the program. Applicants were to obtain this information from the fashion program’s Web site.

Thomas is on the committee to score the drawing section of the portfolio assignment.

“They have to be able to see,” she said. “We are looking for students with the potential to succeed in this program”

Linda Ohrn, assistant professor of fashion design, said she is looking for students who can follow instructions and have an understanding of what they are doing.

“They don’t need to be perfect,” she said. “It will show if they understand it and are inspired by it. They have to have a passion for what they are doing.”

Rhodes said by limiting the number and skill level of students that enter the program, each student will get a better quality education with more one on one time with teachers and better access to studios and equipment.

“Right now classes are flooded at the freshman and sophomore levels,” she said. “You don’t put two students to a sewing machine and have the quality you want.”

Another reason the portfolio assignment has been implemented is to remain competitive with other schools.

Rhodes said most other fashion schools recognized by the Counsel of Fashion Designers of America require an entrance portfolio. Kent State competes with these schools for prospective students.

“We’ve had parents and students ask, if you don’t require a portfolio, are you really a fashion school, a good fashion school?’” she said.

“Much more can be accomplished in four years now,” she added. “I believe it will be something people will be proud of, and we’ll look back and wonder why we didn’t do it sooner.”

Contact fine and professional arts reporter Emily Rasinski at [email protected]