A quick note: while this article is dedicated to our many newer members, don't glaze over just because you've been here for a while. You just mind find that this comes in handy regardless of your seniority at your respective institutions.
First things first - I'm going to get all of my "mom"-ing out of the way. AAU is an open enrollment institution. This is both a great and an unfortunate thing. On one hand, we're giving opportunities to students who wouldn't have a post-secondary education otherwise. Yeah, so what - you didn't like math in high school - not everyone does. Here is your chance to still thrive as an artist! However, this is generally regarded as the exception to the rule. Sitting on our other hand is the unbelievable mass of schlubs and burn-outs who couldn't care less about their education; Those who only came to AAU show mom and dad a paper that says "accepted" without having to give more than ten minutes of their time to the process; Those who chose this school not because of a passion or a desire, but because, "I don't know, paintings fun, and overall pretty easy, right?"; Those who will spend more time faking an injury to get their medical marijuana card than they will on shading that cube for their Analysis of Form class.
BEWARE OF THESE PEOPLE. Don't get me wrong, partying is fun -- and you definitely SHOULD do so -- but the people you should party with are the people who will party hard, get trashed, then wake up at 6am hungover (or still drunk) to make sure they get their homework done on time and done well. Our industry is a social one; don't close yourself off and sit in your room alone, covered in charcoal. That's why our number one rule is:
1. Experience your education, but not at the cost of your education.
Make those memories, have those crazy stories to tell your children when they get old enough, but make sure you're doing it with the pride of having actually completed your education. (or only dropped out because of an amazing opportunity that made you a bajillion dollars or made your life feel otherwise fulfilled.)
2. Sculpt your education. Remember: You are PAYING for this.
This is a product you are choosing to purchase - thus, you should be getting what you deserve out of it! Your advisors, and yes, many of your teachers will try to tell you what classes you can or can not take. While it's important to listen to those who may know better, always take it with a grain of salt, and always ALWAYS get a second (or third, or fourth) opinion. While you will need to take classes x, y, z to graduate, remember that classes A-W can be pretty darn interchangeable. There are so many new classes that come and go just for a semester with better teachers, and generally a better group of students that you'll be surrounded by who will push you further, make you a better student, and most likely a better person overall -- Deep, I know -- but it's true! Keep your eyes and ears out, and if you didn't hear any thing - ASK. With all of our alums and upperclassmen, Tea Time is a great place to start.
3. Never forget, you are PAYING for this.
Actually, correction - you have PAID for everything. Upfront. And your school has NO problem keeping all your money. That means that every time you blow off class for whatever reason, every time you aren't going to a workshop, or reaping every free resource you have that your tuition gets you (i.e. going to the gym, campus clubs, school events, going to the labs) you are just waving goodbye to that money. This also applies to classes. While it's important to take control of your classes, this should not translate to take "easy A's". It SHOULD mean, take classes that are the most pertinent towards a future career, and though they might be tough, ones that will actually benefit you in the long run. Though it sounds amazing to try and swap Clothed Figure Drawing with Underwater Basket-Weaving (thanks Frank), be realistic. Push yourself. Thank me later.
4. Work in the Labs
5. Stay Healthy
I'm not actually sure if we covered this in club, but I can't stress the importance of this enough. Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI's) are a very real problem. They will kill your career faster than partying with schlubs ever could, and they will do so permanently. Take breaks, drink lots of water (because then you'll have to pee and you'll HAVE to get up and take a break) and make sure you go to the gym! The Freshman 15 is also very real. This isn't highschool. There is no gym class forcing your lazy butt out of a desk to do some jumping jacks. If you are in the dorms, do not give in the the all you can eat Lucky Charms (god knows I did). Work it out.
Finally, and most importantly, make sure to stay sane - brain health! If you're doing it right, school should feel just like a great workout. You should feel exhausted by the end of it. You should be using every mental muscle you have so that by the end of it, your reel or portfolio has the most kick-ass beach body people can't help but stare. It's NOT easy - make sure you have people to whine with (and to wine with), to relax with, to crunch with, and above all else make sure you have people to revel in the joy and the sacrifice that is your career as a student. (A good place to look is Friday at 3:30pm in room 349.)
Good luck everyone.